The presentation Creating Significant Learning Environments Using Google Classrooms can be used to demonstrate how Google Classrooms can be implemented to achieve a significant learning environment. The following traits are key in CSLE (creating a significant learning environment).
Student-Centered- Students must be the focus of the classroom. The actual/online classroom must be designed to give the students choice, ownership, voice, and authentic learning experiences (COVA).
Teacher Role- The role of the teacher has changed from being the purveyor of information to the facilitator of skill building. Teachers must find ways to place themselves in the role of the coach and mentor to best facilitate the growth of skills rather than lecturing to provide students with information that is already available to them via online experience.
Access- Students must be provided access to content with the ability to explore, analyze, evaluate, and synthesize said content at a personal pace. By providing students unrestricted access to the content and assignments differentiation occurs naturally and each student creates learning experiences at a comfortable, yet challenging pace. Design- Content and assignments must be organized in a sequence that forces students to scaffold their learning experiences.
Use of technology- Students need a balance of technology use. Providing access to an online course as support for the content being taught in the traditional classroom allows students to revisit the content when necessary. Blending the classroom offers the instructor to give students the opportunity to build skills with and without the assistance of technology.
Social Networking- Students need to be made aware of the concept of digital citizenship. Blending the classroom provides a safe space for students to practice positive digital citizenship skills that they can apply to their everyday life when networking on and offline.
The COVA Approach provides guidelines and structure that will assist in CSLE.
1) Students must be provided texts that guide the learning process. These texts must align with the content of the classroom and have an appropriate lexile level. Students need texts that they will comfortable reading, yet pose a challenge to comprehend. Readings should push the students’ desire to engage in the content.
2) Discussion boards, daily activities, and evidence of learning assessments must all be aligned to guide the student to an overarching theme. Students must be placed in a direction and provided checkpoints in their learning. Too much freedom to choose can result in cognitive overload and off-task behavior.
3) The teacher must take on the role of facilitator. Providing consistent, meaningful feedback validates the students’ choices and inspires continuation of exploration. Positive criticism provided in an environment of choice taps into the psychological need to improve the self while fostering confidence in the skills due to visualization of self-expression by the student.
4) The teacher MUST trust the students to be self-directed learners that will make positive choices within their learning experiences. This may be the most difficult aspect for the teacher because it forces the teacher to release an amount of control over the classroom. Demonstrating trust in your students paired with high expectations will lead to a motivated, self-directed classroom.
1) While students are provided the opportunity of personal choice of how they will connect to the content and how they will display their evidence of learning, accountability must be enforced for significant learning environments to be created. Freedom of choice provides a safe, comfortable learning environment, but using accountability to demand ownership creates the rigor needed to get outside of the comfort zone and build skill.
2) The role of the presenter must be focused on when discussing how to create ownership. The best days in the classroom occur when the teacher engages with the lesson and demonstrates personal investment in the learning process, the content, and the students themselves. This display of investment solidifies the students conceptions that the teacher does know what he or she is talking about, loves what he or she does, and sincerely cares about the growth of the students. Once a student recognizes this investment on the teacher’s behalf, engaging in the lesson of the day becomes a welcomed choice.
3) Even if the proper resources and opportunities for learning are provided, if the student does acknowledge that the content and skills being used are relevant to their personal belief system, the significant learning environment fails. Without connection to a personal belief system, students make choices to go through the motions and deny ownership of their learning. However, when a student realizes that the learning process they are engaging in directly affects their personal belief system, that student will take ownership of the process due to his or her intrinsic curiosity in his or herself.
1) Allowing the students choice and enabling the ownership of the choices made will force students to discover and hone their unique voice. Students that use their unique voice when demonstrating evidence of learning make permanent connections between the content, the skill, the environment, and the future. These connections create a deeper learning that will remain with the student long after the course has ended.
2) Students that participate in the COVA approach identify their own learning goals. No longer do they operate under the conditions of learning to pass a test. Authentic learning occurs due to the availability of choice, the accountability developed through ownership of learning, and the creation of a personal voice.
3) After students discover their own unique voice, the content becomes significant to the self and assists in the growth of skills and confidence to share.As students begin to share their voice with the rest of the class, collaboration occurs and the students attach themselves emotionally to the learning process.
4) Because the students are now emotionally attached to the learning process, they will desire to be viewed in a positive light by their peers and authority figures. Students will begin to practice positive traditional and digital citizenship skills in order to promote the ideas they have grown attached to. The learning environment now becomes a catalyst to the development of positive social and citizenship skills.
Authentic Learning Opportunities:
1) Daily assignments, discussion boards, formative assessments, and summative assessments must provide the opportunity for students to view their engagement as a proactive attempt at becoming positive adult citizens. The choices made, ownership taken, and voice created must all be done with the intentions of making the entrance into the “real-world.” This will be accomplished as students participate in provocative discussion boards, relevant and challenging activities, and project-based assessments.
2) Participation in authentic learning opportunities will ensure that students build bridges between content and skill learned in the classroom to life post-graduation. Students want to affect their environment; therefore, providing them with texts and assignments that have direct impact on the issues of today’s society allow that affect to begin.
3) After the connection to the “real-world” problems is made, students begin practicing building solutions to those “real-world” problems. This reinforces the other dimensions of the COVA approach and how the student views his or herself in society. Without authentic learning opportunities, students are provided a structure to learn without an end-goal in mind. Students must be able to view and accept that their engagement in the COVA approach will benefit them as human beings past their days of formal education.