Patrick Larkin
Patrick Larkin

Patrick Larkin: Changing the Learning Environment

patricklarkinPatrick Larkin, Assistant Superintendent for Learning, Burlington Public School District, Burlington, Massachusetts, talks about changing the learning environment.

Connect Learning Today: Patrick, how do you see the conflict between traditional classroom notions and the tablet environment?

Patrick Larkin: Traditionalists see a classroom whenever we talk about a learning environment. And classroom spaces are fine, but if we insert tablets into our classrooms, but the learning environment is the same, I think we’ve wasted our money on those resources. I think we need to know what tablets allow us to do, and how we can have different learning environments.

CLT: Patrick, what should the conversations be at this point?

Patrick Larkin: The great thing is that learning environments shouldn’t look like just one thing. We need to look at what a learning environment should look like for each group of students, or one particular student. Because we have these web-enabled devices in our hands, we can differentiate in ways we never thought possible. We’re talking about blended learning addressing an individual’s needs, as well as asynchronous learning opportunities. The conversation needs to continue, especially for those of us who never had these opportunities in our own learning experiences. We need to almost unlearn what we’ve done previously to open our minds up to the capabilities here. That’s why the kids are a great resource.  These are the conversations we’re having, and they are the most exciting conversations you can have.

CLT: How can tablets change the way students are assessed?

Patrick Larkin: There are all sorts of resources on tablets to do quick checks to see how students are progressing. In the past, it was a bit cumbersome doing formative assessments with pencil and paper, look at them, and get ready for the next day. Having the tablets in the hands of every student allows teachers to get that formative assessment at the click of a button. And you get more interaction with kids that might be passive in class or less confident to give feedback—you’ll get that feedback from them every day when they have that tablet in their hands.

CLT: Patrick, is there anything else you’d like to say about learning environments?

Patrick Larkin: So, the question of learning environments is one of the most important questions learning communities need to deal with. And it needs to be a question parents are looking at, students are looking at, and obviously teachers, because the way we’ve done business traditionally was the classroom and environment set up in neat little rows with one individual at the front. The fact of the matter is, we should be looking at learner-centered environments, not teacher-centered environments, where teachers and students are learners together. And having tablets, or a web-enabled device in the hands of the learners in a learning environment, which could be a classroom space, or an online space, or a blend—allows all kinds of different opportunities that we’ve never thought of, especially people of my generation that didn’t have these opportunities as learners.

Ken Royal

Ken Royal is an educator with 34 years of classroom/school and instructional technology teaching experience, as well as a blogger on all things education and education technology. Teaching accomplishments include: 4-time district teacher of the year, Connecticut Middle School Teacher of the Year, as well as Bill and Melinda Gates award for Technology School of Excellence. He is an Education storyteller. Follow @KenRoyal on Twitter.
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