Good practice encourages active learning

A follow up from Games Based Learning Day.

One of the statements people made at last weeks workshop was the idea that while playing games, or working on projects around games – students show remarkable signs of ‘active learning’.

Learning (in games) is not a spectator sport. Players do not learn much just sitting there. This is very similar to classrooms, where students to not learn much just sitting, memorising pre-packaged assignments and reciting answers.

When players, in mmos get together, or students playing autonomously in class – are able to socialise, write about and relate to what they are learning – they are able to apply it to their daily lives. In other words, gamers make what they learn part of themselves, just as residents of virtual worlds do.

It seems to me that the disconnect of active learning occurs when we fail to experience joy in the process of learning though exploration. Before we think about bring any technology into learning – as some remedy for lack of engagement. (perhaps prompted by Prensky-ite belief that kids are digital natives).

When students are faced with the confines of the academic calendar, relentless focus on outcomes based education – and great plains of content to be covered – lecturing, directing and herding becomes an attractive model of instruction.

At the basic level, good questions to ask teacher-trainers, who face peers avoiding technology or using it enthusiastically are

  • How are you going to stimulate teachers to think about how as well as what they are using technology for?
  • What they are doing to take responsibility for their own education?

In order for a culture, which sees value in professional development to scale; and not simply orbit the well documented challenges, there are a number of useful perspectives to address in the design of professional development itself.

Educational Technology is not new, in fact we have been using technology in the classroom for decades. In considering the present needs in the classroom (and in particular using the TIP model), there are additional considerations in the design of the learning sequence. These include:

  • Writing, as a way to think about what they are learning (ISTE NETs: Creativity and Innovation)
  • Debate and Discussion – formal and informally, to interpret much of the theory and concepts being encountered (ISTE NETs: Critical thinking problem solving decision making)
  • Peer teaching – role taking, helping and tutoring by conducting experiments co-cooperatively (tinker time) (ISTE NETs: Communication and Collaboration)
  • Research – planning to discover and explore actually creates active-learning experiences (ISTE NETs: Research and Information Fluency)
  • Practice – Not just though real – but also hypothetical situations (case study review), virtual world experiences and simulations with feedback to improve. (ISTE NETs: Technology Operations and Concepts)

From Roblyer & Downling (2010). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching, Pearson Education Inc, USA

While the above are great conditions for professional development design, classroom lesson design and make a solid checkpoint – consider how all of these things are intrinsic to playing games online. If there could be a ‘best way’ to describe game-play as a learning theory, it must include efforts to create ‘active-learning’.

The questions then becomes, what pedagogy promotes ‘active learning’, and what strategies can be employed to encourage teachers to design their learning activities to promote it.