Category Archives: 1.3 Instructional Strategies

EdTech 513- Screencasting Project

For this project, I created a screencast in which the learners go through a worked example of drawing a Lewis structure. Because the video is a flash video, I had trouble embedding it on this blog. So, I created a Learning Log on Blogger that allows the interactive part to work.  Here is a link to that post.

The content of that post is below:

This screen cast is a worked example for drawing a Lewis structure in Chemistry class.  The video takes a Chemistry student through a review of how to draw a Lewis Structure. It then gives the learner a chance to do an example on their own.  I wanted to create an interactive experience for the learner in which they are able to pace the work on their own.  Unfortunately, I ran into a slew of issues with this.  In the end, I needed to place the video here in Blogger rather than WordPress.  I know there are better workarounds to accomplish what I was looking for, but time was an issue.  I do plan to explore the technology needed to make links within videos a bit more in the future.

Here is the worked example (note, to click “Continue” the video must be watched in full screen format, otherwise the progress bar masks it.) (This is where the interactive video should go, but it doesn’t work in WordPress.

For this worked example, I wanted to begin by giving the the learners a look at what a Lewis structure is to to familiarize them with the vocabulary and the symbols involved.  This pre-training would allow them to focus on the procedure, rather than wondering about the symbols.  I then proceeded to work through the example step by step.  At each step, the learner has the control of whether they feel confidence enough to continue or if they needed to review that step again.  Using the segmenting principle puts control of the learning in the users hands. At the end, the learner’s are given a summary of the steps and the option to replay the lesson as a whole or to move on to try an example on their own.  The example ends with the option of seeing the actual solution.  This example, would help a learner achieve far transfer for the material covered.

One thing to note is that I had some trouble deciding who the learner actually was.  I decided to create a video that I could share with my Chemistry class after this material had been presented.  It is not meant to be a replacement lecture, but rather a step-by-step worked example of something they should be somewhat familiar with.


EdTech 513- Digital Storytelling Project

For this project, we reviewed some of the elements that make for a good digital story and then set to work in creating our own. My story is about a local legend surrounding a a lost stash of gold.  It is a story of the desire to push into a world of adventure and the difficulties we have in doing that.  I found this project challenging in the very best sense of the word.  Technically I struggled at times (especially when it comes to the so-called “Ken Burns” effect), but it all came together eventually.  Even as I finished, I felt that I really wanted to spend more time smoothing out some of the wrinkles that I see in the finished project.  I can see  how filmmakers can get lost in their work.  For me, I simply ran out of time.  Maybe I’ll work on it again someday…

It was fun to develop a story that is personal. Having looked through a number of the examples given, I was struck by the fact that so many has a sad theme.  In developing my own story, I wanted to be positive and see if I could create a compelling story that still had meaning.  In the end, I was happy with the story as it turned out.  Because it was so personal and real, the application of the personalization principle was quite natural to use.  Using a natural, conversational tone allows viewers to get a bit lost, hopefully, in the story being told.  It allows for a deeper connection with the message of the story.

As far as the use of digital storytelling goes, I see a great deal of potential for its use in a classroom.   While I did have some difficulty with the technical aspects of the story, with some practice, it seems easy enough to pass the “how-to’s” along to students.  I can envision English classes analyzing novels or making short pieces about Shakespearean soliloquies.  Foreign Language classes could easily make use of this concept by having students create stories in the language they are studying.  Overall, this seems like a fairly versatile type of project.


Coherence Analysis

Coherence Principle Description

The coherence principle essentially states that superfluous material, in the form of visuals, audio or text, should be avoided when preparing a multimedia lesson (Clark & Mayer, 2008, p. 153).  In each of these cases, there is support for the idea that the extra information that is not directly related to the learning objectives can distract the learner and hinder the learning process.

