A growing trend in education over the last two decades has been exploring ways to use educational technology to maximize classroom time and extend learning opportunities beyond the classroom. The idea of a “ubiquitous learning environment,” where students can learn at any time and in any place, has long been a dream of many educators and goes back over one hundred years—correspondence courses, phonographs, radio, filmstrips, and television have all been re-purposed for learning.
Today, with high-speed Internet and devices like smart phones and tablet computers more commonly in the hands of students, educators are closer than ever to realizing the dream of the anytime/anyplace classroom. Despite the (very real) digital divide, schools increasingly are providing students with mobile computing devices to take learning from the school into the home.
Many teachers already take advantage of free online services that provide rich and engaging educational opportunities. For example, the Khan Academy provides video vignettes on a plethora of educational topics, and MIT hosts a wide selection of online courses. But today’s educators are not just looking to capitalize on these types of resources, but also to transform homework time into an extended classroom experience. McREL’s own research in the areas of Homework and Practice supports the idea that learning outside of the classroom has a high (and measurable) impact on student learning and achievement.
Most recently, the ubiquitous classroom has been getting attention due to the “flipped classroom” movement started by two Colorado teachers, Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, from Woodland Park High School in Woodland Park, Colorado. Their flipped classroom began by first recording live lectures for students who missed their classes, but it evolved to recording lectures for homework use, and then for class-time projects and group discussions. While their version (http://www.flippedclassroom.com) is predominantly vodcasting, it also incorporates using Nonlinguistic Representation, an instructional strategy that research has shown to increase student understanding of concepts and processes.
The new expectation is that teachers with access to rich educational technology resources are using valuable face-to-face class time to expand learning opportunities, and that homework is truly becoming an extension of school work. While parents and teachers might need convincing that flipping the traditional classroom is valid, students won’t. This way of learning capitalizes on the 21st Century skills that students are already using (with or without us), which allows them to not only be along for the journey, but able to give input and guide the process, too.
What have you done in the area of ubiquitous learning? Tell us your story about moving your classroom into anytime/anyplace learning.
To read more about what research and ubiquitous classrooms have in common, check out the new McREL-ASCD publication, Classroom Instruction that Works, Second Edition.
Written by Andy Kerr, Lead Consultant