Significant Learning Environments


Welcome to the new culture of learning. A culture where the students no longer rely on the teachers for information. Why would students rely on their teachers for content? Teachers can’t be with students 24/7, but the Internet can. Before the Internet existed, teachers and textbooks were prime sources of knowledge and information. That was great….then. Roll on to the 21st century where technology is everywhere. Ask a school age student to rank these three items in order of importance: Air, water, and technology. We all know that air and water are essential to survival. Today’s students believe technology is also crucial to their survival!


The digital age has brought with it an abundance of ways to gather information. To find answers one might turn to YouTube, blog posts, websites, forums, or online communities.  So why is the education system so reluctant to incorporate these tools into the classrooms? Because this would mean change. The dreaded six letter word. But change we must if we, as teachers, wish to keep up with the way students learn. Technology tools are readily available, why not use them? It seems silly to attempt to drive a nail with your hand when a hammer is available. Unfortunately, that compares to the mindset of many educators. A new culture of learning needs to leverage social and technical infrastructures in new ways (Brown & Thomas, 2011).


The world is in constant change. Can you remember the last time you held an encyclopedia in your hand (and not just for a show and tell item)? The education system needs to become equipped with ways to keep up with the constant change. Play is one way children adapt. Play is the basis for cultivating imagination and innovation (Brown & Thomas, 2011). Admit it, when you were younger you were part of a game that was made up by your friends. The game was fun. It had rules that were made up by the players. You learned from that game. Another type of game is tinkering or dabbling. So much can be learned from tinkering. I know as a youngster I often took things apart just to see what was inside and how it all worked together. I had questions, so many questions.


Questions can be more important than the answers. This is where the role of the teacher should change. Learning occurs when questions are asked. The teacher needs to learn to facilitate asking the correct questions. Questions that progressively get harder will produce more meaningful learning. When kids ask questions, they seek answers. They will turn to the tools they are familiar with and they hope will render results. Those tools were mentioned earlier…YouTube, blog posts, websites, forums, or online communities, etc.


My innovation plan references blended learning. A blended learning approach to education is a prime example of how classrooms should look today. The teacher becomes the facilitator, another source of context, for the students. No longer do the students rely on the teacher to stand and deliver content. During blended learning, students gather together to find information. They become part of a collective. If two heads are better than one, then three, four or even more heads should produce amazing results.


I model blended learning in my classroom. Teachers are welcome to visit my room at any time to see blended learning in action. At times, it may seem as though the students are “playing.” Probably because they are! However, as a result of that play, their imaginations run wild and learning occurs. The kids are collaborating, discussing, questioning, sharing, and suggesting. They are immersed in a significant learning environment that is critical to their education. Students look forward to my class.


The school district I teach at is rich in technology. All students have their own Chromebook that goes home with them daily. The majority of families do have internet access, so learning does not stop when kids leave the school building. One problem I do see is that some of the teachers have not been properly exposed to ways to use the technology that is available. They are content with their classrooms being teacher-led instead of student-driven. I hope to be able to change that. If I was able to devote my time to helping teachers create significant learning environments by creating ongoing professional development and assisting the teachers with lessons in their own classrooms, my innovation plan would become a reality. McGregor ISD will be at the forefront of innovation once again.


I consider this to be a significant learning environment for the teachers, too. Why stop at creating significant learning environments for just the students? If I was able to help the teachers create their lessons that would incorporate blended learning in their classrooms, they would see and feel first hand what a significant learning environment was like. They would gain tacit knowledge through their own experiences rather than just being told what to do or expect.


Reading the book A New Culture of Learning has solidified my thoughts about my learning philosophy. I learn by doing. I learn when I am passionate about a topic. I learn by tinkering and trying new things. I learn from YouTube, blog posts, websites, forums, and online communities. Why should learning be any different for my students? It shouldn’t. I am going to do my best to spread this message throughout my school.



Brown, J. S., & Thomas, D. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, KY: CreateSpace.

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