Thursday, June 2, 2011

What is iLearning?

I have had reason to think about what ilearning (or innovative learning) is lately. It encompasses many things and involves buy-in from all parts of a school.
Ilearning is not just about the technology, although to truly innovate an educational program the technology should be a piece of the puzzle. It not just about the skills set, although when thinking about the delivery of curriculum one must be aware of the skills that need to be embedded into learning experiences. And it is definitely not about the content. The content is the driver of the learning – but the underpinning approach by teachers is what can make learning truly innovative.

We are teaching in exciting times – although this sort of phrase is turning into a cliché – it is true enough. There is lots of thinking going on about what students should really be learning about at school, the new National Curriculum has a huge content component attached to it although it does pay some attention to the skills students also need. It is also true to say that students are now more than likely learning more outside of school time that within it. We are battling with multiple sources of connection and engagement in the real world that if we don’t keep apace with the how and what of learning outside the school, we are in danger of becoming irrelevant institutions, something students ‘have’ to do rather than something they see as relevant and interesting.

21st century skills are the gateway to understanding what’s required to live and work in this century. The 4 C’s are front and centre to a modern educators thinking. Students need to be able to competently communicate in a variety of ways, collaborate with others both online and face to face, be creative in their output and think critically – understanding issues and solving problems. They also need to be reflective and socially / globally aware (my 5th C – global citizenship).

Engagement is the key – if students are engaged in their learning, more will follow. Developing passions and understandings in students, being culturally and socially aware and giving students the tools to see past what is feed to us on a daily basis by the mass media is our task as educators.

A “Bells and Cells” model to learning is not in keeping with an innovative approach to curriculum. It is artificial and counter productive. It is not how we conduct our lives in the real world. Opening learning spaces, team teaching, collaborative and anywhere/anytime approaches to curriculum should be investigated. The freedom to have learning choices, in the ways we not only find our information but also communicate it to others.

Information technology, our ability to connect, work and learn in online spaces and reach people we could not previously even know about, are exciting prospects for educators. We can blend our students learning to expand horizons, see possibilities and foster creativity and hopefully engage students to so that they not only learn effectively during their school and tertiary years, but that they become life-long learners.

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