"The teacher is the chief learner in the classroom."
- Donald Graves

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Preachin' to the Converted

Final Reflections on EDLD_5364 Teaching with Technology


I will be honest and admit that there were many times during the past five weeks where I found myself skimming the text and not really reading closely. Much of what Pitler, et. al. had to say wasn't new information to me. Since integrating iPads into my classroom three years ago and transitioning to project-based learning for nearly all content delivery, I have discovered many of the tools listed in the text on my own or through my connections on twitter. Members of my PLN include educational innovators like Lisa Nielsen @innovativeeEdu, Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher, and Will Richardson @willrich45, who inspired me to go "all in" and create the student-centered, connected, tech-integrated learning environment I manage today. 

In the forward to Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, Will Richardson writes that:  
In every subject, in every grade, we need to be able to offer our students a variety of learning experiences that are steeped in the rich potential that these tools now offer, not just in terms of productivity but in terms of the creative and inquiry-based learning that we know works best for students. (Richardson, 2012)
I believe this is not a vision of the future of education, but the reality of now. Students are no longer content to sit and git; web 2.0 tools and the Internet are so intertwined in their lives that we are doing a disservice by not creating the connected, collaborative learning environments argued for by Will Richardson.

I do not mean to suggest that the readings were inconsequential to my learning during this course. While skimming through the text may not have provided much in the way of new information, it certainly provided validation for how I have transformed as an educator. I have to admit to a certain amount of pride and a sense of accomplishment when I read recommendations such as "communicate learning objective to students and parents." (Pitler, Hubbell, and Kuhn, 2012, p. 18), "Engage students in the feedback process" (Pitler, Hubbell, and Kuhn, 2012, p. 38), and "Use cooperative learning consistently and systematically" (Pitler, Hubbell, and Kuhn, 2012, p. 74). These recommendations are are already in place in my classroom. Through the course I realized what I had yet to do continue the transition to a connected, collaborative, constructivist classroom. Along with validation came the realization that more can be done. 

Learn as a Learner

I will be the first to admit that I never cared for group projects when I was in school. I always felt that I could get the project done more quickly without the "help" of others. Having completed a couple of projects now with a diverse team, I understand the value of collaboration, communication, critical thinking and the importance these skills have in problem solving. Having to engage with other people, work through disagreements, build consensus and compromise leads to a better end product and a deeper understanding of what we are asking students to do and why. We had to practice the social/emotion skills identified by Linda Darling-Hammond as essential in project-based learning environments. Our real, authentic work required us "to be able to figure out how to relate to one another, how to divide tasks, how to solve problems, how to probably run into dead ends, pick up the pieces, reorient and go in a new direction.(Darling-Hammond, nd) Do as I say, not as I do is no longer a valid argument. I believe in the end we produced a web site that not only met requirements but, more importantly, required us to use the skills we know are essential for students to possess.

Life Long Learning Skills

As I mentioned earlier, I have already learned the power of being a part of a connected community of learners. These connections provide me with opportunities for discussions that could never be possible without using technology. It is interesting how well I know people who I have never met, and quite possibly will never meet, in person. Yet their contributions to my learning are as important (in some ways more important) as my colleague across the hall or in the classroom next door. For me this is the challenge that lies ahead, how to create a face-to-face analog network as valuable as the digital network. My digital network "gets it." Unfortunately, many members of my analog network, simply do not. Mired in the past, and beholden to traditional ways they carry on with teacher-directed activities aligned to a summative assessment. Even when they do incorporate technology it is largely teacher-directed. The challenge going forward is aligned to ITSE Technology Facilitator/Teacher Leader Standard VIII. It will take "leadership and a strong vision . . . to push technology use into less familiar, but promising constructivist contexts. (Williamson, J. & Reddish, T., 2009 p. 179) Currently, I am leading by example, but realize that that may not be enough. It may be time to step up to the pulpit and lead not a revival, but an intervention. 


