Sunday, October 23, 2011

Final Reflection

As I reflect on my “Personal Theory of Learning” from the first week of class, I find that I can confirm my personal learning theory is a combination of the four learning theories.   Each learning theory is important when considering the diverse group of students in a classroom and each theory has its advantages.  Even though I was familiar with all the learning theories and knew that it is important to use a variety of ways to teach my students, I now have a deeper understanding how each learning theory helps my students to gain knowledge of the concepts that I am teaching.  A main thread that I noticed within each learning theory is to keep students active in their learning process.  This course has also helped me to see how I can use the learning theories and incorporate technology to enhance and engage my students in their own learning.
One of the immediate responses to this course that I am implementing in my classroom is examining how I am incorporating technology into the curriculum.  Dr. Orey discusses how technology can be an instructional tool or a learning tool.  Technology as an instructional tool is when the teacher presents information to the students.  Technology as a learning tool is actively engaging students in the use of the technology (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011).  Even though using technology as an instructional tool has its place, using technology as a learning tool is more powerful and the most effective way to incorporate technology.  I have already begun to examine how I implement technology in my classroom and insure that it is mainly used as a learning tool for my students.  Technology as a learning tool insures that my students are actively engaged in their learning.
One technology tool that I plan to use with my students is a wiki.  Wikis provide an opportunity for students to work collaboratively on a project while allowing the teacher to see who is contributing to the project.  This tool will encourage my students to interact with each other to enhance their learning.  Using a wiki has the students synthesizing information and then stating the information in their own words, a cognitive instructional strategy (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007).  It also has the students using multiple senses to gather, manipulate, store, and use information.   
Another technology tool that I plan to use this year is both a classroom blog and individual blogs.  I already use a classroom blog to keep my students’ friends and family updated on what is happening in third grade.  Students take turns to analyze what we did all week and then summarize the important activities.  However, in the past, I have had the students dictate to me what to write and then I type their responses.  This year I have given my students more control.  I give them time to type their responses and then I go over what they typed and help them to see any changes, additions, or deletions they need to make.  I am also going a step further and using blogs for journaling and story writing.  Blogs are a great way to involve others outside of the group to help critique, evaluate, or even leave a comment about a group’s project.  That can include other students, teachers, family, friends, or even experts from around the world. 
This course has provided me with numerous technology tools to incorporate into my lessons that will engage and motivate my students in their learning.  So numerous, that at times I have become overwhelmed trying to explore all the options.  To alleviate the stress of feeling like I have to know it all, one of my long-term goals is to gradually implement the various technology tools that I have been introduced too.  I have made a list of all the tools and websites that I want to explore in more depth.  I then plan to work on incorporating two technology tools at a time.  Once I can implement them well, I then will explore more options to incorporate into the curriculum.  I am sure that some of the instructional technology tools will take longer to feel comfortable with while others will be a bit easier.
Another long-term goal is to keep learning about how to integrate technology until it is a natural integration in my classroom.  As I become more comfortable with technology and how to use it to actively involve my students, technology will become an integral part of our daily learning.  Right now, at times, I feel like it is a forced integration versus a smooth, automatic response to our classroom learning.  As I continue to work on my masters program through Walden University, use the expertise and support of my colleagues, and continue my own life-long learning, I will strive to achieve a 21st century classroom that helps prepare my students to be productive citizens of society.    
As we learn more about how students learn and with the constant changes and the ever-increasing usage of technology, this will change the teacher-directed instruction to more student-driven projects using technology.  Most students are already using technology but educators must teach them how to use it safely and appropriately from a learning/educational aspect.  Not only does technology make the subject matter more fun for the students but it keeps their focus and interest too.  It also provides them a variety of ways to learn the material.  It is important for educators to prepare students for the changing world of technology, so they can be productive and lifelong learners.     
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011d). Program thirteen:  Technology:  Instructional tool
vs. learning tool  [Video webcast] Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from

