Category Archives: 3.3 Implementation and Institutionalization

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.

Ed Tech 543- Curated Topics Criteria Group Assignment

While I have been studying Ed Tech at Boise State for a year and a half, this was the first true group project I have been involved.  There have been opportunities, but it always seemed that it would be easier to work alone.  Something about individual work just seems more efficient.  Much of this comes from outdated ideas that linger in my head.  Collaboration across the internet means creating a document, emailing it to your partners, each suggesting or adding changes and emailing it back, changing the original to reflect the new material, emailing that updated copy to partners, getting an email pointing out errors or omissions  changing the new original to reflect those changes, emailing it out, and on and on.  Frustrating right?

Leave it to Social Networking Learning to disprove that.  This assignment was something of an eye-opener in terms of showing me the ease of group collaboration across social networks.  To be fair, my group was actually a pair and my partner was outstanding.  Both of these facts contributed to the success of the project.

My partner Fabio Cominotti, and I come from different backgrounds.  I teach Science and Fabio’s background is in
English.  Despite this, we seemed to be on the same page from square one.  Our busy schedules limited our time and made efficient work a must.  We quickly settled on Google Docs as our medium and the project on curation came together seamlessly   The use of Facebook for conversation (and the fact that I get updates on my phone and can respond quickly) help ease the process of communicating changes and helped us stay on the same track.  Fabio learned and introduced me to Scoop.It, which is an exciting tool that I will be using quite a bit heading forward.

Overall, this group experience has been excellent.  A great partner, amazing tools and a cool subject all contributed to a positive experience.

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.

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 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

Photo Credit: Nedra

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

Photo credit: Robin_24

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.

Tech Use Plan Presentation

For the final project of my experience in Boise State’s Edtech 501 class, I have created a Technology Use Plan presentation (this is the narrated presentation on for a school I refer to at The Holmquist Academy.  While the name is fictional, the school is based on one that is near and dear to me.  Development of this presentation has been a very enriching process.  It has allowed me to look critically at the school where I have spent the majority of my career and see what is needed to make real and lasting change.  As is the case with most change, this begins with a look back before heading forward.

Photo Credit: Lee Maguire

“Holmquist” is a school of rich tradition.  It is a unique educational institution in which students and teachers are closer to equals than in most places.  This goes back to the creation of the school which happened in the 1920’s.  At the time, the four founders of the school decided that establishing a school that allowed students to connect with the real world and pursue individual interests was key to a quality education.  As I sit here in 2011 and type those words, it is not lost on me that those are the goals of education in the 21st century.  Pursuit of passion, connecting with the world outside of the classroom and creating products that have real world use are all ideals I see as part of modern education.  Luckily, I work at a place that has that as part of it’s core philosophy.  We need only learn how to incorporate technology into that philosophy.

Photo Credit: Kurt Nordstrom

Creating the presentation has given me a great chance to see what my school does well and what needs to be worked on.  More importantly, it has given me a vision of what I want my school to be and how I want to see technology utilized.  One aspect that I found a bit surprising was that, while I was pitching the need for a technology use plan, I realized that the technology needs to become so integrated into the school culture that it becomes background.  We need to reach a point where the focus is not on the technology, but on the outcomes that happen to rely on the technology.  Imagine trying to conduct a time based experiment, but being lost when it came to the use of a stopwatch or trying to solve a complicated math problem but being bewitched by the calculator.

Looking ahead, I am hopeful for the future of my school and for education in general.  As technology becomes more a part of our daily life, it’s incorporation in daily teaching will become part of the norm.  Until then, I will push myself, my colleagues and my school to envision the possibility of being a leader in the use of technology in a stimulating and meaningful curriculum.

Below is an adapted version of the presentation without narration:

Speaker Notes for the Tech Use Plan Presentation

Technology Use Planning Overview

“We can do dumb things with a SmartBoard.”

– Heidi Hayes Jacobs

In this modern, technological world, there is certainly a great deal to navigate when it comes to understanding and embracing the opportunities that exist.  There is a  pressure to not only be on the cutting edge, but to be obviously on the cutting edge.  There is pressure to have interactive white boards in every classroom and laptops in the hand of every student.  There is pressure to keep a school ahead of a curve that is moving at the speed of light.  All of this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to technology integration in education.  Because the waters can be murky and because the potential benefits are so great, a technology use plan is critical to creating positive outcomes for our organizations (educational or otherwise) and our students.

