I’ve been attempting to develop “lifelong learners” for longer than I’d like to admit. The concept has always been there, but the reality of developing learners has proven much more difficult than imagined.
Throughout my years in education I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to work with a great number of extremely dedicated and hard working educators all pursuing the same dream of developing lifelong learners. I have to admit that I’ve become discouraged at times because if seems like hard work and dedication should be enough, but the dream remained out of reach.
However, after all these years I now see that we have been working extremely hard and not realizing the benefits we should because the right tool hadn’t been developed yet for the job. I’m now enjoying the most exciting times of my career because I see that the dream of developing lifelong learners can be a reality.
We are beginning our 4th year working with iPads and our second year of a K-12 1:1 iPad initiative in our district. We’ve learned so much about teaching with iPad during these 4-years and now have a solid grasp of the true transformational power of the iPad in education. For us, the iPad has proven to be the tool that ties together all of the promises of incorporating technology into education.
The primary message we attempt to send to everyone we talk with about our initiative is the potential for true student centered learning as a result of our 1:1 iPad initiative. While this post is centered on the idea of student centered learning, it’s important to note that our complete message includes a focus on the benefits of incorporating the use of technology for staff learning as well. The idea of staff centered learning provides the same benefits for staff as student centered learning does for students.
A quick Google search of the phrase student centered learning provides volumes of information on the benefits of this learning model. However, to me the most important benefit of student centered learning is that it is truly the road to follow for realizing that most popular and often overstated school mission of developing life-long learners. As a result of our 1:1 iPad initiative, we are able to transition our teaching model from one where teachers and/or the adopted textbook is the source for all student learning; to one where students gain experience with discovering and processing new information alongside their teacher. The focus of this model is actually teaching students how to learn as opposed to teaching them information. This excites me because when we teach students how to learn, we begin the process of developing life long learners.
In the “old” model of instruction, the teacher is seen as the sole provider of knowledge and students are seen as passive participants. This passive model of instruction sends the message to students that the path to learning involves nothing more than sitting and listening. We must realize that the path to deep learning and understanding should place the learner in the role of an active participant actively seeking, interpreting, analyzing and applying information. Clearly, when we follow an active, student centered model we are actually teaching students the process of acquiring new knowledge or “learning”. Teaching students how to learn is so much more valuable than teaching them information. I’m very excited about the future of education because I’ve observed how this shift has benefited our students. As we all become more adept at utilizing this incredible tool for providing anywhere/anytime learning opportunities, the development of lifelong learners will be a dream finally realized.