Bridging Learning Theory, Instruction, and Technology review

          As a professional educator in the 21st century it is a job requirement to become a life-long learner. No longer can professional educators continually replicate the same lessons used in past years and expect the same results from different students. In an effort to better understand how students learn, tools that can facilitate greater knowledge acquisition, and techniques that promote safe and effective learning environments, I have dedicated myself to learning all I can as a student in my Master’s courses. This most recent course, in particular, has illustrated the importance of technology in the classroom as a tool for learning and a gateway for students of multiple, diverse intelligences and backgrounds to succeed.  This course has affected my outlook on technological integration within the classroom as well as helped my to hone my personal learning theory.

          As I began this course I summarized my theory of learning as a combination of multiple intelligences and social constructionism. These two educational theories encompass the real life learning experiences I have had as a learner and those I have witnessed as a professional educator in the classroom. Students tend to learn the most material and master the most objectives when they are able to learn in a safe, social environment with lessons that touch upon the multiple intelligences described by Gardner. Throughout this course, I have been asked to reflect upon multiple theories as they relate to new technologies making there way into the classroom environment. At the end of this course I have found that although I still believe that Vygotsky’s and Gardner’s theories remain the most relevant to my particular educational setting, the, well thought-out, inclusion of technology into the learning process can benefit all student learners, no matter the circumstance.

            Beginning in the next academic year, I will initiate the incorporation of multiple different technological tools in my classroom for the benefit of my students’ knowledge. First, I will devise lesson plans and projects that allow my students to use Web 2.0 tools and resources so they can not only access knowledge in a timely manner but create new artifacts as well. With tools such as blogs, wikis, and academic social networking ( limited to school-school communication) my students will be able to display there understanding of key English 8 concepts, not only through papers and oral presentation but through group created blogs that evolve over weeks and student created wiki pages that serve as a resource for future and current students. These tools will enhance student learning as they become more engaged in the creative process of developing an electronic artifact to demonstrate their knowledge. The social core of these technological tools with also facilitate greater learning as students must rely on one another to develop these artifacts and present to one another the knowledge they have gained and explained.

           Beyond blogs and wikis, my students will also have the opportunity to use more advanced technological tools such as VoiceThreads and Webspiration digital diagrams. VoiceThreads, in particular, are well suited for my English 8 academic setting as students desire a more social academic environment that is dynamic and easily manipulated. VoiceThreads give students the luxury of working on a final product over multiple days and amending it with the help of others (peers or teachers). Webspiration on the other hand, allows students, either individually or socially, to diagram there physically thought processes and gain a greater understanding of intricate connections found throughout the world of literature. Both of these tools enhance learning by providing students with platforms to understand and display their understanding of underlying concepts of the English 8 curriculum. By providing students with such various and diverse tools with which to learn, student engagement along with student success is promoted.

            As I think about all that I have learned in this class, particularly regarding technological integration, I have developed two clear goals with which to focus my time and energies over the next year and beyond. First, I plan on integrating the technologies I recently have come to understanding into lessons in my classroom throughout the entire year. In the past, after receiving professional development, I have been wary of changing course from my set curriculum and experimenting with new tools and techniques. However, after working with these technologies myself and coming to understand their inherent qualities, I will now push myself to integrate these technologies, not simplistically, but with great effort to ensure they are used as learning tools, rather than teaching tools. In order to reach this goal realistically, I must, not only, dedicate myself to spending the time and energy to design lessons that use these tools to their greatest service to student understanding, but also work with my co-curricular planner in a partnership that highlights the importance of technological integration and moves beyond the curriculum as it currently stands.

            Beyond including technological innovations into my own classroom and curriculum for the benefit of my particular students, my second goal is to spread the knowledge I have gained throughout this course to all of my professional peers and ensure that my school becomes a leader of technological innovation and inclusion within every classroom. This goal will certainly be a challenge as many educators and administrators have a general unease about new technologies within the classroom, particular social-based web 2.0 applications. However, in order to fulfill this goal I will make it my charge to speak up at staff and department meetings and provide workshops and training to my academic peers to inform them of the number of technological tools at their disposal. I will also make myself available to any staff member who needs assistance in integrating technology into their curriculum. Finally, I will serve as a member of the tech/integration committee in my building to promote the safe use of technology within the classroom for the benefit of all the students.

            Overall, I have found my experience with this class to be enlightening and incredibly useful in my everyday teaching experience. Although we focused on educational theories and their particular benefits within particular environments, learning about real technology that can be implemented in my classroom will forever change how I teach my English 8 curriculum. My students and peers will benefit from the knowledge I have gained and I will work diligently to seek out new technologies and new products to promote the success of all of my students for years to come.

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