After reading articles on problem based learning, project based learning and challenged based learning, there is a shift towards more authentic and relevant learning for the student. The point of K-12 education is no longer simply the accumulation of knowledge but also the instruction of the skills needed to interact and handle that knowledge. Learning is being seen more as application rather than simple delivery and recall. These three approaches to learning want students to do something with the knowledge they gain through direct instruction, whether it be solving a real-world problem, inquiring and answering a personally meaningful question or attempting to create an innovative solution to a current real-world challenge. This is great news.
I think this line of thinking is pushing learning in the right direction and to keep the momentum moving in that direction, I wonder if these approaches need to be supported by an additional conversation. I think educators and administrators need to be talking about the amount of content or standards teachers are being asked to teach and whether all of that content is necessary. Perhaps discussions about prioritizing standards and looking at the content as something needing academic triage should be addressed. I only share this question because I believe that to be able to effectively perform project, problem or challenged based learning will require time and more time than is currently available for students and teachers in the classroom. How do we do this effectively if we are still operating within a standardized testing environment and where the majority of college requirements are based on academic tests, which are based primarily on content. Within these parameters, these learning approaches will only go so far before they plateau.
How does technology help? I think it helps by giving students access to knowledge and provides a lot of choice in how to present their understandings. However, the time saved in teaching some content is replaced by the time required to teach students how to navigate and filter through this incredible sea of knowledge. The ability to scan, and pull evidence off the internet, to filter essential information from the irrelevant is an extremely difficult skill to develop. Also, ideas like flipped classrooms, where students learn the content at home and then apply it in class are not ideal because research shows that direct instruction is still required for successful learning. Students need a solid knowledge base if they are to be able to create, be curious and innovate. How can one innovate or even be curious if they do not have a solid knowledge base? Yes, technology can be a great resource for building that base as long as it coincides with direct instruction from the teachers in the classroom, in real-time.