Darling-Hammond, L. (Edutopia). (December 10, 2007). The Collaborative Classroom: An Interview with Linda Darling-Hammond. [video] Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/linda-darling-hammond-sel-video

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., &  Kuhn, M. (2012). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. (2 ed.) Denver, CO: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning

Richardson, W. (2012). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. (2 ed.) Denver, CO: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning

Williamson, J., & Redish, T. (2009). ISTE's Technology Facilitation and Leadership Standards. Washington, DC: International Society for Technology in Education

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What's Taking So Long

As I worked through the resources this week, I realized that I kept looking at the publication date on the article, book or video. I found myself calculating the number of years since these brilliant (at least to me) people published and wondered why it is still so difficult to persuade colleagues to incorporate technology in their teaching. Each source offered credible arguments on not only why change is needed in teaching and learning, but also how technology resources purposefully implemented creates students prepared for the future. 

Some were down right visionary, like Arizona State University Professor James Paul Gee who argues that the continuous assessment of gaming promotes problem solving in a way that is impossible to replicate in the real world, yet ultimately applicable to real world problems by freeing learners to take risks. (Gee, nd) His argument that the educational system that produces "privileged people who know a lot of facts but can't solve problems with them is on it's last legs" (Gee, nd) is now half a decade old. Another group of students has spent over a third of their education subject to sit, git and spit pedagogy with predictable results.Ostensibly, the research-based, teacher-directed, data-driven programs in favor today purport to improve student achievement - i.e. raise test scores; yet, scores remain stagnant for capable student populations and sub-populations are subjected to instruction designed solely to bring them to proficiency within a narrowed curriculum.

This sentiment is echoed by Indiana University Professor Sasha Barab who argues for re-positioning education to take advantage of technology to give students learning experiences with purpose. (Barab, nd) He argues for a purposeful pedagogy focused on acquiring information not for acquisition but application thereby shifting the paradigm of education away from consumption toward production.
So it's a very different kind of positioning, where, instead of treating these kids when they come in as people who are ignorant in their job, and education is to get them smart enough to demonstrate some sort of high score on a test, our goal is to position them as really empowered kids who get to feel: what is it like to try on the role of a scientist, and to see themselves as people who could possibly have that future. (Barab, nd)
The only way to create a learning environment that empowers students to the degree Sasha Barab advocates is by incorporating technology into students' daily educational experiences. 

I believe Harvard Psychology Professor Howard Gardner, considered by many to be the architect of differentiation in education, sums up the reasons why education practices and educators are so slow to change. In order to bring about substantive change the role of teacher must evolve into one that is not centered on the "didactic aspects of teaching [that] are not needed anymore because the information is so prevalent." (Gardner, nd) Simply put, teachers have to be willing to give up control over knowledge. This is a very challenging prospect for many traditionally trained teachers for whom control is equated to learning. When they are the source of knowledge, they know the student is being taught what is going to be assessed on the test. Unfortunately, this mindset perpetuates a system that doesn't promote problem solving or allow students to develop the skills necessary for a rapidly changing world. It is, and will be for the foreseeable future, difficult to convince colleagues to embrace the new educational possibilities born of digital innovation until they see time has run out on waiting for the future. The future is already here.

Edutopia.org (Producer). (nd). Big thinkers: James Paul Gee on grading with games. [video] Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/digital-generation-james-gee-video

Edutopia.org. (Producer). (nd). Big Thinkers: Sasha Barab on New-Media Engagement. [video] Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/digital-generation-sasha-barab-video

Edutopia.org (Producer). (nd). Big Thinkers: Howard Gardner on Digital Youth. [video] Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/digital-generation-howard-gardner-video

