The social, political and economic changes that appeared with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, brought major changes in education. Nowadays, technology is a constant presence in most of the classrooms worldwide, no matter the learning scenario, in all the teachers’ work. New ways of teaching and learning have emerged as the educational process changes along with the times.
For students, nowadays, learning becomes effective when they are engaged, when they are active, motivated, independent and willing to participate in the planned activities. The learning process of the student is now mainly focused on the 3Cs: collaboration, creativity and critical thinking, as schools struggle to develop 21st century skills in all their learners. As a consequence, learning has become a more personal process, with the student being actively involved and in charge of it: “Learner-centered instruction fosters autonomous learning and a sense of ownership over the learning experience, resulting in higher participation and more collaboration between participants”. (Brown, 2007).
Learning activities today should include independent work, as well as collaborative work (pair work, group work) and should aim at developing students’ critical thinking and problem-solving skills. A successful activity should involve and engage everyone in the classroom and should use technology appropriately and in the right amount. In such a circumstance, the teacher is no longer the transmitter of knowledge, but instead, he/ she now plays the role of facilitator and coach, supporting the students in their learning journey. In some cases however, the traditional classroom setup and/or the teacher’s mindset does not allow this to happen.
For ages, the framework of our educational interaction has been the same: in the classroom the students listen to their teacher and the teacher is in the center of the educational system, guiding the students through the whole process of learning, every step of the way. Nowadays, new pedagogical concepts have appeared and, with the use of technology, teaching and learning changed (not necessarily evolved). We now want our students to be more active, more involved in their learning. We want them to speak their mind, to be independent and to ask questions, to bring their mobile devices to school and to use them as a tool for learning.
As a consequence, the mobile industry has created many apps and pieces of hardware that now can (and should) be integrated in the learning/ teaching process. Schools worldwide have also taken initiative, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, to adapt or to (re)design their learning spaces so that they can now enable and facilitate technology-enhanced learning and active pedagogies. The design of the learning space now becomes an important parameter, together with the proper use of technology, in a way that will give the teaching process an added value. The interaction between the two parties involved in the process (students and teachers) is now a two-way communication and it is now focused on the learner, according to the new national curriculum which was adopted in our country in 2013/2014 (for primary learners) and in 2017 (for secondary learners).
To sum up in a phrase, active learning happens in the classroom when one finds the perfect blend between the pedagogy that makes learners build 21st-century skills, and technology, together with a suitable learning space and a skillful facilitator. Because the most important ‘asset’ remains the teacher, who still makes a difference, no matter the classroom setup, the technology involved, the national curriculum adopted. The teacher knows his/ her students best and he/ she can maximize students’ academic potential by personalizing the educational process to their needs.
The main advantage of using the internet and the digital means is that it no longer restricts the learner to spend hours at school, inside the classroom, under teacher’s supervision, but instead, it allows him/ her to take charge of his own learning, Thanks to technology, learning has become ubiquitous. Learners now have the opportunity to learn anywhere, anytime. Doing the homework keeps the student involved in the learning process even if he/ she is at home. It fixates previously acquired knowledge and keeps the learner mentally present in the classroom, even though he is physically at home. The idea of students learning outside the classroom and outside the restrictive program at school is, however, not new, students have been doing their homework at home since forever, but with the growth of technology use, the potential of ubiquitous learning in a digital environment goes far beyond this idea of the traditional homework.
By learning online, the student is engaged as an independent learner, in a limitless virtual space, in a new context for learning which offers a great variety of means, ways and tools to collaborate and to interact with peers and others from all over the world. Learning is no longer constrained by the school’s walls, the continuous guidance of the teacher or by the imposed learning materials, so technology-assisted spaces allow for continuous communication, at all times, regardless of the physical location of the participants.
However, online learning has its own risks as no learning environment is completely safe and teachers should guide and prepare the students to use and safely and effectively operate in digital networks and in digital communities. Actions should be taken by both teachers and parents to prevent user’s privacy being exposed or harmful things happening to the user, especially when young learners are involved.
In point of assessment, the question is this: Is there really a huge difference between a traditional test taken on a piece of paper, together with the whole class, and an online test taken on a computer, at home, by oneself, in point of effectiveness and expected results? And in point of acquiring new knowledge, is an e-book more reliable to bring deeper learning that a traditional paperback textbook? Probably not, but these are questions to which answers are still being researched and the answers depend from one individual to another, from one classroom to another.
Before this ‘digital era’ the students performed only in front of the teacher, whilst now, the students are working mostly in collaboration with their classmates, promoting group effort in contrast with individual effort, as before. Times have changed and learning has gained a more social aspect. Nowadays we use apps that can involve all the students, from the shiest to the most silent one, by participating and sharing their ideas on a digital canvas (Padlet, Google Docs, Tricider, etc.), on digital presentations (PowerPoint, StoryJumper, Prezzi, etc.) and on interactive projects, for example. Three key aspects of active learning are represented by the benefits of technology for collaboration, flexibility and creativity.
When it comes to teachers, the tendency of using mainly digital resources in the field of education has triggered a shift in schools and universities: from face-to-face courses to online courses, the rise of online dedicated learning systems/ platforms (Coursera, Canva, EdApp, etc.), the appearance of online training courses for teachers (MOOCs, online workshops/ seminars, etc.), social networking/ collaboration sites/ pages for educators (FB: Educație online, etc.), and so on, as active learning can take place anytime, anywhere, to learners and teachers alike.
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3. Richards, J. C. and Rodgers, T.S. (2014) Approaches and methods in language teaching (3rd edition). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
4. Hightower, A.M. (2011), “Improving student learning by supporting quality teaching: Key issues, effective strategies,” Editorial Projects in Education.