Teaching in ways that create open, networked, and participatory communities in our learning environments is essential in the 21st century classroom. Learning is about constructing knowledge as a community of learners, not about absorbing information from an all-knowing teacher. It is part of our job then to figure out how to capture the collaborative spirit that exists outside of the classroom and use it to construct knowledge and excite students to engage in passionate knowledge building.
How do we take the kind of collaboration that happens on the internet (ex. Participatory Community – NyanCat and community collaborations with zefrank – You’re Okay (Chillout) and 2601 People Wrote This Song) and make it happen in our learning environments?
Technology plays a huge role in making this happen. It allows connections to be made and collaborations to be created across the world. Technology creates a bridge that couldn’t otherwise exist. We can connect with people who have similar interests, people who can teach us things with their first hand knowledge, and so much more. In the classroom, learning can be enhanced by these connections. People engage in participatory internet-based extra-curricular projects simply because they want to. These projects are often skill and network building and passion-driven. So, we must utilize technology to its fullest in the classroom.
Opening the walls of the classroom is part of creating this type of learning environment. Learning shouldn’t feel like a burden, but a way of exploring things that we are curious about and an opportunity to work with others and learn collaboratively. Learning also shouldn’t end once the students leave the school. That’s where the technology helps continue connections and allows students to work on things that interest them, at times that work for them.
I think we also need to ask ourselves: what motivates us? I would say that school tries to motivate people with the use of grades, which I don’t think will help to promote open, collaborative, and participatory communities in our learning environments. Not that I’m saying the work won’t be assessed, rather that it won’t be the focus of the projects. The focus will be inner motivators that are unique to individual students. The starting place has to be one of motivation based on interest, passion, and curiosity. Consider and engage students in the process of choosing activities. The teacher should have a goal and a plan about where the lessons will take the students, but students should have an active role the process and a sense of responsibility for their learning.
Self direction, autonomy, personal interest, and inquiry based projects are my big ideas about engaging students so that we can create learning environments that encourage openness, networking and participation. Students will have choice and get to make decisions about the activities they learn things through and the projects they get involved in. There should be enough structure that students understand the ideas and goals of the learning material, but enough room to be creative and innovative. An example of this could be providing a chunk of time to work on their own projects, such as in genius hour. Other ways might be to integrate open collaborative projects into the class in other forms. The main idea is to get students excited and direct their learning.
I believe that some of the best things for learning are practices that already exist: freely on the internet and in large corporations. Constructive learning is necessary to expand learners’ thinking in ways that suite the world we live in, as well as create learning environments that give the message that everyone’s voice matters. I would love to hear more ideas on this subject. Thank you all.