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Cover Story Educators Jan-Mar-2020 The Next World

Learning, Learning Everywhere: Integrative Practices for Sustainable Learning

Sameer Bora
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In an age where we have finally started to respond to the calls for recompense to the world and its future, sustainable development has become the only method to provide succeeding generations with a possibility of a comfortable existence. It includes practices that mandate the consideration of the developmental needs of future generations in all aspects – economical, social and environmental – in all that we do for ourselves now.

It must not come as a surprise that such futuristic endeavours would be led by a revolution in the education scenario with the help of enthusiastic teachers. And the name of the revolution is sustainable learning.

Sustainable learning: The future of learning

Sustainable learning is an attempt by pioneering academicians to bring focus on how we truly need to learn, rather than what to learn; it is characterised by the development of capabilities, the ethics of care and concern for the well-being of the planet, and a true desire to follow the motto “Learning for all, teaching that matters, learning that lasts”.

An attempt to practise sustainable learning requires responsive teaching, that is, an instructional strategy that caters for individual needs, encourages the development of skills necessary to meet the goals, and helps students regulate their own learning. For this objective to come to fruition, the teachers need to build their instruction on prior knowledge of the learners – their cultural capital, according to pedagogists Lorraine Graham, Jeanette Berman and Anne Bellert. With this knowledge, it becomes easy to match learning needs with learning opportunities, and design flexible learning activities interspersed with carefully thought out assessments.

What we are, therefore, looking at is an integrative model of teaching and learning, an approach to education that combines theoretical and practical knowledge, makes connections across a curriculum in terms of skills and experiences, and integrates diverse points of view to give learners an authentic understanding of concepts. Moreover, it connects classroom learning to the real world, which is one of the most challenging aspects of education when we are still tied to the factory method of learning in its essence.

Integrated learning: Learning in and for the real world

The implementation of integrative learning practices has two major parts:

  1. Curriculum development: This involves creating a curriculum that caters for multiple intelligences, focuses on developing 21st-century skills and helps students learn in a pace and style that suits them.
  2. Assessment and analytics:  This involves the evaluation of skills developed according to Bloom’s Taxonomy with regards to concepts studied and analysis of performance for effective remediation.

The idea of an integrated curriculum is to create a web of learning material. Gone are the days of scrolling through pages and pages of text explaining concepts. Books nowadays have the ability to redirect learners to engaging explanations in multimedia formats with the help of hotlinks. This not only helps learners who are not comfortable with conventional literacy skills, but enables all learners to gain multiple perspectives, thus enriching their learning experience.

The curriculum itself needs to make scope for interlinking of disciplines, capstone projects on themes, civic engagement, blended learning, peer learning etc. to integrate the use and further the development of skills such as creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration. 

Assessments, however, are the life and soul of the curriculum, without which a curriculum is meaningless. When we speak of assessments, we are not referring to the gruelling ‘one-size-fits-all’ experiences that students are traditionally subjected to, but assessments that flawlessly analyse student responses, those that report in detail the strengths and weaknesses of each individual learner, based on which the instructors can guide them on the correct learning course. Assessments should not only test the knowledge and comprehension of learners, but also their ability to apply their knowledge, analyse information, evaluate their own level of understanding, and create/construct knowledge.

How do we create such an intricate web of learning and its management?

It is not about learning science and arts anymore, nor is it about having activity periods and end-of-term assessments, but synchronising all these into an effective learning apparatus for an all-round development from the early years and the life-long love for learning.

Technology’s gift to integrated learning

Today, when technology is advancing by leaps and bounds, we do not have an excuse to not implement such a holistic mode of learning. In the wake of artificial intelligence and manipulated realities, we can no longer argue that teachers do not have time to provide for personalised learning, or that schools do not have the physical infrastructure necessary for labs. All we require is decent digital support and the motivation to bring about change. Implementing digitised modes of learning saves money as well, which is a bonus for schools in developing countries such as our own.

It is this technology which has given us integrated learning systems, which not only deliver instructional content in the desired manner, but also measures and monitors the delivery of content and student performance with the help of assessment and management tools. Such platforms make use of various kinds of tools such as cloud computing, data analytics and artificial intelligence for the effective delivery of content according to the learning objectives. With the help of integrated learning systems, students can actively learn with the support of a virtual learning environment, monitor their progression in real-time, build an effective learning community, and learn anywhere, anytime and at any pace. In fact, according to a study by OneFile, 85% of users are of the opinion that using an integrated learning system increases productivity, efficiency and transparency in education.

A lot of experimentation is going on to make integrated learning systems a self-sufficient teaching–learning environment, one that can cater to all the needs of an academic institution. To do so, it should be able to take care of both the academic and administrative needs of the institution. It should ease the teachers’ burden of day-to-day administrative work that eats away the precious time that should be devoted to better facilitation of learning for their students. It should help teachers in planning the course delivery and tracking its progress. It should help all the stakeholders form a healthy learning community so that everyone’s needs are addressed with collaborative efforts and maximum transparency.

NextLearningPlatform: An effort for futuristic education

Next Education, India’s leading end-to-end education solutions provider, has created NextLearningPlatform, an integrated learning system for the K–12 sector which consists of a school management system, a learning management system, a complete assessment management system and an award-winning multimedia curriculum solution.

The school management system simplifies the administrative tasks of educators, which helps them concentrate on providing a better learning experience for students. The learning management system provides a collaborative and analytical platform for managing course, content, assessments and reports. The assessment management system allows teachers to customise assessments from a vast pool of questions as per requirement and analyse student performance according to various parameters. 

Most importantly, the state-of-the-art digital content contains holistic academic support in the form of concept explanations, interactive assessments, hands-on experiments and simulations via a wide array of age-appropriate, engaging audiovisuals. The content is carefully structured to stimulate young minds to a learning that is simultaneously blended, enquiry-based, experiential, interactive and personalised. The content not only integrates various domains through increasing points of association, but also integrates various skills such as critical thinking and problem solving, creativity and innovation, cross-cultural understanding, communication, information and media literacy, computing and ICT fluency and so forth.

The world has changed, that society has changed; and education, which is the pillar for the world’s progress, cannot be effective if it continues in the detritus of age-old methods. Learning for the future must take this into account, especially to help the younger generations survive the wilds of an uncertain future. Learning must be integrated into the real world, its needs and demands, so that today’s youth can intuitively bring forth sustainable changes for a better future.

Sameer Bora
Sameer Bora

Sameer has over 18 years of experience spanning education, software technology, marketing and advertising. He specialises in K-12 education and product management, and is interested in the emerging trends of the education technology industry. He is currently the EVP of R&D at Next Education. He can be contacted at editor@nextworldmag.com

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