Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Constructivism in Practice

According to Dr. Orey (Laureate Education Inc., 2011) constructionism is a learning theory where students learn by creating an artifact as they go through the learning process. Students are building their knowledge as they progress through planned learning experiences. During this process the teachers becomes the facilitator and motivator to encourage students to explore and solve real-world problems. Students then become the teacher as they create artifacts that show their learning and can be shared with their peers to increase or enhance their learning. This changes the atmosphere of the old classroom. It has its challenges but also advantages.
During constructionism lessons, students are responsible for gathering information to solve a problem or complete a project. They are expected to generate some form of artifact or finished product to share with the class. There are multiple venues teachers and students can explore to create various types of artifacts that promote constructionist ideas. This week as we studied the strategy “Generating and Testing Hypothesis” we learned two programs students can use to generate their finished product: spreadsheet software and data collection tools.

When students are performing tests on hypotheses they must gather data. Using spreadsheet software is one way to gather and analyze information. Depending on the desired learning, this information can be made readily available or students may be required to gather the information themselves. Students gather their information and plug it in to a spreadsheet template. This can be teacher or student generated, depending on the learning goal. The program will perform the necessary calculations and display the results. Students can then visually see the impact of each stimulus. When students are able to manipulate the data the program becomes interactive (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn and Malenoski, 2007). They can change numbers around to see its effect on the outcome. Regardless of the format used for the process, students are able to create a visual that displays their results. This demonstrates the constructionists’ view for learning.
Students can also use other data collection tools on the computer to generate a display of their results from tested hypotheses. Programs such as Graph Club allow students to place the results from their tests into labeled tables and then the program generates different types of graphs from the data. Students can then print out the table and graph for their artifact. This is the proram many teachers in my school use with science fair projects. However, we have seen that students can generate and test hypothesis in other subject areas.
Social studies is one subject area students are able to create and test hypothesis. Over time stimuli can affect the population on an area. In studying the effect of manufacturing on population, students can create their own theory. Then choosing towns across the country, they can access information about the population of cities before and after new manufacturers have entered the city and compare the results. A data collection tool can be used to create an artifact that displays this effect on populations. This project displays the use of a constructionist idea in social studies that integrates the use of technology.
There are so many technological tools students can use to create artifacts of their learning. Power Point, publisher, and blogs are a few examples. Students can have the freedom to choose a format that fits their personality, once they are taught how to use them. As a third grade teacher I try to use multiple programs for whole group projects so students have the opportunity to see various tools they can use in future presentations to avoid redundancy in the class. Power Point allows students to use text, pictures, video and audio in their presentation. This allows them to format their artifact to fit their learning style. It helps the teacher overcome the challenge of planning class projects that are biased to her preferred learning style (Orey, 2001). Teachers can also use blogs to help students share their learning. One way is to create a class page and have students blog during projects. Students can start their own posts or respond to classmates’ posts. This is a product where they are sharing their knowledge and collaborating while using a technological tool that will prepare them for the modern workforce. Whichever tool teachers choose to use with students they can use web sites to share their data collection; is one such site.
Creating a constructionist environment takes time and practice. It requires detailed planning from the teacher and patience in allowing students the time to learn the information on their own. Classrooms become student centered and activities become projects with products for display of the learning that is taking place. Students work on these projects “as” they are learning instead of “after” the learning has taken place. They are building their knowledge through various experiences. The teacher must motivate the students to learn. When they are motivated to learn then achievement will take place.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program seven: Constructionist and constructivist learning theories [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from

Orey, M. (Ed.). (2001). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. 
Constructionism, Learning by Design and Project Based Learning. Retrieved from
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom         instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cognitive Learning Theories

