Make the Learning Experience more immersive — Personal experiences in the classroom

If the words, ‘But when will we ever actually need to know this?’ ring true in your classroom, then perhaps it’s time to take a look at your teaching methods, and make your classroom context that little bit more immersive and personal to learners.

Much like a one-sided conversation, learning can often comprise of one person describing a situation, blissfully unaware that the person on the other end is desperately trying to make connections to what you are saying. So often, you will hear silence up until the point that the listener blurts out ‘Oh, I’ve been there / read that / eaten those!’ and it’s this same principle that we need to instill within our teaching to make the topics instantly more engaging.

This is natural behaviour for us, because many emotion-memory interactions occur right from the initial coding of the memory, through to the long-term retrieval. But what exactly does this mean for your students? Well, put simply, learners need to attach new information that they are learning to existing knowledge, experience or emotion. Without this, it simply won’t stick as easily.

One way to ensure this, is to encourage students to become metacognitive, or to know about knowing. This way, they will actively seek to recognise patterns and connect the dots themselves. Until then, we need to incorporate methods which facilitate this personal relevance. Traditionally, this was done in a number of ways, including the classic, “If you become an Architect…” or “If you ever find yourself in the situation where you need to work out the angle of a…”

Although this could instill some sense of fear or intrigue, today’s youth have a new power at their fingertips. Their smart phones. Our students are suddenly catapulted towards a wealth of knowledge and apps which do not only remind them how they can do something, but do it for them. Long gone are the days where simply telling students that they’ll need to know how to work out percentages for the next sale they go to will suffice. Without relying on their memory, they will naturally disengage with this.

Students need a new take on this. They need an emotional investment in what they are learning, not as a future possibility, but relevant to their everyday lives now.

There are a few methods that teachers use to ensure this — One of them being humour. Obviously, we don’t expect these to be stand alone teaching methods, but this context setting may be all that the students need to be able to recall the lesson, to make those connections and succeed in the exam.

This humour is something that we are seeing increasingly in companies, and although we don’t need to recall products or companies in an exam situation, this marketing strategy is a clever one that still allow users to make those connections, and further bring it up in conversation. Take innovative app, City Mapper, for example. They are a free app, which seek every transport route in London, the time, cost and alternatives. Not only is it fantastically simple to use (just as every classroom explanation should be), but it also has an element of fun, by comparing the calories you’ll burn from the journeys you choose to walk or cycle, to the equivalent in macarons, bacon butties or lettuce leaves that you could eat.

So this got us thinking…

  • What if we could get students to see the importance of grammar and punctuation in the same way, when Siri doesn’t respond to their voice commands?
  • What if our future developers could see early on how there is not an answer on Google for things that have not yet been created?
  • What if you could work out the rate per minute that a curl in a hair would drop, with and without hairspray, or at different temperatures?
  • What if we could show students how to work out the optimum time of the day to get the most retweets, looking historically at their data?

The more inventive, and still somehow ordinary, the better.