ELearning, Online Learning, whatever you want to call it,
Students are engaged and achieving past their limits.
We need to work hard and embrace this epic change,
What kind of students are we building? Innovative? Or really lame?
-G. Gurga, 2014
ELearning or online learning is something that I find in my own personal working and learning environment to be very beneficial, however, I have colleagues who have a very different opinion. I think that one of the problems that the education system is faced with in regards to eLearning is the fact that not only is there not enough time to train teachers on eLearning, but there is a lack of understanding of what eLearning truly is.
ELearning or online learning is referred to as, “the technology which can extend the availability of information for training. It appears vital technology because improve the political and cultural future of the society” (Hoshyar & Sulaiman, 2010, p. 456). ELearning also provides students with an opportunity to work on a larger range of skills that they need in order to be successful in the world that we live in. In an interview with PWC Canada (2013), the Toronto District School Board Director of Education, Donna Quan, discussed the opportunity that eLearning provides students. Quan stated, “We don’t have an option. We have to change the way we deliver education, when and where, and how” (The future of eLearning).
From this course, I have learned the true importance of eLearning and the positive implications it has for education. In my working environment, I have seen what a stronger and more positive impact eLearning has on my students when it is used as opposed to when it is not. I find, however, that my students can operate an iPad, but have no clue how to operate a mouse, a keyboard, and even the basic functions of the computer. It is at times like these when I feel slightly defeated because I believe my students lack all the tools and knowledge they need to succeed regarding eLearning, but at the same time, I think I need to be grateful that they even have exposure to eLearning when I know there are students who have no exposure at all. I try my best to teach my students the specific skills that I find they need to know when I get them in my room and when we are using computers. I can’t control what goes on in other classrooms, just what goes on in mine.
One of the main concepts that I can strongly connect with in my personal learning environment is through the use of gaming in the classroom.
Shute, Rieber, and Van Eck (n.d.) quote Salen and Zimmerman (2004) stating a game is, “a system in which players engage in an artificial conflict, defined by rules that results in a quantifiable outcome” (p. 321). Shute, Rieber, and Van Eck (n.d.) also write:
Prensky (2001) includes goals, feedback, interaction, and representation (or story) into the mix of essential game elements. Pulling from each, our list of educational-game ‘must haves’ includes: (a) conflict or challenge (i.e., a problem to be solved), (b) rules of engagement, (c) particular goals or outcomes to achieve (which often includes many subgoals), (d) continuous feedback (mostly implicit, but may be explicityly cognitive and/or affective), (e) interaction within the environment, and (f) compelling story line” (p. 321-322).
For these reasons quoted by Shute, Rieber, and Van Eck (n.d.), media rich gaming and simulations engage students locally and globally. Although there has not been a lot of research conducted, I personally have had very positive experiences with media rich gaming and simulations. First, it is important to note that the main reason that media rich gaming and simulations engage students locally and globally is because in most gaming situations, students are engaged in real-world experiences that actually work on 21st century skills that they need in everyday life. Contrary to many people’s belief, media rich gaming and simulations in the classroom promote positive interactions and skills that can help advance a student’s mind in many ways.
In my classroom, I integrate gaming and simulations in a couple of different ways. One of the first ways that I integrate simulations in my educational environment is in my 7th Grade Careers unit. I use a simulation from the website, http://www.driveofyourlife.org. The students first do an interest survey that consists of 10 questions at a time. Based on these answers, the website then generates parts of their own car, including color. It allows the students to have ownership over their own car. Once the interest survey is complete, I have students choose their top 5 careers that they would be interested in exploring. From there, they have to narrow it down to three careers that they are going to fully explore and “drive” to. Although the students do not drive anything, it looks as if they are driving. Sometimes on the drive, they are presented with “speed bumps” and if they make the wrong decision, they get pulled over and get in trouble. It is a great opportunity for the students to be more interactive with a career search. I have been very successful with this activity and the kids love it!Another way that I integrate gaming and simulations into my education environment is with the Wii gaming system. For my 8th grade students, when we do knife cuts, my students play the game Cooking Mama. Cooking Mama gives recipes that students have to prepare within a certain amount of time. The students get to practice their knife cuts, recipe reading, and time management. This is another successful activity that I do with my students because they make the connection between the game and the actual cutting that takes place in the kitchen.
One of the main things that needs to be considered when designing eLearning environments and gaming environments in the classroom is usability and accessibility. When eLearning programs and environments are created with usability and accessibility in the front of ones mind, a positive impact is made on the students it directly affects. Usability and accessibility is important when planning and designing for global and diverse learners because as an educator, you would want these learners to feel included so they can also succeed.
One of the things I still have difficulty with is when I think of resources. I guess I take on a defeatist attitude when I think about HOW to implement eLearning to its fullest potential in my district. I can’t even get into one school (I split my days between two schools), nevermind get more technology and eLearning opportunities in my school. I wonder if somewhere down the road as I complete my next 2 classes in my planned program from now through August, if there will be some ways, discussions, or tips to help me advocate more for eLearning in the classrooms in my district. Yesterday there was a Board of Education meeting and one of the agenda items was regarding a Middle School Computer Class Curriculum. I do not know what the curriculum entails, however, I hope that it will incorporate virtual learning, gaming, and all of the other things that the students will be able to learn with and enjoy.
Hoshyar, A., & Sulaiman, R. (2010). Introduction to elearning infrastructure. Proceedings of European Conference on E-Learning, 456-462.
PWC Canada. (2013). The future of eLearning [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uvHxXJkPG9Q
Shute, V.J., Rieber, L.P., & Van Eck, R. (n.d.). Games..and…Learning. In R.A. Reiser & J.V. Dempsey (Eds.), Trens and issues in instructional design and technology (pp. 321-332). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.