The percentages listed in the “Unleashing the Future” article concern me. So, 51% of students are motivated to learn? There is not outside motivation to include in this statistic? I’m not so sure I agree with this idea – at least with the current way that bricks & mortar schools are arranged. The single, most important thing I think we can give students is self-directed learning. Unfortunately, self-directed learning is not how students are being taught in schools now. I look at my time in a bricks & mortar school, and I remember giving students a topic and letting them choose how they wanted to discover that topic. I gave them access to any technology available. I can say for certain that 51% of my students were not more motivated to learn. In fact, I would say that my students’ motivation decreased. And, I think the reason for this is that they were not accustomed to having technology available to them. So, they wanted to do all of the things they weren’t supposed to do – like playing games, checking social media, etc. – instead of focusing on the “learning” of their topics. I believe that if technology were used on a more continuous basis that students would better equipped to use technology without allowing distractions to impede learning. A bit later in this article, the mention of “firewalls” and students’ and teachers’ frustration struck an important cord with me. Many times, I gave assignments to my students only to have them unable to complete the assignment because of the firewalls our district had in place. I believe our firewalls were especially stringent in comparison to other districts. In fact, many times I wanted to use legitimate teaching sites that were blocked from my use. It is almost impossible to engage students in self-directed learning using technology when students are blocked from content that is important to their learning.
Moving from my bricks & mortar classroom and into my online “classroom,” I connected to the Boston Consulting Group article and the ways that students can learn “online” in a history classroom (p. 24). It was interesting to me because this is exactly what my students do. I teach English online, and my students’ learning involves reading, writing, exploring, and discovering. I cannot honestly say that my bricks & mortar classroom involved exploring and discovering. In this new environment, however, my students read traditional Canonical texts; but, they connect that reading to videos, blogs, online encyclopedias, online content that involves youtube videos, etc. My students no longer simply read a story and are spoon-fed information about the author and the times of the things they read. Now, they discover that through their virtual worlds (and they do it at the time of day they choose). I do not believe online learning is for every student, just as a bricks & mortar school is not for every students. What excites me the most is that this virtual environment exists for the student who needs this type of self-directed way of learning.
Just as the infographic from this week by Onlineeducation.net indicates, I’ve moved from being a teacher-centered educator to a student-centered educator. I’m a mentor now. Online teaching has transformed the way that I think about education. I can’t wait to see how it transforms my thinking over and over again.