Learning Supported by Digital Tools: MOCA

Using technology to support instruction continues to be a challenge that is tackled by schools and classrooms everywhere. How do we ensure that the focus is on the student learning, and not on the digital tool? One answer is to begin with the “Learning” and find the tools that support that outcome.

Learning through Technology Guide: MOCA

MOCA is a frame for identifying how learning could be supported by digital tools. Each level is valuable to the learning process. It is important for educators to be intentional about what level is the best need for student achievement at any given time. It is also necessary to review and reflect on practice for ensuring that students experience all levels, especially Collaborative Learning and Authentic Learning.

  • Managed Learning
  • Orchestrated Learning
  • Collaborative Learning
  • Authentic Learning

Managed Learning

Schools and teachers use management systems and tools to keep track of assignments, grades, and announcements. Communications to students, parents, and other stakeholders might also be included in such online platforms. Some examples include Schoology, Google Classroom, Blackboard, and Canvas. Students use these platforms to get assignments, submit work, and access files for learning tasks. Teachers manage these platforms, as well as monitor student growth and progress. Teachers maintain control of the processes and usage of the platform tools to manage the learning experiences.

Orchestrated Learning

Teachers are the orchestra directors of turning curriculum into learning experiences. They structure and provide assignments that students complete to grow academically. The tasks may vary from completing research, virtual lab experiments, posting responses to a discussion board, watching video tutorials, and completing foundational tasks through learning centers or stations. Students mostly work individually or with a teacher. Small group learning tends to be teacher structures for building knowledge or applying ideas. The teacher runs the show, while students follow their lead. Some examples include:

  • a group might jigsaw researching a topic and then filling out an online form or discussion board that everyone has access to.
  • the class practices a review of content through team play using a tool like Kahoot.
  • a virtual field trip is provided to the class to view sights and listen to virtual guide.

Collaborative Learning

Students lead the learning at this level of practice. Teachers plan a learning experience that empowers and requires students to be in charge of the work. Collaborative learning is based on where students’ skills are currently, then uses digital tools to support their growth individually and/or through the support of a peer team. Such student-centered work enables the teacher to facilitate thinking and coach growth that is personalized to each learner. Some examples include:

  • students participate in virtual centers or stations that include tasks that challenge learners based on their skill levels. Students are assigned a series of tasks with some choice of which ones to do.
  • teams use a collaborative space such as a shared google folder with docs for capturing meeting notes and/or slides and forms for crafting presentations based on survey data.
  • students attend a virtual field trip as part of gathering research notes. The experience includes a question session where students make deeper connections about the concepts based on the responses to their inquiries.
  • students participate in an online critique session (ie. Google Docs, Slides, or Hangout) about peer artifacts. The comment feature is used to post likes and suggested changes. Outside experts might be included in the feedback protocol.

Authentic Learning

Make learning public, and students will understand the value of the learning beyond subject curriculum. Students express their voice on issues and ideas that come from the world beyond their classroom, even at times beyond their building. Making learning public is important for students to understand the connections between the academic expectations and the applications to real world practices. These experiences include:

  • publication of student work on an online website such as a classroom blog, school webpage, or outside organization website.
  • stream student presentations through Youtube on topics that are meaningful to the local community and other audiences.
  • Facilitate a discussion with a public audience using an online discussion board, Google Hangout, Zoom, or Twitter Chat.

Here are some of tools to explore:

  • Blogs: Blogger (Google), WordPress, Edublog, Weebly
  • Wikis: WikiDot, Google Sites, PBWorks EduHub
  • Social Media: Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Vimeo
  • Classroom Platforms: Schoology, Google Classroom, Blackboard CourseSites
  • Podcasts: iTunes and Spotify
  • Live Stream presentations: Youtube or Twitter

There is much attention paid to Managed and Orchestrated Learning when using Blended Learning. This could be attributed to the understanding that for many teachers Blended Learning is a fairly new instructional approach. As learners, educators, like any profession, tend to start with what can be done without changing too much the practices that have brought them success. What has been accomplished by teachers with Managed and Orchestrated Learning is an important achievement of change in itself; yet these accomplishments should not be an end goal.

Time for Change is Now

Today’s students are ready to use digital tools for complex and collaborative learning experiences and to have a voice in the world beyond their schools. Educators with some Blended Learning practices can leverage what they’ve learned combined with student understanding of the digital world, ie. online gaming, social media, and news sites, to hone deep learning experiences through Collaborative Learning and Authentic Learning. Give students voice and practice with tackling 21st Century Learning tasks for public audiences. Start with the early years, and the result will be a new crop of students who are deeply skilled to do so much more than any previous generation.

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