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A responsive classroom outside the classroom? Technology is the answer.

Student-centred teaching and the responsive classroom

Over the last few decades, we have seen more importance placed on student-centered learning. Classes that offer varied hands-on activities keep students engaged and curious far more than anything where they are a passive observer.

Another aspect of student-centered learning is that teachers are able to create a responsive classroom. Teachers can use formative check-ins and observations to respond to the students’ needs as they arise. On the forefront of any teacher's mind should be: Have any misconceptions crept in? Has something really captured my students' imagination that I can pivot the next learning activity towards? Are the students engaging with the material like I imagined? This flexible pedagogical approach has led to improved academic achievement, better student-teacher relations and higher quality instruction (Responsive Classroom).

The benefits of a responsive classroom are widely known amongst educators and it is a commonly seen attribute of effective teaching. Another, similarly acclaimed aspect of education is experiential learning.

Experiential learning

Experiential learning is a process where students learn by seeing, doing and interacting with hands-on experiences in the real world. Teachers note that taking students out of the classroom is an exceptionally powerful tool. Studies show that students who experience educational trips show increased academic achievement, boosts cultural awareness and reinforces personal development (Student & Youth Travel Association), and let’s not forget, they’re a huge amount of fun!

But how does an educational trip mirror those important aspects of a responsive classroom when the students are out of the classroom?

Taking students out of the classroom

Student-centered classrooms have become physical spaces that encourage responsive teaching: students can gather as a class or work individually, focus is on the center of the room as opposed to the teacher’s desk, and students are able to access the teacher when required but also to explore the work with their peers. But once you take the students out of that controlled environment, it becomes a whole other beast...

And this is why experiential learning is somewhat faltering in terms of innovative student-centered pedagogy. Despite the progress we have made in the classroom, once teachers are required to navigate keeping a large group of students safe in an uncertain environment, they are forced to fall back and rely on outdated pedagogical techniques. So the focus of the educator is now about counting heads as opposed to the educational experience of the students.This is absolutely essential in terms of keeping the students safe and to ease the logistics of moving a group of students. But how does this affect their learning experience?

A responsive out-of-classroom?

As we’ve discussed, a flexible and responsive learning environment is where we see the best educational outcomes. And we’ve discussed that allowing students to engage in real-life experiences and learn by doing and seeing is also beneficial to their learning. But we also know that taking students out of the classroom is a risky endeavour that means every aspect of the trip needs to be mapped and planned in advance.

So the question is, how do we achieve both the benefits of a responsive classroom and the benefits of getting students out of the classroom? And the answer to that is technology.

As soon as the four walls of the classroom are removed, keeping track of the students’ learning (as well as their physical wellbeing) becomes that much more challenging. Allowing students the independence to engage and explore their new surroundings is essential for successful experiential learning, but in doing so, the teacher forfeits the ability to get the ongoing feedback from the students that is so important within the classroom. But by using technology to allow teachers to track students’ learning (and their wellbeing) you can engage in the same successful classroom tactics, but this time out in the real world.

Technology now becomes a tool to enhance experiential learning by making it responsive.

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