I was recently asked by my students, “Are there answer choices?” I quickly responded, “There are NO answer choices in the real world.” The most effective learning does not take place within the constraints of multiple choice answers. If we teach students to focus with one answer in mind, we stop the process of learning, the most intriguing part (Thomas & Brown, 2011, p. 37). Learning should be about striving to think and develop solutions organically, not by forcing answers. The most effective solutions exist when we release definitive boundaries. Where would Amazon be today if it had boxed itself in with the initial plan of just selling books? They did not set limits with one solution, but focused on the evolution of solving a problem to help people discover things they want to buy (Hansell, 1998). Amazon did not place constraints on their company and because of this mindset they became the billion-dollar business we see today. As educators, we need to find a way to provide a more holistic environment for students to ask questions, be curious with their learning, and not force them into the one size fits all model.
To make this shift, in my classroom the main concept I want to incorporate is allowing students to learn in the collective. This way of learning allows for people to be free to move in and out of groups at various times for different reasons (Thomas & Brown, 2011, p. 53). Allowing learning to be interwoven between ideas, interests, and groups. The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) course I teach is composed of primarily group projects, but I want students to be free of constraints within confined groups. I want students to have an opportunity to work not just with peers in the classroom but beyond. Giving students the opportunity to use resources such as blogging or creating videos to giving students a chance to become a part of collective shaping their thoughts. Eliminating basic time constraints and physical boundaries opens limitless possibilities for interaction (Thomas & Brown, 2011, p. 70). Allowing students to just learn, at their own pace, and their own way through collaborations, this is where significant learning takes place.
The struggle is, Real learning.
The new culture of learning is not about allowing students unlimited access to information without any boundaries, this would produce haphazard results (Thomas & Brown, 2011, p. 81). The most difficult challenge for me will be to find the balance between complete control and complete chaos. Accepting that real learning is messy, not neat and precise but not without boundaries. I am fortunate to teach elective courses such as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) that allow creativity of students, but often I want the complete conclusion of a project. For a project ending to be tied up in a neat bow, which is unrealistic. Students should have a goal but understand that sometimes the questions they are proposing are just as significant as the answers (Thomas & Brown, 2011, p. 81). The idea of students placing less emphasis on task completion and more on the path being pursued. It is not just about achieving an end goal, but adapting a more imaginative way of thinking (Thomas & Brown, 2011, p. 99).
To be able to incorporate these ideas into my classroom there are changes I want to initiate. I want to put more emphasis on the learning and less on grades, allow for students to move freely between groups, and incorporate a way for students to share their results beyond the classroom. The first thing I want to do is adapt the previous rubrics to be more flexible. I want the emphasis placed on what the students have learned and how they learned, not on creating the perfect result. Next when setting up groups, I want students to understand that they can freely walk around and discuss with other groups ideas and concepts. They are not limited to their 3 group members to learn, and are open to discuss ideas with anyone. Lastly, I want to create discussions through a LMS (learning management system) that provide communication school wide. Allowing students to share beyond their class and school, through blogging or video sharing. Being able to instill these changes will not only enhance the students learning, but create a more naturalistic environment that can extend beyond the classroom.
Adopting the perspective to impact others
Change is inevitable, learning should not be stagnant. Teaching in the 21st century is about embracing change, not fighting change (Thomas & Brown, 2011, p. 43). The most powerful way to prove positive changes is through student’s successes. I believe the first step need to influence my organization is through modeling the changes I have made in my classes. Showing the most resistant teachers through my actions that students can learn more through a more naturalistic approach. When students are given more freedom, they have fun, and are more willing to learn. This will not only motivate students during school, but they will be more likely to extend the learning outside the boundaries of school.
Getting others thinking
This new culture of learning allows for collective opportunities. “Until now, we have lacked the ability, resources and connections to make this kind of learning scalable and powerful. “(Thomas & Brown, 2011, p. 89) Having access to limitless collectives has provided opportunities for innovation and making discoveries in ways previously not possible. By combining collective learning and implementing my blended learning plan, I believe students learning will be effected profoundly. These ideas go hand and hand and can’t effectively exist without the other. Students will have a wonderful opportunity to learn with peers, and by peers beyond the classroom boundaries. Once I can successfully implement my plans in my classroom I would like to encourage other teachers to use similar concepts. With the help of the instructional coaches on campus, I would like to explore these ideas with other teachers. We do not have to make these changes alone, but instead we should be working together. We must show our students that we as educators are not asking something of them, that we do not do ourselves. That we too as collective teachers, are learning without boundaries together. This transition will be challenging, but I am hopeful that sharing my successes and providing support will influence others to make similar changes.
Is this broad enough?
I believe that my perspective is broad enough to become a foundational perspective that will influence my learning philosophy and my actions because it is imperative for the problem-based learning electives I teach. For students to really learn, we must think more broadly and instill significant learning environments. The kind of learning that will define the future is not currently taking place in the classroom but happening all around us. (Brown & Thomas, 2011, p. 17). We must strive as educators to make these changes and quickly, to provide students with powerful learning. Creating significant learning environments provides a chance for students to be prepared for their future in careers without answers choices. The hope that we are not just teaching information, but teaching students to become true problem solvers.
Hansell, S. (1998, August 5). Amazon.com is expanding beyond books. Retrieved from www.nytimes.com: http://www.nytimes.com/1998/08/05/business/amazoncom-is-expanding-beyond-books.html Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning; Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, KY: Author.