How ed-tech turbocharges active learning in schools

Remote learning forced teachers to give kids more responsibility for, and ownership of, their education
By: | May 19, 2021
Grant Hosford, codeSpark

Grant Hosford, codeSpark

Active. Hybrid. Remote. Distance. Autonomous. Asynchronous.

Approaches to learning in our school system are ever-expanding and often confusing, especially for parents who have enough on their plate trying to ensure homework is done and grades are good. However, thanks to an otherwise tumultuous year, educators and experts now know more about effective ways to teach than ever before.

Starting last March, schools scrambled to find the best ways to teach students stuck at home, hoping to make sure students didn’t fall behind. This unprecedented disruption came with a silver lining—unprecedented permission to move beyond outdated learning strategies and experiment with new approaches.

States and districts were forced to chart their own course, adopting a wide variety of teaching strategies along the way and allowing us to see which modern strategies were working and which were not. One concept that’s been a winner during the pandemic is…. active learning.

Fortunately, active learning is exactly what it sounds like. Instead of students passively listening to hours of lectures in a traditional classroom setting with note-taking and hand-raising, active learning focuses on concept reinforcing activities.

New learning independence

Stepping away from a classroom setting and into remote learning forced teachers to give kids more responsibility for, and ownership of, their education. They also had to find ways to reinforce key concepts that didn’t involve endless Zoom sessions that would cause students to tune out.

This new independence and freedom to be creative accelerated absorption of materials and helped kids become more invested in their work.

Technology can and should play a significant role in active learning. During the pandemic, teachers and educators have successfully used ed-tech platforms to increase participation and engagement in the virtual classroom.

Instead of taking notes and listening quietly, students are encouraged, through technology, to participate in collaborative problem solving, provide peer support and actively share ideas. In addition, creating curriculum focused on active participation and collaboration clearly mitigated the very real, “Zoom fatigue,” that everyone has felt at some point since the onset of lockdown.

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Helping students adapt to distance learning is just one benefit of active learning. According to a study at Harvard, students who engage in active learning actually perform significantly better than students who just listen to their teacher lecture in class.

Although students do not always realize active learning is helping them better absorb and apply new concepts, the success of this method is clear to both teachers and parents when they see how much it helps students improve their grades and test results.

A fantastic learning accelerator

As we prepare to return to the classroom and/or adopt some form of hybrid learning, how can we ensure the past year’s learnings don’t go to waste? It will take a strong will, and administration support, to make sure we don’t instinctively “return to normal” since we now know that “normal” is not good enough!

And while we need further research on the details of successful active learning strategies it would be a huge mistake not to incorporate known best practices immediately. COVID-19 has reinforced that technology is a fantastic learning accelerator when used properly and a great way to encourage active learning models in the classroom no matter where students are.

There are more hurdles ahead for America’s educators as we navigate this “new normal.” But we can combine our hard-earned knowledge from the past year with a system that supports collaboration and active learning, we can move forward with confidence. We know it works, now let’s make it happen.

Grant Hosford is the CEO and co-Founder of codeSpark.

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