Student-centered learning, also known as learner-centered education, broadly encompasses methods of teaching that shift the focus of instruction from the teacher to the student. SourceI have always believed that the more I can involve the students in the learning process the greater the experience. I think I learn best by doing and I carried this mindset into my classroom from day 1.
Before EdTech, I was the primary source of knowledge in my classroom. My classroom was very teacher-centric and I enjoyed talking at my students. We had fun, but it was often difficult to know what my students understood at any given moment. This led to my students waiting for me to distribute the content knowledge. They would happily copy stuff down, often with too little understanding and no critical thinking. If my students didn't understand something they either asked me or they didn't learn it. When the students took ownership with a project or creation it typically only demonstrated what I already told them what they need to know. We did not focus the skills connected to learning.
I have been fortunate this year to pilot Chromebooks with my students. This has been a game changer for me. I now consider myself less of a teacher and more of a facilitator. I am still learning, but here are some of my takeaways from my experiences in a learner-centered classroom this year.
- ISTE Standards for Students - The concepts and vocabulary in these standards have helped me engage students in skills and concepts beyond our content.
- Collaboration - Students need the opportunity to work with their peers in both the physical and digital workspace. A classroom full of students with headphones in front of their screens is a dull place no matter how engaging the activity might be. Students also need to learn that collaboration is more than divide and conquer.
- Communication - Personal and digital communication are essential skills that must be developed in a learner-centered classroom. It is also important for students to understand best practices as a "digital citizens" connected to their modes of communication.
- Critical Thinking - If the students can "Google" the answer, did I really need to be asking it? Being connected is more than just access to answers. Students also need to develop the skills needed to evaluate and personalize information. Connected learners should be inspired to discover and explore new questions not just search for answers.
- Creativity - Creativity in a 1 to 1 classroom is not just creating artistic works. Creativity is using digital tools to find new ways of doing something. Students need to find and explore new ways of learning and creating connected to digital resources.
- Organize - HyperDocs are a great framework to facilitate learning. They have shifted the focus from me as a distributor of knowledge to the students. Students can become the seekers of knowledge with me as the facilitator of learning.
- Enhance - Formative Assessments can be powerful tools to engage students in their own learning. Frequent and varied formative assessments are powerful drivers for learning and relearning.
- Choice - Not everyone starts at the same point. It is important to remember that students need the option grow as they move from their own Point A to Point B. They also need options to best express creativity and critical thinking.
- Pace - Learner-centered activities need more time. Teachers need more time to prepare and students need more time to engage. Students also work at different paces. A flexible schedule is essential.
- Engagement - It is important to remember the power of a good lesson hook. Students need to understand not just how to complete a digital activity, they need to know why they are completing the activity.
- Homework - Many students do their best work in the classroom. Too often homework is something to get done and it is often not done well. Engaging students in the classroom and allowing for optional extended learning is important.
Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless. – Thomas Edison