Sunday, April 25, 2010
At the start of this course, as we just began learning and reviewing the theories of learning, we put forth our “Personal Theory of Learning” to clarify what we do in the classroom and why we believe that these actions are best practice for our students. I wrote at length about my personal beliefs about what students need to know and how they learn, focusing on Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences to create variety in the delivery of material and creating connections within and beyond the content to solidify understanding and meaning, via the use of discovery, analogies, and comparisons. These comments and practices directly align with cognitive learning theory and connectivism, which state that students must make connections to learn and retain information and must integrate new knowledge by relating it to their current understanding and knowledge breadth (Laureate Education, Inc., 2009a, Laureate Education, Inc., 2009b). They also begin to incorporate aspects of constructivism and constructionism as students are asked to create a new working understanding of concepts. In retrospect and in light of our course content, I would have put greater focus on the need for students to create something tangible or presentable while learning. Constructionist theories that suggest that students best learn when they create and/or do (Laureate Education, Inc., 2009c) are apt, and our studies reminded me of times when I do employ these tactics and reinvigorated me to incorporate “creating” throughout more of my lessons. Students have responded well when I have provided opportunities for playing with concepts and constructing their own understanding. My own educational experiences have shown me the benefits of “doing” and working with concepts and I want to provide the same encounters for my students.
Beyond the way I teach, I also referenced how technology is and is not incorporated into my class experience. Though technology is present in the ways I create my lessons and in the supplements I provide, blog site, multimedia, etc., I must acknowledge that much of the technology in my classroom is used and created by me. Too often in my classroom and my school, student interaction with technology is passive and/or used as a delivery method, e.g. watching a video, typing a paper, or researching, rather than a means for learning. I would like to bring technology in as a means for exploring information via webquests or virtual simulations and as a means for sharing knowledge using podcasts, video posting, creation and maintenance of blogs and wikis, VoiceThreads, concept maps, and smartboard/PowerPoint presentations. As I have moved through this course, I have seen and accepted the importance of student interaction with the technology. It is not enough to put technology in front of a student if the technology is kept at arm’s length. The overarching lesson I have learned from this course work is that students must use technology. They must play, explore, err, learn, practice, innovate, create, share, fail, reattempt, interact, react, and use the technology if it is going to bring any merit to the incorporation of technology in the classroom.
Within the context of my sixth grade mathematics class and in consideration of the limited access to technology in my school, I feel that two technologies lend themselves to incorporation in my classroom. First, I found VoiceThreads to be dynamic, engaging, challenging, and entertaining while still acting as a successful learning tool. The system for VoiceThread is user friendly, highly adaptable for different foci, and allows for interaction among classmates as well as with the teacher. My students would be able to handle the technical demands of this resource and use the threads for sharing and reflecting. The children could easily use VoiceThreads to share the steps for completing various math skills, sharing attributes or properties of shapes or values, or collaboratively solving logic/challenge problems. I can pose a problem and ask students to share their thoughts, or students can create their own base presentations and interact with respondents. This will benefit student learning by incorporating constructionist learning theory (Laureate Education, Inc., 2009c) as it requires students to personally interact with the material and contribute to the creation of an artifact of learning. As a constant advocate of encouraging ownership and pride for one’s work, I believe that students will rise to higher levels when they are allowed to be creative and share their own thoughts and perspectives. I was enamored with VoiceThreads and look forward to adding them into my classroom repertoire.
I would also like to further incorporate the use of blogs and wikis in my classroom. These tools afford students with the opportunity to publish and share their work, and provide a platform for student interaction. Via my blog, I have been able to share my thoughts, notes from class, homework assignments, and extensive supplemental materials with my students and their parents/guardians. I hope to provide an outlet for my students on which they can share their learning, thoughts, and accomplishments. As I have more experience with blogs, I will start there, but I would like to explore the use of class wikis as “virtual study guides” for each unit of study. I hope to have select students pilot the use of wikis for my classroom, but I feel that I could implement class blogs immediately. Blog integration would likely include student writings, photographs of class activities, links to sites and resources that students find useful, fun, or helpful, and recaps of course content. An added benefit of a blog is that it can serve as “home base” for other technology tools and can showcase multimedia creations, link to VoiceThreads or other online student work, and serve as a repository for other web resources.
The two goals for technology incorporation that I have for my classroom and my students are simply to provide my students with more opportunities to use and learn from technology and to act as an advocate for the incorporation of technology in the classroom in my school and district. These goals are interrelated as they both seek to bring technology to our students not as a mere novelty, but as a valuable means for learning. In my own classroom, I do not want to acquiesce passively to the limits I face. Admittedly, resources are scarce in my school and I defer to frustration over the benefits of finding a way to bring technology to my class. My goal is to fight harder for these resources and go against my nature a bit by planning my activities in advance so I can reserve the technology that will enable me to teach creatively, prepare my students for the 21st Century Skills they will need, and allow them to create meaningful, virtual artifacts as they learn. Usually, I prefer to be spontaneous with my lessons; never planning for the same old lesson, but I feel that I could reserve the materials and then tailor my activities to the available resources. Also in accordance with this goal, I plan to create extensive opportunities for my students to work with technology in independent activities, so that even if I am unable to gather the needed materials, the students will still benefit from the technological incorporation.
As an extension of my first goal and its own independent objective, I hope to be an advocate for technology. As indicated by my choice to engage in this course of study at Walden, I believe that technology is exciting and imperative in education. My school district has historically performed tremendously well in many areas. We were recently named as one of the five best school districts nationwide for our median income by a well-known magazine. The downside of this honor was that the list was measuring the “best bang for your buck.” We perform well, with desirable standardized test results in the 90% range (eMetric, 2009), but we do not spend much per student and our district ranks 157 out of 169 in per student spending for our state (State of Connecticut Department of Education, 2008). Technology has not been incorporated enough as spending has been at a minimum. I have been and will continue to be an advocate for technology incorporation in the classroom and have spoken with Board of Education members, district and school administrators, and parents about the need for more technology in our classrooms. Additionally, I participate in school sponsored professional development, am active in online communities to learn independently, and work with teachers in my school to ensure that others see the benefits of bringing more technology to the classroom. My experiences with my Walden coursework have also brought a wealth of knowledge to my arsenal of possibilities. I intend to work with other teachers to help them bring technology to the classroom and advocate for the resources needed for 21st Century instruction.
This course has re-instilled my belief that technology is among the best ways to help students learn. I appreciate that the tools and theories that we explored were not mere novelties, and instead facilitated meaningful learning experiences. I look forward to continuing to incorporate these technologies
eMetric. (2009). Data Interaction for Connecticut Mastery Test, 4th Generation. Retrieved on April 24th, 2010 from http://solutions1.emetric.net/cmtpublic/CMTCode/Report.aspx.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2009a). Program 5. Cognitive Learning Theories. [Educational video]. Baltimore: Author.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2009b). Program 8. Connectivism as Learning Theory. [Educational video]. Baltimore: Author.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2009c). Program 6. Constructionist and Constructivist Learning Theories. [Educational video]. Baltimore: Author.
State of Connecticut Department of Education (2008, March 11). Per Pupil Expenditure Summary. Retrieved on April 24th, 2010 from http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/cwp/view.asp?A=2635&Q=322152
Posted by Nancy Kahrimanis at 7:47 PM