Online learning is great! But, in class learning is great, too! How do we decide? It’s important to realize that it’s not an either/or solution. We need to look forward and think about what we want our kids to learn.
If we shield our children from the technological and cultural changes around them, we are not teaching them how to thrive in the world today and certainly not in the world of the future. We have to accept the changes around us and help our kids learn how to learn most effectively; however, if online learning is the only solution, we have to ask, “Is that all there is“? If we embrace only the technological solutions, we may not lead our children where we want them to go. We may be left with solo, self-learners who do not know how to work with others or think outside their own comfort zones.
The path to high octane learning comes from identifying the goals and then figuring out how to accomplish those goals.
I believe that collaboration is a critical skill to teach, and this comes from seeing how adults struggle with it in companies and organizations all across America. Collaboration not only teaches how to work with others, but it teaches how to combine ideas, how to see and accept ideas from a different perspective and how to take advantage of personal strengths. These skills are so critical in the workforce and in society in general.
Two more critical skills are “taking the initiative” and “making decisions”. Any manager in the corporate world knows just how valuable it is to have employees who can take the initiative and be productive without telling the them what to do every five minutes. For an entrepreneur, “making decisions” can be the absolute most important skill to have, because indecision can cause floundering and a downward spiral in momentum.
If we want to teach collaboration, teamwork, taking the initiative and decision-making, we need to have a coach or facilitator involved and a community learning environment, because it’s not easy to learn these skills without help. The 21st century teacher now becomes that coach and facilitator. This new role for the teacher puts the student in the driver’s seat of his/her own learning, and makes it a requirement that he/she engage more in order to succeed. Without the the help of the teacher-coach, we are shirking our duties as parents. Without guidance, the student will often be bound to fail.
Also, in this new world, we should not look on failure as a bad thing, but rather a part of the process, because how can we expect self-learners to never fail? How can a student truly learn anything without failure? And how important it is for the teacher-coach to be there to help the student understand that this is not a bad thing!
Finally, we have to take into consideration the different ways kids learn. The current system largely tries to fit everyone into the same process, and we see that it does not work well for all students. We often assume that since our kids do not fall through the cracks and get good grades that they are learning what they need to learn and they way they need to learn. However, my concern is that my experience in the “real” world reveals that many of the skills needed are not being taught in school.
I don’t want my kids to only learn knowledge. I want them to learn to be proactive, productively creative thinkers who can work well in a team environment, too. This is how they will create a future for themselves and have a greater impact on their world.
So, the ultimate solution is a blended learning environment, where place happens but is not the most important aspect of learning. The place is in the classroom, on the web, on mobile, at the wifi spots, and wherever learning leads. The technology needed for this environment is one that integrates diverse and disparate types of content and allows access in multiple ways and on multiple devices. The tools have to be easy for teachers to use to craft their course and learning materials, and it has to be accessible the way students want to learn. If we listen to students and watch what they do, we will find the best solutions.
The most important new skills teachers need is how to effectively coach and inspire students in a way that facilitates creative ideas that then focus into productive solutions. Nothing is ever one or the other. It’s not about online vs. the classroom. Even math is not black and white.