Friday, September 20, 2013

A Seemingly Monumental Mind Shift

The reading and videos this week really spoke to me on a personal level. Each article or chapter read and video viewed seemed to be illustrating the same thing: that learning environments infused with technology are ideal for reaching all learners. Incorporating technology and adaptive technologies into a classroom provides the greatest opportunity for learners to connect with knowledge, collaborate to create understanding, and connect with content in real, meaningful, and personal ways. Furthermore, engaging students in project-based learning activities connected to a purpose allows learners opportunities to take ownership of their learning. These opportunities mimic the real world. Stanford Professor Linda Darling-Hammond states it is critical to educate the whole child socially and emotionally to prepare them to be functioning adults. Adults function in "contexts where we work in groups on hard problems that need creative solutions that require problem solving." (Darling-Hammond, 2007) Unless children are given freedom to experiment and learn social and emotional resilience in a cooperative, compassionate and caring atmosphere such as a school, they are unlikely to acquire the resiliency necessary for a complex world. Seymour Papert, Director of the Epistemology and Learning Group at Massachusetts Institute of Technology argues that experiential, purposeful learning is nothing new and educational theorists such as John Dewey and Jean Piaget made the case for project-based learning in the 19th century. (Papert, nd) With knowledge technologies removing limitations on access to content, it stands to reason that Dewey's activity derived understanding and Piaget's communication constructed, interactive cognitive development model should be the basis of pedagogy in the digital age. Technology integration "puts kids in a position to learn what they need," (Papert, nd) and in the process construct meaning, acquire valuable life skills, and develop resiliency.

Video of my students engaged in project-based learning.
One of the reasons these videos spoke to me is that I witness the power of integrated technology on a daily basis. I am very fortunate to be able to facilitate learning in a 1:1 environment. When I received a grant two years ago to incorporate tablet technology into my classroom, I knew that simply passing out tablets and instructing students to launch an app to practice a certain skill was simply replacing a 19th century tool with a 21st century tool. I had to commit to a wholesale change in the way teaching and learning happens in my room. Project-based learning became the vehicle to transport me into a new reality. I now strive to turn everything we have to do to meet standards into a project-based opportunity. Often, the students are the ones actually devising the learning plans; I just provide them with the goal and outcome, and step back and see what they can come up with to meet the goal or objective. Vicki Davis said it best when she comments that "so many teachers think they need to know everything." (Davis, nd) I realized that I don't need to know everything, just enough to know how to set up the situation, and when to get out of the way. And let the learners connect with content, collaborate, problem solve, and create real, meaningful, deep knowledge and acquire the skills necessary for an increasingly complex world. 

Darling-Hammond, L. Edutopia.org (Producer) (December 10, 2007). The Collaborative Classroom: An Interview with Linda Darling-Hammond. [video] Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/linda-darling-hammond-sel-video

Papert, S. Edutopia.org (Producer) (nd). Project Learning: An Overview. [video] Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/project-based-learning-overview

Davis, V. Edutopia.org. (Producer) (nd). Harness Your Students’ Digital Smarts. [video] Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/digital-generation-teachers-vicki-davis

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Investing eBook

I created an eBook using the National Center on Accessible Instructional Material (CAST) UDL Book Builder web tool. I posted a brief reflection on my experience using this tool to my EDLD_5364 blog. Follow the link below to read How to Save a Million Dollars (maybe)


Saturday, September 14, 2013

New Tricks - UDL

I'll be honest, I have not really "planned" a lesson for a few years. I set goals and objectives, develop learning activities, and formative and summative assessments, I just have not gone through the process of writing it all down for every lesson or unit. When you teach for enough years some things just become part of what you do. And when you find something new you try and incorporate them too.

Recognition networks
Strategic Networks
Since I've become a 1:1 classroom, I've completely rethought planning, teaching and learning. Back in the day, I used to plan units sequentially, this is what I need to teach them first, second etc., here are worksheets and other resources needed, all in order to prepare them for the assessment at the end. I've totally flipped that. I start with the end in mind. Many times I don't so much plan lessons or units, as just identify the objective or the standard to be met. I've started many of my best units by simply putting the standard to be met on the interactive whiteboard, set the purpose, present the problem and let the kids determine how they're going to meet the standard and show that they've learned. Students have ownership of learning. They share their thoughts, I get valuable information on misconceptions, schema, interest in content, and how they plan to evidence their new learning, and we go from there. Let's just say the path to the objective isn't always a straight line, and almost never what I planned or had in mind.

