Saturday, June 27, 2009

Reflection: Week Eight

As I reflect back over my personal view of learning, I continue to believe that all students have the capability to learn, and my job as a teacher is to provide connections for my students between their prior knowledge and new material. I need to help students apply new knowledge and develop necessary cognitive skills to be successful members of society. I continue to believe that most of my practices fall under the category of cognitivist theory. Students take in data through their senses and then make connections to prior knowledge. They can apply new knowledge through these connections. Throughout this course, I have learned ways in which I can apply technology to enhance this process.

One immediate adjustment I will make with my incoming classes is to convert my class notes from Podcasts to Voice Threads. With this change, students can use the Voice Threads to review information, but they can also leave feedback and dialogue with one another regarding the content, adding their own insight to the topic. I will also create a class list that allows me to email students with regular reminders regarding class assignments and upcoming projects and tests. I will continue to use a class website and blogs, but will begin to post links to important information that will aid students in the classroom.

With this in mind, one new tool I will be using is the Voice Thread. Voice Thread allows me to create online albums of text and images, using audio as well. This will appeal to both auditory and visual learners. Voice Thread also allows for collaborative work, and it gives students the opportunity to leave their own feedback and/ or questions.

Another tool I will be using in my classroom is Spinscape, an online concept mapping tool. This tool supports dual coding by giving students a visual representation of concepts and ideas along with text. It helps students organize information and make connections between prior knowledge and new knowledge.

In addition to these immediate changes, I am planning the following long-term goals for my classroom. First, I want to use online tools to allow students to turn in work electronically. For written work and essays, I am going to establish online accounts for my students at Buzzword.com. Buzzword allows students to create Word documents online so that they can be accessed at any computer regardless of the type of computer. Students can then send these documents to me electronically, where I can then go online to record my comments and questions. I can provide immediate feedback. Another program I will use is Slide Rocket, which allows students to create online Power Point presentations in much the same manner. To do this, I will have parents sign permission slips to establish these accounts, and then I will walk my students through the process. I will be sure to provide computer access at school for students who do not have computers available at home. I will also work with the district coordinator to obtain weekly scheduled time during class to use the mobile computer labs. The students and I will walk through the first assignment together to see how these programs work, and we will discuss online etiquette and usage rules.

My second goal is to develop Google Reader accounts with my students to help them sift through and organize information. We will discuss this information age together and decide which issues and ideas are important for us in class. We will talk about summarizing and why it is important to choose which pieces of information to follow. We will work on implementing new knowledge and managing subscriptions. Then we will decide which blogs, websites, etc. to follow on our readers and establish accounts. Students will then be responsible for reading through their information periodically and sharing what they learning by adding comments to the class blog page. I think this will help students see the amount of information available to them and teach them how to discern the important information.

Overall this course has reminded me of the importance of learning tools and implementing technology in my classroom. My job is to help students prepare for their future while learning how to process information using 21st century skills.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Connectivism and Social Learning in Practice

Social learning theories deal with the idea of students "actively engaged in constructing artifacts and conversing with others." (Laureate Education 2009). In social learning theories, students work together to discuss ideas and problems. The teacher takes the role of a facilitator who encourages students and helps as needed, but does not provide all of the information. Every student has a "zone of proximal development" (Laureate Education 2009), or a level at which the child is able to learn at any given time. When a teacher challenges a students to go above this level, the student needs someone more knowledgeable than he is. This person can be another student or the teacher, but someone can guide the student to higher levels of learning. The student interacts with others in order to accomplish a task or learn a new concept.

Students construct knowledge based on their context and culture. These are vital aspects to understanding the world around them. Social learning theories build on this idea to allow students to work together in collaboration for the purpose of learning. 

"Today's students need to be able to learn and produce cooperatively." (Pitler 2007). One instructional strategy that supports social learning theories is the idea of cooperative learning. Cooperative learning allows students to work together in many different ways. Groups support one another and share information. Students can use technology to incorporate new knowledge. Working together helps students to learn in new ways. Students benefit from one another's strengths. Instructional strategies that emphasize cooperative group work relate to social learning theories.

References:

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2009a). Program eight Social Learning Theories [Motion picture]. Bridging learning theory, instruction, and technology. Baltimore: Author.

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