Photo credit: Avi Schwab

A technology use plan is essentially a road-map that describes where you are currently, where you want to be and how to get there.  It is a set of goals, the reasoning for those goals and a detailed description of how those goals shall be met.  While there can be variation in terms of the exact steps that must be followed in developing a technology use plan the following is a guideline:

  1. Determine the needs based on the outcomes desired.  This is critical to the plan because without setting a destination, the journey will simply be a meandering trip through the technological countryside.  There may be some highlights associated with such a journey, but there is little chance of ending up exactly where you wanted to be.  It is important to go to the source on this one too.  Teachers, students, parents, administrators and technology leaders all have important roles to play in determining the desired outcome.  It is also important to view the plan as more than a way to enhance current curricula.  Modern technology provides opportunities that were not even dreamed of when the typical current school curriculum was developed.  Moreover, one could argue that the future professional needs of the students cannot be met using these data curricula.  In essence, that opportunities that technology present come part and parcel with the imperative need to embrace new learning outcomes.
  2. Once the needs are established, determine what technology is best suited to meeting those needs.  Again, this is trickier than it seems.  It is easy to get lost in the arguments of Apple vs. PC or operating system X vs. operating system Y.  Many of the arguments about the specific technology are rendered nearly moot because of the speed at which new technology is developed.  In fact, John See, the Technology Integration Specialist for the Minnesota Department of Education, stated Developing Effective Technology Plans– written back in 1992!- that technology use plans should be short term plans.  “Technology is changing so fast,” See said, “that is is almost impossible to plan what type of technology will be available for use five years from now.”  With this in mind, plans that are developed must be relatively short term.  The ever changing face of technology also forces our plans to be outcome based as well.  Teachers and students will have to adapt as the technology evolves.  Because change can be a challenge in any institution, this evolution of technology and the support needed, must be part of the plan as well.
  3. With the needs and desired technology defined, budgetary constraints should be addressed.  This, again, allows for two different views.  On the one side, there is going to be a limit to how much money may be spent.  While this is most typically seen as a limitation, it can, in fact, be seen as an opportunity to embrace the best tools for the job.  Too many computers are being used for simple tasks or basic drills.  See once again makes a great point when he says “why make high powered technology available to students and staff and then not let them use it to increase personal productivity because the computers are always scheduled to teach keyboarding or low level drill and practice games?”  The budget actually allows us to take the time to find the right tool for each desired outcome.  It forces us to be critical about each piece of technology, which, in turn, can prevent buying into a technology that looks great, but does not meet our needs.
  4. The next piece of the technology use puzzle is the road to implementation.  Having the desire and technology to meet learning needs is great, but it is useless if the ability to do so is not there.  Teachers, staff and students must have effective training in the use of the resources.  Ongoing faculty support is a must.  Because this requires many teachers to step out of their own comfort zone, their input must be sought throughout the process.  Many basic skills can be conveyed though video tutorials that are made available.  In addition, helping teachers connect with online resources and forums to control their own learning helps to model some of what they could and should be teaching their students.  Once again, the need provides an opportunity.
  5. Evaluation of technology use plan is the next step.  With all of this taken care of, it may seem that it time to sit back and enjoy the finished product.  When it comes to technology planning, however, this simply isn’t the case.  Rather, it is time to evaluate.  Does the adopted technology truly meet the desired learning outcomes?  Are those learning outcomes still the desired ones?  Are the training and support systems sufficient?  There is a need for nearly constant reevaluation.  While a yearly cycle may be natural as school budgets change and teacher turnover occurs, shorter term evaluations should also be considered.  Meeting with teachers to see how and why the technology is being used, seeking feedback from students and evaluating changing technology trends all have a role in the evaluation process.

In my years of teaching, I have most certainly embraced the incorporation of technology in my classroom.  Unfortunately, like many teachers and educational institutions, the technology use plan has not been part of this.  Though I have no doubt that I have created some very good learning opportunities for my students using technology, it is clear that to get the students to the true desired destination, a technology use plan is needed.  Moreover, a school wide plan, that ensures all classes are getting the most out of technology and that students are provided with the best learning opportunities, is needed.  While taking on the development of such a plan may be intimidating, the US Department of Education’s National Technology Plan 2010 can provide a good framework to get the planning started.  This document presents institutions with a guideline that helps define what learning, assessment, teaching, infrastructure and productivity should look like in our modern society.  Though it should not be seen as a blanket curriculum guide, it is an excellent primer for institutions looking to embrace technology planning and use.

Office of US Dept.Education, (2010, March 5) Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology, National Educational Technology Plan 2010 Executive Summary,.Retrieved from

See, J., (1992) Developing Effective Technology Plans, The Computing Teacher, (19), 8. Retried from:

TEDxNYED – Heidi Hayes Jacobs – 03/05/2011