Project Tomorrow, a national education nonprofit group, conducted a 2010 survey of more than 250,000 students and asked them to speak about their vision for 21st century learning. Three essential elements emerged:
Social-based learning – students want to leverage emerging communications and collaboration tools to create and personalize networks of experts to inform their education process.
Un-tethered learning – students envision technology-enabled learning experiences that transcend the classroom walls and are not limited by resource constraints, traditional funding streams, geography, community assets, or even teacher knowledge or skills.
Digitally-rich learning – students see the use of relevancy-based digital tools, content, and resources as a key to driving learning productivity, not just about engaging students in learning.
Students are speaking directly to the need for social-learning as part of an education redesign that uses today’s technology to their benefit.
Don’t sit on a two-legged stool
Today, instructional design is like a two-legged stool. There is teacher-led and individual study as the core of our learning model, while group study is relegated to the occasional project. The call to action is clear. Accountability and incentive are needed so that students are evaluated and graded on their efforts to teach their fellow classmates in addition to the already existing evaluation and grading models. Students and teachers must also have access to the tools and resources that can make their learning experiences social, un-tethered, and digitally-rich.
Budget cuts have reduced a teaching population that is already stretched thin, and some schools cannot afford to stay open five days a week. Research shows that group study is as effective, or more, than other forms of instructional design. Students are demanding social-learning as part of the educational model. The third-leg of education is social-learning and it’s time to put it back in place.
Farb Nivi is the founder and chief product officer of Grockit, an online learning platform that helps students study in the three modes that they naturally learn – alone, with peers, and with experts.
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