The most important aspects of the coherence principles focus on the avoidance of extraneous material.  In terms of audio, it is best to avoid the inclusion of background music or sounds in a lesson.  With a limit to the amount of working memory a learner has, the background music or other sounds can lead to overload of the working memory and hinder learning.  Eliminating or avoiding superfluous graphics is also recommended. While graphics related to the learning objectives are important to include, adding graphics not related to those objectives for the purpose of “spicing up” the lesson causes the learner to divide their attention between the learning material and the graphics.  When graphics are used, they should be simple in nature to improve the learning process.  Detailed graphics may depress learning, especially among beginners in a particular subject.  Lastly, it is best to avoid the use of extra words.  Words added to interest learners, expand on ideas or go into technical detail can all be distracting for the learners and hinder the learning process.

Examples of Coherence Principle

An example of successful adherence of  the coherence principle is the following slide from the instructor materials from Campbell Biology, the support site for the Biology textbook by Neil Campbell.  The slide presents a clearly identifies the “key to flight” as “aerodynamic structure and provides an image that illustrates this structure in a simple, relatable way.  In addition, the slide avoids going into the technical details of the airfoil in either words or images.  This allows the learner to come away with the simple idea that it is the structure of a wing that allows a bird to overcome gravity.


Another source provides an example of suspect adherence to the coherence principle.  In the slide below from a slideshow on evolution, focus is on Lamarck’s contribution of evolution theory.  While the limited text implies that this slideshow is being used while a teacher narrates, there is also the inclusion of a picture (perhaps one of the students) and the words “Are you still paying Attention?”  Both of these seem to be an attempt to retain the attention of students, but as they do not directly relate to the information being related, serve only to distract and disrupt the learning process.  They most certainly do not add to the learning experience for the student, nor do they effectively make the material more interesting.

Relationship of Coherence Principle to Other Multimedia Principles

Prior principles discussed include the multimedia principle, which states that learners benefit from having words and images together, rather than words alone, and the contiguity principle that states that those included images should be relatively close to the words to which they are related.  In short, these principles state that images should be included and be close to the words they are illustrating.  The relationship this has to the coherence principle is something like a reality check for image inclusion (or other media such as audio).  It is important to include multiple forms of media to allow users to access both auditory and visual learning channels, however, it is equally important to be sure that the images (or audio) serve a specific purpose.  Images must be related to the learning objective.  If they are not, the benefits of adherence to the multimedia principle may, in fact, be contradicted by the lack of adherence to the coherence principle.

Coherence Principle Related to Psychological Theories

Beginning with arousal theory, many instructors seem to face the challenge of keeping the attention of the learner.  To do this, they make attempts to grab or keep attention through the inclusion of “exciting” images, “fun” audio or “interesting” facts or stories.  Arousal theory assumes that the learners will become emotionally engaged and, therefore, have greater interest and focus in the main learning material (Clark & Mayer, 2008, p. 156).  In many ways, it seems like arousal theory makes perfect sense.  If I am attentive to the screen, thanks to the included media, I must be attentive to the topic at hand. Cognitive theory, however, contradicts this.  Essentially, it comes down to the idea that we must process information through our working memory and that working memory has limited capacity. Inclusion of images that do not specifically and coherently relate to the learning objectives will utilize some of the working memory space and may overload the working memory.  This would lead to decreased learning, rather than increased.  The dual-coding theory goes on to imply that improved learning comes from utilizing both the auditory and visual channels (Moreno & Mayer, 2000).  An example of this might be using an image along with narrated text.

My View of the Coherence Principle

The aspect of the coherence principle that strikes me as being right on target is that the illustrations used in a multimedia presentation should be simple in nature.  As a science teacher, I am faced with the constant challenge of helping students to better understand complex systems.  Clearly, images and video go a long way towards helping a student visualize a process such as muscle contraction.  However, there exists a wide variety of diagrams that can show this.  Diagrams that are simple and focus on few specific details help beginner students to pay attention to the process in general without getting lost in the details.

The one aspect of this idea that I would say warrants qualification is that not all students possess the same knowledge base.  Advanced students, who may already have an understanding of the basic ideas, would likely benefit, or at least not be distracted by, a more detailed view of this same material.  They key to this is that the advanced students have prior understanding of the material to link the details to, whereas the beginner students do not.



Campbell, N. A., & Reece, J. B. (2001). Campbell Biology. San Francisco, Calif: Benjamin Cummings.

