March 10, 2013

Where Are You Going: Learning Design?

Where are you going with regard to learning design?  How are you identifying and using tools in timely, dynamic ways to engage and develop learning?  Those are the questions that stand forefront in my research and development work at this time.

I've created a growing list of wonderful articles and posts to consider as I delve into this study with depth. I wish this study could be part of my professional time at work, but unfortunately due to the level of time on task I have with students, the large percentage of my professional work, about 90%, happens on my own time to the dismay of my loved ones. I'm committed to this work because I believe learning design research, innovation and growth has the potential to empower, engage and develop learners in life-changing, positive ways, and to teach with the best tools, strategies and focus means that our work has meaning and impact which makes the time and effort worthwhile.

As I prepare for the study ahead, I am beginning to think about the constructs with regard to intermediate elementary education that I want to retain, develop and initiate.  Here is an initial list.
  • Engaging Questions and Topics: We know that when the learning is engaging it becomes a natural, positive event that takes on a life of its own.  Engaging learning eliminates the need for excessive classroom management, behavioral concerns and "carrots and sticks," and instead fosters authentic, enthusiastic, and collaborative learning.  The challenge here is to work with students and colleagues to identify state-of-the art, relevant and meaningful questions and topics to explore. 
  • Standards: It's a reality in public schools that we are driven by multiple standards.  At the elementary level most of those standards are solid foundation skills, concepts and knowledge in literacy and numeracy. The key is to embed the standards with time for introduction, review, practice and assessment into wonderful learning units, projects and problems.
  • Blended Learning: The tools before us are magnificent and plentiful.  The key here is to choose the best tools with a timely process of identification, implementation, assessment, and revision. First identify tools that meet the learning goals. Then try out the tools with students and see what happens--retain tools that lead to engaged, successful learning and replace tools that do not lead to that end.  Keep the conversation going about best tools and practices in regular, "all-voices-welome and heard" processes.
  • Content Creators: The best way for students to access timely tools and content is to create that content themselves.  For example, by creating a film, digital story or screencast lesson students learn the nuts and bolts of the process, and then are more keenly aware of how to access and utilize that information with depth.  Also students' own content creations can serve to teach classmates and develop their skills in an area that will be useful to them as they move on in school.
  • Collaboration: We know that teamwork in the 21st century is at the heart of most decisions and positive development.  As I write today the Cardinals are choosing a new pope and the legislature is making decisions about our national budget and economy--teamwork in action, for better or worse.  The better students learn to collaborate and work together, the better chance we all have with regard to making fruitful, promising decisions, invention and craft.
  • Metacognitive Awareness and Choice: As much as possible the classroom should be an active hub or learning where students are using choice and voice regularly.  Learning design should include menus of apt choices regularly, and one choice should always be "do you have a better idea, if so--let me know."  Also activities in classroom learning should work to strengthen student voice and self-knowledge when it comes to learning preferences, neurodiversity and personal interest. 
  • 24-7: Our learning environments should foster 24-7 learning platforms as much as possible in our attempt to nurture life-long learners who see life as the school of learning.  When instructors use tools that are only available at set times in set locations, they limit the learning.  Most learning tools today can be utilized 24-7.
  • Future Skills: At all levels we should be building students' awareness and experience with skills that will empower their lives.  Skills such as communication, critical thinking, collaboration and creativity are essential.  Specifically we should explore students' need and desire to master foreign language (terrific online programs exist for this), programming, publishing and more.
  • Practice: Learning takes practice.  We need to identify and utilize the most engaging tools for practice.  Currently we've identified SumDog as one of those tools.  There are many more. 
  • Beyond the Four Walls: Increasingly we should be bringing learning outside of the school and into the community as we collaborate with museums, nature preserves, local businesses, schools in other cities, states and countries and more. 
  • Brain Friendly: Learning design should embed the latest research with respect to cognition and learning. 
This is just a start to thinking about learning design and how we can impact students' experience of school in-house and within the broader learning community in- and out-of-house to foster learning that builds self esteem, excites curiosity, develops stamina and grows knowledge, concept and skill. 


Related Articles 
This article, Decoding Digital Pedagogy, posted by Pam Moran this morning is one that I want to consider with greater attention as I continue my thoughts with regard to learning design. 



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