I am a pretty big tech advocate and it has become a natural part of my curriculum. So, when it came time last week for me to present various printmaking artists and techniques to my students, I figured I would take the opportunity to blend in the use of technology for note taking as I lectured. In the past, I would have had students take notes on paper and then turn in a summary of what they learned. I would have ended up with piles of papers (some without names or incomplete) that I would rifle through to grade.
Since I had access to computers, I decided to have kids take notes in Moodle, turning in their notes and summary digitally. When I had envisioned this, I planned for it to be very similar to the old process of note taking. Kids would write down segments of what I said as it related to the artist on the screen and blend it in with their opinion. And this did happen. But so did something unexpected, which completely blew my mind.
As I was talking about artists, students were taking notes and then some started to do something more. Instead of being passive sponges for the information, students stepped out of that role and opened a new tab in their browser to do further inquiry on specific pieces of information they found to be particularly interesting. Before I knew it, kids were searching images for artists beyond the ones I had on the screen, wanting to know more about their cohorts and contemporaries as I brought them up (Shepard Fairey being a major one).
When this happened, those students shared the information they found back with me and the class. They asked me more about what peaked their interest and contributed content. I no longer became the single point of information; students stepped into the role and started to fill information gaps that they wanted patched.
I was really taken aback by this occurrence. It was not something I had envisioned within the realm of what I had planned. I am really excited about this development because it changes the way I have to present information. Instead of it being a static exchange from me to my students, it can develop into an organic growth of information that begins with me but ultimately is guided by the student.
When we do this type of learning activity again, I will encourage this type of inquiry. I will also take the time to model the behavior so all students feel comfortable doing their own investigation beyond that is being covered by me. This experience of unplanned learning really flipped what is possible during a lecture and I look forward to sharing what happens when we do this again.
What are some instances of unplanned learning that you have encountered? How have you used those moments to transform the way you deliver content or plan learning activities? I am interested because I have an idea on how to move forward with experience, but know I can learn more from those of you who have transformed instruction due to moments like these.