Category Archives: 1.4 Learner Characteristics

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 543- PLE Depiction and Analysis

Entering into this class, I was certainly aware of the term Personal Learning Network.  I had been through a professional development ‘workshop’ on web 2.0 and it’s potential uses in education.  I had embraced Facebook as a way to connect socially, Twitter as a way to see what others are doing and various Ning Communities as a way to converse while still be distant.  If anyone asked, I would have said that I had a PLN.  Looking back, I am not so sure.  I had connections, for sure.  I lurked in the background and cherry-picked the good stuff.  I read blogs posts here and there, but never commented.  I tweeted experimentally, but with little of substance to add.

[gigya src=” http://media.spicynodes.org/display.swf?id=a5c45c8257abfa64abca0e952767e4d8&nodemapID=395959″ quality=”high” width=”550″ height=”315 ]

So what has changed.  In some ways, not a great deal.  I am still more lurker than contributor…but I am working on that.  More importantly, I have come to gain a better appreciation of the fact that the PLN is simply a portion of the Personal Learning Environment (PLE).  When push comes to shove, this is about my own learning.  For that to happen, I need to have a variety of ways to obtain and process information.  The tools for finding information vary from Google to Twitter to Facebook.  (For the sake of this assignment, I am limiting myself to the online communities, but understand the role of my offline interactions as well.)  From there, learning becomes an interactive process.  I reflect in a blog or comment on someone else’s blog.  The dialogue begins and I build on a base of understanding.  From there the cycle builds and grows over time.  Interestingly, I used to feel like I could “master”  a topic.  I may not have known everything, but I knew everything that was reasonable to know.  Now, it seems there really isn’t such a limit (or achievement?).  With so much to know and so many potential teachers, all PLE supported,  the sky is the limit.

One thing became apparent as I viewed some classmates’ own PLE diagrams- mine showed less distinction about what each tool/community is for.  That is not to say that mine is better.  Truth is I really don’t know.  Distinctions about personal vs. professional seem like they should be distinguished.  But, for me, as I view my own learning, they all blend together.  This class brought my social world, Facebook, into my professional world.  One of my students follows me on Twitter, which I use for Professional Development.  We chat about golf.  So many of the tools could be placed in every category.  Even in my depiction this was true, but I went with what I use it for most.  Heading forward, this is both a challenge and an opportunity.  I have to be aware that my audience is very diverse.  It includes my colleagues, my boss, my students and even my mother.  However, it also brings the opportunity to catch things that might pass by otherwise and to get input on professional topics (or personal ones) from unlikely sources.

I’ll be interested to do this again in a few years.

Ed Tech 503- Reflection on Motivation and Learning Types

In this unit, both motivation and a variety of types of learning were explored.  For me, both areas were very engaging and helped me make some specific connections to my own teaching.
As a high school science teacher, motivating students can be a challenge.  Very often, the students enter my classroom with predefined ideas about science.  They either love it or hate it.  Those that love it need little motivation to engage in the learning.  Those that hate it, can be disengaged and distant from the start.  Helping these studnets to embrace teh learning opportunity is tricky business.  I was especially interested in the ARCS model of motivation because it guides the teacher to ask and answer specific questions surrounding motivation of the learner.  This provides a very specific framework for me to use as I design science lessons.

The different types of learning outline in Smith and Raga were incredibly helpful for me as well.  In some was, I was already very familiar with these types of learning.  Clearly, my students need to learn the meanings of words they come across sin a Biology textbook or identify specific structures.  Building upon this learning to develop an understanding of principles, process and beyond is one of my main objectives in my Biology class.  For too long, Biology has been taught as a collection of facts.  This has caused many students to be turned off.  The challenge seemed to be to be able to retain vast amounts of declarative knowledge.  Those that can do that well earned A’s, those than cannot earned F’s.  Many students were turned off of Biology and Science in general in the process.  By understanding the relationships between the different types of learning, I feel better equipped to create stages of learning for my students that help them through many of the learning types.  While I cannot dismiss the declarative portion of the class, I am better able to envision how to address each form of learning as a connection to the others.  (I have to admit that I have a hard time seeing how I would engage them in the psychomotor type of learning, but, luckily, I am also a golf coach:))

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 503- Reflection on Unit 3 (Goal Analysis)

This unit was all about goal analysis.  Over the years, I have had a number of interests ranging from golf to triathlon to working on a Masters.  One of the characteristics that has been a uniting factor in all of them is having focus.  On many occasions, I have noticed that my progress towards any any desired result has been directly proportional to how clearly I had laid out the goal.  When I have a plan with distinct and measurable benchmarks, I get to where I want to go more times than not.  Without such a plan, where I end up is anybody’s guess.  I guess Yogi Berra was right when he said “if you don’t know where you are going, you might end up someplace else”.