Pitler, Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom
instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Lunchtime Chaos Voicethread

Social Constructivism Learning Theory

According to Dr. Orey, social constructionism learning theory involves learners to be “actively engaged in constructing artifacts and conversing with others” (Laureate Education, Inc. 2011).  It “emphasizes the importance of culture and context in understanding what occurs in society and constructing knowledge based on this understanding” (Orey, 2001, p. 2)  Social constructivists believe that reality, knowledge, and meaningful learning is the result of social interaction.  There are four general perspectives that facilitate social constructivism learning.  The cognitive tools perspective focuses on producing a product in a group while gaining the meaning through the social learning process.  The idea-based social constructivism is building an important foundation of learners’ thinking and social meaning through “big ideas.”  The pragmatic or emergent approach is that through both an individual’s and an entire class’s view, knowledge, meaning, and understanding of the world is addressed.  The transactional or situated cognitive perspective focuses on relationships between people and the environment and views that “learning thus should not take place in isolation from the environment” (Orey, 2001, p. 4). 
Dr. Orey points out three key roles of learning theories. 
1.       Defines how learning occurs
2.      Provides information on future trends on which to build educational systems
3.      Explains what is occurring in the world today.
(Laureate Education, Inc., 2011)
In the book Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works the authors present cooperative learning as an instructional strategy.  Cooperative learning “focuses on having students interact with each other in groups in ways that enhance their learning (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn,& Malenoski, 2007).  The workplace today demands that students are able to not only be technology literate but be able to work cooperatively.  Cooperative learning has five basic components:  positive interdependence, face-to-face, promotive interaction, individual and group accountability, interpersonal and small-group skills, and group processing (Pitler et al, 2007, p. 140).  The instructional strategy of cooperative learning definitely has principles of social learning theories.
Technology can also be a tool that will enhance cooperative learning.  Technology can “facilitate group collaboration, providing structure for group tasks, and allowing members of groups to communicate even if they are not working face to face” (Pitler et al, 2007, p. 140).  Wikis and blogs I feel are two great examples of this.  They allow students to communicate, share ideas, and work on a project together, without having to be in the same place or working at the same time.  I am looking forward to using a wiki this year with my third graders to enhance their animal reports.
Another great technology activity to use with cooperative learning is WebQuests.  I am in the process of having my third graders work in groups of four to complete a WebQuest on animal life cycles.  The WebQuest provides them with all the directions, internet links, and evaluation rubric to help them complete the project.  Each member of the team is assigned a job.  The jobs help them to stay focused and not argue about what each is to be doing.  The jobs are task manager (keeps everyone on task), navigator (navigates the computer and clicks on the links), reader (reads the information to the group), and recorder (takes the notes).  I have them switch the roles each time we work so they experience each one.  Once they have completed the quest they have to present their information to the class, create a comic strip of their animal’s life cycle, and add any other information or pictures they think are useful and helpful.  This activity has the groups working together to learn about a particular animal’s life cycle but they have to in turn be able to teach it to the class.  Dr. Orey tells us “teaching others helps the learner to develop a deeper understanding of the content” (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011). 
Many other technology resources allow students to work cooperatively on projects as well.  Some examples are making videos, having keypals (I had also used the term e-pals), multiplayer simulation games, and Google Docs to name a few. There are so many opportunities in this technology driven world to provide our students with engaging technology based activities that will prepare them to be part of a “fast-paced, virtual workplace” where they will need to work cooperatively.  “Cooperative learning is not so much learning to cooperate as it is cooperating to learn” (Pitler et al, 2007, p. 143).
Most people are naturally social beings and therefore I feel that social constructivism learning theory is definitely valuable in the classroom.  However, I do feel that the other learning theories have a place in the classroom too.  Using components of all the learning theories will aid students to be successful and help prepare them to be a productive citizen of society. 
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program eight: Social learning theories [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program nine: Connectivism as a learning theory [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from
Orey, M. (Ed.). (2001). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.