If I could go back in time and design my own learning environment what would I create for myself, knowing what I know about education today?

VIU Fisheries & Aquaculture students learning how to sort oysters from one of the Deep Bay Marine Station’s rafts. (Photo credit: K. Leask) (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) 

Too much of student’s learning time is spent sitting in desks staring at exercise sheets, books, or computers, and the students are often either struggling to keep up with the class or bored to distraction. If I could take what I now know about learning and teaching back in time and create a learning environment for learners of all ages I would build a more active, experiential program with students’ progress laddered to accommodate individual learning styles. I don’t know how I would accomplish this idyllic learning scenario with a class ratio of thirty students to one teacher but if I could take modern technology back in time with me I think using mobile electronic devices, Wi-Fi, and the internet might facilitate both the experiential learning and the individualized learning programs.
I wouldn’t have believed how effective a learning tool an electronic device such as a tablet computer could be in a very hands-on and physically active course if I hadn’t seen it in action in the Forestry Program at VIU. Students are required to purchase an iPad as part of their course supplies but don’t have to buy any textbooks because each iPad contains a virtual library of forestry references and is GPS-enabled so it can be used for navigating in the woods, collecting field data and participating in classroom activities. Having ready access to course information, the World Wide Web, and word processing programs and other forms of recording, would facilitate reflection by the students on their learning.
Students could acquire the knowledge and some skills through online educational programming, with face-to-face teacher or tutor support, and progress to the experiential components and through the course would be competency-based. This fusion of experiential learning with online learning and competency-based achievement would fall into the flipped classroom model of blended learning as described in Horn and Staker (2014). Accommodating individual learning styles and progress in a course with a large experiential component conducted with student peer interaction, would be more difficult to schedule in a small class than in a very large one since a minimum number of students, at or near the same competency level, would be needed to carry out activities.
I haven’t come across any successful examples of this kind of learning environment but I’m hoping to get some ideas from Horn & Staker’s (2014) Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools so stay tuned.
Horn, M.B. & Staker, H. (2014). Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.