Looking Back and Looking Forward
Explore! Create! Share! These three words will stick in my mind forever as a result of my summer experience in the Master of Educational Technology program at Michigan State. Thinking about exploring, creating, and sharing in the context of education has helped me to make connections between these words, educational practices, and student learning. As I return to my classroom this fall I believe I will be a better teacher as I encourage students to explore, create, and share in meaningful learning experiences.
It is important for educators to explore and understand various educational theories in order to apply those theories in the classroom. Through many of the course readings this summer, I have become aware of many educational theories that will guide my educational practices in the classroom.
We started exploring and learning through the article, “What is learning and what does it look like when it doesn’t go well.” Lee Shulman states, “Any new learning must, in some fashion, connect with what learners already know …(and that) Learning is least useful when it is private and hidden; it is most powerful when it becomes public and communal (Shulman 1999).” In my classroom it is important to encourage students to make connections to their lives in the context of learning. One strategy that I have used in my elementary classroom is to have students draw a web of their knowledge on a certain topic in one color. Then we discuss what the students know about the topic, this being their prior knowledge. After the new material has been presented, I have students add on to their web in a new color illustrating all of the new information that they learned as a result of the lesson. This visual web helps students make connections between their prior knowledge and new knowledge. I need to guide students to understand their learning so that they will be able to share their knowledge and understandings in creative ways. When students learn material, if they can make a connection to their lives or understand how they will apply their knowledge in a real world setting, then the learning experience will stick with them.
Technology has always been a huge interest of mine and I have found that incorporating lessons that integrate technology into the curriculum always motivate students to learn and engage students in the learning process. “If educators are to repurpose tools and integrate them into their teaching, they require a specific kind of knowledge that we call technological pedagogical and content knowledge (TPACK) (Mirsha 2009).” Knowing that students are highly engaged by the use of technology in the classroom, as a teacher I need to creatively repurpose technology because, “most technologies that teachers use typically have not been designed for educational purposes (2009).” For example the use of blogs in the classroom can be used to help develop writing skills as well as encourage class participation. A student that is shy and never speaks up during class, may demonstrate a large amount of participation through the use of a blog. Even in the elementary classroom blogs could play a role in developing writing skills. One teacher shared some ideas for using a blog as an online journal or possibly a portfolio, showcasing student poems and various writing samples.
Our instructor, Dr. Punya Mishra modeled the use and repurposing of various technologies and how they could be used for educational purposes. For example our class used Facebook as a method of discussion and sharing with the whole class as well as in small groups. Many Google applications were brought into the class such as Google Docs, Google Presentation, and Google Sites. All of which were used for educational purposes. Our class explored using YouTube for sharing student created videos. Although YouTube is blocked in my district, I can use TeacherTube in the same way. One of my favorite applications was Delicious, which enables me to bookmark sites, tag them, and share them. As we used these applications in our graduate course, I began to brainstorm the possibilities for using these technologies at the elementary level.
Behaviorist theories were explored in the context of educational games. Many times I have found educational games to use in my classroom, however I have never analyzed the educational theory behind the game. It was interesting to see that games make use of many behavioral principles including classical conditioning, operant conditioning, positive and negative reinforcement, positive and negative punishment, reinforcement schedules, shaping, chaining, extinction, prompting, fading, and cueing. My group analyzed the behaviorisms present in the online multiplication game, “The Fantastic Fish Shop,” found at multiplication.com. Through the research of behaviorism and analyzing the game, I came to a more thorough understanding of this educational theory and how it is used to promote student learning. Because we were challenged by the assignment requiring that we present our findings through a creative use of technology, we had to think about our presentation choice to demonstrate the game. We chose to present our project by using a technology called Utipu, which allowed us to record a screen cast demonstrating the game and illustrating the behaviorisms.
In order to develop a greater understanding of the cognitive learning theories, we created a concept map. “Concept maps are graphical tools for organizing and representing knowledge. They include concepts, usually enclosed in circles or boxes of some type, and relationships between concepts indicated by a connecting line linking two concepts. Words on the line, referred to as linking words or linking phrases, specify the relationship between the two concepts (Novak and Canas ).” Developing concept maps produces meaningful learning. There are three conditions that must be present in order for meaningful leaning to take place. “The material to be learned must be conceptually clear and presented with language and examples relatable to the learner’s prior knowledge…The learner must possess relevant prior knowledge… The learner must choose to learn meaningfully (Novak and Cana).” Therefore as a concept map is created, students can demonstrate their knowledge and/or misconceptions, and they can be used as either learning tools or evaluation tools. This project also made us aware of the various concept map software that is available such as Inpriration, Bubbl.us, and X-mind. Although many students reported that the Bubbl.us software was difficult to use, I think that it would be beneficial to use in an elementary setting, because of the programs simplicity. As we worked on this project I also came across another free web based concept map software at mywebspiration.com, which seemed very similar to the Inspiration software, which is not free.
