Digital Learners: Will they surprise us?
At the level of the processes of learning, there already is taking place a revolution on how digital learners are facing their learning. They may also be doing things differently, or in different places, or with different tools, or with different people… just may. But what are the results of this revolution?
New learners are using multiple tools, analogue/traditional and digital altogether, mixing physical and virtual environments.
The tasks that are being performed in new environments are not that new: communicating, asking, discussing, sharing; capturing, labelling, storing; finding, adapting, expanding, creating; listening, watching, reading, annotating, writing. But these tasks are being performed with crucial differences: range, functionalities, fluidity, depth, etc. And learners are making most of these decisions by themselves, not because they were told to by their instructors.
So, we can state that digital learners are following new processes by applying old and new sets of tools, both of them used in different ways. But what about the results of their learning?
It just happens that the results we get from students are highly dependable from the way we assess their performance. If we want different results emerging from different learning processes, we do need to also change the ways with which we assess learning. Indeed, the new different assessment should go in the line of not providing the “right answer” to a given question coming from some learning material, but engaging the student to contribute with more material, with more relevant questions on the topic.
In fact, as technology becomes more and more social, learning is more about learning together, about building a learning community. Thus, assessment necessarily needs to target the creation of a learning community and how much and how well a student contributes to it.
And, as a part of the building of a learning community, an arrangement has to be made to create an “authentic audience” for the projects beyond the instructor and classmates, to get feedback from the representatives of the external audience and make results available.
Keys of expanded learning (previously not possible without technology):
- Knowledge, insight to be demonstrated is specified but in the demonstration the learner has scope to surprise with results.
- Learners make use of the skills they already have in the process of learning
- The product fo the learning contributes tgo the learning of others.
- The instructor leads a scaffolding process: guides, gives feedback, steers, and refers regularly to assessment rubrics so “surprised” does not mean the learner feels lost in terms of expectations.
- Poole & Wheal. (2011). Learning, spaces and technology. Exploring the concept.
- Collis & Moonen (2005). An on-going journey: Technology as a learning workbench.
- Collis & Moonen (2001). Flexible learning in a digital world
- Sfard (1998). On two metahors for learning and the dangerfs of choosing just one. In Educational Researcher, 27 (2)
- Kearsley & Shneiderman (1999). Engagement Theory
- Prensky (2010). Teaching for digital natives.