Like the winds across the desert floor, the winds of change have blown across education throughout the past several decades. There are several key changes that have made education more accessible, more convenient, and more relevant for students. I will address two:
- The internet has transformed education.
- Teachers consider many different learning styles when developing lessons.
The internet has transformed education.
At one time in American society, if someone wanted to earn an education, he or she had to shuffle off to a face-to-face setting, and in the case of colleges, perhaps several hours or days away, disregarding any other considerations in life. Many people who wanted an education simply could not physically go to a campus (family responsibilities, work obligations, etc.).
Today’s learning environment can be so different yet so stimulating! With the advent of the internet, classrooms are brought into students’ homes to take classes at more convenient times for them. The internet has made education possible for a generation of people who might not have otherwise had the opportunities. Therefore, online education, including hybrid options, is important in today’s educational experience for many, and the benefits could not be greater. Their futures are brighter because of greater accessibility to education, thanks to the internet and online education.
There are those who believe–and I am among them–that online courses require more participation by the student than face-to-face courses. Through online courses, if properly developed, students can learn from one another and the instructor as well. Through collaborative groups, students can learn to work with others to arrive at a solution to a problem or issue. Students often find themselves more involved in the learning process through the online medium than through face-to-face classes. Of course, this is highly variable depending upon the individuals and situations.
Education is the important issue. The method by which the education is obtained is irrelevant. Online courses are just as effective, just as challenging, and just as participatory–if not more so–than on-ground classes. In today’s world with more focus upon family responsibilities, work obligations, and financial considerations, online courses are the only manner through which many students can possibly complete their education programs. The internet has made it possible for so many people to pursue their dreams and hopes of acquiring an education. How could anyone argue with that?
Teachers consider many different learning styles when developing lessons.
Not every student learns in the same way in the same time. While we have known this for some time, we have not recognized best practices in ensuring that students are taught with a more individualized approach. That is, lessons now are planned differently to allow for this. For example, lessons may be taught using different methods and means. Rather than producing a traditional research paper, for instance, students may be given options to create a presentation using any number of programs and platforms (Prezi, PowerPoint, etc.).
Auditory learners who prefer a hands-on approach would welcome such options. Students might also be presented with other options to the traditional paper that consider the varying degrees of learning styles: a class presentation, a lesson taught using numerous activities that incorporate different learning styles, etc.
While learning styles have been discussed for many years, not until relatively recently have teachers worked with students in determining possible options to meet students where they are regarding their learning styles. Of course, it is also true that more options exist today than ever before, thanks to the electronic age. Students have more opportunities to develop themselves educationally in ways that are most comfortable to them.
The winds of change continue to make their patterns in education, and there is much optimism about what the future holds for the students of tomorrow. Like the wind, our approaches in education must and will change. Over the past several decades, there have been many changes in education—in teaching, learning, assessments, modalities, and strategies. We must eagerly seek positive change in education.
Don’t be afraid of change. Embrace it!