Teaching is an important part of our culture because it not only helps us gain knowledge, it also makes us learn how to think, seek information, and value what and who is around us. Teaching and education, in general, have changed a lot in the past decade or so, with today’s schools bearing little resemblance to the schools we attended in the past. These changes have allowed educators to take advantage of opportunities and have presented various challenges that have required creativity and innovation to solve. In this article, we will look at the various ways both learning and teaching have changed to help teachers and learners better understand today’s educational landscape.
Tech and E-learning Have Become Central to Education
The most obvious and recognizable way that learning and teaching have changed is that technology has become a huge part of both. The technological advancements we have seen in the past decade have touched all areas of our lives and education is one of these areas. Some notable technologies being used in education include virtual and augmented reality, mobile technology, the internet, as well as cloud and data storage options.
E-learning is no longer about taking courses online and Googling questions; it is becoming an integral part of how we learn. No matter the type of classroom a student is in, quality e-learning must supplement what is taught. If not, what is taught starts feeling disjointed and the teacher has to work twice as hard to reconcile what is taught in class and how it is disjointed with e-learning.
The technology revolution we are experiencing is not only impacting teaching and learning; it is also impacting what should be taught. It will be very difficult to survive in the future without having some tech skills. Even though almost everyone in school today understands the fundamentals of using computers and the tech behind them, a deeper knowledge will be required as technology becomes more important and takes up a more prominent position in our lives.
Remote and Online Learning Are the Future
Distance and online learning have become ubiquitous with many universities, with their popularity increased by the pandemic. Distance and online learning, whether in a full or blended mode, will continue being part of how we learn because experts do not see us going back to the way things used to be. Hybrid classes, which combine online and on-site learning, are likely the face and configuration of tomorrow’s classes.
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are another face of online learning that most people know about but do not understand. These are official courses offered by universities like Harvard that mirror the actual content taught in the university and are offered through various online platforms. Students can learn remotely by watching videos and taking assignments, doing self-assessments, or paying a fee to have a lecturer assess their understanding.
MOOCs are not possible without technology like faster internet speeds and video streaming capabilities. By giving people the ability to learn and earn a certificate or degree from anywhere, these courses are opening up access to education in ways most of us would not have thought about just a decade ago.
The Rise of Teacher Leadership
Teachers have always been leaders in the classroom, helping mold students so they could come out of their classes better than when they went in. Teachers are supposed to lead by example through how they speak, behave and act. In recent years, teachers have started stepping out of their classrooms to improve the teaching practice outside their classrooms.
Teacher leaders are doing this by working with school administrators, colleagues, and other professional staff. Some teacher leaders also work with students and their families to help improve teaching, learning, and educational outcomes.
By stepping out of their classrooms, teacher leaders help connect academia with real-world situations for a more wholesome education and in ways that were not well-defined in the past. Being a teacher leader is not always about the title, but about applying leadership practices to improve education as a whole.
Although all teachers possess the characteristics that are embodied by teacher leaders, only teacher leaders can integrate them seamlessly into teacher leadership. This ability to weave professional knowledge, leadership practices, and leader traits into a cohesive package is something teachers who want to get into leadership positions in education should possess. Teachers can position themselves as teacher leaders by completing an advanced degree such as the two year Ed.D programs that focus on educational leadership and organizational innovation. In addition to becoming teacher leaders, those who complete these programs end up learning to use modern frameworks to identify issues plaguing their organizations and to come up with workable solutions.
Collaboration in Education
Even though educators have understood that collaboration is a very important part of education for a long time, collaboration among students or students and their teachers was very difficult. Collaboration made possible by technology is one of the most impactful changes we have seen in education in the last decade or so.
Student-student collaborations made possible by technology help students who may be shy or introverted to work with other students digitally. This helps bring education closer and makes it more accessible and equitable for them.
Teacher-student collaboration is a reality, with students having digital access to their teachers no matter where they may be and at appropriate times of the day. As the power of technology grows, we can expect to see these types of collaborations become more commonplace.
Mobile Technology is Opening Up Learning
There have always been arguments for and against having mobile phones in school. The truth is that almost everyone has a mobile phone or has access to one within easy reach. If educators can accept that mobile devices are here to stay, we can also start looking at how they are helping learners and integrate this into the classroom.
