Over the past few months I have been doing some serious reflection on how the ways in which students learn and the strategies I use to teach have been changed and shaped by increasing access to technology. But something that hadn’t crossed my mind until very recently (although now it seems blatantly obvious) is that technology is also significantly changing the ways that adults learn!
I am an advocate for continued and life-long learning. I have always enjoyed learning and I know that I do my best work with my students at school when I am also actively engaged in some form of study that is relevant to my job.
It was whilst sitting in a Professional Development course recently that I caught my mind wandering. Chastising myself, I drew my attention back to the presenter. But I just. Couldn’t. Keep. It. There.
This particular course was packed with information that I believe is crucial for all educators to be aware of. The presenter was lovely and generous with her explanations and advice. But it was the delivery – which consisted of an out-of-date powerpoint and three hours of talking, with a couple of activities or videos filmed in the 1990s thrown in every now and then – that I struggled with.
Now, as an adult learner I do not expect a course presenter to entertain me with an interpretive dance reflecting the content that they need to get across. I understand that there are some topics that will interest me less than others. But as I sat in this course, which was packed with information that I would usually be engrossed in, I did start to question how I could be so incredibly engaged in some courses that run for a whole day, but struggle to keep my mind focused on others for just a couple of hours.
That’s when I realised that the courses that I engage with the most as an adult learner are those that allow me to explore concepts, question them, play around with them, discuss them with colleagues, apply them in authentic contexts, and come to my own conclusions (or if not conclusions, questions that I would like to explore further on my own). Could it just be a coincidence that these are also the learning opportunities that I notice my students engage with and learn the most from? I think not.These are the courses that truly inspire me and improve my teaching practice.
Reading straight from a powerpoint doesn’t cut it for me as a learner anymore. Providing opportunities to connect with other people and information both in the room and in the outside community does. Let me engage with the course both in person (I still believe that the importance of face-to-face interaction is not to be devalued) and online. Let me tweet, blog, search for information, ask you and my colleagues questions about things I haven’t fully understood. But please, do not just tell me what is on the powerpoint. I can read that myself.
Everyone learns differently, but let’s face it, it’s not only our students who are increasingly connected with each other and with information via technology. Adults are too. And it is changing the way we do things and process information. It is crucial that educational training providers recognise this and change their practices accordingly because the effect of technology on the learning of all generations is probably only going to increase.