This week we heard from Dr. Orey about how students need to process information in order to be able to move knowledge from their short term memory to their long term memory. Students are able to store information in their long term memory by connecting it to their prior knowledge. Information can be classified into three categories: declarative, procedural or episodic (Laureate Education Inc., 2011). When teachers are able to take the concept they want students to comprehend and apply it to an activity students will be engaged in then they are more likely to store it and be able to retrieve it as an episodic memory.
We looked at two strategies teachers use in classroom instruction. In order to make them more effective and engaging, teachers are encouraged to integrate technology. The first strategy discussed was cues, questions and advance organizers (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007).  Teachers are encouraged to use cues and questions to engage students’ prior knowledge but not to be too vague. Be specific and tell the students what is expected of them. Teachers need to elicit critical thinking skills through the types of questions they ask. Watering down a lesson does not stimulate deeper thinking and understanding. Moving questions down Bloom’s Taxonomy will deepen their thinking. Using advance organizers help students organize information to enhance their learning. They are able to make sense of lessons and use the organizer to help study for tests. They are several ways teachers can enhance understanding by using technology instruction with their cues, questions and advance organizers. One method is creating concept maps. Here teachers are able to give the students an essential question along with bits of information to stimulate their prior knowledge to create a base to apply their new understanding. Then students gather information to connect their new learning to other concepts. Teachers can also incorporate videos, pictures and audio clips with the map to reach all learners. Having students apply their learning to complete advance organizers carries them through a process which helps them move the knowledge from their short term memory to their long term memory.
The second strategy studied this week was summarizing and note taking. This strategy requires students to learn how to take new knowledge, summarize it for their own understanding and create a visual they can use to study for assessments. They are several ways students need to practice taking notes to find which works best for them and it is important that teachers demonstrate these various methods (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007). Students need to learn that the more notes they take the better. There are ways teachers can use technology to teach these strategies as well. The newest one is found in Microsoft Word. Students can set up the software to delete repeated information or help summarize typing. This creates a visual of how they need to change their writing to fit the concept being taught. Another method can be used in Word or Power Point; it is the idea of combination notes. Here students record facts, pictures and then a summary if information gathered. This method seems better suited for teaching third graders. It also reaches both the linguistic and visual learners as well as some kinesthetic learners. The strategy of note taking engages students to focus on what is important. They can delete unnecessary information; replace words they do not know with synonyms; and keep only the important information new to them. They can reflect on their prior knowledge to connect the new facts, procedure or episode. Having them create a visual outline of their notes or summary using one of several typing software helps stimulate the learning process to create permanent relationships among the new material.
Students are generally eager to learn when they can relate the information to something they already know. They become engaged when the lesson involves them using some form of technology. Effective teachers are able to create stimulating lessons that engage students in the learning process.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program five: Cognitive learning theory [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom         instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Behaviorism in Practice

Behaviorists believe students learn as a result of positive and negative reinforcements and punishments. They believe that all behavior is a result of environmental stimuli. Some people believe this theory is outdated however most schools have adopted some form of behaviorism in their classrooms. Teachers use positive and negative responses within their classroom to obtain desired behavior from the students. Behavior is learned (Orey, 2001). However it can also be unlearned when undesired actions are responded to effectively, routinely and immediately and desired actions are rewarded. Some teachers implement behavior contracts (Laureate Education Inc., 2011). The response may be a positive or negative reinforcement where the students get rewarded for the desired behavior. This holds the students responsible for their behavior within the classroom which also teaches them a life skill that will make them responsible adults one day.
Strategy one discussed reinforcing effort. In this strategy students need to see the correlation between the amount of effort they put forth and their achievement. This is truly behaviorism because the students will see the more effort they put into an assignment or task the higher their score will generally be; positive behavior results in positive reactions. According to the reading, achievement is a direct result of effort (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn & Malenoski, 2007). Some students may not easily see the relationship between the two; therefore creating a visual will help them realize the more effort they put forth, the higher their grades will be. The spreadsheet presented in the reading helped students see the relationship. This demonstrates the use of positive reinforcement in the classroom.
Strategy two, homework and practice, explains how students need to practice skills in order to achieve more success. According to Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn and Malenoski (2007) students need at least twenty-four practice periods with a new skill before achieving 80% proficiency. Practice can be accomplished in class or at home. When students are doing homework, it should be similar to the classwork where they can practice the learned skill with little or no assistance from guardians (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn & Malenoski, 2007). It is important to make sure students understand the skill being reinforced through homework and that it is addressed the next day in class to check for misconceptions. If students are allowed to continue to practice using an inappropriate method, it becomes more difficult to unlearn the skill. Repetition is important if learning is to take place. According to Smith (1999), a skill cannot be developed unless there is adequate practice.  Using computer programs is another way to have students practice skills. Many computer programs allow students to perform a task multiple times to get an answer with immediate feedback for accuracy. Some programs actually explain how to solve problems when students continually miss them. This feedback is a behaviorist response. When they get the correct answer, they are praised with applause, fireworks or other response. When it is incorrect, they get another chance, lose the game or may have the problem explained to them. Either way the student is building knowledge through the positive or negative response.
Behaviorism can be seen in today’s classroom’s Teachers may not always see how they are using it, but when they smile or complement a students for a job well done, they have given a positive reinforcement. When they give homework passes to students who continually turn in work on time, they are giving negative reinforcement because they have removed an assignment because of the desired behavior. Students today may learn differently because they need more hands-on, physical activities to stay motivated and attentive, but they still respond to the behaviorists’ theory.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program four: Behaviorist 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.
Smith, K. (1999). The behaviorist orientation to learning. In The encyclopedia of informal education. Retrieved from