What is the difference between active and passive learning?

In a stu­dent-cen­tered active learn­ing mod­el, a stu­dent will imme­di­ate­ly apply a new con­cept to the real world, using hands-on lessons and shar­ing their obser­va­tions and expe­ri­ences. With active learn­ing, stu­dents are more direct­ly involved in the learn­ing process, giv­ing them a deep­er, con­cep­tu­al under­stand­ing of the top­ic at hand.

In a more tra­di­tion­al, teacher-cen­tered pas­sive learn­ing mod­el, stu­dents absorb knowl­edge from an instruc­tor or text­book by lis­ten­ing to a lec­ture or read­ing an assigned chap­ter. Stu­dents will only inter­act with the mate­r­i­al by tak­ing notes or test­ing com­pre­hen­sion with quizzes and exams.

Benefits of active learning over passive learning

With pas­sive learn­ing, instruc­tors are able to intro­duce a broad­er range of infor­ma­tion over a short­er peri­od of time. How­ev­er, active learn­ing is pre­ferred for infor­ma­tion reten­tion and stu­dent engage­ment. Active learn­ing allows stu­dents to take charge of their own edu­ca­tion, push­ing them out of their com­fort zone of pas­sive note tak­ing into an active role of col­lab­o­rat­ing with peers, shar­ing their own obser­va­tions and thoughts, and fig­ur­ing out the solu­tions to prob­lems for themselves.

An active learn­ing style not only keeps stu­dents more focused and engaged than a pas­sive lec­ture style—it also encour­ages them to flex their cre­ative mus­cles, helps them think crit­i­cal­ly, makes them more like­ly to be able to recall infor­ma­tion when they need to, and bet­ter pre­pares them for a career.

What role can edtech play in active learning?

Here’s a hand­ful of ways edu­ca­tion­al tech­nol­o­gy can help you trans­form your K‑12 or high­er ed class­room into an active learn­ing environment.

1. Break down barriers.

Dis­rupt the typ­i­cal mod­el of teach­ers at the front of the class­room and stu­dents seat­ed at the back by allow­ing every­one to roam. With a wire­less doc­u­ment cam­era or writ­ing cast­ing device, teach­ers can approach stu­dents at their desks and allow them to share their work or inter­act with the material. 

Or, you can invite stu­dents to the front to manip­u­late objects on a flatbed doc­u­ment cam­era, give a pre­sen­ta­tion with an inter­ac­tive podi­um, and work togeth­er on an inter­ac­tive pan­el.

2. Start a conversation.

By con­duct­ing a poll using an audi­ence response sys­tem, teach­ers can spark a dis­cus­sion or even a debate among stu­dents that allows them to flex their crit­i­cal think­ing skills and broad­ens their perspectives.

3. Let the student be the teacher.

An inter­ac­tive dis­play with anno­ta­tion soft­ware allows teach­ers to write notes over any­thing, from doc­u­ments to web pages and videos. Invit­ing stu­dents up in turn to make notes dur­ing class dis­cus­sions will allow them to engage more direct­ly with the mate­r­i­al and stay focused. The stu­dent des­ig­nat­ed as teacher can help guide the dis­cus­sion by offer­ing their own input.

The same thing can be accom­plished using an inter­ac­tive podi­um with touch and anno­ta­tion abil­i­ties, or even a doc­u­ment cam­era.

4. Make learning collaborative.

In some high­er ed class­rooms, stu­dents have already tak­en the ini­tia­tive to cre­ate a shared Google Doc among their class­mates for note tak­ing. Teach­ers can har­ness this same spir­it of col­lab­o­ra­tion to bring life to lec­tures. By shar­ing your Google Docs and Google Slides used in class, you can give stu­dents the oppor­tu­ni­ty to weigh in by writ­ing ques­tions and com­ments about the mate­r­i­al. Soft­ware like Xim­bus gets every­one on the same page with Google col­lab­o­ra­tion tools. 

5. Encourage sharing.

Stu­dents can share com­plet­ed home­work, pre­sen­ta­tions, art­work, and any­thing else that might con­tribute to class-wide learn­ing and dis­cus­sion on a sin­gle large dig­i­tal dis­play using screen cast­ing. Some inter­ac­tive dis­plays allow mul­ti­ple stu­dents to project their screens at the same time.

Con­tact us for more ideas about using edtech to make your class­room more inter­ac­tive! At QOMO we’ve been devel­op­ing inter­ac­tive tech­nolo­gies to encour­age col­lab­o­ra­tion in class­rooms and meet­ing rooms for near­ly 20 years.

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