Today’s blog is a collaboration between myself and my colleague Adam Torrens, a Digital Learning Leader at my school in Singapore, Stamford American International School. I am always inspired by what Adam does in our school and it is an honor to work with him on a daily basis to lead and drive change and innovation. In this article, Adam and I will provide resources, links, and experiences to support our presentation at EduTech Asia on Monday 8 October in Singapore. Enjoy.
Schools globally are starting to make large-scale decisions to implement strategic decisions that add maximum impact to student learning, often they miss the mark, investing in tools of pedagogy. Here are our 5 steps to take when creating authentic learning experiences for students and teachers in your school:
- Know your WHY
Simon Sinek says “People don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it” and in education, this is more important now than ever! Why we do things is the purpose and reason behind anything we do and should be known and visible to all stakeholders. Before you start creating authentic learning experiences make sure you know what your why is and can justify the activity or learning. I have seen this done well through Social Sharing by teachers and recording ‘the why’ in curriculum documentation and planning as a stand-alone piece.
- Provide clear learning objectives (Curriculum/UN Global Goals/ISTE)
Providing students with clear expectations about what to focus on will ensure that all learners can distinguish between the outcomes of the learning experience and the processes they take in order to reach the outcomes. When students begin to solve problems or discuss important issues within the curriculum, it is important that the technology that they use in the process does not become the main focus of the learning experience. Too often, students spend the majority of their time learning new tools and software which pushes the main focus of the learning experience to the side. There are various strategies that educators can use to make the curriculum more visible to students. So that the students choose the right tools that best suits their needs. Quite often, the software or tools can be completely interchangeable when students decide on a topic or issue to inquire into and share.
- Utilize creative based tools (Empatico, Flipgrid, Microsoft Edu Portal)
In order to create authentic learning experiences for your students, it is important that they collect information and show their learning in creative and personalized ways. Encourage students to stay away from using software and tools that automatically provide heavy templates and that are extremely specific to their task. Encourage students to choose technology tools that link to the processes that they will complete. For example, choosing collaborative tools such as Google Sheets or Flipgrid for completing group work when group members are not working in the same physical environment as each other. Presentations tools such as iMovie, Google Slides or Weebly provide ways for students to share their learning with a wider audience and creates opportunities for others to take action on the topics or issues the students are inquiring into. Having students choose simple tools and platforms ensure that students are building the skill sets they need to transfer their knowledge to other areas of their lives. One of our favorite tools for connecting and collaborating globally is Empatico – sign up for FREE to connect today.
- Reflect on the Process (not on the activity)
One of the most exciting aspects of creating authentic learning experiences for our students is that the students are learning to inquire into projects and issues that they are passionate about. Quite often, assessments become laborious as the students are required to show their knowledge and understanding of the learning outcomes as well as sharing their thoughts on the project that they have completed. One of the main reasons why we create authentic learning experiences is so they can put the process that they have gone through into practice in other areas of their lives. When it is time for our students to reflect on their experiences, it is important that they reflect on the processes that they went through, more so than on the knowledge content they gained. This will ensure that the students know and understand why collaborating, designing and communicating their knowledge is essential to all projects they complete in life.
- Share your Learning
Creating learning experiences for students that are engaging and collaborative is one thing, but how can we make it authentic. Authenticity lies in how learning is shared and the feedback and reflection that comes as a result. One of the best ways I have seen this done by teachers is through Social Sharing, particularly through Twitter. I love how are teachers creating authentic sharing experiences online by sharing the learning that happens on a day to day basis in our school using our school hashtag #SAISrocks. Spend some time to check it out and see how you can share authentic learning within the context of your school.