Affective networks
This week I planned a lesson and a unit using the UDL template. It helped me to focus on the three UDL networks - recognition, strategic and affective - and, as I read back over my plan looking for evidence of the three, I realized that I had mixed them throughout the lesson. I feel good about that, I believe that shifting between the networks keeps the whole brain active and engaged. I probably won't spend this much time planning a lesson until next summer, but the principles of UDL will be present in the lessons I don't "plan."

images retrieved from http://www.cast.org/udl/

My UDL lesson plan

So You Want to be a Millionaire?
Paul Stolt
Personal Finance
Grade Level(s):
6 - 8
4 weeks
Subject Area:
Unit Description:
This project-based unit introduces students to the concept of investing to create wealth as opposed to saving for future wants or needs. It begins with a comparison between investing and saving. This unit is launched by an ebook that provides background information and sets the driving question: Is it possible to save a million dollars?
During the unit students will create portfolios of stocks, bonds and mutual funds. After an initial survey of personal likes and interests, the students will choose industries that match their personal interests. This will help establish the concept of ownership. Students will journal why they decided on the investments they choose and give reasons to support their decision based on their research.
Students will then create a portfolio of 2 stocks, 2 bonds and 2 mutual funds on the website http://www.wallstreetsurvivor.com/ and track the performance of their investments for 20 days, and record observations in their journals.
At the end of the 20 day cycle, learners will record their findings and create a presentation with present and projected future value based on three possible scenarios of their choice – continue investing a set amount, stop investing, and increase investments by a percentage at a set time period. Final projects will be posted to class specific wiki and shared with interested parents, administration and members of financial community.
Lesson Description for Day:
Launch lesson will introduce students to investing through the use of ebook, provide time for brainstorming, discussion, and student initiated questions, collection of group prior knowledge via Google form, and augment background knowledge with videos on investing.
State Standards:
TEKS (14) Personal financial literacy. The student applies mathematical process standards to develop an economic way of thinking and problem solving useful in one's life as a knowledgeable consumer and investor.
TEKS (13) Measurement and data. The student applies mathematical process standards to use numerical or graphical representations to solve problems. The student is expected to:
(A) interpret numeric data summarized in dot plots, stem-and-leaf plots, histograms, and box plots; and
(B) Distinguish between situations that yield data with and without variability.
CCSS WHST.6-8.7 Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.
CCSS WHST.6-8.8 Gather information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source.
CCSS WHST.6-8.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
CCSS WHST.6-8.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and present the relationships between information and ideas clearly and effectively.
RH.6-8.7 Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.

Unit Goals:

The goals of this unit are as follows:

1.      Learners understand investing as a means to create wealth.
2.      Learners understand the effect of time on investing
3.      Learners apply research and mathematical reasoning to decision making process
4.      Learners analyze various investment options based on personal goals and record analysis for future use.
5.      Learners evaluate strategy and effectiveness in relation to investment goals. Learners share evaluations with peers for critique, comment.
6.      Learners create investment guide and summary of project.
Lesson Goals:
The goals of the launch lesson are as follows:
  1. Generate questions from learners related to investing.
  2. Determine level of learner schema.
  3. Generate reasons to invest.
  4. Create interest in investing among learners.

Anticipatory Set:


To create interest, show photos of celebrities along with their net worth. Ask learners how they earned their money and if it’s possible for everyone to use that method. Then show the number of millionaires in the United States. Ask learners how they think they reached that goal. Open the website http://www.budgetsaresexy.com/2010/03/5-a-day-grants-you-millionaire-status/ on interactive white board. Learners should comment to social media document on their thoughts after reviewing the above website with learners.

(Optional: Have clean version of Travie McCoy and Bruno Mars’ I Want to be a Billionaire playing as students enter room.)

The launch lesson begins with a pro/con chart for saving money. What are some reasons to save money? Responses are recorded on chart, whiteboard, or through social media such as todaysmeet.com.

