Teaching students to become “life-long learners” is a popular buzzword bandied about in education. Despite the tiredness of the term, getting students to realize that learning doesn’t just take place within the confines of school and homework assignments is a real challenge (illustrated well in this Think Thank Thunk post). How can we inspire this life-long learningness from an early age?
One experiment I’m trying this year to address this is creating a school science website that puts as many relevant learning resources as possible in the hands of my students and their parents (btw, I’m using GoogleSites, which is a super easy way to make a website for free). For each of the elementary science units we do throughout the year, I’ll be adding stuff like this:
To measure the success of this venture I’m using Google Analytics, which will give me detailed data about how much the site is being used, how many unique visitors are coming, and whether they’re accessing the site from school or at home (by the way, Google Analytics is also free- so have you started making your own website yet?? :). Throughout the year I’ll add various “attractors” to the site such as photos from field trips, resources for assignments, and videos from class, as well as directing parents to the site whenever I get the “How can I help my child?” question (a tough question to answer when you can’t just point them to a textbook).
I also feel like there’s an opportunity to integrate social media into the site some way (student comments, polls, etc), which could broaden the usage of the site. In my previous school I had my 5th grade students create their own websites about their science fair experiments on the kid-friendly site ThinkQuest and I was surprised to see how the ability to leave comments on fellow student’s site generate a ton of buzz (not always of the learning kind of course, but variety is the spice of life). So I’d appreciate any suggestions from folks who have experience in this department.
Predictions? Will simply putting resources out there for students be enough to inspire extended learning outside the classroom? Since my students are fairly high-achievers with involved parents, I have high hopes. Then again, I suspect a website like this will mostly be used by… high-achievers with involved parents, but not reach the students who need some life-long learningness the most. But we’ll see!
Then there’s the issue of how much students visiting the site actually leads to life-long learningness (or learning of any kind for that matter!) I don’t know how I could measure this exactly, but I plan to do as much anecdotal research as I can by asking students and parents how they are using the site, perhaps even conducting some polls. Overall though, I believe that encouraging an interest in learning on your own time (whether it’s reading a book about science, trying an experiment at home, whatever) will have an impact. In my own childhood my parents were careful to surround me with educational diversions (Oregon Trail computer game, science encyclopedias, trips to museums) and these clearly rubbed off. Hopefully creating a virtual version of this for my students will have a similar effect.
You can check out the website I’m creating here, but it’s mostly just a framework now- I’ll be adding content as the year progresses. I would be interested to check out sites that other teachers have made, particularly ones intended to extend learning beyond the classroom. Anyone got some of that out there?