You’ve probably heard about the Rip Van Winkle joke by now. The poor fellow is understandably shocked by the way the world has changed when he wakes up from his hundred-year slumber, until he visits a school. There he feels instantly at home, for nothing had changed from his own school days, over one hundred years in the past.
Finally, this joke no longer rings true. Things have started to change in our classrooms, much more than they ever did a decade ago. Here we take a look at some of the current trends that set today’s classrooms apart from those in Rip Van Winkle’s story.
1. Using social media to engage students
As an increasing number of schoolchildren are joining social networking sites, teachers have begun to realize that it can be an effective medium for improving student engagement in the classroom. Educators have found various ways to do this, including asking students to contribute to classroom discussions over Twitter, creating a class page on Facebook to post updates and assignments, and having students complete writing assignments for a blog.
2. Using online games and services to enhance learning
Educational online games have been in classrooms for a while, but now they are used with increasing effectiveness. Learning games are created with more than rote practice in mind – students are assessing data, interpreting information and applying knowledge in the classroom through online games. Some games even provide teachers with assessments of the students’ skills based on the Common Core standards. Apart from games, teachers are using online services in innovative ways to make learning more meaningful for the students. Kids use Livemocha to chat with native speakers when learning new languages, Google lit trips make stories come alive by using Google maps, photos and extra information related to places and events referenced in the story, and games such as Guitar Hero and Wii Fit are changing the way students learn music and do P.E. in school.
3. Preparing students for the changing world
Students who graduate in the 21st century require an entirely different set of skills from those who graduated in the past. Digital media is taking over the world, and an increasing amount of work is being done using these new channels. Communication, networking, marketing and acquiring new skills is very often done over the internet. Instead of banning mobile devices as schools used to do in the past, classrooms today focus on teaching students how to use the internet in a responsible and effective way. Focus is given to locating credible sources of information on the internet, contributing positively to online discussions, creating high quality online content and collaborating with others over digital media. Students are also learning new skills such as how to create a video game.
4. Using student interests to shape the curriculum
There is a visible shift in classrooms from being teacher-centered to student-centered. Where teachers used to be the source of all information and students merely tried to grasp as much information as possible from the teacher, today teachers act more as facilitators. Students are learning from new sources and teachers merely guide them by teaching them how to learn from these new sources. Additionally, educators are trying to shape their lessons according to the interests of their students. Through project-based learning, students learn by getting involved in projects that excite them. Students are being given greater freedom to choose what and how they’d like to learn. Even in classrooms where there is no drastic change in how students learn, teachers are more open to hearing from their students what they’d like to do differently in the classroom.
5. Students and teachers collaborating online
There are hundreds of projects (found on websites that promote online student collaboration) that allow students to work with others from across the globe. With varying goals and focusing on a wide variety of skills, these projects encourage students to share their work with a large international audience, give and take feedback, and learn from each other. But students are not the only ones benefiting from the changes in today’s classrooms. Teachers too are collaborating and learning from each other on the internet. Websites like Teacher Tube and Classroom 2.0 encourage teachers to share teaching tips and resources with others from across the globe. Teachers are now reaching out to others hundreds of miles away, benefiting from each other’s experiences, asking for solutions to specific classroom problems and giving advice to others who need it.
Sorry, Rip Van Winkle, but this revolution was long overdue.
Corinne Jacob is a wannabe writer who is convinced that kids learn best when they’re having fun. She is constantly on the lookout for new and exciting ways to make learning an enjoyable experience. Corinne loves all things that scream out un-schooling, alternative education and holistic learning.