As I thought of the title for this blog, I was reminded of a class discussion I had with my students this week. I teach 6th grade Social Studies and we are reviewing basic geography terms and principles right now. We discussed ways in which humans adapt to and modify their environment. We talked about the fact that humans make modifications to their environment to improve their lives. After reading the book, A New Culture of Learning, it makes sense in the world of education as well. What modifications do we need to make to our learning environments to improve learning for our students?
Shifting the Culture
Our culture of learning and gaining information is shifting. My two girls I see how this comes into play. Like most kids, they love YouTube. Not just to watch music but they actually use it to learn new things. They are both artistic and love to make things. So I find myself buying new lists of ingredients for their DIY experiments. They become passionate about learning something and seek out the information on their own.
“Throughout life, people engage in a process of continuous learning about things in which they have a personal investment” (Thomas, 2011)
Our classrooms are not set up for students to have a personal investment in their learning. We tell them what to learn and how fast you have to learn it. Standardization is a hard thing to get away from. I think that is one of the biggest challenges I face in trying to create a significant learning environment for my students using blended learning. What I want for my students is what I see in my girls when they are looking up things to create on YouTube. I want them to seek out knowledge on their own and become totally engaged in what they are learning as well as work with others to learn. As a teacher who has taught in the factory model for so many years it is still hard to get away from.
“Learning is natural and effortless everywhere but school” (Thomas, 2012)
Moving forward as I begin to blended learning, I need to make sure that I am creating ways to engage student’s passions. I need to give them opportunities to learn from each other. I need to feed their imagination. I need to break down the “walls” of my classroom and connect my students to the world around them.
Creating a significant environment in my classroom will require me to focus on student learning and moving myself into a role of coach and mentor. To do this I need to encourage their natural curiosity just like my girls when they are doing their DIY project. I’ve also planted the seed this year by building better relationships with my students and getting to know what they are interested in and what things they like to do so I can integrate that into our blended lessons. As a teacher I am learning to step back and be more of the coach than the expert.
I plan on working on a grant proposal to get some of the support equipment I need as I implement my blended learning plan (headphones, furniture, etc). This will help in creating the physical learning environment and eliminate some of the infrastructure obstacles that I might face.
Taking it all In
Continuing on this journey I need to make sure I continue to look at the big picture and create that significant learning environment in my classroom. It is very easy to get caught up in the pieces of the puzzle. (Harapnuik, 2015). Getting lost in the details can get us away from the big picture which is, what is the environment we need to foster student learning? I will strive to create the best learning environment possible for my students.
Harapnuik, D. (2015, May 8) Creating Significant Learning Environments (CSLE). (Video File) Retrieved from: https://youtu.be/eZ-c7rz7eT4
Thomas, D. (2012, Sept. 12) A New Culture of Learning. (Video File) Retrieved from: https://youtu.be/lM80GXlyX0U
Thomas, D. & Brown, J.S. (2011) A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change. Create Space