There is so much information on the internet, with the only thing standing between students and access to this information being a device to access this information. Mobile devices help students read, research new topics, learn at their own pace, clarify lessons and find inspiration for work and interests in and outside the school.
Different teaching styles are also possible when we embrace mobile tech. Collaborating and distance learning are just two of the more prominent examples of these.
Lastly, mobile devices have been shown to foster an interest in tech topics. As technology becomes more important, students should be given every chance to understand and work with technology so they can better understand it.
Increasing Opportunities for Lifelong learning
An interesting factor to come out of the diversification of education, apart from the diversification of languages taught and the types of students in today’s classrooms, is the diversity in the age of students. In the past, education has focused on younger children, teenagers, and those old enough to attend university or college. Past that, there was little in terms of continuous learning unless you considered getting into a trade career.
Technology has made it possible for people to continue learning well past college or university. Many people are now taking courses in their adulthood, many of them outside what would be considered formal learning and education settings.
A lot of this learning is taking place in the workplace as a lot of people try to earn advanced degrees that help them advance their careers. Some are looking for opportunities to complete high school and earn the credentials they missed out on in the past. These people then go on to get into colleges and universities that will have them and give themselves a better chance at meaningful careers. Others still are learning trade-related skills online and in adult learning settings.
A notable shift enabling all this is a change in attitude in the way students are handled, including the instructional strategies used and the relationships that develop between learners and their educators. Teachers have to take into account the fact that these older students come to their classrooms with life experience as well as strengths and constraints.
Significant personal responsibilities outside the classroom make these students impatient to learn things that are irrelevant to them and thus teachers have to come up with strategies that best fit these students. These constraints and challenges do not exist among younger students, and the new strategies are therefore a shift in the way we view education and learning.
Various Types of Media are Making it Into Teaching and Learning
Digital and mobile devices have changed our lives completely. These devices allow for the personalization of information, direct access to innumerable facets of information, interactivity, and the combination of information and knowledge.
Literacy and education, beyond reasoning, research, and deduction, is about literacy – reading and writing. Digital media is also about reading and writing but in a very different way. It is about availability, shareability, and the transformation of information from one thing (a tweet) to another (a Facebook post). The fluid transfer of digital medium is a big deal in education and is something all teachers must adjust to.
Digital media has not only impacted literacy but has also impacted the way students receive information. In today’s world, it is no longer about physical textbooks, but about links to various websites and learning resources. It is about sending and receiving course notes in the form of PDFs and collaborating with other students through platforms like video messaging platforms.
Students can receive their education through text, video, and audio formats, with each format offering something different and impacting the way students are taught and learn.
Digital Games and Gamification are Prevalent
Game-based learning and gamification of the learning process have always been a part of learning and teaching, but they have grown in stature over the past decade or so. A majority of educators now agree that both of these aspects of teaching and learning can help improve engagement, information retention, and educational outcomes. They also give teachers new tools to teach and help analyze student engagement and learning outcomes.
Gamification and game-based learning can also help increase competition in the classroom while being used to foster collaboration. This is the type of collaboration that helps students work together to find solutions to challenges in a game-based environment.
They can also be used to break down monotony in the classroom. In many classrooms, learning used to be primarily done through textbooks. Students have a finite attention span and they quickly get bored by reading. Games can help eliminate this boredom and make learning a more exciting and involved process.
Lastly, gamification and game-based learning can help teachers tailor their lessons to different students. Some students grasp the core material faster than other students and those are looking for a challenge. Some students can lag behind and therefore need more care to ensure they keep pace. Teachers can give the first batch of students harder challenges and the rest a separate challenge, all geared towards the same learning quotes but varying in difficulty.
The Role of The Teacher is More Important Than Ever
In the past, it was easy to teach the core material as well as its application at the same time. Technology has had numerous positive effects on teaching and learning, with students now having unlimited knowledge in their pockets or their hands. They can learn almost anything except how to apply their newfound knowledge.
The application of knowledge has to be taught. This aspect of teaching is becoming more important as students wrongly think they know everything there is to know and diminish the role of the teacher. Past learning and having the information, our lives rely on how we apply the knowledge we have and, because teachers are an integral part of this, they are irreplaceable.
There is no doubt that teaching and learning have changed in the past decade or so. Technology is at the center of most of this change, and teachers are the people required to help ensure technology leads to better teaching and learning outcomes. With so much having happened in the past decade in education, it will be exciting to see what happens in the next decade.