As educators look to the future of learning, a few things are constant: the student, the teacher and the subjects.
But how and where high school students learn is rapidly changing, said Derrel Fincher, director of learning technologies at the state Education Department.
Students will spend more time working together and problem solving than ever before, and the technology used in the classroom is a supporting piece of those changes, Fincher said.
“You want the technology to disappear in the background,” he said.
One of the biggest trends in education is personalized learning, Fincher said. Students learn together, but teachers are able to tailor subjects to individual needs.
“I think of it as collaboration and joint creation, and joint knowledge building,” Fincher said. “The emphasis on collaboration is starting to build.”
Creating a more personalized learning environment doesn’t mean children will work alone, Fincher said.
Classrooms are shifting away from cooperation and toward collaboration, Fincher said. Instead of students doing parts of a project and clumping them together, they are working to solve real-world problems. It better reflects how adults work together.
“If you look at anything that happens in industry, it’s always multiple people working together,” Fincher said. “Those who struggle the most in industry are those who are very bright but can’t work with others.”
The structure allows students to direct their own learning in many cases. Relinquishing control to students is a change for teachers, Fincher said.
Technology advancing; methods changing
Three-dimensional printing, remote laboratories, live video feeds of world events and wearable technology are all on the not-too-distant horizon for students. Online learning will expand.
A big challenge will be to keep up, Fincher said.
“One of the difficulties we have in Oklahoma is making sure all the schools have enough technology and that teachers are trained to use it,” he said. “Teachers need support. They can’t do it all themselves.”
But who will buy all those personal devices? There are two models, Fincher said.
•One-to-one. Districts provide the same device to each student.
•BYOD. Using the bring-your-own-device model, students bring whatever they prefer to use, whether it’s a laptop, smartphone or tablet.
The one-to-one model is becoming less popular, Fincher said. When students provide their own technology, teachers are liberated from teaching to the technology provided by the district, he said. It’s also more of a real-life scenario.
“That’s how students work together outside of the class,” he said.
In the bring-your-own-device model, school districts provide devices for low-income students. But many kids have two or three devices, and they bring them in and kind of share them in class, Fincher said.
“The altruistic nature of our students really comes out,” he said. “That’s what so amazing.”
It also helps students learn to maneuver multiple devices and computer systems, Fincher said.
“Our students need it,” he said. “If they’re going to be successful in 20 years, they need access to it today. If the kids are using them outside of school, they should be using them for learning inside of school.”
But educators still are figuring out how to make sure students are using electronics to learn, not to goof off.
Cellphone bans are becoming more common in the classroom, as younger and younger users have their own mobile devices. But Fincher said that’s moving in the wrong direction.
“We’re going to have to develop new social conventions for how this works,” he said. “What you really want to do is work with the students about what is appropriate or inappropriate.”