Good Practice Uses Active Learning Techniques
Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much just sitting in classes listening to teachers, memorizing prepackaged assignments, and spitting out answers. They must talk about what they are learning, write reflectively about it, relate it to past experiences, and apply it to their daily lives. They must make what they learn part of themselves.
The range of technologies that encourage active learning is staggering. Many fall into one of three categories: tools and resources for learning by doing, time-delayed exchange, and real-time conversation. Today, all three usually can be supported with “worldware,” i.e., software (such as word processors) originally developed for other purposes but now used for instruction, too.
We’ve already discussed communication tools, so here we will focus on learning by doing. Apprentice-like learning has been supported by many traditional technologies: research libraries, laboratories, art and architectural studios, athletic fields. Newer technologies now can enrich and expand these opportunities. For example:
Supporting apprentice-like activities in fields that themselves require the use of technology as a tool, such as statistical research and computer-based music, or use of the Internet to gather information not available in the local library.
Simulating techniques that do not themselves require computers, such as helping chemistry students develop and practice research skills in “dry” simulated laboratories before they use the riskier, more expensive real equipment.
Helping students develop insight. For example, students can be asked to design a radio antenna. Simulation software displays not only their design but the ordinarily invisible electromagnetic waves the antenna would emit. Students change their designs and instantly see resulting changes in the waves. The aim of this exercise is not to design antennae but to build deeper understanding of electromagnetism.
Uses active learning techniques
The Internet promotes active learning because it enables learners to engage with each other and with the content. Learners can use the Internet to discuss and debate content helping them to understand content and to apply it in other contexts. However, interaction with content can also be facilitated online. This could be something as simple as embedded questions or as complex as online simulations. Coloured and 3-D illustrations that can be manipulated by the learners can help to clarify concepts in ways that print-based materials cannot.