How active learning spaces support an evolving pedagogy

How active learning spaces support an evolving pedagogy

Writable walls! Round tables in the classroom to facilitate collaboration! Spaces outside the physical classroom (using a variety of technologies to support learning and create connections with the world)!




Millennials. I have written about, participated in workshops about, designed and facilitated training on millennials, and watched my own three millennial daughters over the years. Understanding millennials is a fascinating and valuable conversation to have as we consider who our learners are to ensure that our practices reach them.

I watched my 23 year old daughter with some of her engineering classmates this weekend in a study group at our home. As peered across the room watching them with their laptops and their smartphones, along with a few iPods even, I was consciously aware of the amazing multi-tasking capabilities and constant information exchange of these young digital does tech affect you

A recent conversation with a colleague about our 21st century learners sparked some ideas that I want to share with others in terms of our millennials learners. These learners were born between 1980 and 2000 and have never known a world without the internet. They are known as “Generation Y” or “Digital Natives” or the “Net Generation”. Their main characteristics are:

  • tech savvy
  • visual
  • creative
  • value teamwork
  • multi-taskers
  • socially conscious
  • want learning to be student-centered and fun.

As we think about how to connect our teaching practices with our millennial generation, consider some of these characteristics.

Now as we begin to look at Generation Z, those born between 1995-2010, we see other characteristics arise that are important to understand. These college students have grown up in a recession and view the world with responsibility in social change, independence, and realistic views about college and following careers, while having creative and innovative mindsets.

Key resources:

  • Millennial Students: Insights From Generational Theory and Learning Science, by Michele DiPietro.
  • Why Don’t My Students Think I’m Groovy?: The New “R”s for Engaging Millennial Learners by Christy Price.
  • Pew Research Center
  • New Science of Learning: How to Learn in Harmony with Your Brain, by Todd Zakrajsek and Terry Doyle (written for students, but a great read for educators, too!)
  • Generation Z Goes to College, by Corey Seemiller and Meghan Grace


Serious About Ed Tech? Tidbits for thought…

A recent blog post on the idea that we would do a variety of things “if we we were really serious about educational technology” inspired me to think of other paths we might take to pave the way for further support of educational technologies to create 21st Century learners in a digital world.


  • How can we provide real-world learning experiences to prepare our learners with skills and competence in a globalized society where technology pervades throughout? It is is true that technology is fundamentally changing the way we live and work. If this is true, then why wouldn’t we weave technology throughout the educational experience in ways that are both meaningful and relevant.
  • In higher education, in particular, it is important to first look at the campus culture in relation to technology as it has a powerful influence over academic transformation (Brown, 2015). How are our students already using technology in their informal learning? How do faculty feel about the use of technology in the ‘classroom’? How does the administration view technology? This is key to understanding where and how to begin our work so that we create a shared vision of a learner-centered environment that not only supports the 21st century skills/experience, but encourages them. This can only come with institutional support of innovation in both pedagogy and technology
  • Communities of practice can be instrumental in building confidence and allowing time/space to explore.
  • Include students in exploration! This not only gets at the heart of what we are doing, but provides further experience for the learners.
  • Create a governance group that is active in looking at emerging technologies to find their value in learning and teaching, while also providing ‘voices’ in academic technology integration, knowing that we can’t always do everything.
  • Last in the tidbits, but certainly not the end or least important, is the overarching idea that technology for technology sake is not the focus here. Technology as it supports the learning and teaching is the focus.


M. B. (2015, November 11). 7 Things to Know About Leading Academic Transformation | NextGen Learning. EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. Retrieved April 02, 2016, from