Today's learners are vastly different from past generations. Are you prepared to meet their needs?
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The ELA/R classrooms are the perfect place to provide opportunities for all learners to shift from being passive consumers of knowledge to becoming creators of ideas, concepts, and products.
What might this look like?
The traditional method of lecturing while learners take notes can be transformed if the learners are empowered to contribute in the discovery of knowledge pertinent to the unit or lesson topic. Whether it be through a digital tool like Padlet, or giant chart paper, learners can be given parameters (the author, literary terms, current events at that time, etc.), and begin the process of researching and recording what they discover while the educator facilitates the learning process.
Professional communication is a vital skill for students to master, and if they must interact with individuals outside of their classroom, be it a professional in the field they wish to pursue, or perhaps another classroom of students in another county, state, or even country, as learners, they are more likely to be invested in learning how to communicate at a professional level, verbally, and in writing.
Social Studies classrooms have the ability to create opportunities for young learners to contribute to something greater than themselves.
When learners are exploring the historical significance and influences of various wars, one way they can contribute to society is by writing letters to soldiers currently deployed around the globe. By connecting young learners to experiences they deem relevant, they will feel empowered by their learning and discoveries.
Knowing and understanding primary source documents is so important in our digital age that is overflowing with information! Studying political cartoons and other documents can serve as a voyage of discovery, and once students begin to understand the process of analyzing and evaluating for purpose, message, perspective, and significance in major events in history, they can become the creators. Educators guide them in the rise to the synthesis stage where they create their own political cartoon reflecting their personal view of the concept or topic, a podcast recording a narrative and reflection of their cartoon, and then publish it to the class web page, class blog, or even an organization that publishes student work.
Empowering learners through authentic, personalized learning experiences, is a practice that will raise student engagement and ownership in their math classes.
What might this look like?
Holding a math congress allows educators to create an environment that empowers students to engage in discourse relating to mathematical processes and reasoning, whether it be calculating the surface area of a rectangular prism, or working with polynomials. By providing students the opportunity to reflect on their processes, discuss their reasoning, and make their thinking visible, they will become invested in the journey of arriving at new knowledge or discovery.
Implementing CRA (concrete, representational, and abstract), takes passive math learners and involves them in the process of making conceptual understanding tangible with meaningful connections. Whether the learner is studying decimal place values or computation with fractions, once those concrete connections have been made, educators facilitate the transition of learners from the concrete to the representational, and finally, to the abstract.
Every one of our students deserves the opportunity to engage in experiences designed to ignite a passion for learning beyond the classroom.
When learning about the environment, climate, or ecosystems, students have the perfect opportunity to experience discovery beyond the classroom when their teachers connect with outside experts, such as environmentalists, nature conservationist officers, or even an ecologist that is willing to email, skype, or perhaps meet with the class to share their knowledge, experiences, and expertise in their field, and how it affects everyone, including the students. Teachers modeling the skill of networking while providing their students with a relevant, engaging opportunity to extend their knowledge can become a priceless experience for everyone.
Following lab experiments, or perhaps a time of researching moral dilemmas in science, is a time when student discourse empowers students to engage in creative thinking, purposeful collaboration, high levels of critical thinking, and formal communication with their peers regarding their predictions, misconceptions, victories, and challenges in their learning process. Student discourse also allows students to learn the value of reflective thinking and responding to new knowledge not only for themselves, but also for one another, in and out of the classroom.
Many students receive supporting services through various special populations such as special education, ELL, GT, Dyslexia, and 504. Just like others students, these students anticipate opportunities where they move from consumers to creators, contribute to something greater than themselves, engage in personalized learning experiences, and ignite a passion for learning beyond the classroom.
Differentiated instruction provides students various avenues to learning in terms of acquiring content, processing, constructing, or making sense of ideas. Some students may choose to engage an expert in an interview. Others may choose to record and publish a podcast expressing their views or discoveries on a specific topic or issue. While still others may opt to formally present information to a group of their peers, educators, community members, and/or outside experts.
Universal Design for Learning can increase access to curriculum by reducing physical, cognitive, intellectual, and organizational barriers to learning, as well as other obstacles. Teachers can adjust instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments in a way that remove these barriers and increase access and engagement for all students.
An educator's role in facilitating learning will look very different from an educator's traditional role of bestowing information. Facilitating learning can be a complex process for the facilitator, particularly when it is an unfamiliar role. An environment that invites students to inquire, discover, and learn as individuals, involves the educator developing a framework that encompasses various opportunities for inquiries, discoveries, learning, and demonstration of that learning, which, in turn, will guide the student learning without dictating the specific pathway that each learner must take in order to demonstrate mastery.
Transitioning a classroom from being a place where knowledge is bestowed to where it is discovered is not a shift that will occur overnight. Gradually incorporating opportunities for students to engage in individualized learning experiences while the educator guides and facilitates the process will be most effective as everyone adapts to new strategies and mindsets. Leaning on effective instructional practices and strategies, and utilizing digital tools as necessary, while engaging in the role of facilitating learning, will provide a foundation of structure and guidance for educators as we work to provide structure and guidance for our learners.
As educators begin to facilitate the learning process for their students, another aspect that cannot be forgotten is the need for educators to engage in connections and networks with other educators and outside experts in order to to inquire, collaborate, discover, and learn new strategies and methods for educating today's young learners.
Modeling to young learners how to connect and collaborate with other professionals in order for all to reach a new level of knowledge and understanding is a vital part of an educator's role as a facilitator of learning. Whether it be face-to-face networking, or collaboration that takes place through the use of digital tools, such interactions empower and cultivate the knowledge and understanding of every individual involved, thus impacting future inquiries, discoveries, learning, and applications.
All educators, regardless of their role on a campus or in a district, have the opportunity to be leaders. Cultivating an environment among educators where change and growth are viable opportunities is necessary if students are going to be provided with circumstances that empower them to experience learning and acquire skills that will equip them to engage in modern and future society.
Experiencing learning in ways that educators anticipate will be meaningful and relevant to young learners is the beginning of understanding how to lead a shift in the way young learners need to be educated. Overcoming barriers involved in the transitioning of education being an impartation of knowledge to the discovery and construction of knowledge will require intentional planning, collaboration, and strategy on the part of educators if young learners are to be given meaningful and relevant opportunities of learning.
A student's classroom used to consist of resources that could be curated to fit in one room, in one building. Today's learners possess countless fluid and enigmatic connections to their families, communities, and the world at large. In order to reflect the flexibility, connectivity, and resourcefulness of today's digital society, and support students in learning how to navigate it appropriately, it is vital that modern classrooms are designed to be a catalyst for flexibility, connectivity, and creativity.
A flexible, collaborative, and creative classroom can be constructed in countless ways, including the types of seating, the arrangement of the room, the resources made available (digital and non-digital alike), and of course, a culture of inquiry, collaboration, creativity, and discovery.
Global connectivity has increased at a rapid pace in all aspects of society, including professionally, socially, academically, and politically. Intentionally providing students with relevant learning opportunities connected to a global scale will empower young learners to learn how to thrive in our highly connected world that they already knows exists, and that they are already trying to figure out how to navigate effectively. Digital tools provide the resources that allow students to engage in learning experiences that provide opportunities to connect and contribute to global society.
A classroom that empowers students to engage on a global scale can be created in countless ways through a variety of means, including the types of digital tools used, the purpose of connecting and engaging, the amount of time dedicated to such practices, and how the value of possessing a global perspective is developed within young learners.
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