Thursday, 16 April 2015

How I've tried to reinvent the classroom for the Digital Age

Both iPad and the flipped approach have changed the way teaching and learning occur in my classes.  Perhaps the most appealing aspect of this teaching technique is that it allows students to review the multimedia lessons I created for them, anytime, anywhere on their digital devices, reserving class time for in-depth discussions or class projects.

Flipped learning is more about "how" students  learn, as opposed to "when" they learn.  Using Google Drive, Facebook and Vimeo, they can collaborate and stay connected with me. What they used to do in the classroom (listening to me explain a concept) is done instead in a video format that the students watch at home for homework. Similarly, what used to be done at home (namely studying) is done in the classroom, where students can talk to me and learn with each other in collaborative activities.

Adopting iPad, letting students use and share their personal devices and the flip teaching method added to the fun: my teaching style is now more dynamic and motivational than traditional teaching: lower level thinking skills, such as lectures, are relegated to outside the classroom, while the higher order skills of applying, evaluating and creating are done during class with the me. Technology has helped me create personally customized instruction, engaging group work, and lessons that keep the class on-track.

I usually begin by introducing an idea on my website (, then after a brainstorming session, I explain the concept and let the students research further on their devices.  Students work in small groups and help each other, coaching those that are slower to catch on. Together they create multimedia projects that they present to the class and then publish in a digital portfolio.

When I walk around the classroom these days I see my students fully engaged on a regular basis - much more so more than would otherwise be the case using traditional teaching. The manner in which my students are interacting with each other and with me is quite remarkable, ie. they feel that they are in control of their learning in a student-centered classroom.  

While the content still remains the focus of my teaching, I think technology can enhance learning at every point in a lesson. As an early BYOD adopter in my school, I have seen increased learning outcomes and test scores. The current generation of students has grown up with technology and want to use it in every aspect of their daily lives — including school. Students are now some of the most enthusiastic and savvy users of mobile computing devices. They keep their beloved iPhones on them at all times, and are not just using them to communicate with friends or download music. In fact, they use them in their collaborative activities and they believe that mastering the latest technology skills will improve their educational and career opportunities; they take notes, collaborate on class assignments, conduct Internet research and use cloud- based apps to create digital artifacts.

This is how technology has improved teaching and learning:

- Student participation has increased. Students have become engaged in whatever they are doing with their personal devices, including classwork, which now is even more interactive

- Learning has become student-driven. Teaching in the digital age is becoming less about directly transferring knowledge and more about showing students how to sift through vast amounts of information to find the knowledge they need. BYOD has changed my teaching model. With their mobile devices students have more authority over their own learning. They can pose questions and do research instead of just listening to my lectures.

- Student collaboration and communication have increased. My students use their iPhones to communicate with their peers and with me. BYOD provides students with far greater opportunities to interact virtually with me and work with other students on assignments, projects and content creation.
Instruction has become personalized. I use media to meet different learning styles. Then, all students can learn and excel at their own pace. By allowing my students to follow along with my interactive, multimedia lessons on their devices, I give them more control over the pace at which they learn. Students spend countless hours outside the classroom on their mobile devices. So, why not use that to my advantage? I let them use their devices as engaging learning tools in the classroom. Then, they can easily bring their homework, educational games, projects with them. Everything they need to continue learning outside the classroom can be accessed anytime, anywhere, with the swipe of a finger.

- Students enjoy a new way of learning. Incorporating digital devices into the curriculum has helped me transform my direct instruction methods into project-and inquiry-based learning opportunities. This pedagogical approach helps students learn by doing and gives them ownership of their education.

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