In some respects, it’s harder to be a student these days given the current digital environment and its inherent potential for distraction and social pressure. On the other hand, it’s never been a better time to be a student given how digital technology and classroom design are impacting how we learn and prepare for adulthood.
Mersive is a proud technology partner of numerous schools including the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Warwick, and Indiana University. Given our presence in the educational ecosystem, we see the following five design and technology related trends having major impact on classroom learning today:
1. Embracing (vs. banishing) student digital media usage is leading to better engagement while also teaching kids to be good “digital citizens”.
Students are spending 6 - 9 hours per day on their phones using apps such as YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter. As such, educators are starting to leverage these media for more engaging ways to teach. Some are putting instructional and informational content on YouTube. For example, some educators are teaching students how to film themselves and post to YouTube as a way of sharing their classroom progress and experiences instead of the traditional teacher-written newsletter. Some of these educators also have students exchange social media posts with peers or experts around the world to exchange perspectives on current issues or facilitate learning on a particular topic. By embracing the digital media students already use, schools are also creating the opportunity to coach them on how to use media respectfully and productively through rules of engagement. These shared norms teach students how to properly engage with others so that they can proactively move down the path of becoming good digital citizens.
2. Moving to a one device per student model is paving the way for individualized learning and AI-based tutoring.
Many schools are now encouraging students to “bring your own device” (BYOD) to facilitate the use of technology in the classroom. As devices become more ubiquitous in classrooms, they unlock incredible potential in learning models. Individualized learning platforms, some enabled by artificial intelligence (AI), can be utilized by students to teach subjects in the ways each student best learns. Some of the software programs enabling this kind of teaching model and that adapt to students as they learn include DreamBox, ST Math, No Red Ink, and Newsela. The U.S. Navy has introduced an AI-based tutoring system called Education Dominance that monitors each student's progress and provides personalized assessments and tests. This approach has led to higher test scores for students using the program than those using the standard curriculum. There’s an added benefit to this individualized learning model as it frees up time for the teachers to monitor and engage students on a one-to-one basis.
3. Gamification is helping students synthesize and apply what they’ve learned while reinforcing a healthy sense of accountability.
There is growing use of digital games by schools to increase student engagement and deepen learning. For example, one professor at Marist College has created a mobile phone game that sends students on searches for historical figures and to collect facts that lead them to understanding key historical events such as who fired the first shot at Lexington. Not only do the students gain the insights required of the curriculum but they also develop important skills such as interpretation, problem solving, and critical thinking. While the fun factor of gamification has proven effective in increasing student curiosity and engagement, it also provides clear feedback and measurement. Accountability becomes increasingly important as students mature and become a part of the workforce. So, the earlier schools can introduce the element of accountability in a fun and safe environment like games, the better kids can grow accustomed to being responsible for their own proficiency. Moreover, they can use gamification to experiment and learn how to improve their learning performance over time, a very important lifelong skill.
4. Classrooms are undergoing changes in their physical design and layout to enable more interaction and collaboration.
Changes in workplace design are making their way to the classroom. Physical designs that allow for free flowing worker collaboration are being used as models for schools. Classroom interior designs and furnishings that encourage casual, face-to-face interaction through the use of movable furniture allowing students to more easily collaborate with their peers (i.e., envision a small group of desks that allow students to face each other). For example, the Baldwin School District in New York has thoroughly modernized 20 classrooms in an attempt to provide what it feels is an atmosphere most conducive to collaboration among students which improves both learning and overall student engagement. The results thus far have justified the investment in the classroom makeovers as outcomes have improved since the introduction of the layout changes. One student says, “Coming here, it’s mostly an improvement in our lives. I went from like a 82 average last year, and now with all these classrooms, technology, interactive, it gives me a 92.
5. Changes in physical design are enabling powerful changes in learning design.
Classroom designs that allow small groups of students to face one another create the platform for teachers to improve learning design. Many teachers use these room designs to place students of similar competency into the same pod to enable peer learning which sometimes also incorporates the “flipped classroom” model (ie, where reading materials are learned at home and work assignments are done in class). These peer groups then work together to learn a topic or an assignment in many cases leveraging computers, mobile phones, and wireless collaboration technology (ie, which allows students to share their screens to the rest of the students in their pod). Schools are finding that these deep learning approaches can boost the breadth and depth of student work. Research by the Education Policy Center found that schools incorporating deeper learning concepts produced better academic results, stronger interpersonal and intrapersonal skills, higher on-time graduation rates and higher enrollment in four-year colleges. Various approaches to active learning classrooms have had considerable success at schools such as MIT, North Carolina State, University of Minnesota, University of Iowa, Indiana University and others.
If you’re interested in learning more about the impact that design and technology are having in the classroom, then attending the Educause Annual Conference Oct 30 - Nov 2 in Denver, CO is a good option to consider. If you’re going to be there, please stop by our booth. If you’re not, we welcome you to view our video recap shortly following the event. To get notified when that’s available as well as receive other blog posts, please sign-up below.