By: Dr. Idit Harel Caperton

The idea of “student-centered learning” coupled with “networked learning” has tossed the idea that all learning should only happen through schooling. No longer do classroom walls or school schedules dictate when high-quality learning occurs. Through certain uses of networked technology programs and tools, the lines between educator and learner have become more blurred—allowing individuals to serve in both roles at different times of the day.

In the past 30 years, we have gradually learned how to use technology to empower young people to be the drivers of their learning experiences—and we have also learned to expect that the “circle of institutions” surrounding those learners must work together to provide young persons with the best possible means for exploring knowledge through self-driven projects, and creating 360-degree experiences that cultivate positive and productive futures for youth.

It’s no longer about when or where kids study (via schooling), but rather HOW and WHAT they learn (via self-learning in and out of school). For example, Connected learning focuses on how—hands-on, production-centered, open-networked, socially-meaningful—and what—interest-driven, relevant, real-world linked—young people learn. This new vision of learning, driven by technological advances, happening in schools, communities, homes and online changes the way we think about where and when young people can learn.

In parallel, the ideas of learning to play and playing to learn are increasingly merging—even in the most traditional settings. Recent trends have shown that the ‘education system’ is progressively adopting the idea of gaming as a strategy for learning. Seminal initiatives like Quest to Learn, a school based on gaming inside the New York City Public School System, established by the Institute of Play, and the Educational Gaming Commons at Penn State University have demonstrated that learning through gaming and gamification can be effective and systemic methodology—often more engaging in helping youth learning many school subjects and beyond. A recent Knewton infographic lays out the progression of “gaming in education,” and underscores the potential for games to deliver meaningful learning experiences for youth.

World Wide Workshop takes the idea of learning by gaming a step further. Drawing upon connected learning principles, its mission is to teach educators and learners to think about mathematics, engineering and science, and even civics and health, by becoming capable game-makers, not just game players.

This is based on Piagetian and Papertian theories of cognitive development indicating that a creator role allows people  to 1) take charge of representing and constructing explanations about complex concepts; 2) self-drive their learning experience through designing games about topics that are difficult or of interest to them; and 3) build real-world technical skills that can help them in future academic studies and careers.

Teaching kids how to create playful games also drives a social learning experience that makes learning meaningful, fun and interesting. And by partnering with public schools, charter schools and community-based organizations like libraries and the Boys & Girls Clubs, we form a network of meaningful and deep learning experiences when or where it works for kids.

Learners should become the center of the experience—and they should become the drivers of how and what they learn in all kinds of places, schools included. We must empower them to pursue their passions and seek out mentors and experts who can help them navigate their self-learning paths, outside of just their regular schooling.

It’s time to look beyond the rigid physical and time boundaries of only schooling for learning, and establish methods for engaging kids in connected learning all the time and everywhere.

Dr. Idit Harel Caperton, a Huffington Post writer, is an Israeli-American entrepreneur and founder of the non-profit World Wide Workshop.

1 COMMENT

  1. I think making learning connected to students’ peers and life experiences will have tremendous impact on freeing education beyond the individual compartment in each learner’s mind. I have been struggling in thinking about how student-driven learning and the gamification of learning will be implemented though.

    I think student-driven learning works great for students who already see ‘the point’ in why they’re learning something (wherever that may be) and want to learn more about it. This seems to make most sense for older, more mature students that see clearly how their education increases their own human capital and opportunities down the road. They will probably be willing to suck it up through the difficult or monotonous parts to get to the positive outcomes. This will serve them positively once they’re out in the working world and have to slog through certain projects to get to the more interesting or fun ones.

    I don’t know if there’s much risk for “tricking” students to learn though play and games at a very young age either. These concepts can be tied in with social learning and other valuable life skills that will serve them positively as they grow up.

    The area that worries me, however, is using too much gamification or self-driven learning for students in the middle age range. Too much gamification may lead them to think all tasks are designed to be fun and begin to push back on the ‘peas-and-carrots’ fundamentals that aren’t as flashy or rewarding. In addition, giving them too much range on focusing on what is interesting to them can be dangerous too. There are subjects that are more interesting to different students at different ages. Allowing students to remove some of the perceived less interesting ones could begin to compromise the liberal education that is essential for students to become well-rounded functioning members of a global society that values broad based problem solving and critical thinking skills.

    Maybe I’m thinking too much into this, and I surely don’t know what the right mix is at different age ranges, but I’d be very interested in hearing your perspective on this in moving past the why of self-learning and into the how. If you have any thoughts regarding this Dr. Caperton (or anyone else!), please reply here, or feel free email me.

    [email protected]

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