For over two decades, E-Learning has been hailed as ‘the’ solution that will drive educational reform and displace the dominance of classroom learning, as we know it. Despite the potential of E-Learning, to personalize instruction, enable scalable solutions and develop new learning skills that will be vital for the future workforce, E-Learning has not yet redefined what we understand school to be. E-Learning and classroom learning must work in coalition and not competition.
In our content rich and connected world, it is vital for young people to think critically and interrogate sources of information. Knowing how to ask good questions to discover knowledge and build an understanding, is essential to learning success in the 21st century. Put simply, learning how to learn. This can be achieved through E-Learning that is designed to purposefully leverage digital technologies that enable complex communication, successful collaboration, enhance critical and creative thinking and a personalized learning experience. The right technology tools when combined with appropriate deployment and training for teachers can offer new opportunities for student learning and so make a valuable contribution to any classroom.
E-Learning, flipped learning, online learning, blended learning; each offers a different point of entry for teachers to introduce technologies into their classroom environment. Direct instruction, debate, brainstorming, setting learning goals, while all these are seen as traditional approaches, each can be enhanced with technology.
The following are examples of effective strategies that combine E-Learning with traditional classroom learning:
- Sophisticated response-ware that enables immediate feedback for both students and teachers to track progress. Allowing for differentiation and adjustment to the classroom teaching program based on the formative data that is collected.
- Flipped learning practices that support students to access learning materials independently then use social learning opportunities in class time to apply the knowledge, challenge understandings and participate in unique experiences and responses.
- Building collaborative online learning spaces that provide access to peers and shared online spaces to build knowledge and work together.
- Differentiated learning paths, that allow students to access materials with greater choice and voice about the pace and mode.
- Development of digital portfolios to capture goal setting, evidence of learning, reflection and growth over time.
- Using technology to redefine the type of task we design and take advantage of simulations, real-world problems and require students to create content in response to the learning rather than simply consuming material.
- Using technology to connect and share with communities of learning across the world.
Despite these opportunities to enhance our classrooms with technology, some continue to view it as little more than a distraction for young people, already labeled as screen addicted. Recent system wide interventions that call for bans on mobile devices in schools demonstrate the fear that can dominate the discussion. Such discourse limits the exploration of the potential of these technologies to enable valuable E-Learning opportunities. The success of E-Learning strategies has also been impacted by a one-size fits all approach to integrating technology. Examples include single device programs, mandated learning management systems or whole school adoption of a single tool. Instead, teachers need a bespoke collection of ICT tools that suit their classroom and their students just as teachers do with other teaching strategies.
Technology can encourage educators to consider the role of teacher and student differently. In classrooms we can create new learning experiences where students become creators not just consumers, teachers can become co-learners and focus on providing personalized programs and regular powerful feedback. This change demands that ICT systems are streamlined and that schools prioritize professional learning opportunities for teachers to share with each other the technology and teaching approaches that are most effective in their unique school context.
E-Learning when implemented purposefully can support a classroom learning environment that enables thinking and innovation, where students are engaged and encouraged to take meaningful risks towards connected learning outcomes, ensuring they develop the skills and capabilities they need for economic, social and cultural success in the 21st century.
About the Author
Meg Fortington is the Director of Curriculum and Innovation at St Margaret’s and Berwick Grammar School. She is passionate about the value of technology in every classroom and its potential to make a positive impact on teaching and learning.
Meg regularly presents professional learning opportunities and workshops focused on E-Learning tools and strategies to support educators to focus on the skills and outcomes made possible with technology.