Saturday, April 21, 2012

Effective Digital Learning

About 6 months ago I read a post from Andrew Churches on his Educational Origami blog about what is necessary for effective digital learning.  This post has stayed with me over the months and I've mulled over it and questioned how I can use this in my current role as Team Leader.  These are the 4 pre-requisites that Andrew says are necessary for digital learning to flourish:

  • Curriculum - relevant and contextual
  • Assessment - challenging and transparent
  • Emphasis on higher order thinking skills
  • Students owning their own learning - giving students choices and voices
As I've thought about these pre-requisites over the past 6 months I've tried to keep these 4 in mind.  When I'm in planning meeting with the different grades I'm thinking about the curriculum and the assessment.  As far as the IT is concerned I'm trying to focus on developing good skills for investigation and in particular having students evaluating the information they find, and introducing students to different tools they can use for creation, in order to show their understanding.  However effective digital learning goes further than this.  All of the above 4 values will promote learning even without technology - how can digital learning transform this learning?

Andrew Churches writes about the 4 core elements of digital learning.  These are:
  • Pedagogy - changing the layout and design of the classroom, inquiry, risk taking, being principled and so on - and only after this adding in the technology that will empower student learning ( he cites the flipped classroom as one example of this, I could think of BYOD as another).  This is something that I feel is yet to be explored in my school, but I'm excited about all the opportunities I will get to work with a very different concept of learning spaces and pedagogy once I'm at my new school.
  • Feedback and reflection - need to be in place already, and once they are technology can transform these through using e-portfolios and blogging.  I've seen a remarkable increase in blogging as a way of creating e-portfolios with our Grade 4s this year and have observed and recorded what a fantastic effect this has had on motivation, learning and student writing in particular.
  • Collaboration - in an international school working with others in the class who come from different cultures and who may have completely different perspectives can be challenging.  However once this ethos of collaboration is in place, technology can take it to another level.  Students share their work with others in the class using Google Docs, and can also share with students around the world - such as the recent Quadblogging our Grade 4s have been engaged in.  Technology allows them to communicate with other students around the world, for example using Skype as a tool to investigate, which the Grade 2s have done as part of their research into climate in different parts of the world. 
  • Creativity - once we have created a culture in class that values risk-taking and thinking outside the box, technology can give students a vast array of tools that they can use in an individual way to show their understanding.
Effective digital learning is built on the bedrock of effective teaching, and it can take it so much further.

Photo Credit:  Student iPad 010 by Brad Flickinger, 2010 Attribution

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