Archive for July, 2009
This week in class we have been discussing the inclusion of social networking technologies into the learning environment to provide students the opportunity for greater connection between one another and those outside the classroom. In Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, many types of technology were discussed, ranging from Google Docs and Microsoft Publisher to Sid Meyer’s Civilization series of PC games and WebQuest design. Technologies such as these can have a profound effect on students. The 21st century student, at least in my school community, is incredibly tech savvy. Whenever I incorporate technology into a lesson, whether a PowerPoint presentation with video and audio or the development of a classroom wiki page about Shakespeare, student engagement is dramatically increased along with group cooperation. Since my students are so technologically sophisticated, the incorporation of technologies that they are generally familiar with, but used academically, can greatly increase their cooperative learning and overall understanding of the subject being discussed.
I have always strived to create a classroom that is student-centered and engaging to each individual. The tools described in the reading allow me to not only engage my students with technology but provide an avenue for them to learn cooperatively and socially. Since the primary foundation of social learning theory is that students and people create knowledge through the exposure of multiple cultures and various environments, by placing technological tools into the hands of students that can connect them to diverse ideas and peoples, my students will have a greater opportunity to develop and retain knowledge. Similar to the experience my students will have when they graduate high school and move on to college (a new environment populated by diverse peoples with unique life experiences learning together collaboratively) the inclusion of technologies that give my students that opportunity in middle school and throughout their high school careers will better prepare them for the further advanced education and help them to better retain the knowledge gained during their time with me.
Overall, I personally find social networking technologies to be the wave of the future for education and every other fact of our lives. As I grew up in the formative years of the social networking world (instant messaging, facebook, MySpace, etc) I have seen first hand how they can assist in an individual’s education. I know that my students will benefit greatly from these technological tools presented and that I will become a better educator as I strive to develop lessons that use these tools as a way to help my students achieve success.
This week, my readings discussed the importance of having students develop hypotheses and how the very process of this development helps to strengthen skills within students necessary for the 21st century. Generally, I feel that the incorporation of technology in the classroom, on a 1-1 basis, is imperative so that technological sophistication can be developed within the student in a controlled setting so that students are prepared for the technological challenges they will face in the workplace.
My reading highlights multiple software platforms that students should be using to develop hypotheses as well as creating artifacts, as described in the educational theory of constructionism. The authors describe how software like Microsoft Word and Excel can be used to give students an opportunity to create original artifacts to fulfill classroom objectives. Not only does the incorporation of such technologies give students a tool to construct artifacts but the very act of developing understanding of multiple uses of such technology and problem solving to create a successful artifact helps students to develop a greater number of skills compared to merely completing a multiple-choice or short answer assessment.
As an English teacher, I feel that using technologies such as these, paired with constructionist approaches to lessons can benefit students and support the development of student creativity. While I have my students write expository essays and creative writing pieces, which do qualify as artifacts, by using more technologies, beyond just word processing software, students have a greater ability to better represent their understanding of the material. For instance, when students have the capability to work, not only with students in the classroom, but access the internet and network with students from around the country and world they are gaining access to a wealth of untapped information which can further the goal of constructing dynamic artifacts. When I have my own students construct items such as wikis or blogs about the subject of the day, students are genuinely more engaged, more apt to put forth more effort to complete the assignment and show more improvement on standardized tests compared to my pervious students from years past when only a written assignment was given. The construction of various artifacts throughout the school year assists in helping students to more completely understand the material being presented and demonstrate, creatively, how the student has adapted the new knowledge into their greater understanding of the subject.
Cognitive learning theory has always focused on how students process information and the best educational strategies educators can use to promote student understanding of material. As educators, it is up to us to vary our teaching strategies with the understanding that individual students process information in unique ways. Students can process limited amounts of information at any given point in a class, but that information is far more likely to be retained in long-term memory if the information begin presented is paired with a unique experience or relies upon multiple sensory inputs during presentation (Orey, 2008). This week, I read another small portion from Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works by Pitler, et al and read of some technological additions to the classroom, particularly word processing software, concept mapping programs, and multimedia inclusion in lessons, that highlight cognitive processes and assist in greater student understanding.
Pitler, et al. (2007) describe how students can better understand new material being presented by incorporating technology into their note-taking processes. For instance, students using word-processing software such as Microsoft Word to track changes made on a particular written passage to be better able to summarize the material. This type of technological use, particularly if it is done in large-group and then small-group or individual settings, can help students better understand the more meaningful portions of a text and develop the skill to edit down material for easier recall in the future. Also, many word-processing tools have a setting which can automatically summarize a section of text and provide a visual labeling of the most important points. This is another tool that can help students to better identify the important points of a text and highlight the need for revision of their own writing if necessary. Both of these technological tools in the classroom can be used to help students better understand material as well as allows, “…information to be presented in a meaningful and appropriate representation” (Robertson, Elliot, & Washington, 2007).
Beyond word processing software, Pitler describes how concept maps, when used in conjunction with organizing material and note-taking, can drastically improve student understanding of material. Concept maps are a physical representation of the cognitive processes occurring within the students mind for processing, cataloguing, and understanding material. Through the use of programs such as Inspiration, educators can develop concept maps through introductory lessons, discussion of prior knowledge, or as summative assignments that allow students to visually see connections between questions, concepts, ideas, or words that can be constructed as knowledge within the student. By proving student’s a visual medium through which to view the varying and multiple connections between prior knowledge and multiple concepts being presented within the classroom, students are more likely to have a greater comprehension of the general topic of the map as well as the outlying connections being made.
