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Authentic Learning with Technology Series

Dr. Sarah Pazur


While many Michigan educators were enjoying a snow day sipping hot chocolate in their pajamas, the Future of Learning Council members were hard at work examining student performance tasks for evidence of deeper learning. On January 25th, 2023 over 40 educators met in person and online to engage in a common conversation around deeper learning and more effective technology implementation through the lens of the Authentic Learning with Technology (ALT) model. When it comes to the future of learning, there’s no rest for the wicked!

Dr. Leah McConaughey from the Urban Learning Institute led the first workshop in a three-part series on providing students with authentic and meaningful learning tasks; she challenged participants to calibrate their collective understanding of acquisition, application, and transfer tasks, and ask ourselves tough questions about the quality and depth of learning experiences offered in our own buildings. 

Educators reviewed samples of student work through these three lenses, and co-constructed meaning around the shift from “aquire” to “transfer.” Dr. McConaughey modeled the workshop after this continuum of learning, helping the FLC understand the purpose and value of engaging students in all three types of learning tasks, with the goal of giving students the opportunity to transfer their knowledge in new and novel situations. 

Once we acquired knowledge of the differences between acquire and transfer tasks, and created meaning around these terms, we engaged in dialogue around Dr. McConaughey’s Authentic Learning With Technology model (ALTmodel). The ALTmodel (pictured below) added another layer of complexity to the discourse on deeper learning. We wondered: Are we incorporating technology with purpose or just replicating worksheet-learning on a digital platform? Participants teased out the different ways technology is often implemented in K-12 classrooms, and how learning becomes so much more dynamic when technology is not used as a mere substitution for traditional learning, rather the means by which students redefine processes and procedures or solve difficult problems. 

The workshop concluded with self-reflection. Participants were asked to bring photos of student assignments and map them along the acquisition—> transfer continuum. The FLC members had several revelations as they analyzed their students’ work against this new teaching and learning framework. This exercise primed the conversation for the second of three workshops, which will take place on February 15th, 2023 at the Michigan Virtual Campus. Session Two will ask members to think about school from the student perspective and establish empathy for how students engage with their learning. Dr. McConaughey will teach participants a simple, replicable process for increasing authenticity and application of student work in their core content areas. 

The culminating session is scheduled for March 22, 2023 where participants will reflect on the implementation of their transfer task and student responses to the work. The group will celebrate their successes with other districts, then plan to scale this with a large audience in their own learning communities. The FLC is so fortunate to have access to Dr. McConaughey’s resources and brilliant insights. It’s not too late to join the conversation! Contact Dave Richards at drichards@michiganvirtual.org for more information regarding membership in the Future of Learning Council. 

Image from: 

“Creating a Model and Professional Learning to Support the Design of Authentic Student Learning Tasks”