Category Archives: Free Agent Learner

Free Agent Learners Revisited

Back in 2009, I read an article on The Journal website called, “Students as ‘Free Agent’ Learners“. This line of thinking about how people learn stopped me in my tracks (hence the name of this blog).  If you haven’t read the article, please take the time. It’s good.

In 2009, I was a coordinator of an online language school. I worked with forward thinking school districts and parents who wanted to provide opportunities for their students/children to learn a Less Commonly Taught Language (LCTL) in a dynamic, synchronous, web-based environment.  It’s been almost 7 years since that time and the idea of learning a language this way in public schools is still revolutionary. Revolutionary ideas take a while to gestate, to proliferate out to the masses.

I still think the Free Agent Learner idea is forward thinking. Julie Evans, CEO of Project Tomorrow, coined the term to describe the trend for students to use technology to take charge of their own educational destinies.

What were some of the major concepts of that article?

Digital Disconnects

From the article, “There continues to be a digital disconnect, shall we say, between the way students are learning and living outside of school and the way they’re interacting with technology inside of school”. The article goes on to describe how students have to power down when going into school. When they come out, they power back up. There is a “disconnect in the way students are viewing technology from the adults in their educational lives”. Has this changed since 2009?  I would say that this has changed in various schools across the nation. However,  I would estimate a large percentage of students would give the same answer today if asked these same questions.

Students saw significant obstacles to using technology such as blocked websites, students banned from using their own devices. Does your school still block websites that students should have access to? Does your school ban cell phones? If so, students would answer the same way as they did in 2009.

In 2009, student technology trends are gaming, downloading music, communications activities (text, IM, e-mail) and social networking.  If these tech trends are still valid in 2016, how are we leveraging them in our classroom? Are students still disconnected when they enter our school doors?

The article concludes with discussing the “free agent learner” concept.

“This free agent learner is one that is technology-enabled, technology-empowered, and technology-engaged to be…an important part of driving their own educational destiny. To some extent they feel…it’s a responsibility. They also feel it’s a right to be able to do that. So technology has enabled this free agent learner. We the opportunity in education to make sure they’re on the right track and to be supportive of their learning experiences.”