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What are some 21st Century Innovations every class can achieve?

Recently I have been challenged to look at pedagogy to discover some 21st Century Innovations that were not just based on technology and could be applied to a majority of classrooms.

The use of video in the context of a lesson has significant impacts on both content retention and student engagement with McInerney  and McInerney (1998, p.166-167) claiming that the technology provides students with ‘greater control over their own learning’ with benefits amounting to enhanced understanding resulting in ‘self-confidence, independence and autonomy’ within learning experiences. In the realm of language education, a key component across all key learning areas (KLA), Mejia (1999) extols the use of video as ‘valuable tool that can enhance a classroom experience’ through the acquisition and development of ‘listening, speaking and writing skills’ and using multiple ‘playbacks’, activities that include independent, group and whole class situations can elicit successful outcomes through ‘planned, flexible lessons, working with the level of the class’. ‘There is no one correct way to use video’ (Stempleski, 1987), however to not use this valuable tool within the class may be to the detriment of those who occupy the room.  

Collaborative discussion
The mutual experiences shared through the use of technology offer realistic opportunities for student/teacher - student/student collaborative discussion to take place before, during and after its use. The importance of collaborative discussion can be seen in the unscripted and unpredictable dialogue which occurs and this collaborative discourse means that the outcomes emanating from these lessons are determined by all participants (Sawyer, 2003). The basic insight of constructivism is that learning is a creative improvisational process (Sawyer, 2003). Recent work that extends constructivist theory to classroom collaboration conceives of learning as ‘co-construction’. Both neo-Piagetian social constructivists and Vygotskian-inspired socio-culturalists focus on how knowledge is learned in and by groups (Verba, 1994) with studies demonstrating the importance of social interaction in groups where the processes reveal insights into how learning takes place, guiding future practice and planning for teachers as a result. 

Kurt Lewin suggests that group work within a balanced, egalitarian, safe and emotionally secure environment is dramatically more effective as a learning methodology then an authoritarian approach (Exley & Dennick, 2004, p. 36). The classroom environment is, or should be, a safe and secure environment where groups can be facilitated in order to advance from a authoritarian environment to a self exploration of ideas, understandings, processes and knowledge applied to practical and educational tasks (Exley & Dennick, 2004, p.37).

Providing opportunities for students to engage collaboratively in lessons and activities is an important part of the learning process as it creates possibilities for students to engage with and develop skills outside the specific framework of the outcomes with any given lesson (Herrington & Herrington, 2006, p.4). The intentional design of groups within this lesson is specifically aimed at allowing students to engage with not only the skills of working together but also solving problems from a collaborative perspective and allowing students to observe and interact with different perceptions and different ways of addressing tasks (Herrington & Herrington, 2006, p. 6). It is this methodology that will allow students to rationalize their own understanding of what needs to be achieved and then articulate that intention effectively to the group as well as evaluate and analyse it in comparison to the other members’ intentions and perceptions. 

Implementing a group rotation phase within the lessons sequence allows students to not only engage with different ideas, concepts and perceptions but it also encourages cooperation. Cooperation is achieved as the elements within the lesson require collaboration to ensure success (O’Sullivan et al, 1996, p.38). Through collaborative learning and group phases students will engage at a deeper level with the lesson material as they will need to have some tasks explained to them by others, which will require the development of questioning techniques, just as they will need to explain aspects to others, requiring reconstruction skills and effective communication (O’Sullivan et al, 1996, p.39). It is this engagement with the task on multiple levels and constructing it in varying ways to ensure others within the group can relate strategies to other students and in turn become a more effective communicator, learner and group collaborator (Jones & Jones, 1998, p.221). 

Student Centred Teaching
Student centred Learning is the process whereby students themselves observe, apply and engage with knowledge to experience success within an environment constructed by a teacher for the students (Glasgow, 1997, p. 34). This is to say that this lesson is designed around the concept of creating an environment whereby students have access to information which they use to develop their understandings and then apply that in contextual problem based or investigation based activities. This methodology is advantageous as it allows students to “learn to learn” and expand their roles as stakeholders in their education (Glasgow, 2007, p.35). 

Learning to learn, or “positive interdependent educational interaction”, is a key aspect of what a contemporary educational environment should be built upon as it allow students to move away from recited facts and recalling list based answers and develop skills in experimentation and exploration to solve problems in the classroom and in life (Johnson et al, 1991, p.17) This lesson fosters these skills and allows students to find answers by employing techniques of questioning, analysing, assessing visible thinking and evaluating rather than recalling rhetoric. This in turn will then equip our students to engage with unfamiliar tasks in the future with confidence as they have developed a learning style built upon adaption, interaction, reflection and experimentation (Fraser. 1996, p. 3).

Computing Technology
Computing technology is used as it offers many benefits to the given lesson; these include demonstration and modelling as the teacher could showcase the application or video from the board (Moss et al, 2007), interactivity with a board or device using their finger as the mouse. It is easy to show the important features of particular software and have students interact with the material. 

Computer technology can accommodate different learning styles (Herrington & Harrington, 2006). Tactile learners can benefit from touching, marking and creating text, audio learners can have the class discussion and auditory multimedia, visual learners can see what is taking place as it develops at the board and it offers multimodal learning which can be tailored to the ability and stage of individual learners (McInerney & McInerney, 1998). Students can work together with individuals contributing either at board or within a Google Doc whilst the group as a whole discussing the activity.

The ultimate goal is to give students the best opportunity to be engaged with each learning experience offering them consistency, accuracy and comprehensiveness. This is primarily a constructivist approach to teaching (Mcleod & Reynolds 2007:12-14) and as such, we appreciate that students build their own understanding of the world they live in. From our experience we find Students respond well to the student-centered approach, they are quick to respond, engage and participate in class. Such an approach establishes high expectations of students and the teachers, in regards to the quality of the learning experiences (Vialle, Lysaght & Verenikina, 2000). The Constructionist approach emphasises hands-on, activity based teaching and learning during which students develop their own frames of thought. 

