Tuesday, October 25, 2011


In the beginning of this class I felt that students learn best when they can relate to their learning and are able to be actively involved in the process. After reading and learning more details about different learning theories and strategies, my belief still holds true. The only thing that has changed from my studies is my perspective about the use of technology devices more for learning tools and less for instructional tools. Students of today are wired differently than those a decade ago. In order to produce effective, successful students, educators must adapt classroom instruction to fit this changing world. Students today are accustomed to working with computers and other digital devices which give immediate feedback and they expect the same from their classroom assignments. Therefore, successful teachers are willing to learn about these new devices and modify their strategies to incorporate them into the curriculum.

I have had strong feelings about the use of technology in education for several years. As an educator I have made it a point to try to learn at least one new device or strategy to incorporate each year since. This course has helped me to improve even more as an educator. In the past I generally used these devices as instructional tools instead of learning tools (Laureate Education Inc., 2011b).According to Dr. Orey, if educators expect today’s students to be motivated during the learning process then they need to ensure that the student is actively involved. One way to achieve this desire is to allow students to use technology as they are learning. It becomes a tool for learning and not just for teacher demonstrations.  Smart Boards are more than projectors; they are tools that get students engaged in the learning process when used properly.  Like computers, the tax payers’ money has purchased them and they must be used to improve the education of our children, not just a toy for teachers to play with.

A second aspect of my teaching strategies that has been affected by recent studies is the use of dual coding (Laureate Education Inc., 2011b). I have used many Power Points and other Word documents as instructional tools in past years. Understanding the impact of incorporating more pictures into these tools will make the use of these tools more effective. Students will be able to relate the text to the accompanying picture. As Dr. Orey suggested when he described the difference between constructionist and constructivist theories (Laureate Education Inc., 2001a) students have different experiences that they bring into the classroom. These experiences can have an effect on how they perceive new information. When educators are able to include pictures, it enables the student to connect accurately to ensure they are able to visualize the concept. Using visual learning strategies within curriculum helps the student structure their thoughts and make connections to content (O’Bannon, et.al, 2006). It also helps overcome the obstacles caused by language barriers and reading ability in subjects that are not dependent on reading comprehension.  As I work to use more technology within my instruction I plan to modify old presentations to not only be more student friendly but also to include more pictures to aid in the learning process.

There are multiple instructional strategies that have proven to be effective in the classroom. Incorporating technology into these strategies makes them more successful because it helps prepare our students for the competition of the twenty-first century workforce. Two strategies I plan to work to enhance in my instruction this year are: cooperative learning and summarizing and note taking. In order for students to become effective leaners, they need to be able to summarize their learning by being able to delete unnecessary information while focusing on the important facts (Pitler, et. al., 2007 p. 119). This is a new skill for my third graders. However, teaching them to effectively summarize their learning will help make them more successful in the future. It will help them be able to organize their learning. This strategy is difficult for them to accomplish at this age therefore I am also working to improve the effectiveness of cooperative learning within my classroom (Pilter, et. al., 2007 p. 139). While using cooperative groups students must understand the expectations of each individual learner. Students also learn when they have to “teach” another student. Using cooperative learning activities within the classroom will help improve the learning process.

As I work to improve my classroom instruction I have set two personal goals. I want to move from a more direct instruction classroom to a more student centered classroom. I not only want to move from using technology as an instructional tool to a learning tool, but I also want to hold my students more accountable for their learning. I want to become more of a facilitator and allow the students to learn more through doing and sharing amongst themselves. In order to accomplish this I must learn how to use technology tools more efficiently. That means taking time to practice and learn how the tools work. One tool I plan to use more is virtual field trips. Due to budget cuts, taking trips has become a difficult task.  A second goal I have set is incorporated into the first: use more variety of technology in the classroom. I have used a few different tools in the past. Now that I have increased my knowledge in the types of technology available and how to use them within the curriculum, I plan to share them with my students. Students today have no fear and are willing to experiment on the computer freely. When they do so without adult guidance, it can lead to its misuse. I believe if I can at least give them some directed instruction in a wide variety of technology tools and how to use them to create an artifact, then they will have a heads up in the right direction. They will have an experience to relate to the next time they have to choose a method to present a project.  By setting personal goals I will be able to improve my classroom instruction in order to produce more effective life-long learners.

This course has been very enlightening for me. I have learned more than I know what to do with right now. Focusing on one or two methods to improve on at a time will help me become a more efficient teacher. I want my students to not only experience success within my classroom but also in the real world when they leave. Incorporating more technology into the classroom is a step in the right direction.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011a). Program seven: Constructionist and constructivist learning theories [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from http://laureate.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=5700267&CPURL=laureate.ecollege.com&Survey=1&47=2594577&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=0&bhcp=1

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011b). Program thirteen: Technology: Instructional tool vs. learning tool [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from http://laureate.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=5700267&CPURL=laureate.ecollege.com&Survey=1&47=2594577&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=0&bhcp=1

O’Bannon, B., Puckett, K., & Rakes, G. (2006). Using Technology to Support Visual Learning Strategies. Retrieved from http://www.hawthornepres.com/web/CITS.
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Social Learning Theories

Voice Thread:

Have you ever sat through a lecture and walked out knowing nothing more than when you walked in? Often times our classrooms are a lot like this for students. Teachers fail to engage them in the learning process.  Due to the ever changing nature of students today it is crucial that teachers modify their instruction to accommodate the learning styles and preferences of the students currently in the class. This means incorporating various techniques to help students learn. There are many ways to accomplish this in the classroom.