Clark, R. C., & Mayer, R. E. (2008). E-learning and the science of instruction, 2nd edition. Pfeiffer: San Francisco, CA.

Mayer, R. E. (1999). Multimedia aids to problem-solving transfer. International Journal of Educational Research, 31(7), 611-623.

Moreno, R., & Mayer, R. E. (2000). A learner-centered approach to multimedia explanations: Deriving instructional design principles from cognitive theory. Interactive Multimedia Electronic Journal of Computer-Enhanced Learning, 2(2), 2004-07.



Campbell Biology Online (subscription needed)

Southgate Schools Biology presentations

Science/Fiction Podcast- Episode 1: Extinct Species, Zombies, Time Travel and Tricorders

For this assignment, I created a podcast called “Science/Fiction” (or perhaps Science-Slash-Fiction” to add emphasis to the slash).  The idea behind this podcast was to spark the imagination of the listeners.  As a Science teacher, all too often I see student that become disenchanted with science because so much of it seems to be fact memorization.  While I can sit back and be amazed by the work of Charles Darwin or Gregor Mendel, student don’t see it that way.  So, I wanted to create a podcast that reminded listeners that there is a connection between real-world science and science fiction.  Through this series, listeners will see connections between dreams of the past and the realities of the future (or present).

In the pilot episode, the four topics I chose to look at were the possibility of bringing extinct species back to life using their DNA, parasites that infect the brain of their hosts turning them into zombies, the ins and outs of time travel and science fiction devices that will soon be a reality.

This was a very enjoyable assignment.  While I can’t say I am natural at podcasting, I do feel like the process is a great learning experience that helps you delve deeply into topics that are interesting.  I would love to make this particular podcast a series in which my students are the contributors.

Integrating Technology into the Teaching of Science

One of the best parts of being a Science teacher is that my students get to investigate the world on a regular basis.  So much of science is based on observing the world around you, asking questions about that world, investigating your questions and drawing conclusions from those investigations.  It is formal inquiry at it’s best.  For most students, however, there is a limit to what they can see.  Even now, in the 21st century, most of the world we experience is fairly limited in scope.  We know our houses and families, our schools and friends, but only rarely get to peek to the world beyond.

Assuming one has a curious and inquisitive mind, this is where technology can step in and pay huge dividends in the science classroom.  While I am a firm believer that the bulk of science that our students do should be hands-on work, there are many ways that technology adds to that experience.

Looking into Other Worlds

As stated, our view of the world is fairly limited.  Technology allows students to look into the heart of an atom or out into the unknown reaches of the galaxy through experiences like Absorb Learning’s atom tutorial or the Hubble Deep Field Academy.  The fact is that resources are being developed all the time that broaden students world and what becomes observable.  This broader view leads to more interest and investigation on the part of the students.

Learning from Others at Your Own Pace

Another wonderful aspect of technology integration is the fact that students learning is no longer limited to the teacher’s experiences.  Nowadays, students can learn from MIT professors or experts on subjects from around the world.  They need only reach out (with guidance) and follow their path at their pace.  Unlike any other time in history, students can truly follow their passions as far as they desire.

Using Inquiry to Learn

All science education should be inquiry based to some degree.  Technology integration supports such learning by allowing students to learn through experience as they tweak conditions in simulations, design and run experiments online or use tech-based data collecting in their own in-class experiments.   Technology supports a number of various ways for students to both gather information about their world and to visualize that information as they work to draw conclusions.

The fact is that the list goes on and on.  Students can utilize tutorials to gain better understandings of concepts, make connections and develop learning projects with partners around the world or simply track their own learning through the keeping of a blog.  Technology has always played an important role in the teaching and learning of science and that connection is growing deeper every day.


Haury, D. L. (1993). Teaching Science Through Inquiry. ERIC CSMEE Digest (March Ed 359 048).

Roblyer, M.D. & Doering, A.H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching (6th ed.). Boston: Pearson.

