Things that make you go hmmm
How do you keep students’ attention in the 21st century?
Being an educator in the 21st century can be challenging. Today’s students have a wider range of skills and learn at a faster pace. One of the best tools an educator can use is creativity, which plays a crucial role in creating an effective learning environment. Here’s how you can add creativity to your classroom and engage today’s diverse student population:
Students need the ability to solve complex problems in real time.
Why it’s important: In the real-world, we are faced with complex problems everyday. As society continues to advance, so will the complexity of manageable conflicts. The more we focus on students’ ability to devise effective solutions to real-world problems, the more successful those students will become.
Students need the ability to think analytically, which includes proficiency with comparing, contrasting, evaluating, synthesizing and applying without instruction or supervision.
Why it’s important: Tasks that require linear thinking and routine cognitive work are becoming more and more obsolete. Hence, it’s essential to guide students towards performing analytic thinking which is crucial to their ability to succeed in life after the classroom. Analytical thinkers are better equipped to see data and information in many different dimensions and from multiple angles. They are adept at conceptualization, organization and classification and synthesizing knowledge. These types of skills are invaluable since they allow students to deal practically with problems and devise meaningful solutions.
Students must possess the ability to collaborate seamlessly in both physical and virtual spaces, with real and virtual partners globally.
Why it’s important: Students of the digital age are social by nature. They text, post, update, share, chat, and constantly co-create in technological environments with one another. When they are unable to do this in school, they become disengaged and detached from their learning. Connection and collaboration with others is essential, not only to their learning, but for their mental and emotional health.
And because of a globalized workforce, it’s now the norm to communicate and market for global demographics instantaneously and effectively. An organization’s business partners are now halfway across the world, and yet they meet and work with each other every day. The ability to collaborate and communicate in these situations is essential.
Why is digital learning important for today’s students?
From computers to tablets, students are able to access high-quality online material for learning purposes. Today's connected classrooms provide both educators and students easier, faster and more affordable access to information, learning resources and community-based discussions. Therefore, digital learning is key to a student’s long-term success. Here are a few reasons why digital learning is important for today’s students:
Personalized learning helps educators modernize teaching simply by adapting the learning pace and teaching method to students’ needs, choices and interests. Educators that have adopted personalized learning strategies for their students found that students made significant gains in coursework—the longer students were exposed to personalized learning, the greater their achievement growth. Digital learning provides educational experiences that are customized for each student individually.
By embracing digital devices and connected learning, educators not only connect to one another to boost learning or share insights, experiences, and communication skills, but they additionally benefit from accessing shared learning resources. Accessibility is vital for leveraging technology and providing educational opportunities for all students across the world.
Digital assessments provide students rapid feedback on their understanding, leading to a more efficient communication strategy. Fast assessment paired with one or more digital learning approaches—visualizations, games, simulations, videos or annotation technology—targets individual learning styles, ultimately providing a richer learning environment and a fuller understanding of concepts. Through digital education, students can disseminate new concepts and ideas more readily and allows educators the opportunity to connect with students outside of the classroom.
Have students change or are professors just not caught up?
This answer is not simple. Here is an overview of the shifting student demographic in higher education and the reasons for educators’ unwillingness to change.
The shifting student demographic
Smart boards, laptops and digital devices now dominate the classroom landscape. Advances in artificial intelligence, digitalization and technology are forcing many adults in the workforce to rethink their careers as the job market evolves and their roles are no longer needed. Many have also watched their roles quickly transform, requiring a whole new set of soft skills. These situations have welcomed fast-paced learning with highly specialized topics, such as online courses and microlearning.
Today, 1 in 5 students are over 30, and 38% of undergraduates are over 25. In addition, the amount of information students are forced to absorb today is also leaving students feeling overwhelmed. Part of this is due to technology, which at face value would appear to offer easier access to research. However, students don’t know how to access it effectively and also have trouble retaining it.
Not surprisingly, the added pressure of balancing work and school has increased the demand for flexible learning options, leading to the rise in digital and collaborative courses. Digital and collaborative learning trends include:
˚Mobile & App-Based Learning - Interactive and personalized learning are the assets that students get from mobile apps. For students, education-based apps provide convenience by helping them to achieve more in less time.
