Thursday, November 27, 2014

Learning On Demand
When I first conceived the basic idea for this post it was in a more nascent state than I realized. My thought began with how to use technology to provide students the ability to learn anytime, anywhere, which I call On Demand Learning, similar to how many of us - and, especially, our students - have become accustomed to accessing our entertainment. I thought On Demand Learning could be a future model for our education system as a whole, or for individual schools or districts to adopt. The general concept is that students in a classroom have a personal device to use to access content. This content would perhaps sit on the lower levels of Bloom's Taxonomy where the cognitive stakes are low. The student and device are mobile, so the learning can take place in any space in the room, or in any space outside of the room. The content is delivered when the student pushes play, if you will, so the learning can take place at any time. In this model, the students can learn as a group as well. For example the teacher (or learning coach) can push content to the student devices for simultaneous playback for the purpose of group learning or introducing a group activity. The students can work in small groups or one-on-one to access the same content and learn together. On Demand Learning provides students with the ability to participate in their learning and have some element of control; it is not unlike models we already see out there in the realm of blended learning or hybrid models. I like this model of learning on demand and I do believe that it will be a cornerstone of the education delivery in our world, if not our country, in the near future.
Since this earlier thought, as I continued to read and talk to colleagues my idea of learning on demand developed and expanded to include the elements of content. I came to realize that On Demand Learning lends itself well to differentiating learning. So now the idea becomes the technology providing students control of content access as well as the type of content they access. Where this gets interesting is when you begin to flesh out the potential of differentiating the learning. Imagine if instead of say 100 teachers in a region teaching the same math course, we change the model to have say 10 stellar teachers creating digital content for this single course that caters to different learning styles of students and at varying levels of comprehension and/or aptitude. Now we have the ability for students to be in the same course but to learn the content or concepts in a way that works best for their learning style. So, let's back up to the earlier example of the students in a classroom with a personal device. The teacher decides it's time to learn about the Pythagorean Theorem. Students, at their desks, can choose which of the 10 teachers they need to use to teach them the concept. (Maybe based on a preliminary assessment, one or two teachers are identified as being the ideal teachers for a student to select.) After the device activity concludes, the teacher in the classroom can then assign activities or problems for the students to work on together or alone and get help in person and begin to work on the higher levels of Bloom's Taxonomy with the students. You can imagine also that this can extend to outside of the classroom where perhaps the learning of the concept is a homework
assignment (flipped model) and the students come to class ready to participate in activities and solving problems.
This can morph into a national system whereby the best in class content deliverers (rock star teachers) can reach all students and provide the knowledge and comprehension, and our local educators become learning mentors and help the students make the necessary and appropriate connections to the material they are learning, focusing on the higher levels of Bloom's Taxonomy. This last part is quite controversial, I know. But, imagine if...