Computer technology is an excellent tool as it presents the teacher with the ability to encourage critical thinking in students (Hmelo-Silver, Duncan and Chinn, 2007). Its creative use is limited only by the imaginations of teachers and students (Mejia, 1999). The Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition Model offers a method of understanding how technology might impact teaching and learning.

Scaffolding and modelling activities
Scaffolding and modelling provides an example of the teacher’s expectations, whereby the most important steps and decisions are emphasised (Jonassen, 1998).  Scaffolding the learning builds student confidence and ability to expand intellectual qualities through constant constructive feedback as part of learning processes (Beale, 2005). This occurs when the learner’s inner speech occurs on an automatic, unconscious level (Ellis, Larkin and Worthington 1994). The teacher demonstrates using video, websites and the information desired for the student to learn then students interact and engages with this to build context for new knowledge. Interaction with technology supports the development of proficiency to create a basis for further student development. Additional scaffolding examples can be contextual support, support by asking 'leading questions' , support by giving away parts of the solution and asking students to draw on their previous experience (Winnips, 1998, p. 35).  In addition to improving learners’ cognitive abilities, scaffolding instruction in the context of classroom learning Delivers efficiency as the work is structured and focused. The distractions have been reduced allowing time on task and efficiency in completing the activity to be increased.

Creates momentum through the structure provided by scaffolding. Students spend less time searching and more time on learning and discovering, resulting in quicker learning (McKenzie, 1999).In this, the needs of individual students learning styles are catered for, increasing engagement (DET NSW, 2003:13) and significance (DET NSW, 2003:14). By teachers knowing and utilising the student’s learning styles, they help develop coping strategies to compensate for the student’s weaknesses and capitalise on the student’s strengths. Scaffolding is an important instructional tool because it supports students’ learning. It helps students to understand that they can teach and learn from others which leads to collaboration. Students require practice to actively construct knowledge, build connections and mental schemata. Learning in this type of socially constructed environment leads to students taking responsibility for their own learning and respecting their own and others’ thinking.

As it can be seen innovation can be unplugged as much as it can be based on technology. Innovation is more about the attitude and desire to do whatever it takes to create an environment that cultivates rich learning.

ReferencesBeale, I. L. (2005). Scaffolding and integrated assessment in computer assisted learning for children with learning disabilities. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 21(2), 173-191.
Exley, K. & Dennick, R., 2004, Small Groups Teaching: Tutorials, Seminars and Beyond, RoutledgeFalmer: New York. 
Ellis, E., Larkin, M ., & Worthington, L. (1994). Executive summary of the research synthesis on effective teaching principles and the design of quality tools for educators. University of Alabama, AL.
Fraser, K., 1996, Student Centred Teaching: The Development and Use of Conceptual Frameworks, H.E.R.D.S.A: Canberra.
Glasgow, N., 2007, New Curriculum for New Times: A Guide to Student-Centred, Problem-Based Learning, Corwin: Thousand Oaks.
Herrington, A. & Harrington, J., 2006, Authentic Learning Environments in Higher Education, Information Science: Melbourne.
Hmelo- Silver, C. Duncan, R.G and Chinn, C.A. (2007) Scaffolding and Achievement in Problem Based and Inquiry Learning. Educational Psychologist, 42(2), 99-107
Johnson, D., Johnson, R. Smith, K., (1991) Cooperative Learning: Increasing College Facility Instructional Productivity, Washington University: Washington.
Jonassen, D. H. (1998) Designing constructivist learning environments. In C. M Reigeluth (Ed.), Instructional Theories and Models (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Jones, V. & Jones, L. (1998) Conprehensive Classroom Management: Creating Communities of Support and Solving Problems, Allyn and Bacon: Sydney.
McInerney, D. & McInerney, V. (1998). Educational Psychology: Constructing Learning. Sydney: Prentice Hall. 
McKenzie, J. (1999).  Scaffolding for Success. Beyond Technology, Questioning, Research and the Information Literate School Community. 
McLeod & Reynolds (2007) Quality Teaching for Quality Learning, South Melbourne : Thomson Social Science Press.
Mejia, E. (1999). Video in Language Education: Making News Broadcasts Work for You. URL: 
Moss, G., Jewitt, C., Levačić, R., Armstrong, V. Cardini, A and Castle, F (2007) The Interactive Whiteboards, Pedagogy and Pupil Performance Evaluation: an Evaluation of the Schools Whiteboard Expansion (SWE) Project: London Challenge, School of Educational Foundations and Policy Studies, Institute of Education, University of London.
DET NSW (2003) Quality Teaching in NSW public schools, discussion paper. New South Wales Department of Education, Sydney.
O'Sullivan, T., Rice, J., Rogerson, S & Saunders, C., (1996) Successful Group Work, De Montfort University: London
Sawyer, R. K. (2003). Improvised dialogues: Emergence and creativity in conversation. Westport, CT: Greenwood.
Stempleski, S. (1987). Short takes: using authentic video in the English class. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages: Westende, Belgium.
Verba, M. (1994). The beginnings of collaboration in peer interaction. Human Development, 37, 125–139.
Vialle, W., Lysaght, P. and Verenikina, I. (2000) Handbook on Child Development. Social Science Press Australia.
Winnips, J. C. (1998). Scaffolding the development of skills in the design process for educational media through hyperlinked units of learning material: report of activities performed in the first year of PH. D. research (Internal report). Enschede: University of Twente, Netherlands.

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