By Teachers, For Teachers
This year marks a major shift in the educational landscape, punctuated by more ubiquitous technology in the classroom and eLearning opportunities. As more teachers and more students have access to technology in the classroom, the prospects for digital learning have multiplied and ultimately given us a new set of trends that are making their imprint on modern education.
No longer do students have to rely on merely being present in a classroom on a specific day of instruction. Rather, instructional videos offer anyone the opportunity to learn what they want whenever and wherever they want to. Many teachers have filmed videos and posted them for their absent students using a variety of tech and apps; corporations are training employees with series of videos; and students themselves are accessing all kinds of video resources to target the specific information they seek. Entire companies and apps – like the promising Kahn Academy and popular TED Talks – are based off of producing short and informative videos to suit a range of education pursuits.
The Flipped Classroom
Instructional videos, along with broader access to information, empower teachers to flip their classrooms. This trend that asks students to consume “teaching” at home and apply the information in class is increasing as instructors using technology in the classroom take advantage of digital resources. This incorporation of eLearning makes students dependent on teachers as guides and facilitators more than strictly the sole distributors of knowledge.
Stories have the unique power of affecting both the mind and the heart of humans. While effective stories have often been the part of a talented teacher’s approach to instruction, eLearning trends offer stories of a boarder, more digital scope. Now instructors can share hosts of stories from a variety of digital resources; they can tie real-life illustrations with specific learning goals; and they can even have students produce their own digital stories via apps and movies to demonstrate learning. Digital storytelling also offers more responsive, choose-your-own-adventure style stories, adaptive to student choices and demonstrating potential outcomes.
The whole notion of an entire electronic platform designed to facilitate education isn’t new, but the scale at which these can be constructed is. Programs for attendance, grades, and other more clerical aspects of learning have been around for a while. But now these systems have expanded into much more, including a repository for class files, a social platform for profiles and communication, a place for students to receive assignments and submit work, an electronic medium for quizzes and feedback, and much more – all with integration to apps, communication, websites, and a host of other tools. There is a growing list of LMS resources available, each with their unique designs and opportunities.
Turning the learning experience into one of challenge and competition is not new to teachers; but aligning gamification trends with eLearning trends is absolutely taking off. Students spend on average of over 53 hours a week engaging in electronic media of some kind, including between 9-13 hours video gaming. But now teachers can more easily harness the power of video games with goals of their courses. Minecraft stands out as a popular example of how video games – even ones lacking highly detailed graphics – can addictively inculcate certain problem solving strategies, teamwork, critical thinking, and communication skills.
It’s no secret that students of all ages are engaging with one another on social media across the spectrum – Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Snapchat, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, and on and on. Although an increasing percentage of their social lives are played out on these platforms, they can also leverage these to enhance their academic lives as well. Students can be taught the power of networking on Facebook and LinkedIn, accessing ideas and resources via Twitter, viewing educational videos via YouTube, not to mention engaging with the blogs and wikis out there. Through social media, students and teachers can create highly customized eLearning portfolios tailored to their needs and interests.
Data, data, data is the keyword associated with this latest and possibly most powerful system designed for monitoring and tracking content usage and learning progress. While most LMSs do some kind of usage tracking, Experience API offers a comprehensive and cross-platform way for monitoring student engagement and progress, providing customizable collections of reports that can be leveraged by teachers and students alike to modify the learning process.
Learning in a classroom under the tutelage of one champion instructor is quickly becoming an outmoded method of education. As technological integration exponentially intersects with the classroom, learning is quickly becoming a digitally interactive experience. These eLearning trends will have a powerful presence by the end of 2014, yet in many ways they are the tip of the iceberg for what is to come.
What eLearning trends possess more presence in your educational environment? Tell us your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!
Jordan Catapano is an English teacher at Conant High School in a Chicago suburb. In addition to being National Board Certificated, he also sits as the District Leader for the Illinois Association of Teachers of English and serves as a school board member for a private school. You can follow him on Twitter at @BuffEnglish, or visit his website ACTWritingTips.com.