Social learning theories believe students learn best when they are able to work with others to process new information and move it from their short term memory to their long term and be able to retrieve it when called upon (Laureate Education Inc., 2011). Students tend to be able to share information and experiences when they work together to enhance the learning that takes place. Students also become responsible for other members of their team and not just themselves. They must help each member comprehend the objective in order for the team to be successful. There are a ways teachers can include activities within the classroom that promote social learning.

One such method is the use of cooperative groups. Cooperative groups tend to improve student motivation and increase skill levels. Last week we discussed project-based and problem-based learning. Teachers can create projects that require students to work collectively to complete; this is termed social constructionism (Laureate Education Inc., 2011). When students work in groups to achieve a common goal, everyone becomes responsible for each other’s’ learning. Using peer teaching they must make sure each member understands the skills and objectives being discussed therefore improving on their own understanding.  Generally tasks that fit under cooperative grouping assignments are too difficult for a student to complete independently and requires students to work together to accomplish the goal (Orey, 2001). Before establishing groups students must understand the expectations of working as groups. Depending on the teacher’s style, students may all receive the same grade in the group; this makes them realize their effort will affect all members of the team. When choosing students for groups it is important to recognize the length and desired outcome of the task. Sometimes students should have the freedom to choose their partners but realize the expectations remain the same. Other times the teacher may choose the base groups according to their ability; though this should rarely be the case (Putler, Hubbell, Kuhn & Malenoski, 2007). Groups should be small in size so that students have the opportunity to participate in the process. Using cooperative groups allows students to build their knowledge together rather than independently through their social interactions.

There are many ways teachers can incorporate cooperative groups into their lessons. Web quest is one mentioned in this week’s readings. When using web quests, students are given tasks to complete. Usually the template also has the resources students can use to complete the task. Web quest lessons are usually too in depth to be assigned independently which makes them great for cooperative learning groups. Teachers can create their own web quest or there is a template found at http://webquest.org/ that helps teachers save time when generating one. Another activity discussed this week is the use of blogs. Students are often familiar with Twitter and Facebook social network programs. Blogs are similar in nature because they allow students to respond to each other’s posts. They are different however because they usually have a specific topic to write about and discuss. I currently use blogs within my writing class. I attempt to include a new post weekly that relates to that week’s reading assignment. Students then are able to write their response to the topic. Students are engaged during both types of lessons because they incorporate the use of the computer and they know their work will be visible to show friends and family through the class web site.

Another new technology I am working to incorporate for the first time this year that promotes social constructionism is the use of a class wiki. We are beginning a study of explorers to our state. In order for students to demonstrate an understanding, I am going to use the jig saw method to have individual groups research countries that sent explorers to the New World. Each group will be responsible for certain aspects about exploration at that time. They will input their findings into a class wiki. After each group is finished gathering their information they will share their portion of the wiki with the class. The wiki will have a link on our class web site so that students will have a resource to use for future reference. This activity lends itself to cooperative learning groups because it is too much to ask for each student to individually research and learn about the many explorers to our state. If I were to do the research for them and create a Power Point presentation it might reach some of the students but creating a lesson where the students are responsible for the learning helps create the life-long learners every educator should strive for.

Teachers today need to be on the same page as the rapidly changing world around them. If teachers want their students to be successful as adults, they need the skills that will help them compete against students from around the world. These countries are moving ahead at a much faster rate than America.  For American schools to keep up, teachers need to learn how to integrate technology throughout the curriculum and use it frequently and effectively. This means teachers need to stay abreast of the many new programs and tools available to include within the lessons. Prior to using them in the classroom teachers must learn how to manipulate and work the program/tool enough to introduce it to the class. We do not have to be efficient in it because the use of technology itself acts as a stimulant to most students encouraging them to learn and they will generally teach the teacher new aspects about the program/tool as they are learning. Technology also supports the idea of creating a student centered class. Technology encourages students to research, practice using trial and error or create a product that is based on given objectives that makes them responsible for their learning. This leaves the educator to become the facilitator and not the lecturer.

As students evolve with the changes around them the classroom must also evolve. This means educators must learn to use more technology based activities and when appropriate create social learning experiences for the students. Humans are known to be social creatures and the school environment should be a place where proper socialization is taught.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program eight: Social learning theories
Orey, M. (Ed.). (2001). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. 
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.