The Four Cs in Active Learning Spaces

With the growth in popularity of active learning methodologies, educators and institutions alike are looking for ways to adapt their learning spaces to allow for approaches such as collaborative learning.  In addition to having the right kind of active learning furniture, there are a number of other issues to consider, including lighting, instructor placement and proper wireless internet access.
One useful way to approach this challenge is through the four Cs of active learning spaces:

  • Collaboration – A significant component of successful active learning is the students’ ability to engage effectively with one another.
  • Creativity – How well does the space allow students to think innovatively?  
  • Communication – If students can’t communicate with one another or the instructor effectively, successful outcomes aren’t terribly likely.  
  • Critical thinking – Active learning practiced effectively isn’t so much about students regurgitating material – it has more to do with students discovering the answer on their own, about reasoning through problems.  The right setting and environment will be conducive to this.  

Take these factors into consideration, and you may find it easier to visualize how your active learning space might be arranged.
(Source: ISTE)

Adapting Your Space for Active Learning

Adapting a space as an active learning classroom
A number of different factors are aligning to drive interest in active learning. The need for improved teamwork among students, the explosion in mobile computer technology and the drive for improved learning outcomes are just a few of the reasons that educators are growing ever more interested in methods such as collaborative learning.
But to successfully implement active learning methodologies, the instructional space must adapt to allow for group interaction and collaborative work, and depending on what the space is traditionally used for, this can be a challenge. Here are a few guidelines to help in the creation of your active learning space:

  • Don’t be afraid to upend the status quo. The group work and engagement that are characteristic of active learning can’t take place in a traditional classroom with rows of desks. Arrange your desks in small groups. If it’s time for independent study, allow your students to move to the outer edges of the room.
  • Be prepared to escape the room. Allow your students to take their discussion groups outside when possible.
  • Embrace mobile technology. There are a number of different ways that laptops, tablets and smartphones can be incorporated as tools into your curriculum.

A big part of adapting your space is having the right active learning furniture.  Once the pieces are in place, your educators can start making some magic.
(Source: ISTE)

Recommended Technologies for Experiential Learning

Recommended technologies for experiential learning
Most if not all of us learn fastest and most effectively by doing. This is being recognized in the world of technology and is being dubbed “experiential learning.” Closely connected to active learning, this approach says that learning needs to be internalized through individual activity and effort, and as such, the instructor needs to help provide experiences that will help the student internalize the content.  Emotions, individual thought processes, and environment all actively contribute to our obtaining of information. Recognizing this allows us to utilize technological advances to our advantage in the world of education.
Aside from developing the environment to help the learner have those experiences – such as having the right kind of classroom furniture – the development and active usage of the following tools will greatly enhance the knowledge and education of students worldwide.

  • Online video conferencing. This method allows students to feel connected to their educators and other pupils regardless of geographical proximity. Interacting with peers and professors can ease hesitations and insecurities in the learning process.
  • Social networking. In a world that is run by social media, it is advantageous to incorporate learning into this model. Groups and pages can be created to cultivate knowledge-gaining conversation, to relay deadlines and other announcements, and to promote class camaraderie and cooperation.
  • Mobile. Tests, group messaging, video calls, emails, and course work can all be accessed via the student’s mobile phone. “On the go” learning is the technology of now and the future.
  • Digital games. Because they are already engaging, digital games can be a motivating aspect of the educational process. Advancing levels, obtaining points, and competing against others will encourage students to gain more knowledge and proficiency in a short amount of time.

Hands-on engagement and experimentation are the future of efficient and successful education. We can take advantage of available technological resources to encourage the process of discovery.

How to Combat College Cheating

Preventing cheating in college classesCheating at the college and university level has been a problem from the beginning, but it has only gotten worse as technology has proliferated.  As smartphones (read: handheld computers) have become ubiquitous on college campuses, the ability for students to outsmart professors is overwhelming.  (There was even a question posted to Quora asking the best place to sit in a class to cheat.)
Colleges and universities find themselves needing to get increasingly creative in combating the problem.  Here are a few ideas.

  • Foster a social stigma against cheating.  This blog post suggests creating and reinforcing a campus-wide honor code to encourage students to walk the straight and narrow.
  • Spell out to students specific behaviors that amount to cheating and plagiarism.  Yes, it’s unfortunate that today’s students aren’t necessarily clear on what constitutes cheating, but it may be best to provide the clarification.
  • Create a centralized testing center.  Many colleges and universities have designated a separate building or wing for tests and quizzes, which allows for enforcement of rules such as confiscation of phones and other electronic devices.  Yes, this can be expensive, and yes, it can amount to an inconvenience for students; however, a separate controlled environment can make it easier to clamp down on wandering eyes and coordinated efforts among students.
  • Invest in the right class layout.  Having flexible classroom furniture can allow instructors to rearrange seating in ways that will discourage cheating.

It’s also worth pointing out that technology is something of a two-edged sword when it comes to this topic: it makes it easier for students to cheat, but it can also make it easier for teachers to catch them.