I first heard about so-called Next Generation schools in 2010, when the national initiative titled “Next Generation Learning Strategies” was launched in several states. To be honest, I did not spend a lot of time inquiring about the event, even though it certainly attracted my attention because it sought to provide innovations in teaching. However, being a little but tech-savvy person myself (well, I thought they were just advocating for more technologies in the classroom), I surfed the Internet and found the official site of the initiative, nextgenlearning.org.
What I saw amazed me and I could not wait to try next generation learning in my own class because the new strategies implemented by the new educators were really worth transforming the class into a learning environment.
What is Nextgen Learning?
Apparently, next generation learning is very different from traditional teaching because it is designed to stimulate the unique potential of every student through the creation and delivery of personalized learning experiences and teaching. As the site of the Initiative described, the schools which utilize this learning approach are more about learning and less about teaching and the educators are the ones who lead the transformation. Being an educator myself, I was excited to be involved and discover the benefits of transforming schools and improving the performance of students.
Why is it capable of transforming the current education system?
The next generation learning utilizes many innovative practices that ensure student success well beyond graduation. What this means it that the approach to every student is personalized to ensure that children develop the skills needed to global preparedness. When I completed my research about the next generation learning, I had a lot of information about the specific benefits of the approach for both educators and students brought by the nextgen strategies. Let me share my findings with you in the sections below.
Strategy 1: Personalized Approach
Next Generation Learning Initiative website quotes Matt Akin, Superintendent from the Piedmont City School District in Alabama, who says that his school created “an educational environment that addresses the needs, goals, and abilities of individual students.” This quote perfectly illustrates the essence of this strategy: the nextgen schools know their students and their educational needs to create student-centered class and exercises.
To determine the best skills and abilities of students, the schools ask the students to create motivational profiles with portfolios, where the educators can review the personal bests of each individual student. As discussed at Getting Smart, these profiles serve as a support and platform-related research into the developmental areas of the students. Along with the portfolio, this element comprises the Data Backpack that defines educational needs and interests.
Strategy 2: Critical Goals in Learning
Any school has a mission of educating the students and preparing them for the future but most of them do not set specific goals that outline the strategy of achieving this objective. “Next gen schools are different in this regard because they engage the communities in conversations about the future of their children and define specific goals needed to be addressed in the curriculum”, says David Mitchell, a senior education adviser from paper writing service. Below is an example of planning done by a nextgen school:
a. Global preparedness
b. Excellent communication skills
c. Community involvement in learning process
d. Powerful learning sessions with involvement of technology
Strategy 3: Powerful Learning Experiences through Technologies
The Report on Next Generation Learning from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation views engaging digital content as a building block of learning models that support personalized learning pathways. Indeed, the use of technology in the classroom is highly beneficial for achieving some important goals of next gen learning, such as global preparedness, individualized exercises, and others. A good example of technology use for children is video tutorials available on the site of Khan Academy. They allow absorbing more information on a wide variety of school subjects, which could be implemented by using tablets, computers, and other devices in the class.
Strategy 4: Using the Best Teachers
This sounded especially interesting for me. As it turns out, schools who engage in next en learning initiative often cannot use all educators for the task. Instead, they recruit and develop the talents of the teachers to make them efficient and effective in the next gen classroom. Apparently, there are a number of positions for educators available in these schools, such as assistant and master educator. It is, therefore, an excellent opportunity for teachers to obtain great new skills for the classroom of the future and be more competitive on the labor market as well.
Strategy 5: Promotion of Students’ Growth
Next gen schools have a specific strategy when it comes to promoting intellectual growth of the students. The progress of each individual student is being closely monitored to identify the mastered subjects and knowledge gaps. Moreover, there are recognition systems and knowledge maps that guide educators in the promotion of development. For example, knowledge map is a dynamic model that tracks individual student progress to personalize the supports offered. Find more in this official report from the initiative’s website.
As the result, the students are more motivated and the process of stimulating intellectual growth is much more sophisticated than in the traditional classroom.
Strategy 6: Community Involvement
One of the most important tasks performed by next gen schools is building the links with the community, including parents, and family and youth services. These connections allow community-based learning, service, and outreach, which is mutually beneficial. On the one hand, students have the opportunity to learn how to solve problems of their own communities while on the other hand, public services reach more children.
Next generation learning is currently practiced in several states and many school districts across the U.S. For me, this approach has been an eye-opener in terms of how effectively the students can be prepared for college, careers, and even citizenship. Moreover, this approach has lots of benefits for educators. The national effort aimed at creating more opportunities for the students will continue to create a healthier, safer, and self-paced learning environment, which should be our priority as well.
Published by Diana Clark