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…