Whether a teacher began his career years ago and is approaching retirement or he is recently graduated and about to enter his first classroom, a high priority is always learning environment. Will students learn? Will they behave? Will they have fun? These, along with many other questions, are often answered because of presence and environment as opposed to content. This concept is no different when considering the ePortfolio disruptive innovation plan recently designed by Erin Sanchez, Ryan King, and me. We are still in the beginning steps of developing this course, and to ensure that it is a success we must consider how to create a significant learning environment while keeping in mind what it is we hope our students gain from the course.
As a starting point, I not only looked back on my own current learning environment but also what I want for my students within the ePortfolio course. I discovered that no matter what course I am teaching, I want to encourage play and holistic learning because learning is and should be fun. Specific to the ePortfolio course, it is essential that I incorporate opportunities for students to collaborate, reflect, and revise. This is how we learn best as children and in the real world, so fostering that environment in class is equally effective. This connection to naturalistic learning is also obvious in my learning philosophy. Because of the shift into the 21st century, teachers are not needed to simply transfer knowledge, but they are instead required to create environments that promote natural learning. Connecting content to the real world and allowing students to explore that content in organic ways promotes a love for learning, and that is my ultimate goal for all my students.
In determining the ultimate goals for our students enrolled in the ePortfolio course, we complete two different planning models: Fink’s Three Column Table and Understand by Design (UbD). Any teacher would benefit from using either or both of these to develop a course, unit, or lesson because it helps to organize activities so these goals, whether a Big Hairy Audacious Goal or UbD established goals, are met. For our ePortfolio course, I believe Fink’s model to be more effective as it is much more overarching, which is more appropriate for a course as opposed to a lesson or unit. Completing both models, however, helped us structure our plans around our learning philosophies and the learning environments we hope to build. It also helped us lay the foundation of developing students with growth mindsets.
Having a growth mindset is something that all teachers, students, and parents should model and encourage. The resources we watched and read will be infused into our curriculum to help students understand that we want them to ultimately develop a growth mindset throughout our ePortfolio course. Creating a learning environment that encourages play and embodies our learning philosophies is now more than just a vision thanks to the Three Column Table and UbD models, along with the understanding that learning is a process and a goal that everyone can reach.