High Possibility Classrooms: Student Agency Through Technology-Enhanced Learning

Imagine a classroom where very young students produce beautiful paper puppets that are scanned and then used to inform writing narratives. Picture a classroom where the teacher tells elementary school students on a regular basis: «Questions are more important than answers.» Visualize a classroom with long bench-like seats that are set up around work tables and where there is no teacher desk — a place where the teacher uses a process called Q U E S T and BYOD to support middle school students in understanding what topics in the curriculum are important to them. Envisage a high school classroom where eager students learn film protocols in a digital media unit alongside their visual arts teacher who is a successful Australian filmmaker.

Does this all sound a little too idealistic? Even if you’ve already created learning spaces like these, there is lot more that we can learn from a new study of Australian school classrooms.

Scenarios described in the opening paragraph capture some of the characteristics of technology-enhanced learning from qualitative research with four exemplary teachers — Gabby, Gina, Nina, and Kitty — who taught students in early years, elementary, middle years, and high school classrooms.

The doctoral study of these teachers’ classrooms was conducted across a two-year period. The research wanted to find out how a particular group of «high-end early tech adopters» conceptualized their knowledge of technology integration. If we could more deeply understand how excellent teachers (meeting six rigorous criteria) use technology to enhance learning, might their example provide inspiration and fresh approaches for all K-12 teachers?

The 5 Conceptions

What emerged from the data collection and analysis was that exemplary teachers conceived their knowledge of technology integration around five conceptions: theory, creativity, public learning, life preparation, and contextual accommodations.

Within each of these five conceptions (see Figure 1) are multiple themes of teaching practices and student learning processes (see Figure 2) that align with what young people require for their education right now in schools.

The pedagogical framework inspired by these practices is known as High Possibility Classrooms or HPC (Hunter, 2013; Hunter, 2014; Hunter, 2015). This is teacher knowledge for practice, in practice, and of practice. A summary of how the HPC conceptions and themes work in concert with one another is provided below. Think about whether this is what you already do, or what you could add to your teaching repertoire.

1. Theory

The four exemplary teachers consciously applied their knowledge of education theories (Bruner, Piaget, Vygotsky) when integrating technology into practice. This action related to:

2. Creativity

This conception exposed how technology gave students many more ways to be inventive. They could:

3. Public Learning

This meant that technology provided new ways for students to display learning to an audience beyond the classroom teacher. For example:

4. Life Preparation

Through this conception, technology in learning gave students:

5. Contextual Accommodations

The final conception in the HPC model reflects the adaptations made to maximize the effectiveness of technology for teaching and learning. The teachers wanted to:

Imagine Yourself as a Student

It wasn’t always easy to teach in the way that the teachers in this study believed learning should occur, as current structures in many Australian schools focus on testing and often quite narrow assessment regimes.

Common to all four of these teachers was a deep fascination with technology. They did not use it for all learning, but most of the time over the school week. Their approaches varied, but they ended up in the same place: engaged classrooms where students are empowered and given a voice to take control of their own learning. Teachers stepped out of the way.

Recently on Twitter, I saw this comment: «Students run into these kinds of classrooms, not away from them.» Would you want to be a learner in your own classroom? In a High Possibility Classroom, there is no denying that teachers and students would say, «Most definitely.»

See original text: http://goo.gl/sj4t7Z