Category Archives: EDTECH 504 – Theoretical Foundations of Educational Technology

Module 4 Reflection

For , you need to critically analyze the connections among emerging technologies, learning theories, and theories of educational technology. Use what you have learned to extend these linkages to your own classroom instruction.

Throughout this module, the idea of emerging technologies has been explored.  In the past twenty years, the evolution of internet-based tools have changed and with that changed have evolved new learning opportunities.  These learning opportunities, such as learning on demand, learning through blogs and new and easier forms of collaboration, bring with them a need for sound learning theory.  While some discussion on whether the theories are new or simply existing theories with a new slant has taken place, my take away has been that an understanding of how leanring occurs through these means is necessary.

I am not afraid to admit that as I learned about these tools, I was (and am) intrigued by their potential power and rushed to use them.  I encouraged colleagues to learn more too.  While the spirit of exploration and the willingness to try and ail is important, patience and examination of the applications is also necessary.  In some ways, my rush o apply technology was great.  When it was delivered just right, it made a great impact.  However, for those occasions when it was not right on target, class time was lost and, more importantly, some people came away with negative attitudes towards the technology.  For me, the lesson is to never be afraid to try something new, but do so with a reasonably sound basis in theory.

I say reasonably sound because I do believe that there is still much to be leaned about what the true value of these emerging technologies is.  In some ways, the technologies are pushing education into a system that is much more individualized.  People pursuing their passions rather than a one-size-fits-all curriculum.  I love this idea (though hope that most people would still want to be well-rounded in their education) and feel that the technology itself then becomes individualized.  Different students might embrace blogging as a form of social constructivist learning that rings true form them, while others embrace developing multimedia projects with many collaborators.  The fact is that the technology can be applied to whatever subject matter the individual in interested in, so the individual nature of learning can become reality.

As far as my classroom goes, I feel a bit caged in. This is due to both the fact that I am teaching within a fairly traditional system (set classes, basic curriculum, 50 minute periods, etc) and that I am not always sure how technology can be used to best serve my students.  I try, but don’t always succeed.  Right now, for example, I have embraced utilizing self-made video lectures in my Biology class.  This allows me to create more inquiry-based activities in class while not eliminating the lectures that help get material (or context) out to the students.  It feels right, for right now.  In the long run, I do hope to be less content driven and provide more authentic and passion-based learning in my classroom.  When I get there, I am sure that these emerging technologies will be a big part of it.

Ed Tech 504- Module 3 Reflection

“In your Module 3 Reflection extend your linkages between theories of learning, theories of educational technology and your own classroom instruction or professional practice.”

As I look back at the past unit and reflect upon how what I am learning is being utilized or seen in my classroom teaching, I must admit that I am struggling to make the connections.  When I say that, I mean that, while I am getting a better and better understanding of constructivist theory and how students may best learn, I am struggling to incorporate some of this in my classroom.  On aspect that i have used is the Jigsaw Activity.  I had in fact assigned such an assignment just before being assigned this one myself.  Students were to go out and become experts on a topic and then report back to their primary team.  As the unit progressed, it became clear that this was both an excellent tool for learning and a difficult tool for some high school students to embrace.  In the end, some people became experts and others did not.

There is no doubt in my mind that I am becoming a better educator through exploring various learning theories and methods for teaching.  There does come, however, a time when the theories must be applied.  It is in this area that I struggle.  How to actually get the students to engage fully is troubling.  So many students I teach, and I teach at a private school where motivation is relatively high, have become jaded and are not willing to embrace new methods.  As the year as progressed and I have included technology in what I hope are meaningful ways, many students have expressed there own frustration.  Many want to have me at the board telling them what they should know, rather than constructing their own knowledge.  In this is a great conflict that I am still trying to resolve.

With all this said, I do think that it is very important to acknowledge the place theory has in my journey.  This knowledge is forming a foundation upon which I will be able to build the lessons that students will engage in and get the most out of.  I very much look forward to learning how to apply the theories.

Ed Tech 504- Module 2 Reflection

At the end of each school year, once I take a breath and have a chance to catch up with my family, I get truly excited about the coming year.  The plans seem to blossom in my head.  Ideas pop up

Photo Credit: Anton Novoselov

constantly about how I can change my class to what I truly want: a student-centered, experiential classroom.  As I learn more about epistemology and the application of different learning theories in education, I realize that I lean towards the constructivist way of thinking.  In my ideal classroom, students would engage daily in learning experiences that gave them core pieces of knowledge in Biology.  They would then run with their passions to explore their own individual areas of Biology.  I would be at hand for guidance and explanation as needed.  Technology would be integral to what we were doing.  Students would blog to help further ingrain their understanding and share their ideas with the world.  They would connect with scientists in the areas they find most interesting.  They would use various forms of multimedia to create projects that enhance their learning and help teach their classmates.
That’s my vision at a time of the year when anything goes.
When fall rolls around once again, the pressures of the real world being to weigh on me.  How do I build such a curriculum?  How do I deal with unmotivated students?  How can I break students out of the mold that has them creating such poorly designed and shallow projects?  How do I grade anything they do?  How do I explain my vision to doubtful parents who are wondering if the grades will be good enough to get their child into college?  The questions go on and on.  The path to my goal seems like a very challenging one.
Sadly, this tends to lead me back to where I have been for a decade and a half.  Lecturing, assigning classic homework and testing knowledge that the majority of students will lose within months if not sooner.

