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Creating Significant Learning Environments

Updated: Dec 12, 2021

I began my 5-year journey as a teacher in August 2015. Previously, I served as a long-term sub taking over a class in January 2015. The class lost their teacher earlier that school year due to the inability to handle the students as well as the challenges that they faced in that setting. As I began working with the students and specialists, I quickly saw a disconnect between the learning materials and the students. Students were receiving an abundance of worksheets and other learning materials that seemed very dated. I witnessed students showing a lack of understanding, care, and attention. I saw much need for providing relevance to students to connect their learning for engagement. This is when I realized the need for disruptive innovation but I didn’t have the experience or knowledge to figure it out.

At the end of the year, I threw the students a party just to celebrate them making it through a tough year. I wanted it to be an unforgettable experience so I brought in party lights, black lights, lava lamps, music, food, video games, and other fun party activities that I could gather from home. The students had an amazing time. Other students and teachers would come into the room because they wanted to join. The student’s engagement was something I would never forget as it became a defining moment that drove my approach as I achieved my final teaching credentials for the next upcoming year.

As the new school year began, I came into the year with fresh and new ideas to change the outlook of education in itself. I purchased LED lights to highlight the room. I also bought and created various forms of decorations and designs to help to provide an exciting environment for the room. I wanted the students to feel as though they entered a spaceship or an arcade type of space every time they entered the room. I began to research 21st-century teaching styles and methods along with many different ed-tech tools that I didn’t realize existed. I wanted to surpass some of the challenges of teaching that I experienced from waiting at the copier or grading tons of papers by adapting a more paperless ecosystem. This was my moment of defining disruptive innovation before my official experience began. Students began to show improvement in benchmarks and state test scores. Students began to show a love for the experience of learning when they saw relevant games, sports, shows, and technology being used. They began to see themselves in the process. Teachers, administrators, parents, and district personal began to show up to witness the experience for itself. After that first year, I realized that my calling in education was to be a disruptive innovator.

As time has progressed I have researched and implemented many new concepts and ideas. I have learned so much about universal and instructional design that it has reshaped the way I view the education system. I began to see my classroom as a company. My students become interns with the goal of becoming product designers as they master concepts and skills while completing tasks/projects. I have highlighted this concept in a previous blog entry. By changing the terminology of instruction to bring real world applications while using imagination and gamification as a vehicle. Students see units as quests. A lesson turns into a course or stage. An activity is called a mission. Students can begin to enjoy learning in a more meaningful and exciting way by just taking on a different perspective. This is the beginning to creating a significant learning environment. My innovation plan is a result of the practice and years of refinement that has taken place. Till this day, I am still refining and building as the vision becomes more and more clear.

Using many concepts from the design world has seemed to become very at the forefront of my implementation. Design thinking creates an essential way to creatively solve problems. Considering UI/UX design has allowed me the awareness of how my students view the design of my instructional practices as they are constantly in contact with professional UX/UI design work ranging from Instagram to the Playstation 5. My goal has been to make the learning environment feel natural.....familiar.....and second nature just like picking up your iPhone and continuing scrolling or posting right where you left off. That is what a significant learning environment should should be.

Today, we are witnessing an era where our choice is taken away to delay the inevitable disruptive education across the board. Education in itself continues to remain stagnant based on the parameters either given to us by a district or by ourselves. The question remains whether we are able to adapt to new methods and ideologies. Can we use what is relevant in the world today in our classrooms? How can we stay current with the latest trends in education? How can we help to prepare students with the skills and tools that will be necessary as they become leaders of our future if we are not present with the skills and tools of today?

Watch a version of this plan come to life here:

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