iFunza was founded by educators on a mission to help teachers create powerful learning moments for every student, every day.
E-learning, like most aspects of the applied sciences and education, is a rapidly growing
and changing field. New technologies are constantly being implemented that let students and
teachers better interact both in the classroom and outside of it — not only at the college level,
but in all levels of schools around the world.
If you’re an educator trying to keep up, here are some trends that are changing the face of 21st century learning.
1. iPads in the Classroom
Apple’s tablet computer, the iPad, has proven to be popular with not only everyday consumers but educators as well. Grants from both public and private sources have allowed schools across the nation to provide them to students. These tablet devices are easy-to-use and perfect for classrooms involving a wide variety of learning styles. Students can complete assignments on the iPad, share their work with teachers and peers, read textbooks, take notes, blog, play educational games, write papers and much more.
Teachers are also able to easily monitor progress and even grade papers right through their device, saving time, paper and allowing for better feedback. Students who take classes outside of the school setting, or who are homeschooled, may also find the gadget useful in learning, as it is incredibly portable and powerful. There are some who criticize the use of iPads in the classroom, but with hundreds of thousands of them available to students, they’re unlikely to go anywhere anytime soon.
2. Smart Phones & Mobile Devices
Smart phones and iPods were once seen as contraband in classrooms, but today more and more educators are turning to them as interactive and cost-effective tools to get kids interested in learning. They can use these devices anywhere and anytime to engage with peers, keep up with grades and even learn a thing or two – something more and more educational programs are beginning to embrace.
Experts estimate that over the next two to three years, there will an explosion of use of these devices for e-learning and classroom-based activities, allowing both students and teachers to interact in new and potentially advantageous ways.
3.Tech-based Monitoring of Student Progress
Programs like Blackboard and online grade-tracking systems are making it easier than ever for teachers to follow student progress, no matter where they might be. Online and offline courses alike are making use of this great new technology and the explosion of available programs and websites.
Tracking student progress comes with a wide range of benefits. It allows teachers to quickly share grades and evaluations as well as easily keeping in touch with parents who may push their children to do their homework when they see grades and missing assignments instantly. An added bonus? They’re often easy to use and provide instant access from anywhere– even on a mobile device.
4. Cloud Computing
You’ve likely seen the "to the cloud!" commercials on TV, but probably didn’t consider the advantages of this type of computing for students and educators. For one, it allows easy collaboration on everything from simple homework assignments to in-depth presentations – and it makes it much harder for students to forget a homework assignment when it’s easily available to pull up on the web.
Additionally, cloud computing provides access to a wide range of educational materials without students actually having to be on-site. They can access any resources they need from anywhere with an internet connection– and that’s a powerful force when it comes to equal access in education. It may also be better for the bottom line, requiring less equipment for both students and schools. With a world rapidly moving towards ubiquitous wi-fi, cloud computing in both e-learning and classrooms is going to be around for years to come.
5. Truly Educational Gaming
There have always been educational games for students to play at home or in school, but these days that variety and accessibility is growing rapidly. Educators hoping to increase interest in subjects like math, history and science have begun bringing games into the classroom, allowing students to play while they learn.
Often online or on mobile devices, students can access these games from anywhere making them perfect tools for e-learning at all grade levels. With surveys showing over 93% of students playing video games, it only makes sense to push for some of those games to be educational. And that’s just what educators are doing. Students can work on solving math problems, do online science experiments or even see what that lives of historical figures were like– all at the touch of a button.
6. Social Networking for Learning
Blogs and sites like Twitter are becoming more and more popular among educators all over the nation. They let students collaborate and help give even the most shy of students a voice. Better yet, these social sites are perfect for online education, allowing students who can’t get classroom access to enjoy some of the same benefits as their counterparts who can.
While some parents may worry about privacy issues, sites set up specifically for education are often closely guarded, helping to keep kids safe while they learn. To date, thousands of classroom and homeschool blogs have been created from kindergarten up to college, and many more are likely to pop up as teachers increase their knowledge and understanding of the technology.
Learning is evolving at a rapid and disruptive pace
7. Adaptive Learning Environments
Programs that are able to change and adapt to the needs of their students may just be the next big thing in e-learning for the K-12 set. These adaptive learning environments react to preferences designated by the students as well as helping identify places where they need additional support and help or for lessons to speed up or slow down.
These programs allow teachers to pinpoint student needs and to help them out, without having to embarrass them in front of the classas they would in a more traditional setting. It’s personalized, private and highly effective, but many educators believe this trend still has a long way to go to make a significant impact– something that may just well happen in the coming years.
8. Electronic, Interactive Textbooks
Traditional textbooks can be great, but they can’t match the power of new, interactive reads found online and on mobile devices. These textbooks, popular in both classrooms and in e-learning, can supplement the classic text and photos with videos, audio clips and even interactive activities for students to complete.
Users can also take notes and highlight material right on the document, making it simple to mark areas they didn’t understand, have questions about or want to review later. Interactive textbooks are something publishing companies have been playing around with for quite some time, but the latest technology has finally made it possible to improve the quality and effectiveness of these programs.
9. Online Summer School For students who miss out on or need to repeat classroom material, they may not need to head to school over the summer– just to a computer. More and more schools are implementing online summer school programs allowing students to complete the necessary work or credits they need without the additional costs associated with having them in the actual classroom. The cost savings of these programs and their effectiveness may just translate to shorter school days and more classes being moved to the virtual realm for the rest of the year as well.
10. Simulation Learning
Experts say that simulation in education isn’t just a passing fad, and it can be a real an essential key to helping students understand both lessons in the classroom and the world at large. They may have a point, as this newfangled method of hands-on learning may just have what kids need to help them grasp abstract or complex concepts.
Long used in training for astronauts and pilots, simulations can help students learn to grasp cause and effect and more easily see how events relate to one another in a real-world setting, something that’s hard to teach any other way. As education moves more and more onto the web, these simulated environments may yet become invaluable tools and something every teacher will want to add to his or her repertoire.