December 5, 2011
How Technology Can Improve Learner-Centered Teaching
For faculty looking to create a more learner-centered environment there are always a few bumps in the road. First they need to get used to no longer being the “sage on the stage” and then there’s the adjustment period for students who aren’t used to being active participants in their learning.
In many ways, technology can help pave the way for both faculty and students, but only if the instructor “is adept at creating a course that capitalizes on the pedagogical benefits that technology facilitates in helping students meet the desired learning outcomes for the course,” said Ike Shibley, associate professor of chemistry at Penn State – Berks. In other words, technology for the sake of technology is never good.
In the recent online seminar Learner-Centered Technology: Aligning Tools with Learning Goals, Shibley provided a roadmap for matching technological tools to course learning outcomes. Grounded in the five core principles of learner-centered teaching, Shibley explained specific ways technology can be used to get students to interact with course content in an engaging and productive fashion.
Here are some of the ways technology can help satisfy the goals of a learner-centered classroom:
1. Shift the balance of power toward the learner: Interactive online assignments can help facilitate the transfer of power and give students opportunities to practice mastering the material at their own pace. The technologies that support these activities could include wikis, online quizzes, blogs and discussion boards.
2. Use content to organize activities: Students appreciate a structured, logical flow to their courses, and how you organize your assignments and activities can go a long way in minimizing confusion. The technologies that support how you organize and communicate course materials and expectations could include an online syllabus, the learning management system, and email notifications of important due dates.
3. Think of teaching as facilitating learning: Teaching with technology enables the instructor to create learning experiences that complement each other whether the students are working on an assignment online or meeting in a face-to-face environment. The technologies that support this goal include online homework, clickers and surveys.
4. Responsibility for learning rests with the learner: Learner-centered teaching means creating assignments that allow students to practice building connections with the material, and evaluate their learning. The technologies that can be used to help students take ownership of their learning include blogs, wikis, online quizzes, and VoiceThread.
5. Evaluation provides a way to foster learning: Shibley likes to use a lot of low-stakes grading opportunities, and he gives students multiple attempts to pass online quizzes. There are numerous technologies that can help students track their progress, including online quiz banks and online platforms that enable collaboration and peer review.
Although he admits that integrating technology takes a fair amount of upfront time in terms of getting past the learning curve and choosing the correct technology to support each learning objective, Shibley says the payoff is a more engaged classroom and improved student learning.
“Technology does do a better job of keeping students on task,” he said. “If it’s well designed and it’s not busy work, students will spend more time on task and the assumption then, which I think has been borne out and will continue to be borne out in studies of how technology can be used in an pedagogically efficacious manner, time on task will correlate with more learning and higher test scores.”