By Sarah Hampton
It’s here! It’s finally here! Members of the cyberlearning community have been working for months to bring us a report on their recent research in the Cyberlearning Community Report: The State of Cyberlearning and the Future of Learning With Technology. The report brings together key players who “envision, design, and investigate possible futures of learning in the presence of significant innovations.” And when they say significant innovations, they mean significant.
There are new ways to think about learning environments and new ways to use technology that I would have never dreamed about. For example, be sure to check out projects using simulations like RoomQuake in which simulated seismographs in different locations in the room allow students to investigate the earthquake’s effects and locate “roomquake” epicenters within the room. “The students have the social and scientific experience of doing field work, but without ever leaving their classroom.”
Students using RoomQuake
For another example, check out the BeeSim project in which young students enact the behaviors of a bee community as it tries to satisfy the energy needs of its hive using bee puppets equipped with sensors that interact with puppet hives.
BeeSim with younger children
I know you’re insanely busy. Teachers do a year’s worth of work in nine months so I get it. Why should you take the time to read the lengthy report? Here are my top reasons:
1. The report is ultimately for us, the teachers. The entire community that prepared the report wants to support and help us improve what we do for our students. We make these findings valuable when we use them to benefit our schools. All the grant money, all the time, and all the discoveries--we determine their worth. There’s a sign in a grocery store parking lot that says that reusable grocery bags can’t help the environment if they are left in the car. This research can’t help our education system if we leave it on the internet.
2. You can't read this report without getting excited about the future landscape of education. There is a current of enthusiasm and optimism woven throughout the report along with the explosion of technology and research. At school, sometimes the bureaucratic hoops and water cooler chatter is discouraging, but the information in this report will inspire you!
3. There is an encouraging focus on equity. Specifically, there is focus on:
4. You will learn about our changing roles as educators. Instead of the keeper of the keys of knowledge, the report casts the teacher as a facilitator, organizer, creative engineer of learning moments, and co-learner/co-contributor in the learning process. In addition, as technology becomes better able to automate some teaching tasks and give just-in-time alerts, we are freed to target struggling learners with specific skills while other learners remain engaged in learning tasks managed by digital learning environments. See Inq-ITS aka Inquiry Intelligent Tutoring System in the Learning Analytics for Assessment section, for example. The relationship between technology and teachers in the classroom can be rewarding as well as challenging. As part of the report states, “One tension is to balance the human and digital sides and support each side in what they do best.” Digital environments can never replace the value of human teachers in the classroom. The key is to optimize the dynamic. The community report offers insight on our changing roles and on how we can maximize the contribution of both people and technology.
In a few days, I am going to share a concrete example of how the report has already helped me improve my teaching. (As a reviewer, I got to read it this summer and get a headstart.) In the meantime, go download the Cyberlearning Community Report! If you’ve gotten a chance to read it, let me know what you think about it and what I’ve said.