How active learning can enhance students’ skills

Every day we read something about the latest progress in technology and how it is going to impact our workplace. We know by now that when it comes to education some things just cannot be replaced by a machine, but how has it been changing the school system so far? In a recent study from The Economist Intelligence Unit and sponsored by Google for Education, Fostering exploration and excellence in 21st century schools”, teachers were asked about the best strategies to improve the learning experience with new technologies: this is what they had to say.

Active learning

By far the most visible benefit of Education Technology in schools, according to the teachers who participated in the survey, was active learning. By active learning, we mean “learning by doing”. This model of learning is characterized by three phases:

  • underpinning, this is the base from which students will build their knowledge, a set of skills they will need to approach new information – analysis, evaluation and synthesis. It is a necessary first step for students to become active learners.
  • Ownership, this stage is usually guided by the teacher with assignments and activities. Students are encouraged to assimilate the information through self-reflecting and in some cases relating it to their own personal experience.
  • Engaging, this is where the students start actively participating and engaging with what they have been learning. During this step it is crucial for the teacher to go above and beyond to guide students, encouraging critical thinking as well as creativity.

Project-based learning

Project-based learning is a style of active learning also called inquiry-based learning, where students are encouraged to experience the subject first-hand by researching, investigating and answering a series of questions meant to give them a well-rounded understanding of concepts.
This method helps students in the classroom as much as it helps them in building future academic and professional success, as the skills they learn can be applied to most areas of their lives.

Cognitive activation

By cognitive activation, we mean encouraging students to analyze and improve their learning methods, regardless of what it is they are learning. This can be done by introducing different learning methods into the classroom, from self-testing to top-down or bottom-up thinking, showing students how to make the best of these methods and teaching them to evaluate the most effective ones in each situation. This will help students focusing and maximizing the time at their disposal.

Personalized learning

The methods we have talked about so far are particularly effective because they allow flexibility. The shift we are seeing in modern education will have an incredibly positive effect on the students who used to be penalized by more traditional teaching methods. Thanks to new technologies, education is also becoming more accessible for students with physical and learning disabilities. Clearly, technology alone is not enough, there is only so much a software can do to help students without the lead of a talented teacher.

Useful tools

Not all technology is equally useful in the classroom, and according to the teachers who took part in the survey the best tool a student could have is a laptop. Laptops can bring several benefits to a class, such as easy after-school communication, immediate feedback from the teacher, better management of a large number of students.
Among the most useful tools teachers also mentioned tablets, educational games, videos and interactive whiteboards.

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