Photo Credit: Jean Louis Zimmerman

When it comes to designing instruction, it is hard to overstate the need for clear goals.  As a teacher, I have always had an idea of what i wanted my students to get out of a given lesson.  The lessons have been designed around conveying some information or just general ideas.  As I worked through this unit, it finally became clear that the hit-or-miss success of these lesson is likely due to a lack of focus on the goals of the lesson.  That is my take away: when it comes to figuring out the path to a destination, I must become more diligent about specifically defining the destination itself.

Now, I have known that setting goals or learning objectives is important for some time (even if I haven’t always been great about sitting down and doing it formally), but I have also realized that there is a great deal of importance in making sure you know that you have arrived.  Again, as a teacher, i have relied on grades.  if students are getting A’s, clearly my objectives have been reached.  Viewing objectives through the lens of ID has made me realized that the grade may not be a clear indicator of reaching the goal.  Specificity is important, but so is the ability to recognize when a goal has been reached.  “The students will understand…” has started many objectives in my planning.  The problem is that ‘understanding is very subjective and may be very difficult to measure.

Just as has been the case in my many other goal setting experiences, setting clear  and measurable goals for my students is critical to their success.

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.

The Digital Divide and Digital Inequality

As part of my work in EDTECH 501 at Boise State University, I was recently given the following assignment:

You are the Chief Technology Adviser for your State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and she has asked your help in budgeting some special funds. She has been given a special allocation of $50M to address digital inequalities in the state, and she wants you to consider the following seven options:

1: Install computers in all public libraries in the state and expand the hours when the computers are available.
2: Expand staffing and other resources so that public schools can be open to the public after normal school hours, on weekends, and during the summer months.
3: Provide individuals in disadvantaged communities with computers.
4: Provide high-speed Internet and mobile access for all state residents.
5: Subsidize Internet Service Providers to provide low-cost Internet to all state residents.
6: Provide information literacy courses to enhance computer skills and enable knowledgeable use of digital technologies.
7: Develop free online educational content, giving first priority to content most relevant to lower socio-economic groups before content that is relevant to the rest of the public.

Links (I am having some trouble with the embed feature in WordPress.)

Narrated Presentation

Presentation without Narration

Digital Inequality Presentation-Narration Notes

In researching the material needed to address these ideas, I learned a great deal about the digital world that I had not previously considered.  Over the past year and a half, I have pushing myself and my students to actively engage in online activities.  I have come to recognize that these skills are going to be more and more important for my students as they venture forth into the world after graduation.  Although I have always suspected that the vast majority of students are not receiving such education, I always assumed it was due to educational systems that were now flexible or teachers who were not willing to move outside of their comfort zone.  It had not occurred to me in any meaningful way that the education wasn’t happening because the access wasn’t there.

I am lucky in many regards in my life.  One of those is the fact that I am immersed in technology to just about any level I desire.  I can connect with family and friends, seek advice from virtual colleagues and learn as much as I want about just about any topic of my choosing.  (Just yesterday I watched a baseball game on my phone.  Now that’s immersion.)  The fact is, I can move in and out of technology use as I see fit.  This assignment has made me more aware of the fact that there are many around me-and beyond- that simply cannot do that.  As I state in the project itself, I feel that access to the virtual world is no longer a luxury, but a need.

Heading forward, I will much more aware of this issue as I engage my students in the online pursuits.  In many ways, I think it is my students that need universal access for everyone.  For if they are truly engaging in an online, global conversation, shouldn’t everyone have a voice?

The assignment itself aligns with the following standards:

Standard 3.2- Diffusion of Innovations: The production of the video allowed me to utilize a form of communication that I have and will continue to use.

Standard 3.4 Policies and Regulations: Clearly, the “rules and actions of society that affect the diffusion and use of Instructional Technology” can be seen in this project.  The project itself is about an inequality that is largely based on the rules of society and a social hierarchy.  If the age of the “lifelong learner” is indeed upon us, then it is critical to give all equal access.

Standard 4.2 Resource Management: The biggest jump I made in this regard was that I have expanded my use of Google Docs and PDF editing.  Housing all my documents in Google docs allows me access from anywhere.  In addition, I explored the ways PDF editing allows me to highlight and take notes within each of the documents.  During the project itself, I went from having a desk full of papers to highlighted online documents.