This is followed by asking what are some ways to save money. Again using chart, whiteboard or social media to record responses.
Finally, ask students to define saving and investing using the same methods for recording responses.
Once all responses are in, have a group discussion and look for common themes and address misconceptions. Close anticipatory set by directing learners to eBook: How to Save a Million Dollars (maybe) and help open accounts and explore scenarios on the two websites embedded in the book. This anticipatory set of activities aligns with UDL recognition, strategic and affective networks.


Introduce and Model New Knowledge:

At the end of the anticipatory set, students are directed to http://www.wallstreetsurvivor.com/ and http://www.daveramsey.com/article/investing-calculator/lifeandmoney_investing/#/entry_form

To explore and establish accounts used in future lessons.



Provide Guided Practice:

Guided practice consists of modeling the process for evaluating possible investment opportunities based on personal interest. Develop criteria for evaluation with student input. Show video A Teenager’s Guide to Investing http://youtu.be/G8FmnGkkkt8 after modeling the process, guide learners in creating accounts and starting research on companies. Model keeping an investment journal to reflect on learning.

(Video referenced above can also be used as an example of how a finished project might look.)



Provide Independent Practice:

Students use developed criteria to research and evaluate possible investment options to determine their investment mix of stocks, bonds and mutual funds. After a period of independent practice, learners should reflect on the process of creating a portfolio in their journals.



Formative/Ongoing Assessment:
Learner journal entries serve as formative/ongoing assessment of project. The anticipated due dates for required parts of the project will be displayed on a timeline displayed in the classroom. A rubric will be provided to students to guide journal responses.
Summative/End Of Lesson Assessment:
Learner final projects serve as summative assessment. Learners will post final projects to class Google site and present results to class, administrators and members of investment community.

Internet access
Student web access device – any operating system – minimum 3:1 ratio. Ideally 1:1 student to device ratio.
Unit could be completed in lab setting
Unit could fit into BYOD environment
Interactive white board
http://penzu.com/ on-line journal
www.google.docs.com used to create class web presence
www.blogspot.com blog site for keeping a journal
www.kidblog.com blog site for keeping a journal (posts on this site have to be teacher approved prior to going “live”)
www.evernote.com versatile site with a/v recording capabilities – great for special needs
www.bitly.com url address shortening application
www.qrme.com qrcode creation app
http://safeshare.tv/ filter app for youtu.be video content removes ads, etc.
www.youtube.com access to videos
featured video bibliography
Murarka, A. (2013) The Teenager’s Guide to Investing. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/G8FmnGkkkt8
Cunningham, J. The Investor Education Fund (producer). (nd). Funny Money Cartoon: Building Long-term Wealth (video) retrieved from http://youtu.be/23zghpS9034

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Designing Assessment for Learning

Guiding student learning used to be accomplished by developing lessons, organizing resources, presenting content and using the resources (usually a worksheet) to allow students independent practice on the concept presented. After a number of repetitions of this cycle, a quiz or test was given, graded, and returned to the student. This teacher-driven model works well if the goal is to tell homogeneous students what they need to know to meet a specific narrowly defined objective. While successful in preparing certain students for an assessment, this model rarely results in retention of content beyond the test, learning beyond a surface level, creating meaningful connections to learning, or an increase in student motivation. And often fails to prepare students outside the norm for anything meaningful except frustration. When students are engaged and involved in setting specific goals and objectives for learning, the goals and objectives are connected to prior and future learning, and these goals are communicated to stakeholders, students are more likely to be motivated to learn content beyond a surface level (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, 2012, p. 18). Including students in the process not only of learning, but also of the way content is taught, addresses diversity found in nearly all classrooms. This student-centered pedagogical design philosophy “allow[s] teachers to re-think critical elements in education, like goals, and materials and methods and assessments” (Jackson, nd). Integrating students into the process of creating learning opportunities in an environment created around their needs engages all students. This Universal Design for Learning model accounts for the diversity of student’s physical, social and emotional needs as well as considers the uniqueness of how each individual’s brain processes information (Rose, nd).