Technology was integrated into a physics experiment to determine where a ball would fall when dropped from various places including standing still, walking, running, being rolled off a surface, and dropped off a surface. As we experimented, we video taped, and then created a movie using Windows MovieMaker. This process enabled us to experience learning through questioning, exploring, creating, and sharing. “To support children’s learning in science, teachers must be willing to try to understand the ideas and formulations children have made and are making and to guide their instruction accordingly. This means the teacher accepts and supports a wide variety of views and encourages real dialogue and debate among the children. This also means creating a rich physical and social leaning environment in which new questions, explorations, and investigations can arise, and in which every step is not dictated (Worth).” In my classroom I plan to integrate video into the science curriculum in order to foster a creative learning environment in which students are challenged to experiment, question, and explore content.
One article that I found to be interesting was “Caution-Praise Can be Dangerous.” Carol Dweck states that, “Giving students easy tasks and praising their success tells students that they are dumb.” She says that, “A better approach would be to apologize for wasting their time with something that was too easy, and move them to something more challenging (1999).” The district that I work for promotes differentiated learning in the classroom. Many times during the day students are working on various levels of work. I think that I do work very hard to find ways to challenge my students, however I had never thought that praising successes for completing an easy task could be hurting the student.
Our class explored learning and teaching with cognitive tools on the web. Specifically we learned about Jing, Voicethread, Ning, ManyEyes, Google Earth, and Scratch. Our group explored Scratch, which is a programming language that allows students to create animations, stories, or games. This activity required us to be very self-directed in our learning, because we had to research the software and teach ourselves how to use the programming language in Scratch. Because of the method in which we learned about the program, I feel that I have a deeper understanding of Scratch. In my classroom I want to create lessons that will encourage students to be self-directed in their learning as well. This type of learning leads to a deeper understanding of material. “Outside of school, learning almost always takes place within the context of purposeful activity: people learn because they need to know how to do something important, and they can see examples of what it looks like to accomplish those tasks (Levstik and Barton 1997).” I believe that purposeful learning causes one to become self-directed in their learning. Therefore I believe that it is important to make learning purposeful in the classroom in order to instill this value in students.
It took me quite some time to reflect on all of the learning theories and new technologies that we learned about and decide on what to incorporate into my “Dream It” grant proposal. I wanted to create a lesson that encouraged collaboration, problem solving, a connection to the real world, and the integration of technology. I also wanted to propose a piece of technology that would be beneficial to our school. I decided to write a grant asking for a Smartboard. The project that I am proposing has students working in collaborative teams to solve mathematic problems and take part in interactive math activities. Student teams will use Smartboard technology to present projects and strategies. This technology will enable the students to capture their thought processes, which then will be used to create video, Powerpoints, or other multi-media presentations to share their presentations globally.
What makes this project different is the global connection students will encounter as they share their work with peers around the world. Mathematic problems or activities will be posted for each grade level on a webpage created at Elms Road Elementary. This webpage will invite students from around the world to solve the problem or take part in the activity, and share the process in which the problem was solved through video, PowerPoint, or other digital form of media, which will then be uploaded to the website. Students will then have the opportunity to view numerous projects that demonstrate various strategies and approaches for solving the same problem. Students will also be able to view how different groups of students might present a math activity in a different and creative format.
As I continue in my professional career I plan to strive to be an exceptional teacher. In doing this I am setting up a personal learning plan and network.
I am interested in keeping up on new technologies and discovering new ways to integrate them into the curriculum. To meet this goal I have set up an iGoogle page to collect feeds from various sources. At this time I have subscribed to Alan November’s blog and podcast series. I have also added Floyd Braid’s Blog to this page as well. One of the most powerful methods of keeping up on new technologies in the context of education is to connect with other teachers. To follow inspirational teachers, I have set up a Delicious account in which I can tag webpages created by teachers. To keep up on new technologies, throughout the school year I plan to attend workshops at our local intermediate school district to learn more about using the new ITV (interactive television) room that is being installed in our building this summer.
Another area of education that I am interested in is grant writing. Similarly to many schools, the school that I work at is working with a very tight budget. Over the next few years, I do not see our district investing money in technology equipment. Because I feel that integrating technology plays a critical role in developing 21st Century citizens, I will need to write for grants to obtain the equipment that I feel is crucial. To seek out grant providers I plan to read the NEA and MEA magazines. Both of these resources often post grants. I plan to research the possibility of obtaining grants from well-known businesses such as Walmart, Target, and Best Buy. Of course through collaboration with teachers and administrators in our district, I may become aware of various grant opportunities. I have also found a number of webstis that list grants. As I have been researching grants, I have found that it is difficult to find one that matches with the needs and qualifications of my school district.
This coming year will be my first year teaching only technology to students in grades K-5. It is my goal to integrate academic material into the technology curriculum. I want to provide my students with meaningful and creative experiences that will enable them to understand their understanding. The classes that I have taken in the Master of Educational Technology program have given me numerous ideas to incorporate into my classroom that are based on pedagogical educational theory.
Barton K. and Levstik L. (1997). Doing History: Investigating With Children in Elementary and Middle Schools. (9-13).
Dweck, C. (1999). Caution: Praise Can Be Dangerous. American Educator, 23(1), 4-9.
Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2009, May). Too Cool for School? No Way! Learning & Leading with Technology, (36)7. 14-18.
Novak, J. &Canas, A.
(2008). The Theory Underlying
Concept Maps and How to Construct and Use Them.
Worth, K. The Power of Children’s Thinking.