Harnessing the Online Space for Learning

Internet technology can be a powerful tool to transform the classroom
"The digital space empowers classroom teachers to... find access points to learning that are developmentally appropriate, adequately rigorous and engaging for students. The incredible wealth of texts and resources online means that teachers truly can create a powerful, personalized experience for each learner."

Ever since desktop computers first entered the classroom, progressive educators have dedicated themselves to finding ways to leverage computer technology to support and enhance education. After several decades of experimentation and growing pains, we’re finally in an era in which digital learning tools are refined and robust enough to make a difference in the daily lives of teachers and students. Here are three ways modern online learning tools can transform the classroom to drive achievement:

Creating a More Organized Space for Learning
Most teachers and parents agree that organization is a major challenge for school-aged children. For a number of reasons, many of them developmental, young learners consistently have difficulty getting the right papers home or bringing the correct textbook to class. These organizational failures aren’t just minor annoyances, though; they can lead to lower grades, write-ups and a loss of self-efficacy for students. Under the typical school model, students with organizational issues have trouble living up to the expectations of being “a good learner.”

Digital tools have the power to remove this obstacle to learning almost entirely. By using an LMS (learning management system), LRM (learning relationship management platform) or other digital scaffolds, teachers and administrators can create an environment in which all student resources are curated and accessed online. This removes the anxiety and wasted time created by the classic “I left it at home” scenario and empowers each and every learner to access knowledge and skills in an organized, scaffolded environment that they might struggle to create for themselves.

Migrating High-Level or Complex Conversations to the Digital Space
Students aren’t always great at communicating meaningfully one-on-one with teachers. We spent decades as educators building walls around ourselves, and even though many teachers today actively seek out positive mentoring roles with students, those learners can have trouble absorbing the information their teachers are trying to impart to them because of the awkwardness or intimidation factor. Communicating clearly and effectively with young learners requires harnessing the power of digital communication.

Digital spaces like LMSes, LRMs or Google Apps can be powerful tools to communicate with students because, when teachers use online media, they’re speaking to learners in their own native language. Digital communication is also more personal, as it’s easier to have a targeted one-on-one conversation with a student that way than it is speaking out loud, where most of the other learners in the classroom will hear it. This allows learners to feel safer, more secure and less judged when they communicate with teachers. Additionally, text-based conversations are timeless, meaning learners have more time to consider, process and reflect upon their teacher’s advice or guidance before responding, which gives them the space they need to ensure comprehension.

Providing Learners With Personalized Access Points
Until relatively recently, it was an incredible challenge for teachers to differentiate instruction for a heterogenous classroom of learners. Modifying lessons, assignments and projects was massively time-consuming, and often, those modified versions of projects just never seemed to provide learners with the space to truly grow and improve. Generally, this meant that students either had to get the “one size fits all” version of the classroom experience or what the teacher thought was a variation of that work “on their level.” Either way, students’ personal engagement levels or interest in the assignments and texts were not priorities.

The digital space empowers classroom teachers to push beyond that approach and find access points to learning that are developmentally appropriate, adequately rigorous and engaging for students. The incredible wealth of texts and resources online means that teachers truly can create a powerful, personalized experience for each learner. When the learning experience is custom tailored for each individual, it increases engagement and buy-in while making school feel like a meaningful personal experience. When students are connected with interesting, meaningful material that feels like it’s just for them, they can’t help but learn.