Ambientes virtuais de aprendizagem: criatividade, diversidade e colaboração online

Virtual learning environments: creativity, diversity and collaboration

*by Vasco Lopes

We live in a time which requires all professionals to articulate and manage the acquisition of new skills and knowledge in order to meet current demands, both increasingly interrelated and complex. However, our schools of today continue to function based on traditional, industrial era methods and principles with well-defined rules and structures. When large-scale education systems were implemented at the end of the 19th century, everything was planned as if we were all the same and learn in the same way. The educational systems were influenced by the prospering industries of the day and designed based on the typical context of hierarchical organization and contained content of low complexity.

Today, our students are part of Generation Z and often referred to as digital natives. These students have personalities strongly influenced by the relationship they have with technology, which, for many, has been a primary factor since childhood. Our youth enjoy universal access to knowledge, and with that, often find annoyance in attending school, especially in rooms where the teachers are “transmitters” of knowledge. Students no longer want to passively absorb information from teachers who have not accepted that content is readily available in the world through an Internet connection. Thus, we are experiencing a paradigm shift in teaching; one that presents new ideas and concepts, besides the obvious technological evolution. With this, the conflict of generations (still) arises: our teachers are children from an analog era while our students are children of a digital age.

Many schools are in the process of transforming, but fall into “the blind leading the blind”. They recognize the importance of change and accept the responsibility, but do not identify the (new) values of this transformation. In other words, the revolutionizing of schools, in light of this new paradigm, requires a vast transformation of teachers, including new pedagogical practices associated with new technologies. Without this, teachers end up entertaining the idea of new media utilizing old methodologies which diminishes the potential of the technology and becomes an obvious obstacle to the normal functioning of a class. In addition to the transformation of teachers, elementary and middle schools have a responsibility to articulate this change with the involvement of parents.

The widespread availability of the Internet provides teachers with the ability to create and (re) mix content online without any cost. We are transitioning to a hybrid educational reality, one with online and offline content, enabling lessons to occur in class and beyond. The Mosyle platform supports this transition by allowing interoperability with other platforms and sources of content. In the Diocesan College of Caruaru, we have a collection of about 40 iPads and 32 Apple TVs (for mirroring), which equips us with at least one iPad in each classroom in addition to individual student tablets. We are testing the Mosyle platform for more flexibility in the use and profitability of these devices, while having the ability of multiple usage profiles and remote management.

One of the features I find most appealing in the platform is the HUB functionality . This enables the integration of other cloud based storage systems and the sharing of files in addition to the school having its own repository of files. Sharing and supervision were two key components we were looking for. Sharing permits the collaboration and personalization of learning, and supervision guarantees safe and focused use of the digital resources available. Mosyle incorporates these features and the spirit of Web 3.0: interrelated applications and systems that mutually work together.

With transformation and this new paradigm in mind, we are continuously raising awareness and empowering our teachers to take ownership of these new “values”. As an example, teachers must actively participate in available virtual learning communities in order to encourage and promote collaborative and networked learning in their classrooms.

It is necessary to utilize these virtual technologies for the purpose of changing the ‘real’ classroom. Innovation in education is effective when it produces results, that is, when students learn more and are successful. The largest impact on learning is the proper integration of technology combined with human interaction. The creativity, subjectivity, genius, emotions and relationships of teachers is what makes us human and unique. Parents, teachers, and students must prepare for this new era, where connection and collaboration is much more important than the absorption of content. These relationships are living; motivated and sustained with the unexpected process of new knowledge.

Vasco Salvador Lopes
*Vasco Lopes is a Portuguese resident in Pernambuco and develops projects for the implementation of virtual learning environments and technology for education. He has an undergraduate degree in multimedia and computer engineering and a graduate degree in new media and web programming from the FCSH-Universidade Nova de Lisboa. He is currently employed as the Coordinator of the Diocesan College of Caruaru-PE.