The Shift in Learning

Last week I talked about how students today learn differently than the way their teachers learned when they were in school. Right or wrong, it appears that there is an instruction/learning divide that has been created by the advancement and availability of technology. While personally developing virtually this week I stumbled across a picture that puts last week’s post into comic form.



Though simple in nature, it does put the learning that our current generation of students do in perspective. Two things jump out at me when I look at this comic: 1. the fact that they are portrayed as slightly out of shape and are sitting on the couch snacking and watching tv and 2. the words detailing the lazy nature of learning now.

Knowledge, as I see it now, is much more accessible and available to the willing learner. Google, BING, Wikipedia, and many other resources have made information over the internet easy to access. Couple these pools of information with the fact that most students today have micro-computers in their pockets anywhere they go and in many ways, technology has put information at the fingertips of everybody with an inquisitive mind. The unintended consequence of all of this information being available at the drop of a hat has been the way that knowledge is pursued. I know that I am as guilty as the students that roam the halls of my school on this. I cannot even begin to count the number of times that I have been watching television, with my iPad on my lap, and I have looked up (usually with Google) an answer to a question only to read the first few lines and lose interest.

This, in essence, is the shift that we are seeing with the learners in our classrooms across the country. And while politicians and lawmakers put into place new mandates, state curricula, and standardized tests, they fail to recognize the true problem; students have lost the ability to focus their learning. Students do learn daily and they do so more on their own than they did when I was a youth (and I was a kid that read the encyclopedia for fun). One of the biggest challenges that I see the education system now facing is how to teach deeper learning skills without removing that natural inquiry that motivates a kid to pull out their cell phone and Google something that pops into their head.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Is the surface level learning done anyplace/anytime by our students inhibiting them from productive classroom learning?
  2. In what ways can the classroom teacher harness, rather than combat, the inquisitive nature of students today and refine their learning?


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2 responses to “The Shift in Learning

  1. Laura mcdonell

    It is funny we are reading to kill a mockingbird and this type of topic came up. scout the 6 year old in the 1930’s is punished for already knowing how to read before getting to school. My students thought that was crazy and that she should be given diferent work.

    i am always on the lookout for ways to make assignments necessary and interesting for students. i feel like the bar changes each year. These are some very interesting questions that I struggle with. I like how you have talked about technology and differentiated learning. I am wondering how this is managed for the teacher? Is everyone working on a different assignment that hits his or her interest and curiosity? Or are there a few choices to investigate? I am not sure if I answered the questions here or not.

  2. Laura,
    I think this is a challenge that most people are wrestling with right now. It is my thought that blended learning enables better tracking of differentiation. When the teacher sets up the blended environment they can build in accelerated tasks that allow for some student inquiry and thus differentiation. From a management standpoint, I think that having a couple of different paths of differentiation would be much easier to control and monitor. Off the top of my head, I am thinking that you could have a baseline minimum that everyone would need to reach. Students that have reached the minimum would have the opportunity to deepen their knowledge of the content with my advanced learning while students on the other end of the spectrum would have the opportunity for remediation with you.

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