The trends shaping the next academic year are nothing new – we’ve heard about some of them for years. Yet now they are becoming a reality, manifesting themselves in classrooms rather than in catchy headlines. What benefits and challenges will they bring into yours?
The Changing Role of a Teacher
A teacher is shifting from someone who knows things to someone who is a newbie, like the rest of the class. The difference is, they have extensive experience at being a newbie and that’s something they are here to share – to model handling the situation of uncertainty or failure, model problem-solving, life-long learning, and inquisitive curiosity. Essentially, to equip students with skills they need to get to knowledge independently.
The teacher of the 21st century is in the classroom to nurture learners, not to feed data. That’s the crux of the student-centered approach – not one-on-one classes, or more time spent individually coaching every student. The role of the teacher in 2019 is to guide their class through activities and sharing in the wonder of discovery.
Of course, monitoring the personal progress of the students and individually helping those who experience difficulties is important. However, without shifting the perspective first, it’s not realistic, especially with schools that cannot afford smaller classes or more space for teacher’s plan time. Therefore, shifting the perspective is the key – scaling up (or rather down in this case) is the next step.
Artificial Intelligence Learning
If a teacher is there to inspire and facilitate, then AI is taking up the role of personalized tutoring, where skills must be trained. Digital learning environments and intelligent tutoring systems offer amazing flexibility at no time costs, which makes an efficient support system for K12 teachers.
Language learning apps demonstrate how AI-powered systems provide individual revisions plans and interest-based learning. Other tools like that are available for various subjects. AI’s analyzing capacity enables real-time feedback and continual targeted practice. Content analysis is another apt ability of AI and a helpful tool in assessing the individual progress of the student. It allows teachers to understand students’ needs better and, being equipped with more information – to tailor better lesson plans.
AI is an ultimate teacher’s assistant that frees the teacher of the most time-consuming and monotonous tasks, such as tests and checking papers for plagiarism, leaving more place to utilize the teacher’s human-specific skills like emotional intelligence and creativity.
Augmented Reality Training
Augmented reality is an illustrious example of an old saying – a picture is worth a thousand words. However, how is AR better than VR or just a 3D image on a screen?
AR expands our physical reality. AR tools are capable of projecting something abstract or hard to grasp from a flat diagram and making it real – be it a 3D model of the Solar system, a geometric shape complete with formulas and explanations, or a scheme of the human nervous system. However, in AR those projections are tied to physical objects – something solid that students can interact with, activating motor centers in their brains. This creates engaging, immersive experiences that are more likely to stay in their memory. Here are some videos that show how AR can be used in science and physical education.
On the other hand, AR can be used not only to bring flat images to life but also to substitute real-life activities tied to higher risk and potential danger – some lab experiments and demonstrations can only be conceivable in the school setting as AR simulations.
Homeschoolers can attend self-directed learning centers for certain subjects that their parents don’t feel confident enough to teach. Instead of having gaps in their knowledge and getting paper help on a subject they are undertrained in, they can catch up and rectify the situation in a hybrid school.
This way students have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the school setting, socialize with peers, and choose what and how they will learn.
Overall this system allows more flexibility with scheduling for both students and teachers. One of my closest friends used to teach English and Literature in K12 but had to step down for a while to care for her first child. Now she continues her work as an English and Literature teacher in a hybrid school. This way she has smaller classes, more motivated and engaged students, and more time to spend with her daughter. She also does private tutoring in-home so her schedule is quite flexible, which suits her lifestyle at the moment perfectly.
Personalized learning is often confused with the individualized approach to teaching. It has always been necessary to take into account the individual strengths and struggles of each student, so why is personalized learning a new trend at all? The answer is that personalized learning is much more holistic. While the individualized approach made allowances for differences between students, it was still a standard-based education. That is, however flexible the learning models, the result had to be the same – a student competent in the approved content.
Meanwhile, in personalized learning, everything, including content, pacing, sequence, and technology must be adjusted to suit each student’s interests, curiosity, and learning purpose. The result of such education should be a student that is competent in the process of learning rather than in prescribed content. This makes perfect sense in our information-rich world, where everything is searchable but you must have a clear idea of what you are looking for and why you need it.
Personalized learning sounds great, but isn’t it beyond the reach of a single teacher who has a whole class of unique students on her hands? That’s where all the AI tools, Genius Hours, and hybrid homeschooling come to the rescue, broadening the possibilities for us all.
Blended learning is more than iPads in the classroom and animated apps to keep tech-savvy students stimulated and interested. It is a mode of learning that is the only answer if we want to keep all the benefits of face-to-face learning with the flexibility of personalized learning.
Blended learning allows for aligning many contradicting schedules, matching varying paces of different students and a variety of content types. It also implies individual preparation for in-class activity and student collaboration outside the classroom. With various online spaces, collaboration platforms, communities, and chat rooms it’s a second (or even first!) nature for today’s school-age children.
Still, the teacher must provide instructions and feedback on navigating through these activities. The blended learning approach allows enhances personalized learning, but it benefits from structure, encouragement, and guidance that only face-to-face communication with a teacher or mentor can provide.
Gamification of Education
Gamification has been a huge buzzword for years now, but the possibilities of this approach are often dismissed as shallow because they are largely misunderstood. Sprinkling games here and there to boost engagement or reward students for being patient is not what gamification is about.
Gamification requires a fundamental change in our approach to learning. It’s changing education at its core – designing it anew according to game design principles. We must remember that learning is inherently fun – human brains are wired to respond positively to discovery, pattern-recognition, risk, role play. Learning becomes boring when it stops being play, fun, and discovery-driven and becomes something that is done to students.
Humans play games not only when they are young but during their entire lives. The fundamental similarities between learning and games are exploration, pattern-recognition, discovery, and sense of progress. Gamified educations are nothing but learning that reclaimed all those things. It can happen without the use of digital tools entirely. Competitiveness, cooperation, risk-taking, trade-off choices, immediate feedback, the progress that is a reward in itself, and joy in the process of learning are the highlight of properly gamified learning. Students find satisfaction in leveling-up their knowledge instead of “earning” a grade. They learn because it is a fun thing to do – not to arrive at the point where they know this and that. Just like we play to have fun – not to finish the game as quickly as possible or collect an impressive score.