An Integrated Curriculum- Worth the Effort

What is the daily experience of most teachers?  Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but for me it is, sadly, a fairly isolated experience.  I plan my lessons on my own, I prep them on my own, I deliver them on my own and evaluate their effectiveness on my own.  Do I do a good job?  I like to think so.  I also work hard to stay innovative and to make the work and learning interesting for my students.  When push comes to shove, however, my students are working in isolation much the same as I am.  They are studying Biology (or Chemistry, or whatever subject I happen to be teaching) in isolation from other disciplines.  Sure, I like to slip in historical context when I can and I certainly help them through math skills, but the reality is that this type of isolation just isn’t real…except in school.

What happens when the students toss their caps and head off into the real world?  They are asked to complete projects for work that integrate all of the subjects they learned separately in school.  In some ways it seems like learning to hit a golf ball by learning small parts of the golf swing, the initial takeaway, taking the club up, starting the downswing, etc., from different coaches, only to ever take a full swing when it really counts- on the course.  Chances are the first few times you try that full swing, it will be awkward and not so successful.  The same goes for those first integrated, real-world projects.  Awkward and, perhaps, unsuccessful.

What would serve the students better?  An integrated curriculum.  A curriculum in which they develop English skills, Math skills, Science skills and all of their other skills through work on the same project.  A chance to see how the world connects outside the classroom walls.  Imagine a student who spent their time in school in this fashion as they attack that new, but familiar real-world project when they get their first job.  To say the least, they will be better off for the experience thay had in school.

So how does a school deliver such an experience?  To be honest, I don’t know.  It seems to take dedicated teachers, hard work and long hours.  What I do see, however, is that the first step is to create a culture of collaboration.  Administrations must make this a priority.  Creating lines of communication between faculty members is the essential first step to building an integrated curriculum.  Perhaps replacing faculty meetings with grade-level check-ins is a start.  Simply getting teachers together to talk about what they are teaching and how they are teaching it.  Can’t you just imagine the conversation as teachers begin to see the overlap in their subject matter.  It seems to me, it wouldn’t take much for that conversation to turn into an idea for small-scale collaboration, which could lead to…who knows.

The reality is that such conversation would not likely turn into a fully integrated curriculum.  That type of teaching is just too complex to come by through sheer enthusiasm.  But, the conversation is the starting point.  The communication between the people students spend their day with.  The realization that there are common goals and ways to make every subject more relevant, real and meaningful.

I like the sound of that.

Ed Tech 541- Multimedia Video Blog

This video post was created to answer the question of “what are the benefits of incorporating multimedia in the classroom?”

(The links embedded in the video don’t work.  Sorry about that.)

Project-Based Learning- Ed Tech 542 Post 1

As I begin this exploration into project-based learning, my initial thoughts are very positive.  Most articles and sources that I have come across paint a picture of motivated, engaged students doing work on project that have real and lasting results. provides a laundry list of benefits of  PBL including improved standardized test scores (although I wouldn’t want that to be the main goal of a learning situation).  Projects seems to bring life to classrooms that few other strategies do.  Students learn about topics that are important to them and develop some product that they the share with the world.  The learning is authentic and seems to be a wonderful way to approach learning.

As a science teacher, I ma often confronted with the question of covering content vs. helping students learn science.  The fact is that our understanding of the Biological world, for example, has exploded in the past century and there are simply too many facts to cover in a school year.  Even if I were able to cover the enormous textbook cover to cover, there is little chance that my student would retain more than a tiny fraction of the facts they learned. PBL seems to provide an alternative.  Yes, you do sacrifice the amount of material covered, but the depth of what is covered and the learning and retention seem to make it very worth the trade off.

One aspect of PBL that I do find intimidating is the fact that so many teachers do this within groups.  They lean on each other as they develop projects and share experiences and learn from each other as projects progress.  At my school, we have created a somewhat isolating culture in which teachers don’t collaborate as often as they should. While I think i want to incorporate PBL into my teaching for the students benefit, I also hope that my colleagues will be open to sharing that experience.  Who knows, perhaps my embracing PBL might help start a cultural shift at my school.

As far as ideas for a project go, there have been some moves at my school towards embracing a gardening curriculum.  I think I would like to explore that as a project for this class.  Some of the work has actually been done here, but I will approach it as if ground has yet to be broken.

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- Learning Theories Paper

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


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.


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).


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.

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.