The following is a guest post by Linda Cartwright, an online college-level English and creative writing teacher. If you would like to submit a guest post, please contact us.
The trends shaping the next academic year are nothing new – we’ve heard about some of them for years. Yet now they are becoming a reality, manifesting themselves in classrooms rather than in catchy headlines. What benefits and challenges will they bring into yours?
The Changing Role of a Teacher
A teacher is shifting from someone who knows things to someone who is a newbie, like the rest of the class. The difference is, she has extensive experience at being a newbie and that’s something she is here to share – to model handling the situation of uncertainty or failure, model problem-solving, life-long learning and inquisitive curiosity. Essentially, to equip students with skills they need to get to knowledge independently.
The teacher of the 21st century is in the classroom to nurture learners, not to feed data. That’s the crux of the student-centered approach – not one-on-one classes, or more time spent individually coaching every student. The role of the teacher in 2019 is guiding their class through activities and sharing in the wonder of discovery.
Of course, monitoring the personal progress of the students and individually helping those who experience difficulties is important. However, without shifting the perspective first, it’s not realistic, especially with schools that cannot afford smaller classes or more space for teacher’s plan time. Therefore, shifting the perspective is the key – scaling up (or rather down in this case) is the next step.
Artificial Intelligence Learning
If a teacher is there to inspire and facilitate, then AI is taking up the role of personalized tutoring, where skills must be trained. Digital learning environments and intelligent tutoring system offer amazing flexibility at no time costs, which makes an efficient support system to K12 teachers.
Language learning apps like Duolingo or writing tools like No Red Ink demonstrate how AI-powered systems provide individual revisions plan and interest-based learning. Other tools like that are available for various subjects. AI’s analyzing capacity enable real-time feedback and continual targeted practice. Content analysis is another apt ability of AI and a helpful tool in assessing the individual progress of the student. It allows teachers to understand students’ needs better and, being equipped with more information – to tailor better lesson plans.
AI is an ultimate teacher’s assistant that frees the teacher of the most time-consuming and monotonous tasks, such as tests and checking papers for plagiarism, leaving more place to utilize teacher’s human-specific skills like emotional intelligence and creativity.
AI application in education is still in its early stages, but its potential must not be overlooked. It is expected that the use of AI in the US classrooms will increase by 47.5% in the next three years.
Augmented Reality Training
Augmented reality is an illustrious example of an old saying – a picture is worth a thousand words. However, how is AR better than VR or just a 3D image on a screen?
AR expands our physical reality. AR tools are capable of projecting something abstract or hard to grasp from a flat diagram and making it real – be it a 3D model of the Solar system, a geometric shape complete with formulas and explanations, or a scheme of the human nervous system. However, in AR those projections are tied to physical objects – something solid that students can interact with, activating motor centers in their brains. This creates engaging, immersive experiences that are more likely to stay in their memory. Here are some videos that show how AR can be used in science and physical education.
On the other hand, AR can be used not only to bring flat images to life but also to substitute real-life activities tied to higher risk and potential danger – some lab experiments and demonstrations can only be conceivable in the school setting as AR simulations.
Cultivation of Empathy
Of course, managing emotions, self-regulation, resilience and determination may seem the most relevant aspects of emotional intelligence in education, but they are not the ones that take center stage in 2019. Empathy and compassion for others, communications skills, and relationships with classmates steal the limelight. Why?
Many teachers will agree that poor behavior in the classroom is a big problem. However, building a positive classroom culture is impossible without empathy. Empathy is necessary for building trust and friendship among students as well as for improving student-teacher relationships.
Moreover, by creating a safe and friendly environment in the classroom we facilitate group work and engagement when a child doesn’t have second thoughts about raising a hand to ask a question or make a suggestion. Also, schools that incorporate empathy into the learning process have higher achieving students.
There are various resources and lessons plans online that will help to incorporate empathy into your curriculum. However, ultimately, teaching empathy is leading your students by example. It’s up to you to notice and reject stereotypes, respect and value differences of your students, urge them to widen their circle of concern and, of course, manage your own difficult feelings.
Homeschoolers can attend self-directed learning centers for certain subjects that their parents don’t feel confident enough teaching. Instead of having gaps in their knowledge and getting paper help on a subject they are undertrained in, they can catch up and rectify the situation in a hybrid school.
This way students have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the school setting, socialize with peers, and choose what and how they will learn.
Overall this system allows more flexibility with scheduling for both students and teachers. One of my closest friends used to teach English and Literature in K12 but had to step down for a while to care for her first child. Now she continues her work as an English and Literature teacher in a hybrid school. This way she has smaller classes, more motivated and engaged students, and more time to spend with her daughter. She also does private tutoring in-home so her schedule is quite flexible, which suits her lifestyle at the moment perfectly.
This trend will probably influence the number of parents who choose to homeschool. According to EdChoice’s 2017 Schooling in America survey, while only 3% of parents homeschool their children, 7% more would homeschool if they could. The hybrid option makes it possible.
