The concept of learner agency has been integral to educational thinking and practice since the beginning: the idea that “education is the process through which learners become capable of independent thought which, in turn, forms the basis for autonomous action”, has had a profound impact on modern educational theory and practice (Trend 1: core-ed.org). Yet, lately, when I have been using the term ‘Learner Agency’ in professional development sessions and in my conversations with educators and leaders, I get the sense that they are not quite sure about how to move from talking about it to actual action.
What is it... really?
“The notion of agency as contributing to cognitive processes involved in learning comes primarily from the Piagetian notion of constructivism where knowledge is seen as “constructed” through a process of taking actions in one’s environment and making adjustments to existing knowledge structures based on the outcome of those actions. The implication is that the most transformative learning experiences will be those that are directed by the learner’s own endeavors and curiosities.” (Lindgren & McDaniel, 2012)
Another way of thinking of learner agency is when learners have “the power to act” - when learning involves activity and initiative on the part of the learner themselves, and not just the teacher, curriculum, and/or resources, etc. Consider concepts such as personalization and learn-centric or learner-centered education: these are aspects of what we might mean by learner agency, but it even goes deeper than that!
Overall there is a sense of independence and responsibility on the part of the learner: the opportunity to have choice and voice in planning, implementation, and assessment.
Making Learner Agency a Reality for our Students
Involving the learners in the decision-making is a must. These decisions will place more ownership and empowerment on the part of students. Teachers must become comfortable with changing their leadership style from directive to consultative -- from "Do as I say" to "Based on your needs, let's co-develop and implement a plan of action together."
Meaningful change must begin with active student involvement. Advocacy, choice, and voice should occur in the classroom as well as in any learning environment. Relevance and value on the part of our learners are central elements to success.
For many of us the idea of Virtual Reality in the classroom is the stuff of science fiction, but today it is a reality: from the traditional desktop/laptop to the fully immersive virtual experience via wearable VR.
Imagine teaching history where your students can explore the historic buildings of Ancient Rome, or be able to walk around Athens or Greece. Consider studying the ecosystem of the ocean while sitting at it’s bottom, or using a virtual scalpel to dissect that digital frog. Virtual Reality can be used in so many areas of curriculum and in as many ways as your imagination can come up with.
These fully immersive setups include tracking systems that records and analyses students movements in the virtual space, showing the illusions of depth that only adds to the experience. So students can actively immerse themselves in the content and explore complex subject, theories and concepts.
This is an immersive experience for everyone. With the help of your smart phone, and a cardboard interface, (buying one can be as little as $8, or you can make your own with the amazing help from instructables.com). All you do is drop your phone in and start exploring. The Google Cardboard apps are extensive and there is a little bit of everything, and Google Cardboard for Education has excellent ideas for use and lesson planning.
Some of my favorite Google Cardboard apps include:
Titans of Space:
Titans of Space is, in my own opinion, the best educational app available for the Google Cardboard. Even with a really simple VR technology like the Cardboard, Titans of Space manages to convey the awesomeness of our universe in an incredible VR experience.
Discovery VR is a VR adventure that will let you explore our world with 360° dynamic videos. Excellent use of VR to teach about ecology, conservation, adventure and exploration. We all know that the resolution of 360° videos need to be improved for a great virtual reality experience, but Discovery VR is still a must have for educational apps for the Google Cardboard.
InMind VR is a great educational VR game that will take on a journey into the patient’s brains in search of the neurons that cause mental disorder. This experience might be less educational that other apps in this top 5, it’s still a must for all of you interested in educational VR apps.
I also really like Random 42 that will let you take a visually stunning and scientifically accurate 3D ride inside the human body. Egyptian Mysteries, an immersive investigation game in the ancient Egypt. Egyptian Mysteries uses the immersive aspect of the Google Cardboard to take you on a trip in the ancient Egypt, a must try.
I recently had the opportunity to check out the VR system zSpace. zSpace brands itself as the “ultimate immersive learning experience” that allows students to interact with objects and understand the concepts behind them. With zSpace, students can learn highly engaging tasks that are often too complex, expensive, and dangerous for the classroom. It is truly something that needs to be seen to be believed.
Its truly stunning and realistic learning environment touted lessons and virtual experiences. The system included science labs, lessons on geography and history, as well as physics simulations. I “held” a virtual human heart in my hand and could feel it beating – SO cool and creepy at the same time.
I am so excited to feature both Google Cardboard and zSpace at my upcoming Coaching Digital Learning Institute and hope to learn even more when I get the chance to play with it again. Please share any favorite VR apps, tools, and/or tricks in the comments below.
This blog is inspired by the Ed Tech Coaches Network Blog Challenge #ETCoaches .
The International Society for Technology in Education Conference is, in one word, HUGE! This was my fourth year attending the conference (this year in Denver, CO) and my second year facilitating poster sessions and workshops. It is a great place to make and reestablish connections, a place where I get a pulse check on what is happening in the world of Ed Tech, and the opportunity to check out what is up and coming.