This year has been different.  We are a few weeks in and I have yet to lecture.  While we are moving along at a slower pace, the students have been allowed to be active in their own learning.  They aren’t off exploring the world every period, but they seem to appreciate the fact that they are in control.  Technology is creeping in, but slowly.  I am working towards a class blog, but find myself so busy that it is hard to feel that it is ready for launch.

The good, no great news is that I still believe.  I am plowing ahead.  looking back, it was just two years ago that my idea of technology in my classroom was a digital thermometer.  I have changed as a teacher in the past two years.  At least in how I look at my classes.  The shift to a discovery learning model has been slow, but I have worked towards that end and will continue to do so.  Technology is becoming an everyday component in my class.  Students collaborate and share notes and their first multimedia “test” is on the horizon.

So, while I am gaining a better and better appreciation for the philosophy  and psychology of education, the road to my dream becomes a bit clearer.  As long as I keep moving, someday the road will seem less unsure and  my vision will be realized.

Photo Credit: Scott Marlowe

Ed Tech 504- Learning Theories Paper

The following is a paper exploring Discovery Learning Theory written for Ed Tech 504 at Boise State University.

Overview

Discovery learning is a theory of learning born from the constructivist school of thought.  Constructivism itself holds that a learner’s knowledge arises from personal interpretation of one’s own experiences (Applefield, Huber, & Moallum, 2001).  In essence, each learner creates his or her own understanding based on their interaction with the world.  Discovery learning specifically provides activities from which students may “author their own knowledge, advancing their cognitive structures by revising and creating new understandings out of existing ones” (Applefield, Huber, & Moallum, 2001, p.37).  It is through discovery that a learner is able to make sense of the world and organize the information in such a way that it deemed new knowledge.

Contributors

While discovery learning has been gaining more widespread popularity over the last twenty or so years, it’s roots trace back to the early twentieth century.  At this time, Mary Boole shared her thoughts on the subject of learning Science in a booklet that shared many fundamental characteristics with modern discovery learning theory. Some aspects of discovery learning theory are also seen in the work of Maria Montessori (Taba, 1963).  The major contributors to the modern understanding of discovery leanring theory are John Dewey, Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky and, especially, Jerome Bruner (Applefield, Huber, & Moallum, 2001).

Major Principles

As stated, discovery learning as a concept is a branch of the constructivist school of thought.  In this school, learning is thought to be formed by each individual learner as they interact with their environment.  Each person creates knowledge as they gain experience through interaction with various situations and problems.  They then organize those experiences cognitively, thus forming new knowledge.  Factors such as the learner’s prior knowledge, social interaction and the creation of proper learning situations are also crucial (Applefield, Huber, & Moallum, 2001).  Discovery learning begins with a student’s interaction with the world in an authentic learning situation.  Learners are encouraged to explore in order to experience the principles to be learned on their own.  Connections to prior knowledge are essential, thus well designed and proper sequencing of activities is typically seen as integral.  A student must be able to make connections to material previously learned.  It is worth noting that many discovery learning experiences are designed to induce a sense of confusion that the learner must resolve on their own.  Beyond the individual experiences, students are encouraged to avoid verbalization of the principles learned until deeper connections have been internalized.  It is through this process that students are able to reorganize their own knowledge.  Through this process, “there is a gain in [the learner’s] ability to organize information; in addition, this organized information is more readily available for later application or problem solving” (Hermann, 1969, p.59).

Application

Science education provides an excellent area for the application of discovery learning.  By providing authentic experiences in which students make first-hand observations of natural phenomena, they are thus able to make their own connections.  In Chemistry, for example, students may given an opportunity to mix various salt solutions in order to witness and record the results (formation of gas or solid precipitates for instance).  If structured properly, student should be able to organize the data gathered and develop from them a basic understanding of solubility rules that can be applied to later tasks.  A key part of this process would be that students are faced with a situation that they must interpret for themselves.  Proper structuring of the experience itself is essential.  For instance, students must come in with prior knowledge, such as the understanding that some substances are water soluble while others are not and that some substances are composed of various ions.  It should be noted, however, that there are limitations to the role of discovery learning in this regard.  Without proper structuring of the learning experiences, students may never be able to make the intended connections.  Also, discovery learning experiences may be more appropriate for learning at a earlier levels of education when concepts are more general.  The study of photosynthesis provides a good example of the limitations of discovery learning.  While providing experiences with experimentation with growing plants in various conditions (different soil content, different lighting conditions, etc.) may allow students to gain an understanding of some of the basic needs of a plant, it is difficult to envision a discovery learning process in which students could gain a full understanding and appreciation of the complex biochemical processes happening within the plant cells.  While it is conceivable that an elaborate, highly structured set of experiences might allow a student to eventually make those connections and discoveries, it seems more beneficial to blend discovery learning with a more expository experience to allow advanced learners to progress in their science education without having to constantly “rediscover” the science involved.  This said, true discovery learning theorists would likely argue that such an experience would limit the true learning on the part of the student.

