Authentic learning is one of the new kids on the block in the field of education. It has emerged as a necessity to shift from the old paradigm in which students reproduce contents delivered by teachers in the classroom and it describes the learning new things by using knowledge in real-life situations and contexts.
Praised by those who believe that education should better equip students with useful tools for solving real-life problems, authentic learning has its true merits and it is successfully used in both K12 and higher education, especially in vocational training.
Some might just say that it is a fad, a buzzword, but in our opinion, this trend is here to stay. Although there is no broad consensus about its possible applications, experts agree that there are a few common features for all the different adaptations of the authentic learning across the curriculum.
Read more: 9 Characteristics of authentic learning
Authentic learning is all about allowing students (and teachers alike) to explore more, to be more creative, and to find novel solutions to real-life problems. For some students, there is no point in learning math if they don’t understand how this knowledge could be used in everyday situations.
Granted, there is an undeniable elegance of equations and theorems that beautiful minds can experience while they unravel the mysteries of the universe. Schools and universities all over the world should indeed help these beautiful minds follow their calling.
But other people prefer to focus on the practicality of things. It’s not mathematicians vs. engineers, but mathematicians and engineers in schools and universities that (hopefully) help all types of intelligence thrive.
Authentic learning and edtech: A match made in heaven
Audrey Rule famously identified in her Editorial the four core components of authentic learning. We believe that with a pinch of edtech it could be a good solution for many students across the globe.
Problems rooted in the real world
Technology is everywhere we look. From algorithms which identify products we might want to buy or people we might like to date, to powerful gadgets inspired by sci-fi movies, technology has become an indispensable part of our lives. The Internet of Things will make more and more aspects of our lives interconnected and coordinated.
So why not use technology to solve everyday problems and help our students unleash their creativity?
In classrooms all over the world, there are the visionaries and the inventors of tomorrow. Let them experiment with technology and see what they can come up with to make a better world!
Inquiry and thinking skills
The use of metacognition will make students more self-aware and more creative in the long run. Creating the powerful habit of self-reflection in an excellent way of making students understand how cognitive processes work. It will make them understand where do new ideas come from and how they can use different approaches to solve the problems they encounter. Creativity begins with self-awareness and self-reflection.
Interaction in a community of learners
Being a great scientist or a great engineer is wonderful, but it might not be enough. Any professional needs soft skills to effectively communicate with peers, colleagues from other fields, or with a wider audience. Humans are social and they create wonderful things when they cooperate.
This is why students of any age need to understand the purpose of effective communication in their learning journey. Technology allows schools and universities to create virtual classrooms and foster communications between students and teachers across the globe. Studying abroad from your own campus might be the next trend in education.
Empowerment and personal experiences
Any learning journey is meaningful and students should be encouraged to experiment as much as they can and to accept failure as a normal part of any learning process. We learn from our personal experiences and our own failures more than we learn from just reading or observing the experiences of our teachers.
With edtech, it is possible to create virtual labs and allow students to experiment even with the most innovative approaches. Maybe not all novel ideas may be brilliant, but some are and can change the world.
Authentic learning had been here for a while and will definitely stay. In a way, it’s all about going back to basics: learning and experimenting to solve everyday problems. This is how at the beginning of human history, people invented the wheel or began to “tame” fire. Today it’s more about “taming” technology to make a better, safer and more sustainable world.
Veronica is a University lecturer with years of experience in language learning, a translator and interpreter, and a life-long learner.