˚Microlearning - A type of training delivered in small units. Microlearning is designed to help students tackle a large volume of learning content by taking small chunks at a time. A microlearning course can be just a five or 10 minute lesson, or a series of short standalone lessons that are targeted on a certain learning objective or skill.
˚Learning Videos - A video which presents educational material for a subject/topic within the course curriculum.
˚Gamification - The process of introducing elements and mechanics from games into the classroom.
˚Virtual Reality - Use of computer technology to create a simulated environment.
˚Augmented Reality - An interactive experience of a real-world environment where the objects that reside in the real-world are enhanced by computer-generated perceptual information, sometimes across multiple sensory modalities, including visual, auditory, haptic, somatosensory and olfactory.
˚Collaborative degree programs - An agreement between two post-secondary institutions that provides students in related programs the opportunity to study abroad (or off-site) for a semester or year, ultimately creating more academic pathways for learning.
Educators’ unwillingness to change
Universities often struggle with two things: getting faculty members through the door and convincing educators that different forms of teaching, like digital learning, produce better results than a traditional lecture does.
Perhaps the greatest challenge is to help educators institute new practices into routine habits. After all, changing how you teach isn’t easy—and may not always be successful.
Two researchers at the University of Virginia surveyed 300 faculty members on what obstacles prevented them from adopting new teaching practices. According to the survey, the top obstacle instructors faced was a lack of time to plan for teaching on top of their other responsibilities. Secondly, instructors stated research was emphasized over teaching.
This study demonstrates a key takeaway point: While educators should be encouraged to try, they additionally need support to implement new practices to meet the ever-changing needs of students living in a digital world.
How do we address all learning styles in the classroom?
There’s no doubt that the field of higher education is changing. The once ‘professor-focused’ approach has shifted to ‘student-centered’ learning, now defined by fewer lectures and more interactive classrooms, and the replacement of textbooks with digital learning resources. It’s focused more on individual learning styles and less on a one-size-fits-all approach to knowledge obtainment. With an emphasis on auditory, kinesthetic and visual learning styles, students can prepare to learn and recall information at their own pace.
Implement auditory learning in the classroom
Auditory learning is a skill that students will have to hone while studying, and while it’s prevalent during lectures, it’s lacking during written exams. Multiple choice exams and written essays don’t properly assess the aptitude necessary for learning how to present findings, collaborate with classmates, communicate effectively or develop the critical skills required during oral presentations and in the real-world. Therefore, it’s recommended to incorporate different learning styles in classroom activities.
Never underestimate the importance of kinesthetic learning
Implementing and utilizing auditory, kinesthetic and visual learning styles is the best way to learn, especially since students must remember information, not only for exams, but for real-world scenarios. In classrooms, learning is primarily focused on visual (e.g., PowerPoint presentations) and auditory (e.g., lectures) learning styles. However, in the real-world, kinesthetic learning is more common. Maneuvering through the workspace, talking with coworkers and clients on the move and thinking on the fly are skills that must be developed over time, yet these skills are rarely the focal point in higher education.
Interactive digital tools which focus on individual learning styles make studying more enjoyable for students. Education should be dynamic and multifaceted because there isn’t a single learning style that suits every student. The more learning styles utilized in the classroom, the better the students will retain knowledge and develop the necessary skills to succeed in the real-world.
Gen Z Takeover: How Gamification Is Being Implemented in Higher Education
In this report, we explore how the strategies commonly found in games can be applied in the higher education landscape to improve learning outcomes, student motivation and classroom engagement.
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Technology has improved over the years, which has allowed the EdTech market to mature and better fit its purpose for educators.
Digital content can help students prepare and track their progress, allowing me to move from what feels like being a “high school teacher”, back to being in a higher role of facilitating learning.
The more you get people to collaborate and teach each other, the more you can expand education at lower costs. Peer-to-peer can be one great way to scale without lowering quality.
When I had a good teacher, they were irreplaceable. I think teachers should remember this and not be afraid to embrace digital options.
Our focus for the upcoming years is to learn more about cognition, adaptive learning and co-creation, and also talk about peer-to-peer work and digital options. The critical question to keep in mind is always: Why is this helping their learning and what are the benefits of doing it this way?
Teachers are still experts who know and understand their stuff in-depth. They just don’t need to be doing redundant, less creative, automatic things which the job requires.