School and learning has evolved over the years and looking back at the past by a few decades or so, it is amazing to see just how far we have come. Gone are the days of having to hold physical textbooks or handwrite a 5-page essay.
When thinking about school, we often think of a form of learning called active learning. This form of learning is defined as when a student is throughly engaged and has opportunities to interact with the material.
Why All Learning is Not “Active”
With the previous statistic in mind, you might wonder why all of our learning is not considered “active.” Most of our lives in school involve taking notes while our teacher or professor is lecturing. Then, we take quizzes or tests based on the knowledge we have retained from the lectures. This scenario is the same in primary schools, middle schools, high schools, and colleges.
The nation’s educational system has been heavily reliant upon passive learning in the past, forcing students to study harder and struggle to remember all the material that was covered in class. Recent innovations in schools and the redefined educational system are now heavily reliant upon active learning.
Plenty of schools are now incorporating hands-on activities into their classes such as interactive quizzes and group projects. Why is this so much better than taking notes while the teacher is speaking?
While a student is taking notes, he is interacting, however, he is not engaging with the material. This is a behavior that only requires interactions with the classroom and teacher.
Note-taking has been a problem in the past because researchers have found that the students are rushing to write down every word spoken by the teacher, rather than taking the time to properly analyze the material. After the notes are taken, there is a high chance that the student will not refer back to the material until it is time for an exam.
In a study about active learning, researchers commented that students must be able to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate material in order for the knowledge to be retained and committed to memory.
Any type of learning that does not cause a student to analyze, synthesize, and/or evaluate the material is classified as passive learning. For instance, listening to a professor lecture on the water cycle is passive learning while participating in a group project to model the water cycle is active learning.
The bottom line is that when a student teaches himself the material or can understand the entire context, he has truly learned and mastered the material. This is why passive learning does not get the job done.
Active Learning and Technology
One popular misconception about active learning is that it occurs best in small groups. Active learning can occur through hybrid courses, large classes, or even online classes. This is where technology comes in.
Technology has innovated the way a classroom functions as most parts of a class are now heavily dependent upon technology. For instance, when taking attendance or entering grades, a teacher no longer uses the traditional grade book or attendance sheet. Instead, everything is now inputted into a school-record system.
When walking in the modern classroom, you may notice a laptop cart, multiple computers, or even an overhead projector. Students no longer carry textbooks because E-books of these textbooks are easily accessible on our phones and laptops. When the teacher assigns a worksheet, it can be done through our laptops and be turned in there as well.
While technology does help teachers utilize active learning strategies, most of the time, teachers make the mistake of thinking that a PowerPoint or slideshow of the material is active learning.
Technology-based active learning involves the use of technology to provoke class engagement. This can be done through online discussion boards, performing research, virtual labs and modules, and group projects. Technology is an efficient, yet cost-effective method that plenty of schools have incorporated into their educational systems. Because technology is portable, learning now continues when students go home.