(photo retrieved from tutorcruncher.com)
Classrooms are a place for learning. Learning different contents, learning social skills, learning expectations, learning success and failure. Classrooms are for learning, yes. But, what if teachers could improve how students are learning? Is the current environment working at it’s best and fullest potential? Is there more we could be doing? After reading A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change by Brown and Thomas (2011), I have realized that I need to focus on creating a learning environment in my classroom.
No matter what span of their career a teacher is in (new vs. veteran), a priority is the learning environment they create in their classroom. Teachers want to ensure that their students in their classroom will learn, behave, have fun, etc. These qualities of a classroom environment can be curated based on teacher presence within the classroom and the environment they create. Teachers have great control over whether or not their students become passionate learners. This concept is similar in thinking when considering the ePortfolio innovation plan I have recently designed. To ensure that my innovation plan is a success I have to consider how to create a significant learning environment, while also keeping in mind the desired outcome for my plan.
Creating a new learning environment will require a shift in the way education is thought about. In their book, Brown and Thomas (2011) discuss how a new culture or learning is transforming the way information, imagination, and play are thought about. Learning takes place in day to day life, but a new learning environment could give freedom to the learner to share “their interests, [develop] their passions, and [engage] in a play of imagination” (Brown & Thomas, 2011). Within this process, something bigger is being discussed or created, creating a bridge between two worlds – public and personal. Combining unlimited resources with a personal motivation resulted in innovation. This presents a clear difference between traditional teaching models where the teacher is providing the information and the students are receiving. Unfortunately, this is how my classroom has been operating. Developing and incorporating ways to allow my students to activate their imaginations and passions in conjunction with the information they are receiving is my goal.
My challenges will be exactly that – incorporating imagination and learning into course content and expectations, as well as finding ways to make it all fun. Over the past few years in my school district, the focus has been to increase rigor in the content areas in order to prepare students for taking state assessments. As a result of this focus, the rigor in the content area courses certainly increased, but the opportunities for students to demonstrate their imagination and creativity were lost. As a special education teacher who runs a resource room-type of classroom, the biggest complaints that I hear from my students are the lack of creativity in instruction and the usefulness of the information taught. Of course I believe that the rigor needs to remain in tact, but what would be lost if there was more choice and creativity included in those courses? What would be lost if I incorporated those same characteristics into my classroom as I am reteaching concepts? I need to uphold the rigor that the content area teachers are applying in their classrooms, but I need to do so in a way where I can continue to help my students and develop their passion for learning. Offering alternatives or choices to the students to allow them to have the ability to use their imaginations and technology resources that are available to display their understanding in a way they choose would help me to accomplish this. Continuing to encourage the students as they are learning instead of “controlling” how they are learning will be important as well.
Change is hard for everyone, but especially for our young students. I believe working with them and not for them or without them, will help to ease the fear they may have about change. Offering collaborative opportunities, choices, chances for them to demonstrate their creativity and imagination are strategies that we can implement to create a significant learning environment. It can no longer be about giving information to students in a singular way in order to make them proficient. Teachers need to encourage and mentor students. A new culture of learning is needed in order to continue to encourage our students, develop and deepen their passions for learning, and to continue to challenge them to set and reach goals.
(photo retrieved from Uplift Connect)
Brown, J. S. & Thomas, D. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change.Lexington, KY. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.