Students are choosing what they want to learn during a Genius Hour, which gives them some room for agency in the otherwise structured and prescribed curriculum. The self-directed and self-paced mode of learning promotes autonomy, inquiry, and creativity. There are only two requirements: genius hour must be about student’s passion and it must have some purpose – the essential question driving the project.
Helping students to discover their passions and find the purpose is the task for you as a teacher, of course. While some students will thrive unencumbered with limitations, others will need some structure and coaching provided by you.
Take time to learn more about them, observe. Something that comes easily to them or something they spend much time on isn’t necessarily something they are intrinsically motivated in. A colleague of mine who teaches Math once told me about a brilliant student who was way ahead of the curriculum and solved all math problems with ease and in unconventional ways. However, when she approached him and suggested he’d join a math hobby group, the child winced: “More Math?”
It turned out he didn’t like Math at all! His parents encouraged and trained him at home because they had plans for his future education and career. The boy was much more interested in nature, and the highlight of the day for him was caring for his pet turtle.
Personalized learning is often confused with the individualized approach to teaching. It has always been necessary to take into account individual strengths and struggles of each student, so why is personalized learning a new trend at all? The answer is that personalized learning is much more holistic. While individualized approach made allowances for differences between students, it was still a standard-based education. That is, however flexible the learning models, the result had to be the same – a student competent in the approved content.
Meanwhile, in personalized learning, everything, including content, pacing, sequence, and technology must be adjusted to suit each student’s interests, curiosity, and learning purpose. The result of such education should be a student that is competent in the process of learning rather than in prescribed content. This makes perfect sense in our information-rich world, where everything is searchable but you must have a clear idea of what you are looking for and why you need it.
Personalized learning sounds great, but isn’t it beyond the reach of a single teacher who has a whole class of unique students on her hands? That’s where all the AI tools, Genius Hours and hybrid homeschooling come to the rescue, broadening the possibilities for us all.
Blended learning is more than iPads in the classroom and animated apps to keep tech-savvy students stimulated and interested. It is a mode of learning that is the only answer if we want to keep all the benefits of face-to-face learning with the flexibility of personalized learning.
Blended learning allows for aligning many contradicting schedules, matching varying paces of different students and a variety of content types. It also implies individual preparation for in-class activity and student collaboration outside the classroom. With various online spaces, collaboration platforms, communities, and chat rooms it’s a second (or even first!) nature for today’s school-age children.
Still, it is crucial that the teacher provides instructions and feedback on navigating through these activities. The blended learning approach allows enhances personalized learning, but it benefits from structure, encouragement, and guidance that only a face-to-face communication with a teacher or mentor can provide.
Gamification of Education
Gamification has been a huge buzzword for years now, but the possibilities of this approach are often dismissed as shallow because they are largely misunderstood. Sprinkling games here and there to boost engagement or reward students for being patient is not what gamification is about.
Gamification requires a fundamental change in our approach to learning. It’s changing education at its core – designing it anew according to game design principles. We must remember that learning is inherently fun – human brains are wired to respond positively to discovery, pattern-recognition, risk, role play. Learning becomes boring when it stops being play, fun, and discovery-driven and becomes something that is done to students.
Humans play games not only when they are young but during their entire lives. The fundamental similarities of learning and games are exploration, pattern-recognition, discovery, and sense of progress. Gamified educations is nothing but learning that reclaimed all those things. It can happen without the use of digital tools entirely. Competitiveness, cooperation, risk-taking, trade-off choices, immediate feedback, the progress that is a reward in itself, and joy in the process of learning are the highlight of properly gamified learning. Students find satisfaction in leveling-up their knowledge instead of “earning” a grade. They learn because it is a fun thing to do – not to arrive at the point where they know this and that. Just like we play to have fun – not to finish the game as quickly as possible or collect an impressive score.
Coding in Humanities
Applied linguistics was dabbing into coding since the first computers were invented. After all, code is just another language and you can even see a loose correlation between the syntax structure of a sentence and a line of code. In fact, what makes a linguistics specialist different from any other person is the fact that a linguist sees a natural language as a code and not simply something we all use and that happens naturally.
More companies began to see the need in well-rounded specialists – someone who not only codes but understands how humans interact with technology, what problems it should solve and what real-world concerns should be considered. Moreover, the key competencies that make one good at coding are critical thinking and creative problem-solving – something humanity graduates are famous for. The stereotype that you need a Computer Science degree and a life-long love for Math to code is wearing off.
What does that mean for a teacher? The ability to code is a new literacy, therefore you will do better if you acquire some basic coding skills. Even an amateurish code will make it possible to handle your research data much faster. You will be able to tailor apps for your classes or elicit data from student questionnaires and see correlations that would otherwise go unnoticed, thus gaining valuable insights into ways to improve your work as a teacher. Moreover, you will be able to integrate coding into your curriculum and show your students how coding can be used even if they chose literature as their primary field of interest.
Here you can find a selection of free coding games, which is very apt given the blended learning and gamification trends going on. Enjoy them yourself or share with your class – don’t be afraid of being newbies together!
Author’s Bio: Linda Cartwright is a believer in life-long learning and an ambassador of technology in K12 and Higher Ed. She teaches college-level English and creative writing online and is working on her first book. Find her on Twitter
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