References
Applefield, J.M., Huber, R., & Moallem, M. (2001). Constructivism in theory and practice: toward a

better understanding. The High School Journal, 84(2), 35-53.
Hermann, G. (1969). Learning by discovery: a critical review of studies. The Journal of Experimental

Education, 38(1), 58-72.

Taba, H. (1963). Learning by discovery: psychological and educational rationale. The Elementary

School Journal, 63(6), 308-316.

Ed Tech 504 Reflection on Module 1

As the first module of my Ed Tech 504class wraps up,  it’s time to look at I look at where I am, where I want to go and the

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ripple effect that may have.  In my world as a Science teacher in a small private school, I am pushing to include the use of technology in as many ways as I feel is prudent.  The word “prudent” being the key.  Since my introduction into this field just two years ago, I have certainly become enamored with the tools that educational technology provides.  I have created wikis for my classes and my school, attempted to get teachers to move discussions to a Ning and begun to record lectures via podcast on a regular basis.  I have sought out different experiences for my students to have through online tutorials and a wide variety of online web 2.0 tools.  The tools are very seductive and exciting to say the least.

Personally, I find using technology very exciting because it can offer a very multifaceted approach to learning.  Nowadays, however, I am taking a hard look at the reasons and best methods for inclusion of technology in my classes.  In addition, I have begun a transition towards being a leader in educational technology at my school.  Beginning this year, I have started to drop classes in favor of exploring technology use and sharing the results of that exploration with my colleagues.  While this is a very exciting time for me, the idea of becoming a leader in a field that is ever shifting and difficult to define is also a bit intimidating.

In terms of my teaching, a student in one of my classes- I teach a variety of Science and Math classes, but am most comfortable in a Biology classroom- can expect to spend a number of days on a computer and relatively fewer days listening to a lecture.  I have opened my eyes to the fact that a lecture based class is not an effective learning situation for most students.  As I learn more about learning, I see that the majority of my knowledge has come through experience, not through listening to lectures or following step-by-step lab procedures.  I learned best when things got messy. When I was unsure of how to proceed and had to figure it out on my own.  That is the experience that I hope to bring to my classes and the incorporation of educational technology in a myriad of ways helps make that possible.

In our wired world, technology is so much more than the computer in front of me or a lab simulation- though I do think they are both helpful in their own way.  Instead, the world is at my fingertips.  I can head out and find the information I want or need.  I can share ideas with colleagues, watch tutorials on astronomy or cell biology and even tweet a cookbook author to ask a question about a recipe.  (I did this last one just the other day and was very excited to hear that the rubbery texture of my vegan burgers was normal!)  The point is that everyone with an internet connection can head out and seek information.  Doing so well is another story.  Learning about the foundations of educational technology can only help me gain a better global view of what it is I am trying to accomplish.  As a teacher, I can get very myopic about the inclusion of technology.  I look at this web tutorial or that blog and choose it for a given assignment.  While this turns out useful more often than not, it does leave me wanting a bit in terms of being able to share the virtues of educational technology with my colleagues in other departments.  I am

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hopeful that learning more about the core of the educational technology field will help me to better reach out to my colleagues.

The ripples of what I am doing are certainly being felt by my colleagues already.  I am doing my best to model technology inclusion in a meaningful way so that teachers around me might see it and ask about what I am doing and give me an opportunity to share ideas with them.  Once the dialogue is open, I truly believe that most teachers will see the value of helping their students make connections, making connections themselves and being part of a global community.

Ed Tech 504-Module 1 Definition of Educational Technology

Heading into this discussion, I felt fairly confident that i would pin down a definition of Educational Technology that i was happy with.  To be honest, the second I started typing, that feeling faded away.  Given the fact that digital technology evolves so rapidly, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the vast array of tools and lump them as “educational technology”.  There is little doubt in my mind that tools such as the computer sitting in front of me with the various software on it and the connections to an array of learning experiences-ranging from Khan Academy to MIT Open Courseware to the multitude of blogs and web-based communities-it connects to are, in fact educational technology.

The problem for me appears when I start to expand my view to the science classroom around me (I am a Biology teacher and my class/lab is the quietest place I have to work).  The interactive whiteboard behind certainly fits the bill.  The digital microscopes, computer -based lab equipment and the like are obvious choices as well.  Heck, I’d even make an argument for my coffee maker!  I can pull back to my past and draw up images of less-than-modern technology such as overhead projectors, film projectors and cassette recorders.  Educational technologies all.

To be honest, I would love to say that educational technology is the application of any human-made device towards the end of goal learning.  Unfortunately, that comes up short of what I see as a decent definition.  Learning is my first problem.  While learning  can take many forms, I see a distinction between training and learning.  Technological devices that perhaps extend our senses or capacity for retaining information might be an alteration I would make to that.