Amidst the frenzied lines to see the Google Playground, the awesome factor of the EscapeEDU School Bus, and the closed out sessions of one more MindCraft Edu panel (there were SO many of those), the entrepreneurs' hub in the ISTE Expo hall is one of the places I like most.
There I spoke with three highly passionate and dedicated educators who are giving back and have developed resources worthy of the classroom, aligned to pedagogy, and with teachers and student centered learning at the forefront of their design decisions.
Reading Log Cabin bravewingsapps.com
Available for apple and android, The Reading Log Cabin is an app for children as young as Pre-K to complete their reading logs. I had a chance to speak with Evelyn Moldal and she was so excited to share this app and her love of teaching and learning.
Code Monkey playcodemonkey.com
Learn real programming by playing a fun and intuitive game. I spoke with Jonathan Schor about this educational game environment where students learn to code in a real programming language. Using CoffeeScript, a modern open-source programming language, the students will be able to develop and generate unique and personalized apps and websites. CodeMonkey fosters the development of executive functioning skills such as problem solving and planning as well as geometric and mathematical thinking.
Writing Project thewritingproject.com
Students write their essays through a combination of brainstorming, questions, evidence, description and analysis. This is the resource and ideas I was geeking out about the most. I spoke with Hames Matechuk and he explained this app helps students by giving them prompts and hints when writing essays, papers, etc. As a parent with a student who struggles with writing structure and form, I could not be more excited for a tool like this to empower our kids abilities to write and write well.
Denver was amazing, I learned, I hiked Pikes Peak, and connected with over 400 educators in my ISTE sessions. The energy and impact these educators make every day is overwhelmingly awesome. Thank you, ISTE, and I'll see you next year in San Antonio.
A while back I posted about the 4Rs of effective Coaching - Relationships, Relevance, Rigor and Reflection: all elements that can be found in the Coaching Digital Learning Massive Open Online Course for Educators (MOOC-Ed), a free course for instructional technology coaches and individuals who are instrumental in cultivating a digital learning culture within their school, district and/or state. The feedback accumulated from the first installment of the Coaching Digital Learning (CDL) MOOC-Ed highlights not only the importance of the 4Rs, but how this course, grounded in practice and research, can support and assist coaches in developing strategies in each area. As I am making revisions to our sixth iteration of this course, I felt the urge to share its awesomeness....
There is nothing new about expressing the importance of fostering relationships and trust with those you support as a coach - but what are new ways to encourage the open and collaborative culture you are striving to see in your school/district. Thanks to the CDL MOOC-Ed, participants shared that they had a new understanding of their role as a coach, not just as technical support, but as a leader to guide their peers through a digital transition that empowered educators and focused on student-centered learning.
“Developing a better understanding that a technology coach isn't just someone who finds resources for teachers to use- it is someone who teaches educators how to transform their pedagogy to incorporate 21st century skills using technology integration as the vehicle.”
“I have been a technology integration coach for the past two years, but only now [after the CDL MOOC-Ed] have a strong grasp of that what that is supposed to mean. I can evolve with this new information. I had heard of most of these topics before, but they hadn't been put into a clear coaching framework for me. I am grateful.”- CDL MOOC-Ed participants, (from Course Evaluation)
The CDL MOOC-Ed course is designed around authentic and meaningful content building participants personal learning network (PLN) and aligning resources and rigorous activities to 21st Century Skills and the 4Cs, targeting real world applications and standards. Keeping relevant for today’s on the ground educators is crucial - offering strategies and best practices applicable for all coaches and those they support - meeting educators where they are in their own unique learning environments.
“At my site, I often feel like I am isolated from others...the [CDL MOOC-Ed] made it easy for me to communicate and collaborate with others on my own time. “
“[Coaching Digital Learning] really allowed me to focus and think about where I wanted to go and how I was going to get there.” - CDL MOOC-Ed participants, (from Course Evaluation)
The reflective practices of the CDL MOOC-Ed provides participants the opportunity to create, upon completion of the course, a complete Instructional Technology Coaching Action Plan. Regular assessment of coaching plans and the feedback of those coaches work with is pivotal.
“Coaching Digital Learning helped me have better conversations with teachers and clarify my own thought process in preparing for those conversations. Before the course, I was on the right track. Now, I feel very confident in speaking, teaching and coaching teachers how to effectively reach their idea of an optimal learning environment.” - CDL MOOC-Ed participants, (from Course Evaluation)
Rigorous and relevant expectations set by coaches to support their colleagues, combined with building strong relationships and continuous reflection, can make all the difference for your digital transition. The Coaching Digital Learning MOOC-Ed can aid coaches and those who are instrumental in cultivating a digital learning culture within their school, district and/or state, to build their own capacity. CEUs are offered along with a Certificate of Completion. For more information go to www.mooc-ed.org or Learn More about Coaching Digital Learning MOOC-Ed | #CDL_MOOCEd.▢
Jaclyn coaches and assists K-12 educators, ITFs, and Administrators to adapt, not adopt – fostering digital initiatives to transform professional learning through changes in pedagogical shifts and meeting the needs of all learners to champion creativity and innovation. @jaclynbstevens