Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Using the 3E's to Design Meaningful Learning Experiences




I don't know many educators that get excited about writing lesson plans.  Most of us don't look forward to planning something that we know we will not enjoy doing.  So, I guess the question becomes if it isn't something we are looking forward to doing with our students, why are we doing it and why would we expect them to enjoy doing it any more than we enjoyed planning it?

I remember a few years ago, reading Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess.  I quickly realized that not only was it okay to design wildly creative lessons, it was the only way I was going to engage my learners.  I still believe and have learned from experience that it's so much more fun to design meaningful learning experiences than to write a lesson plan.  

Many people often ask, what does that look like?  How do you design a meaningful learning experience?  I've shared thoughts, ideas, and even digital tools but I recently realized that a meaningful learning experience simply requires us to engage our learners, create an experience, and empower them to do something with what has been learned.   Think of it this way...

en·gage - participate or become involved in

Ask yourself...how can my learners be engaged in a way that will make them WANT to learn?

Engaged learners want to be there. They are invested in what is being learned and have a desire to want to know more.  So, how do we make this happen?  I can tell you this...we won't be able to make it happen by announcing at the beginning of class that they should listen because this will be on the test, or this is something that they will need when they get older.  None of that matters to them.  They are all about the "right now" and have difficulty understanding why they need to know something now that they can Google later.  And the reality is, with an attention span of 8 seconds,  it's no surprise that they need to know this quickly.  

What does that mean for us as educators?  It means we need to create hooks that will result in them wanting to know more and cause them to look forward to the rest of the learning experience 
  • Use a creative writing prompt to create discussion or drive curiosity.  Visit Photo Prompts and/or Writing Prompts for some very cool ideas!
  • Check out the Teach Like a Pirate hooks...so many ideas!
  • Visit The Literacy Shed and find a short video that you can use as a spark to create excitement and wonder.
  • Create your own hooks by knowing your students well enough to know what will get them going!

ex·pe·ri·ence - an event that leaves an impression someone

Ask yourself - What experiences can be designed to give them a reason to invest in the learning?

Isn't this what we should always be trying to do in our classrooms? Don't we want to leave an impression on our learners? Think about the difference between an activity and an experience...an activity is just something that someone does. An experience is something that someone does that leaves an impression...BIG difference!

There are so many ways that we can design experiences that will leave an impression on our learners and help them make connections.
  • Use virtual reality to take them to places that they never thought they would be able to go. One of my favorite resources is 360Cities. Take your students anywhere virtually and let them explore!
  • Connect with outside experts and let your students hear how what is being learned is used outside of the classroom.
  • Ask them to create video games using Scratch or websites using Weebly to share what they have learned.

em·pow·er - giving someone the power to do something

Ask yourself...How can my learners be empowered to apply what was learned in a real way?

Applying what has been learned in a real situation is very important.  In doing so, they begin to understand the why.  Empowering them to take ownership of their own learning and then do something with it makes learning real.  And if it isn't real, if it's just something we want them to be able to do a worksheet, why in the world are we wasting our time and theirs?   Empower your learners to apply what has been learned.
  • Ask them to create video games using Scratch or websites using Weebly to share what they have learned.
  • Share learning with an authentic audience by blogging, posting on social media, or using Flipgrid.
  • Reflect on what was learned...give them opportunities to move beyond remembering (what I learned and how I learned it) to reflection (what I learned and why I learned it).
  • Give opportunities to move beyond surface level learning.  Offer choice and opportunities for students to dive deeper into personalized learning experiences. Allow your students to learn by pursuing their passions. Find ways to weave learning into what they are pursuing. Give them opportunities to learn by doing by making Genius Hour a priority in your classroom.

So, I encourage you to STOP WRITING LESSON PLANS!  Start designing meaningful learning experiences by engaging today's learners, creating experiences that will help them make connections, and empowering them to do something with what has been learned.

Today's learners have so many ideas, so much to offer.  They deserve to experience real learning that is not only meaningful, but fun.  Know that when something is fun for you and your students, it will be something that they remember.  Be willing to take risks and do whatever it takes to move learning beyond what it has been into what it can and should be.  Let's be brave enough to leave the past in the past and create real learning experiences for today's learners!