Extending Learning Beyond the Classroom

I participated in another Knowschools session last week entitled Learning Unleashed. The conference was moderated by Sandy Hirtz, who also created the Learning Unleashed ning. The main idea that I took away from the conference is that educators, for the first time, can use Web 2.0 tools to extend student’s learning beyond the walls of the classroom and the school. I already knew that, but my thinking on the topic definitely changed as a result of the conference.

I have fully incorporated the use of technology as a tool to enhance learning into my teaching style and my belief system as an educator. My perspective, however, shifted last week when I fully realized the potential of expanding the learning out of the 77 minute classroom block of time and into an online learning environment available for access 24/7. Through blogging, wikis, nings and sites like Tapped In, communities of learners can participate in learning whenever they want, wherever they are. All they need, of course, is some form of a computer with a decent internet connection.

One great thing about last week was the many new ideas and resources! There are so many new ways to create communities for learning online. Sandy did a great job of collecting and organizing a huge list of new websites to investigate. Add to that all the sharing of ideas and websites in the forum discussion threads and the end result is an injection of new resources and an opening of my mind to new possibilities in my teaching.

Now that my mind is open to the idea, I find myself sifting through the idea of opening student’s learning beyond the schedule and space of a classroom. I like face to face interactions with students; I think teacher/student rapport is key to creating the mutual understanding necessary for real teaching and real learning to take place. I wonder how an online experience can replicate that. And the one idea that keeps pushing it’s way into my thinking is that I need to remember that the technology is the tool to enhance the learning.

Just a thought (or a few) to turn around in my head for awhile…

6 thoughts on “Extending Learning Beyond the Classroom

  1. I really enjoy reading your posts and reflections. I work with teachers and like you I like face-to-face interactions with people. I too think that relationships are key to creating understanding. Your post is helping me think more about how to use Web 2.0 tools to build relationships that lead to learning. Thanks.

  2. Hi Erin,

    A couple disjointed thoughts occurred to me while reading your reflection. The first was ‘Arrgh, I should have made the time to take that Knowschool’s course’. I didn’t because I just couldn’t see how to fit it into my schedule, but I need to stop using that excuse.

    The second thought was that in order for an online component of a course to really take off there needs to be an active community associated with it. If the online community is just an offsite extension of the class with teacher as information provider then I’m not sure it has much value, but if it becomes a learning community that builds on the learning in class then it becomes something more.

    I am about to read Seth Godin’s book Tribes which I think might have some more to say on this.

  3. @Paul – Thanks and you’re welcome! Often when I post I think – Is anyone going to read this? Will anyone comment? Your comment is encouraging and makes me think that I’m on the right track!

    @Phil – Believe me, it was tough to fit that Knowschools week in! The community aspect is key to the transformative use of the technology. Are you familiar with Bernajean Porter’s work on literate, adaptive and transformative uses of technology? She writes about how we can use technology in place of a previous method to basically get the same outcome (eg word processing vs a typewriter) or we can use technology to actually transform the learning that occurs by creating something new that wouldn’t have happened without the use of the technological tool (eg creating a worldwide PLN through blogging).

    I haven’t read Tribes yet, but it looks like it definitely fits into this conversation!

  4. I don’t think you will find anyone who doesn’t think that relationships are an important part of learning. What I have discovered from using twitter, blogs and wikis with the teachers that I work with is that we can establish those relationships electronically/digitally as well. The teachers I work with tell me that the wiki we use to share our developments in assessing pupil progress has enabled them to listen in to everyone’s conversations and join in if they want. They have also had access to ideas that others have described which have moved them forwards. Now I don’t think these type of comments are any different to they types of comments we would have received if we had funded them all to come and work with us and share their learning and ideas for a day. What I have noticed though is that they are much more independent, not relying on us as a team of consultants to answer questions, give advice etc. They are getting that from the rest of the group. Now that I don’t think would have been as strong if we had been face to face. Time will tell whether some of this group stay together to learn together. That doesn’t happen after our one day face to face meetings.

  5. Thanks for your thoughts, Joy. Online professional development does have a different ‘flavour’, doesn’t it? I like the point you made about the increased independence. That’s what I’m hoping for with the students when I start using my classroom blog for reflection and critiquing next month.

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