After reading A New Culture of Learning by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown, I have a new perspective on teaching and learning. We want to believe that everyone is capable of learning something, but I believe that students will learn at a deeper level when we engage them in learning something they WANT to learn. I know that I have no desire to learn how to hunt, but I have a burning desire to learn more about bass fishing. Will I take time out of my day to even watch a video on hunting? No, but I will spend a few minutes learning a new technique on fishing. When I overhear conversations about hunting, I usually just tune out, but when I hear anyone talking about fishing, I listen actively and end up asking questions for more information.
Education should move forward towards a more holistic approach. Students and teachers will both benefit when students are actively engaged in learning. More specifically, learning what they want to learn, what they need to learn and in a way that is conducive to the student’s imagination. Playful learning can be fun, it’s just not a traditional way of teaching that is familiar to both the student and the teacher. With the information highway at our fingertips, we sometimes get lost in the day-to-day activities of just using a search engine, exchanging e-mails, sharing through social media, and games. While all of these are an important piece of the technology puzzle, there is so much more online that can engage both teachers and students to want to learn. Are we just using search engines instead of using an encyclopedia? Are we merely sending e-mails and text messages instead of talking face-to-face? Are we playing games that don’t require us to think differently or are the games just a competition?
My innovation plan needs some revision after reading A New Culture of Learning. After reading this book, I’ve definitely had a new perspective on my learning and teaching philosophy. Typically, students need to know the basics of a lesson, but how do we as teachers find out exactly what learning needs to take place. There are so many forms of online assessments that can help us easily find out if a student has mastered basic skills. Currently, I create a pre-assessment kahoot.it or quizizz to find out exactly what my students know. Then, I can re-direct my lessons. The reports generated by the online assessments are very detailed and informative. I can adjust the rate of the questions, I can add pictures or videos to assist the students who need further review and even provide links to the web that will give them more background knowledge on the subject.
My main objective for myself at this point is to determine what is successful and what is a failure for myself and my students. According to my employment contract, I must maintain and meet certain standards for my students. But, I do have the flexibility to incorporate a bit of imagination to ignite passion and play back into my classroom without chaos. Even as adults in the school setting, I see burnout and day-to-day going through the motions with no fire, no passion.
It’s time to adjust my focus to not only incorporating blended learning into my classroom as outlined in my innovation plan, but to add fun, excitement, and play (for meaningful learning that will be remembered in years to come) to each lesson. I feel very convicted to release my graduating students into the world with the necessary skills to figure things out, to look for the real meaning of the lesson, and to contribute something meaningful to the next generation. These are skills that are lacking in the traditional classroom. I agree that students need to know facts and computations. But I also feel that students need the necessary skills to find a new way of attacking a problem if the answer isn’t correct – find a holistic way to approach the problem, learn to ask questions, collaborate with others, and dig deeper to find true meaning.
I plan to apply the approaches from the book to create a learning environment that is conducive to all of my students – from those going directly into the workforce, those going into the trade industry, and those seeking a four-year degree. Along the way, I will encourage other teachers to take this path with me in order for the whole campus to grow in the digital age of learning. I would hope that I can inspire others to at least try and incorporate this new culture of learning both for themselves and for our students.
With standardized testing and mandates, it is difficult to master the daily and weekly objectives. But, with a new desire to learn filled with passion and play, who wouldn’t want to at least give it a try? Are we that scared to fail?
Image retrieved March 4, 2017 from procon.org.
Image retrieved March 4, 2017 from twitter.
Thomas, D. & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change (First ed.). Lexington, KY, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.