“Authentic Learning At Tech Forum-Austin 2012” by George Rislov was first seen on the Compass Learning Navigator blog.

Recently, I posted an entry here on authentic learning. In that post I defined authentic learning as learning that involves real-world tasks and problems as opposed to school-specific tasks or problems, such as learning how to put a heading on a paper or how to outguess a test writer. Students seem to enjoy work that is authentic.

Since then, I have attended this year’s Tech Forum-Austin sponsored by Tech and Learning, where I met a kindred spirit, Diana Laufenberg. Diana has worked for many years at the Science Leadership Academy in the Philadelphia schools. Her keynote address to the Forum contained good advice for those who strive to make learning authentic and appropriately challenging. I’ve compiled the major points below for your consideration:

  • Be flexible. Give students the opportunity to direct the path for their learning.
  • Less us, more them. It’s not about the adults.
  • Encourage curiosity. It’s what makes learning fun.
  • Be less helpful. Don’t do everything for the students at the expense of showing them how to do for themselves.
  • Develop adaptive capacity. A real world skill all students will need, adaptive capacity is the ability to adapt to changing circumstances while still achieving a core purpose.

Another terrific insight that Diana mentioned, adapted from the work of Tim O’Reilly, was that the architecture of participation has changed. To just build out my understanding of this phrase, I’d say that traditional classrooms are not really designed for authentic student participation. Based on an information deficit model, classrooms depend on teachers for content and student participation mimics the teacher’s information and understanding of it – what we used to call “planned parrothood.”

Today’s students have access to far more information than ever before and are skilled at presenting it and communicating with a variety of stakeholders. Students should be allowed to be producers, rather than merely consumers, of knowledge.

For more information on authentic learning, please join us and Dayna Laur for a complimentary webinar on authentic learning. Register here.

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