Here we are in the e-learning age where students are becoming self-engaged learners and teachers are maximizing whatever digital resources there are for teaching. Almost every school has a well-defined digital learning integration in their curriculum, which isn’t just about being modern or joining the so-called “e-learning bandwagon” - it’s also about making learning fun and engaging for students and teachers. There are the self-directed kind of learners who are so independent that they can finish a subject on their own, with the teacher only acting as a liaison, or perhaps an aide or a guide. Yeah, that kind of student who readily and easily adapts to change. They see change as another opportunity to learn something new and fun.
There are students however, who seem to have difficulty in school - whether it is difficulty managing school tasks, dealing with toxic deadlines, and other kinds of typical student blues. These students are very much eager to learn, but need a lot of proper guidance and monitoring to keep track of their progress. In my post about self-directed learning, these were the emergent learners. These are the ones who are totally dependent on their teachers on content delivery, lesson plan management, and more. They might have attitude problems such as being too lazy. They find studying a chore rather than a hobby. They don’t seem to enjoy learning at all - which of course shouldn’t be the case. These students should be changed - for the better. But how? Read on.
Digital tools for learning
The best way to start is to show emergent learners a couple of starter tools to help them become more engaged. Khan Academy is a good start. There are lecture videos, as well as practice exercises that not only motivate learners to self-study, but also because the videos are crafted in a learner-friendly way and students won’t find them imposing or too authoritative. Emergents can also use note apps like Evernote and OneNote. They’re accessible across every device and they can share notes between them, as well as attach content like screen clippings, and audio/video recordings. Sharing ideas has never been easier than this.
Read. Read. Read.
Of course nothing beats reading. But yeah, emergent learners will always rant that they find reading too boring and too taxing. Well, yes sometimes I also find reading too boring and I’m constantly looking for ways to make reading more fun. Like, reading blogs and user forums instead of formal thesis and research papers. Blogs are written in such a way that will encourage even non-avid readers to read something that’s light and entertaining and engaging. Blog readers can post feedback, they can create an online discussion, and join communities to voice out opinions. Apart from blogs, emergents can also read articles related to their interests.
Encourage and motivate
The problem with some teachers is that whenever their students make mistakes, they rebuke them and most likely provide negative feedback. Obviously, that’s wrong on so many levels. This makes students think they’re inferior among the rest, and that they have little room for improvement. What we can do is, to encourage them to notch up their work ethic, continue whatever they are doing, give them a pep talk, and just basically show them a positive disposition. Show them ways to mitigate their mistakes and what they can do to minimize and totally eliminate these mistakes in the future.
This is mostly a teacher-specific agenda. Emergent students constantly need monitoring and guidance so it’s important to keep track of their progress in class. Some LMSs have built-in analytics tools to show a student’s key areas of expertise, as well as areas which need critical support and follow-up. By monitoring their progress and performance, teachers can see learning areas where students excel, and where they don't excel so these may be mitigated and improved in the future.
Here we are again talking about gamification. Is there any other possible way of helping emergent learners than by gamifying their learning experience? Like, simulating the class as if students are playing a role-playing game (RPG) and each has his/her own health points (HP), experience points (XP), levels (level 1, 2, 3….), and other RPG-related elements. Active class participation will mean faster accumulation of XP, while non-participation will mean demerits or experience decay wherein they lose experience points because of being non-participative. They can challenge their classmates to “battles”, and encounter “boss levels” in the form of exams. They can use power-ups to help them in the “game progress”, as well as team up with other players in order to meet their level objectives faster. Gamifying the learning experience makes students play while learning at the same time. In early childhood education, kindergartens encourage their students to play in learning, so why not take that “play while learn” approach in higher learning? (of course, without the ABC blocks and the little train sets kids play at kindergartens).
These are, of course, very subjective methods. People react and adjust differently, so it’s good to take into consideration other means to help emergent learners. There are endless possibilities in the age of digital learning!
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