Encouraging self-directed learning

In this day and age, one of my major goals as a teacher is to encourage self-directed learning. In my mind, if I can do this and make my students realise that they can learn anywhere, anytime, and without a teacher, then I believe I will have gone a long way to helping my students succeed not only in future schooling years, but for life beyond school. Before the internet age, teachers were generally seen as the source of all information. Now, in the age of Google, Youtube and Twitter to name a few, the teachers role has drastically changed. Teachers are now facilitators of learning, guiding students to find the information that is relevant to them. Obviously one important factor in ensuring this happens is the availability of technology, and ideally having students that constantly have access to a device. If this hasn't happened already, I have no doubt that this time is not too far away.

To back up these thoughts, it is important to note why, in my opinion, I believe that self-directed learning (aided by technology) is advantageous to what has happened before. My number one question before using technology is always: "How is this going to improve the learning for my students?". If I cannot answer this question, then I am not using the technology available to me correctly -  and I would then need to go back to the drawing board to redesign the task. In my experience, the use of technology (if used correctly) greatly enhances self-directed learning as it gives teachers the ability to flip the classroom, and makes it easier to differentiate learning activities. With this in mind, before the year started my two colleagues and I needed to decide how we would set up our 'digital classrooms' so we could begin to create our desired self-directed learning environment. We have used three main tools to do this, Google Sites, Blogger, and Google Classroom.

Google Sites: We have used Google Sites to create a shared 'filing cabinet' of resources and activities for the students. Across our year 10 classes, we have made one site that all of the teachers can add to. Any activity or resource that we have done throughout the year will be on the site. Click here to see our site.

Blogger: Each of the three year 10 classes have their own blogs, and these are continually updated with instructions for the students (it is essentially our digital whiteboard). Often our instructions will have links to activities that are located on the year 10 Google Site. My class blog also has a link list to each of the student blogs, and this is where they publish their own work. To view my class blog click here.

Google Classroom: This is where I can organise and contact my differentiated groups within each learning area. If something is only relevant for a group rather than the whole class, I will make an announcement to that group via Google Classroom rather that post it on the class blog. Students can also have discussions with their differentiated group members via Google Classroom. Google Classroom is also a great way to organise and share documents when use Google Apps for Education.

I have found that these three tools compliment each other very well. Students know that they can access the blog as soon as they are in class, and they can carry on with their learning via the activities that we have on our Google Site. They also know to check their emails first thing to see if any announcements have been made via Google Classroom.  By using these three tools, we have made the first step as teachers to encourage self-directed learning.

To view ways in which I have created individual learning plans to further encourage self-directed learning, as well as an example of how I encourage self-directed learning in maths, click the following links:

Creating Individual Learning Plans

Self-Directed Learning in a 1-1 environment for maths