This week, in my Education Technology class, the prompt we have been giving to discuss is:
“How do we leverage the affordances of our new digital culture to develop increasingly authentic, engaging, relevant, and caring learning environments for our students?”
After reading this prompt I started to reflect on my learning so far in University, and I realized that all my courses have displayed a large focus on creating positive learning environments for students; however, none of the courses have put a focus on how to accomplish this in an online setting. This week, I decided to take this prompt and conduct my own research to uncover how to foster positive learning environments online.
Authentic and Engaging Learning Environments
I found this amazing article titled 9 Characteristics of Authentic Learning and it provides an amazing outline on fostering Authentic Learning in a classroom. Let me provide you with an brief list of each characteristic followed by an idea of how to accomplish that characteristic online.
- Real world applicability of tasks – Familiarize themselves with online work environments. The future will definitely be seeing many of these.
- Interdisciplinary learning – Have your students write Dialectic Essays on a topic that interests them
- Student-directed learning – On going projects such as a Learning Project or weekly journal.
- Open-ended inquiry – Let students have a choice as much as possible. Let them choose essay prompts, research concepts, etc.
- Exploration and collaboration – Use breakout rooms in Zoom
- Community discourse – Have students share their findings from the course with their community. Community can be something as small as friends or family.
- High-order thinking – Provide students with a topic and allow them to dissect it on their own. This allows them to develop their own worldview and understanding of concepts.
- Mastery of key concepts – Emphasize the importance of growing their learning. Provide them with feedback on the growth they have demonstrated in order to encourage them to further master the concepts.
- Flexibility of learning environment and resources – Online learning will definitely cause them to experience different learning environments.
As you can see, Authentic and Engaging learning environments can easily be accomplished through the use of online learning.
Relevant Learning Environments
In regards to relevant learning environments, I believe that the most important thing is to present content in a way that allows students to develop a connection to it. For example, when I was conducting my internship, I had my students write a postcard from the perspective of the Filles Du Roi. They had about 30 – 45 minutes of class time to write on the back of a recipe card, and create a nice image on the front of the recipe card to make it appear like a real post card. This allowed my students to create a personal connection to the content I was teaching, even though the content was not modern. In an online setting, I would simply have my students type a one page word document and include an image so that they could still find the relevance in the content.
Caring Learning Environments
This is the most important aspect for online learning. Caring learning environments is huge in an online learning setting because every single student is in a different environment. This means that some students may have a chaotic household, some may not have access to certain technology, some may struggle to focus while in a distracting setting, etc. There are so many different concerns that can arise from participating in online learning. The most important thing to do as a teacher is to:
- Do not expect your students to turn on cameras during class – Some students may not have cameras or can be embarrassed about their home life.
- Record lessons so that students can access them at all times – If a family only has one computer and 3 children, there may be complications with accessing class at specific times.
- Allow students to communicate via chat instead of speaking during class in order to alleviate anxiety.
- Check in on your students frequently – use a google quiz or form that your students can fill in, this will allow them to raise potential concerns in an anonymous way (if you correctly adjust the settings)
All of the points above are things that I have had personal experience with during my Internship. I was sent to teach in an online setting when COVID-19 started to occur within my classroom and the school. This means that I was teaching in an online environment for a total of 4 weeks during my Internship. I genuinely believe that the above points were the most important things I used to guide my teaching in online learning in order to alleviate the stress and anxiety for my students.