After my previous post, some colleagues asked me what I think the best web tools are and which ones we are using at my school. I am going to answer this question in a future post when I write about tools and websites for English teachers. On the other hand, I think there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Schools or individual teachers should choose them by considering their learning objectives and expectations for the school year and manipulate them to serve their needs. In other words, learning should drive the technology rather than technology driving learning. Therefore, the choice of these tools may change from one school to the other depending on the learning objectives and expectations. Indeed, it isn’t really about the tools, it is about how you use them to enhance learning and  to combine the incredible powers of the human brain with the creative potential of the new technology.

The chart by Teachbytes below shows the difference between using technology just for the sake of using equipment and web tools and integrating it to serve specific purposes to transform and enhance learning.

We all know that our students are motivated if they are given the opportunity to choose and if their curiosity is triggered. Big questions that are interesting and difficult to answer, encourage students to offer theories instead of giving answers.  Moreover, they learn much better if they interact socially. If they are allowed to discover and experiment in flexible and creative environments where they are not afraid of making mistakes, they can construct their own understanding of new concepts by relating them to what they already know with the guidance and encouragement of their teachers. Otherwise, it is against the human nature to expect them to sit at their desks all day long, trying to learn what we have planned to teach them. Research has proved that if curiosity is not triggered, the human brain can’t retain or internalize information.

All this information matches with the 21st Century skills that our students have to master to be ready for the future. Therefore, inquiry, project, and challenge–based learning are the key learning approaches today. Provided that they are carefully planned and conducted, all these approaches align with the requirements of the 21st century education. Learners are faced with authentic situations to explore and solve problems. They are involved in social interaction via collaboration. Learning is structured around big or essential questions, which require higher order thinking skills. Students use their critical thinking skills to solve problems and innovative skills to come up with their own solutions.

SOURCE: Essential questions by Susan Oxnevad (Please hover your mouse and click on the interactive images).    

Luckily, technology provides us with many tools to adapt these approaches more easily and effectively in and outside the classroom. It also helps us to access information like how our students learn best and how we can make learning real, more enjoyable and engaging for all types of learners in the classroom. Consequently, it enables us to reconsider the old methodologies we have been using and discover, learn, unlearn and relearn the new pedagogies that increase learner engagement and autonomy. Many people think that transforming education in the 21st century is about using modern technology. However, it is mostly about our approach to learning.    


SOURCE: TEACHER FACILITATED LEARNING EXPERIENCES by Susan Oxnevad (Please hover your mouse and click on the interactive images).

As educators we already know that every child learns differently, so our job should be to give them choices to express what they know in various ways and give them the opportunity to use their imagination through innovation. Technology offers us many different tools to differentiate our instruction according to the diverse needs and interests of our learners and to personalize learning.

SOURCE: FLEXIBLE LEARNING PATHS by Susan Oxnevad (Please hover your mouse and click on the interactive images).

If the purpose of schooling is to enable the students to discover who they are and what their talents and passions are, why are students still being loaded with irrelevant information they will forget before the school year ends? Today, we need teachers who can foster curiosity and exploration and guide their students to find joy in learning and discovery through their passions and interests.  Only this type of schooling can motivate disengaged teenagers bored of traditional schooling. The graphics below illustrate how the source of information and the way we build knowledge have changed in the 21st Century:


SOURCE: Richard Wells

With all this in mind, we should see technology not only as an aide to learning  but as an important factor to transform learning, helping us create dynamic learning environments where learners become active participants in their own learning, rather than passive recipients of knowledge. This new definition of learning shouldn’t focus on getting high marks. We should care more about our students’ cognitive needs than the results they achieve at school.  We should encourage them to create and share information instead of memorizing it so that we can instill the joy and love of learning in them. They need to know how to think critically, creatively, and to evaluate multiple viewpoints. In these new learning environments enhanced by technology, the teachers are learners, too. They don’t control the learning any more, but instead, try to empower their students to take ownership of their own learning as passionate learners. This will eventually open the doors to self-directed learning by increasing learners’ involvement and responsibility for their own learning.

SOURCE: Med Kharbach Educational Technology and Mobile Learning

Of course, all these changes won’t be easy but  as we often tell our students, we should all have the confidence to take risks, learn from our mistakes, try new things, and develop a discipline of self-reflection to become the change agents in our communities.

Video for teachers on becoming a change agent by Justin Tarte.

Please share how you have personally transformed education.

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