How Technology Can Support Authentic Learning

Technology Can Support Authentic LearningAuthentic learning focuses on real-world, complex problems and their solutions, with the help of problem-based activities, case studies, role-plays, etc. Students involved with authentic

learning cultivate skills such as, they develop judgment to distinguish between authentic and non-authentic information, the patience to analyze it, the ability to recognize and uncover patterns and the flexibility to work across cultural and disciplinary boundaries to generate effective solutions.

Though authentic learning is most effective when actually carried out in real-life scenarios and situations, it is now evident that its value is not constrained to real-life locations and practices and its benefits can be realized through carefully designed Web-based environments. These environments provide access to the same resources that are used in research; they can provide access to astronomical data, historical war archives, online access to remote instruments, databases, software visualizations, images, audio and much more. Apart from access to all kinds of resources, such Web-based environments should make sure that they facilitate collaboration, for which Web-based communication tools can be used. Social networking tools can help learners find a broader community where they can share information and resources.

Authentic learning can rely on education technology to develop typical scenarios that learners encounter in real-world settings. Apart from learning resources and communication tools these online authentic learning experiences often integrate intelligent tutoring systems, concept mapping, immediate feedback, recorded events and more.

Technological support for authentic learning environments commonly includes:

High-speed Internet connectivity to access multimedia information, including dynamic data and practical visualizations of complex phenomena.

Asynchronous and synchronous communication and social networking tools for teamwork, including collaborative online investigations, resource sharing and knowledge construction.

Intelligent tutoring systems, virtual laboratories, and feedback mechanisms that capture rich information about student performance and help students learn in new situations.

Mobile devices for accessing and recording data during field-based investigations.

There are new and emerging technologies that allow students to take part in activities and projects beyond the classroom and diminish the differences between learning in school and in the real-world. It has been established that students learn better when they solve real-life problems than when they learn through contextualized information. As a consequence, many schools are trying to re-organize curriculum and instruction to support authentic learning and are finding various technologies for the purpose. With existing computers and telecommunications, students can search vast databases, collect data, share it online and can also create multimedia reports with text, graphics, sound and video.

Existing technologies already are playing an important role in supporting authentic learning. One relevant area is that of computer-assisted telecommunications which can promote more authentic instruction in several ways. Students can do basic research beyond boundaries to make it more thorough. Telecommunications also allows collaborative learning allowing students to team up with students around the world and also have ready access to mentors and experts for guidance and support. Another technological area that supports authentic learning is multimedia, which allows them tosearch through multimedia resources, save pieces of text, video, and sound, and later synthesize them in new ways. Multimedia resources also reduced students’ dependence upon textbooks as vital sources of information.

Experts have agreed upon that the process of creating more authentic and engaging curriculum must accompany the process of integrating the latest technological developments in schools. Educators should seek ways to take the most useful of technologies and make them available to their students. Educators can introduce authentic content, replacing textbooks with historical documents and scientific data from remote sensors. They can design problem-based activities to replace lectures and expect students to collaborate with one another. They can support innovation with visualizations, simulations, and interactive technologies and to make everything effective, must rethink their assessment strategies.

Authentic learning may be more important than ever in a rapidly changing world, where information is short-lived and individuals want to progress through multiple careers. By confronting students with uncertainty, ambiguity, and conflicting perspectives, educators can help them mature their thinking and make them able to use problem-solving approaches effectively. Authentic learning activities enhance reflective judgments and help develop a valuable lifelong skill that goes beyond just the memorization of context. To be competitive in the global job market, students must become comfortable with the complexities of real-world problems. Providing them more exposure to authentic disciplinary communities will make them better prepared to deal with ambiguities and put them into practice of higher order analysis that is required of them as professionals.

How do you think that technology can support and enhance authentic learning? Are you aware of any instances where it does? Share your views and knowledge with us. The Comment Box awaits you.

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About the Author
Author: Saomya Saxena
Educational technology blogger, loves to research and write about tools and tips for educators on how to integrate technology into everyday instruction creatively and effectively. Fond of reading and writing.

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