Motivating students has always been one of the toughest aspects of teaching. This challenge is set to grow in the online classroom, which requires the use of a new set of learning and cognitive skills as well as better time management, and not to mention comes with distractions that take away from learning.
A student who is highly motivated is more apt to develop positive attitudes and behaviours towards online learning. It is important for educators to know how to encourage digital learners, so that students may be better equipped to navigate the multiple challenges that inhabit the online learning environment.
As long as there is the promise of reward and competition for it, there will always be the temptation to cheat. Cheating is as old as the classroom itself, and the deplorable practice seems even more entrenched in today’s digital age where Internet technologies have made light work of copying off others.
While technology has also made it easier to detect cheating, for instance, using software like Turnitin and iThenticate to catch out plagiarists, the root of the problem remains, which is the student mindset that it is okay, even natural, to copy stuff from the Internet.
But there is hope for academic integrity, although the solutions are by no means easy to implement. Besides detection software, more effective and sustainable methods to deter cheating include changing the mindset of students by emphasising learning over testing, getting creative with assignments and teaching methods, explaining expectations and consequences, and instilling in young minds the moral wrong in plagiarism.
National Education Association (NEA) has recently developed An Educator’s Guide to the “Four Cs” to address the challenges of preparing 21st century students for a global society. Yet according to a study by Harvard Kennedy School on the benefits of standards-setting, clarifying what students should be learning does not necessarily translate into higher achievement in the classroom.
Still, it is premature to decry the practice of standardisation of learning. Alignment is important in order to develop academic content that is relevant and sensitive across our increasing converging communities and cultures. A more or less internationalised pedagogy also brings benefits of economies of scale so that educational content, tools and services may expand exponentially with greater cost savings.
To help students attain the learning goals that we identify and set out for them, there needs to be deeper reflection by researchers, policymakers and educators on the role that standards play in influencing student achievement. In his working paper titled Gold Standards?: State Standards Reform and Student Achievement (July 26, 2012), Joshua Goodman proposes some ways to realise the equation between learning standards and student performance.
In this age of technology-enabled everything, it is ironic how educators often try to distance learning from technology, lest they come under fire for focusing on technology rather than on teaching ‘real’ content like mathematics or science. This despite the fact that students these days do a significant amount of learning through the Internet and the many online learning tools available.
Terie Engelbrecht, a teacher who teaches at high school and postgraduate levels, makes no apologies about teaching technology when only the mastery of it can advance learning.
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