The K12 education landscape is changing. Remote learning is now an integral part of our primary and secondary education system. As school districts continue to navigate the uncharted waters of reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to start thinking about shifting the learning paradigm for maximum engagement in the online context.
Over the past decade, educators have made the shift from teacher-led education to student-centered learning in many forms: 21st-century learning, problem-based learning, project-based learning, and others. In many of today’s K12 classrooms, students are empowered with choice, can build classroom community by working together and can engage with class material to think critically.
While these are great tools, they come up short: students are not learning how to think about the world around them. Many students are still engaged in superficial learning with the end goal of getting a high grade or score on a test. Deep Learning (DL) is a higher learning methodology that encourages students to make meaningful connections across disciplines and learn how to solve problems in their real lives. For the past two years, innovative teachers have been adapting DL into the K12 classroom. According to Seif, deep learning is revolutionary in that, as a strategy, it “promotes the qualities children need for success by building complex understanding and meaning rather than focusing on the learning of superficial knowledge that can today be gleaned through search engines.” In the remote learning context, superficial knowledge or group work falls flat when a student can quickly lookup an answer since they are already on the internet. Deep learning pushes students to manipulate information, to draw meaning from themselves instead. Done properly, DL leads to high levels of student engagement because students are actively engaged in the learning process both within and outside of the classroom; after a DL classroom session students are still thinking even after the class is over. In this changing education system, whatever strategy we land on must inspire curiosity and creativity if K12 online learning is going to be effective in this country.