Education is the cultivation of knowledge and higher-level thinking; it is a mechanism of discovery, exploration and development, preparing people for their future. There are many learning theories for the cultivation of knowledge. Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism, and social learning theories have all been studied and used for generations in the field of education. I am most aligned with the constructionist theory of education. That’s not to say that I don’t use the tools from the other theories, but I mostly subscribe to an experiential approach to learning. I believe that learning should be structured around an authentic problem that allows students to explore multiple views, collaborate with peers, think like subject matter experts, and explore complex solutions to that real-world problem.
In my classroom, the teacher is a coach who helps students discover possible answers to questions, through the exploration of multiple sources and perspectives. Students are encouraged to generate their own understanding of complex concepts and to reach a mastery level of knowledge not just a cursory level. Peer collaboration is at the center of this model. Students work in cooperative groups that allow for discussion and debate of problems and concepts.
To me, the ideal classroom is one that promotes a student-centered personalized approach to learning. An ideal environment is where the 2016 ISTE Standards and the 4Cs are intertwined with lessons so that by the time a student graduates they are resilient, empowered, computational thinkers who can communicate and collaborator with people around the world. Communication, creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking are integral to creating this environment where students thrive to do better, teachers are promoting a growth mindset and one hundred percent of the students participate in class. This is a place where students are not afraid to try and not afraid to fail.
Integral to this exploratory, student-centered environment is blended learning. Blended learning is the key to student-centered personalized learning because it gives students flexibility in pace, place, and path. It is also the crucial element in fostering an environment of one hundred percent student participation. When students can participate both in person and online, everyone has a voice.
I am an educational technology specialist and I believe that the use of digital tools and innovation is critical to reinforce and transform learning experience. Living in a digital world, technology is often used as a crutch or simply a substitution for paper and pencil learning. However, technology and innovation should be used to enhance and promote discovery and aide in the creation of a personalized, student centered environment. As an education technology specialist, my goal for educational technology is to help teachers create these transformative learning environments by weaving digital and analog activities together and utilizing the best experiences from both worlds. For me, it's about the innovation and engagement. It's not about the technology.