The 5 most important terms for transforming schools

4. Participatory learning is another problematic term. It is easy to get agreement among teachers and administrators that students need to participate in what is occurring in the classroom and school. Participatory learning, as used by proponents of transformation, means that the student has many ongoing opportunities to become involved with their community and the world. Rather than just occasional field trips or special projects, participation with the appropriate media and information outlets, people, and communities via both conventional and digital media means is the modus operandi of the school. The classroom becomes permeable. Students not only have the opportunity to learn from others beyond the school as they work with them, but also make contributions to civic affairs, the arts, and other disciplines and activities. Rather than being a walled garden, the classroom becomes a magic carpet.
Further reading: Henry Jenkins and his colleagues produced a seminal paper that considers student participation in the context of cultural changes stimulated by the wide spread use of digital media.

5. Connected learning
is closely related to participatory learning. Some use the two terms interchangeably. Connectivity is a word that in common usage generally refers to the ability to access the internet. To speak of “connected learning” is often taken to mean that student are making uses of computers or hand held devices for their school work. For those proposing school transformation connected learning takes on a different meaning; the extent of connected learning is not determined by how many computers there are in the school and how often they are used. Connected learning is as much about the human element as it is about the technical element. It involves relationships, and the sense of the term is quite similar to what is meant when we speak of a person who is “well connected.”
Further reading: The MacArthur Foundation’s Connected Learning Initiative has produced a cogent document that explains the term “connected learning” as a learning environment that goes beyond devices and wires.

Any of the five terms can be used as buzz words. They can provide sense of something being done that is important and current—as long as no one probes the meaning of them too closely. Progress in changing teaching and learning in the classroom in ways that fall within the common usage of these terms is not easy. Accomplishing the practices in the transformative use of the terms is a much tougher challenge and demands all the skill and persistence the person can bring to the task.

James Bosco is a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Educational Studies at Western Michigan University.

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