Using the cloud to make learning fun

Jim Baker

Jim Baker, a self-identifying maverick, is a teacher of over 40 years who doesn’t take himself too seriously. He has written for the Guardian, and prides himself on finding the best teaching methods for each student. The majority of his career was spent as a chemistry teacher at Lincoln Christ's Hospital School; during his time there, he reached the final 13 in the Salter's ‘Chemistry Teacher of the Year’ award. He is a freelance educational consultant, and acted as Chemistry Expert for The Chemistry Journey Project’s Virtual School Initiative. He is a contributory author of Teaching Secondary Science, Constructing Meaning and Developing Understanding, 4th Edition BlogFacebook | YouTube |

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I must begin by giving my definition of ‘learning’. Learning is not remembering facts in order to pass an examination: learning is understanding. By understanding, the learning is not forgotten. The times I have heard it said “you must learn this” is countless when, in fact, what should be said is “you must understand this”.

"Learners must take ownership and be in control of their learning; only when they are in control can they manage their learning and make it fun."

As you can imagine, in my 43 years at the ‘chalkface’ I have seen a lot of changes in education, many not for the better. One change I have noticed in chemistry is the syllabus content. Back in the 70s, fewer topics were covered but in greater depth. It was this depth that added to the understanding. Nowadays, more topics are covered, but many only superficially.

The title is a bit of a contradiction, as for learning to happen it must be fun. If the learners do not enjoy their learning, it doesn’t happen. So, this begs the question; ‘How do we make learning fun?’ Firstly, the learners must take ownership and be in control of their learning. Only when they are in control can they manage their learning and make it fun. As I have said in previous articles, when asked my job I say entertainer, not teacher, as when the learners are entertained it is fun and so they learn. We must abolish the false premise that ‘with teaching comes learning’: learning, as described above, infrequently follows conventional teaching.

Teachers, often incorrectly, assume that what they teach is understood by the learners. In order to understand, learners often need to go over the material again and sometimes again and again for it to make sense. In a conventional lesson, if a learner does not understand something early on in the lesson ‘the first time round’, whatever follows is also ‘lost’. This problem of not being able to ‘rewind’ the teacher is overcome by having resources in the cloud. Ideally, learners research their next lesson from the resources (often videos / animations) in the cloud (see my article The Way Forward: Changing how we teach our students). By doing this they are able to ‘rewind’ as many times as necessary for them to understand. Once the learners understand and can make sense of the material, they gain in confidence and want to learn more.

They then arrive at their lesson enthusiastic as they are prepared. Other advantages of ‘learning from the cloud’ are:

  • Cloud resources can be accessed 24/7/365 – unlike the resources that are left in the classroom – so learning can also happen 24/7/365.
  • A variety of resources, for the same topic, can be put in the cloud to cater for the different types of learner. 
  • Learners take ownership and are able to control their learning.

I’ll finish by saying that many of the discipline problems in schools arise because the learners do not feel ownership of their learning. They are constantly fed information which they are not given time to make sense of, as what happens in the classroom is focused on meeting targets and not on making learning fun.

Do you use the cloud in your work? Share your experiences below.

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