The Holy Grail of Education
Ah, the Holy Grail. A symbol of the long-lost or long-sought-after prize that everyone is looking for but no one knows where it would be. What might an educator’s ‘Holy Grail’ be? How about: A significant learning environment (SLE) where every student is engaged and learning. Sounds great, doesn’t it? But is it possible? How can we search for this long-sought-after prize?
One component of an SLE would be the boundaries placed on the learning and interactions. In my classroom, I bound my interactions this way: “You are welcome to do anything you’d like, in my classroom, that doesn’t distract you or others from the learning taking place.” We’re often driven to seek our own pleasure or fun times with our peers (or even just check out). But students need to know their focus needs to be on the learning taking place. I love empowering students to own their learning. Creating time and space where they ‘think-pair-share’ or explore ideas together is a beautiful thing.
But is that enough to make learning really significant? Isn’t there something more than just keeping good boundaries? In “A new Culture of Learning” (Thomas & Brown, 2011), a second component of SLE is included: “a massive information network that provides almost unlimited access and resources to learn about [almost] anything” (p 19).
Enter BYOD. Bring Your Own Device. It’s something that I’ve started exploring in my classroom. How cool is it for students to say “Can I look up something on my phone?” when we’re in the middle of a discussion? Then they share some information they found that is relevant. True, I still need to learn how to cultivate the voices and thoughts of my students IN my classroom. But I’m not afraid of welcoming other digital voices if it will help engagement and make my classroom more relevant to my learners.
Is that all? Well, those two components certainly don’t hurt. We can also think about grounding our learning into the real world (think Project Based Learning). And what about integrating character issues like integrity and grit while learning? We must not only teach to meet standards, but to the whole student. And if we can reach across disciplines while involving student interest and student control, even better!
Woops, did you hear that? I think I just dropped the holy grail again. But it’s worth the searching and the learning it will take to get closer. What are you willing to try in your explorations for the SLE grail?
Thomas, D. & Brown, J. S. (2011). A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.