Although word processing software and concept map development can fulfill strategies outlined by cognitive learning theorists, on of the most powerful instructional strategies to assist in student learning in the virtual field trip. Particularly in the current economic climate, schools do not have the opportunity to provide students the opportunity to go outside the school walls and explore the world through field trips. Virtual field trips, however, allow the student to gain a better understanding about a place that the class may be unable to visit while allowing the student to practice with technological innovations that promote dynamic academic growth. This type of instructional strategy can touch upon student’s episodic memory which is incredibly powerful and found to help students greatly retain knowledge discovered throughout the process (Orey, 2008). Student’s are able to use various websites, software applications, and web-based programs, to explore and develop understanding through a virtual journey that helps to develop knowledge that is then, “….organized and synthesized” (Robertson, et.al, 2007) for a presentation to the class.
Overall, the technological instructional strategies outlined by Pitler et al. highlight the importance of cognitive learning theory. The incorporations of various technologies are used to highlight the diverse cognitive needs of individual students and promote knowledge that is easily accessible and promoted to long-term memory to be continually referenced as new knowledge is scaffolded with already learned material. Educators should stay continually abreast of current and new technological innovations as they can assist in greater acquisition of knowledge by the student and create more unique and creative learning experiences.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2008). Cognitive Learning Theories. [MotionPicture]. Bridging learning theory, instruction, and technology. Baltimore: M. Orey.
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Robertson, B., Elliot, L., & Robinson, D. (2007). Cognitive tools. In M. Orey (Ed.),Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved 7/12/2009, from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/
Behaviorist learning theory, a philosophy that believes a well-rounded understanding of the relationship between stimulus and response can promote desired behaviors within an individual (Standridge, 2002) has become more controversial as educators throughout the country attempt to adapt to the needs of a 21st century learner. The inclusion of behaviorist teaching techniques has become more complex through the addition of various technological advances in the classroom. This week, I read a portion of Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works by Pitler, et al that describes two ways in which educators can incorporate technology in the classroom to promote stronger work ethic as well as superior homework completion. The authors describe how various technologies, such as spreadsheets, word processing software, and interactive web-based practice programs can be used to promote more desirable academic behaviors from students. After reading about these various instructional strategies and looking back at the overall purpose of behaviorism (to promote desired behaviors within individuals), I find that the incorporation of new technologies, such as those listed above, can impact student academic behavior and promote student success through behaviorist techniques.
The authors describe many scenarios where student assessment data, as well as data logging how often the student performs tasks in and out of class (taking notes, reading, reviewing, etc) is gathered, correlated, and displayed in various different graphical mediums to illustrate, to the student, a correlation between diligent work study habits and desirable achievement on assignments. This sharing of data with students can cause behavioral change, particular regarding behavior during class times as well as work study habits outside of the classroom that can cause a desired effects on the students overall grade. The use of technology, such as spreadsheets, graphical representations of data, and correlation of data for large groups (8th graders, 5th period, etc) allows students to quickly and easily understand the data being present and effect behavioral change much more quickly than if the student did not have the data presented in different media. Using technology to give students individualized and group data about their performance is an example of a stimulus (as described by B.F Skinner) that can provide the desired response of student who is more dedicated during class and more willing to study outside of class.
Later in the text, the authors describe how technological advancements in the classroom can be used to promote more cohesive homework assignments that allow students to practice, “…specific skills of a complex process” (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007). In particular, electronic drill and practice resources are highlighted as positive, outside the classroom, additions to a student’s nightly homework regiment as they can practice skills and techniques necessary to achieve class objectives. Many of these electronic resources are constructed on a foundation of behaviorism as the students are challenged to complete a problem, place a word in the correct section of a chart, or define a section of a sentence, and if they do not immediately respond correctly they receive a feedback and are given the opportunity to attempt the problem once again. Beyond these simple drill/skill programs, I had visited many other educational websites, Prentice Hall in particular, that move steps further and give students the opportunity to review the skill, practice the skill and then apply that skill in a dynamic, interesting setting to promote student engagement. Websites such as these rely upon behaviorist philosophy as they design appropriate feedback to allow the student to better comprehend any misunderstanding of the information and encourage students to continue working at the problem until a solution is reached. Although some may challenge that drill/skill instructional strategies such as these only assist in helping students develop skills usable on an assessment and are immediately forgotten, particularly in the English classroom, these types of programs can assist students in better understanding how to develop complete sentences or use conjunctions properly, which can both be assessed on a test as well as through the student’s own writings. When the appropriate skill is displayed on the test or writing, the student receives positive feedback from the teacher which further reinforces that the knowledge will continue to be used throughout the year and beyond.
Overall, Behaviorism, although controversial in the modern academic setting, continues to remain a tool at every educator’s disposal to construct foundations for lessons and help students to succeed. The incorporation of current and burgeoning technologies will further fuel the debate regarding the use of behaviorist instructional/behavior modification strategies, however, these same technologies can help even the most struggling student to succeed and thrive in their educational career.
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Standridge, M.. (2002). Behaviorism. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved 7/6/2009, from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/