Bridging Formal to Lifelong Learning
Many schools are now winding down another year of teaching and learning. This is a great time for teachers and students to reflect on past work and to plan for future experiences that will lead them on to greater knowledge, skills, and accomplishments.
Finals are over.
My own reflections center on the fact that now, more than ever, continual learning is critical to success. We are moving from an era of 'universal schooling' to an era of 'lifelong learning,' where learning not only happens continually, but anywhere, and is self-selected for learner's needs.1 We don’t have to look any further than the classroom to see that this is made possible in large part by the Internet; ask the class a question, and students are more likely to Google the answer than look it up in their textbook.
As a teacher, this leads me to ask, how can I guide my students toward critical use of the open web? 2 How can I help them gain independence as connected learners
How can I help them move between formal and informal learning environments in a way that’s productive and fulfilling?
In the first two decades of the web, this has been a challenge because formal educational technologies resulted in--surprise!--formal educational experiences. Applied to classroom learning, the walled garden metaphor began to look like a rusty cage compared to the possibilities for real-world learning on the open web. As both an innovative LMS and an open, web-based learning platform, Canvas bridges the gap between traditional and transformative learning.
We can help students learn to reach beyond the walls of the formal classroom to engage in personally relevant lifelong learning. Here are some ways Canvas lets you bridge that gap:
This is a bridge.
- Choose your communication channels. The Internet isn't just a place we go; it's an activity we engage in anywhere, anytime, and with our own tools. Tune your Canvas Profile and Notifications settings so you can receive and respond to messages, discussions, news, and more via email, phone, or social media.
- Bring in authentic content from the open web. Contextualize learning objectives with multimedia from the open web that is most efficient for the topic. In Canvas, anyone can find and share openly-licensed images on Flickr, videos from YouTube, or multimedia from other sites. Go beyond the most popular services and integrate with a open content repositories with LTI-based 'plug-outs'.
- Syndicate news and blogs. Showing students the breadth and depth of ongoing research and discussion outside the classroom can lead to habits of lifelong learning and exploration. Many web sites with dynamic content provide feeds that Canvas can subscribe to. Or, bring in custom Google Reader bundles to post new articles as Announcements.
- Create with real-world tools. Students can take advantage of the tools they already use for creating and learning. For example, Canvas facilitates group collaboration through direct integration with Google Docs or Etherpad. Canvas can help you optimize collaborative bookmarking and research through its integration with Diigo. Assignments allow students to go beyond file upload to submit individual or group work directly from their favorite cloud-based tools.
- Develop digital identities. Building and maintaining our own digital space allows us to showcase our work and grow our network of friends and colleagues. If students don’t already have their own web site or blog, they can easily publish coursework to a Canvas ePortfolio. Canvas also acknowledges and supports the use of real blogs, and makes managing and archiving these outworld services simple for teachers. For instance, URL Assignments let students create on their own blog or web site, while capturing a snapshot of that web page for record keeping.
- Extend access to learning. How would you like it if Facebook reset your account every 15 weeks? That's kind of what happens to the online communities that grow in the traditional LMS. Canvas allows you to handle this differently, including support for open publishing of the course, as well as groups that can form organically and extend beyond the course.
One of my favorite university professors once confessed, “I don’t teach. I open doors.” This analogy suggests that learning is not just something we 'get' in a specific place like the classroom; learning is increasingly something we participate in wherever we go.
1 Collins, A., & Halverson, R. (2009). Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology:
The Digital Revolution and Schooling in America. Teachers College Press.
2 Levasseur, Aran. (2011). Learning in a Digital Age: Teaching a Different Kind of Literacy. MediaShift, October 4, 2011. Retrieved May 7, 2012 from
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