Reflections on Learning Part II: Back to the Future

At the close of 2014, Designs2Learn shared memories of early learning: the rituals of school, learning journeys, learning how to fail, and becoming conscious about learning. As we enter 2015, we begin the process of creating the memories from another new year of learning. What will we learn and how we learn it? How can we design meaningful learning experiences and curricula that will persist into the future of our students’ workplace lives?

A few key points come into perspective when thinking about how we will reflect back on 2015 at year end. This is how I would like to remember this year of learning:

  1. We utilize technology to support successful learning rather than technology driving learning altogether. MOOCs are the primary example of this phenomenon; we are now in a period of self-correction. This was a fantastic mistake to make because it alerted those who may have been asleep at the wheel that online learning is something to be incorporated not only into the higher education realm but PK-12 as well. Corporations have known this all along, and recent learning expenditures indicate that 2015 should be a good year for online learning. But we need to go back to some basics in terms of understanding and incorporating learning theory into edtech design in order for these experiences to have the lasting value we seek. The tools we put in the hands of the universities are merely platforms on which to deliver learning. The learning still needs to be effectively designed. The tools that we provide to school kids at an early age should help plant the seeds for more independent learning and critical thinking rather than a mere dependence on technology.
  2. We extend the role of mentorships in all educational domains. From PK-12 to higher ed and in the workplace, there is a definite place for mentorship. There is some wonderful work being done by groups like the Future Project and iMentor in the schools and by Enstitute and UnCollege beyond PK-12. So much of what we learn takes place between people in one-on-one engagements. Let’s bring more of the 70:20:10 model into the schools and establish the groundwork for this type of learning early on.
  3. We involve more community resources into the educational experience.Beyond the classroom teacher, in addition to our cadre of mentors, there’s a wealth of resources in the community to extend the learning experience. From libraries to local businesses, we should be spending more time of the classroom and helping kids make the connection between what they learn there and the outside world.
  4. We incorporate more experiential and maker curriculum into the schools. Providing opportunities for children to observe their environment, to define a problem, to embark on the design process to investigate and solve that problem and to become proficient in the tools required to do so will have a tremendous effect on that person’s confidence and abilities moving forward. Imagine the advantages to a workplace populated with people who have grown up having engaged in this process. The Maker Education Initiative is one of several prolific organizations supporting the maker movement, with a range of resources and programs to help schools and individuals get started; Tools at Schools is another group whose work within the schools is helping to utilize design thinking to engage students in meaningful projects.
  5. We look to homeschooling and unschooling for inspiration. There is so much work that has been done by these communities in terms of examining the learning process and creating models for user-driven learning experiences. The majority of us understand now that one size does not fit all, and technology-enhanced blended learning experiences are becoming more common in the schools, but let’s not forget that there are alternatives for students who are not best served in the school environment. The resources and community-building that the homeschooling and unschooling families have created have a lot to teach us all.

The coming year has a lot of promise for those of us in the educational arena. With so much investment in edtech, and the formation of meaningful partnerships in the educational space, there’s great potential to make some good memories to reflect back on. The role of the teacher is constantly evolving and this year may also reveal significant progress with how we incorporate best practices in teaching and learning into the ever-changing equation.

Stay connected to Designs2Learn for more on how we can partner on learning design today to help shape tomorrow’s workforce. Click here to participate in our State of the State in Education Survey.

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