Dona Cady



The Big Picture - Engaging Student Learners

The vast research on educational technology has clearly shown that the simple inclusion of new technologies in instruction has no positive or negative effect on student learning (Cuban 2001; Russell 2006), and the belief that the use of technology alone can improve student learning excludes the more important factors of how the professor chooses to use that technology. In fact, the more important considerations related to increased student learning are the instructional design decisions professors make and the types of environments created to facilitate learning.

Since my online instruction has largely been informed by a school of thought called Social Constructivism (Vygotsky, 1978; Wertch, 1985; Brooks & Brooks, 1993), which also gives good guidance on how to use technology in ways that promote learning (Bonk and Wisher, 2000), my experience and research suggests that for community college learners the most effective learning situations are technologically diverse, incorporating a variety of technology tools and resources; they are visually and emotionally appealing; and they allow for playful interaction. The graphic illustrates this Model for Effective Learning Environments.

Through my own experience and discussions with colleagues, I believe that online community college students do not readily engage through text alone and that more appealing and playful environments better engage learners, and so I have concentrated on more playful ways of engaging students using immersive environments, gaming, and multimedia presentations. Many of my learning activities seek to reunite some of the best qualities of play with the traditional work aspects of the learning process, a fact not lost lately on the business world (BusinessWeek, 2006).

Research will discuss the idea that within our creative economy there is a need for new rules of student engagement. A new model is necessary to engage students on a multi-sensory level, including an interactive and immersive environment that incorporates aesthetic appreciation, elements of play, and technologically diverse instruction. Promoting student affiliation and learning, this is a model for the 21st Century student.

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Last Modified: 6/10/16