I actually thought I knew about designing learning experiences that were non-traditional until I started viewing the videos on UDL included in this week’s assignment. I had never made the connection between physical design and theoretical design and probably would not have without being exposed to the UDL philosophy. I have to admit that it just makes sense and does create a more holistic approach to meeting the needs of all students by engaging not only their recognition network, the what of learning, but also their strategic network, the how of learning, and their affective network, the why of learning (Rose nd). I had committed to incorporate one-on-one time with students this year to collaborate with them on setting objectives and goals and the reading this week validated and further informed my thinking. This year I have decided to meet with each student formally every other Friday to set goals and objectives, offer feedback on evidence they present, and have a conversation about their performance. I am also taking them through the rubrics used for grading and the reports generated by Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) assessments. Rubrics are sent home for parents to reference. Students collect evidence of learning digitally on their iPads and through submissions to our class Kidblog in preparation for these more formal bi-weekly meetings. Evidence can take the form of organizers created in Popplet, posts to TodaysMeet, short presentations created with Educreations, notes posted to Corkulous, audio journals and recordings in Speech Journal or on Tiny Vox, and even hand-written post-it notes. I have created a notebook for each student in Evernote, and place links, photos, video and audio clips into these electronic notebooks for later reference and to use during conferences. I believe that these performance reviews align with the recommendations listed by Pitler, Hubbell, and Kuhn. They:
Provide feedback that addresses what is correct and elaborates on what students need to do next.  Provide feedback appropriately in time to meet students’ needs. Provide feedback that is criterion referenced. Engage students in the feedback process (Pitler, Hubbell & Kuhn, 2012 p. 38).

By coupling these bi-weekly reviews with daily monitoring, I receive information needed to make instructional decisions, assess learning and address misconceptions. Students have a sense of ownership over their learning through their inclusion in the process. This allows them to engage not only their recognition network, but their strategic and affective networks as well leading to more lasting, meaningful connections to learning and greater retention of knowledge, additions to schema, and application of learning to new situations. 

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., & Kuhn, M. (2012) Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works. Denver, CO: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning.
Jackson, R., Lessonbuilder.cast.org. (nd). Universal Design and Universal Design for Learning. [video] Retrieved from http://lessonbuilder.cast.org/window.php?src=videos
Rose, D., Lessonbuilder.cast.org (nd). The Brain Research. [video] Retrieved from http://lessonbuilder.cast.org/window.php?src=videos

Sunday, September 1, 2013

EDLD 5364 Web Conference Reflection

I can tell school has started up again. I'm feeling a little pressured. I realized this during the web conference on Saturday, August 21, 2013.

I've never been a teacher who pulls that August file out with the daily lesson plans, gives my kids the get-to-know-you worksheet and "sushes" them until they're done. I've always approached a new school year with a new plan. It seems I always find something I want to try over the summer. This summer was no exception. I won't give you the details of my plan here. You can read about it in a post entitled The Entrepreneurial Classroom on my other blog. Needless to say, the start of a new school year, along with a new plan of operation, has cashed a few checks from the patience bank.

So when Saturday's web conference turned to grades and discussion posts, I should have probably just excused myself and went to the Arkansas Razorback football game with my 83-year-old dad. (I did that anyway, just after the conference.) 

Maybe it's my age, maybe it's my mindset, maybe I just don't get it. But I'm not concerned about grades as long as I pass. It's not that I'm lazy. I don't mind doing the work. In fact, I like doing the work because I love learning. I usually have my twitter feed open when I'm writing or attending web conferences just so I don't miss some valuable learning from my PLN. I may drop it into evernote and read it later, but I like to stay on top of things. So when the discussion turns to how many points will be deducted, or will I loose points for, or what do I need to do for this many points, I kind of zone out. I know it should be important to me, but honestly, it's not. Learning is. I'm way more concerned with learning and implementing what I've learned than whether I get maximum points on the assignment.

I've taken a number of on-line classes. One of the benefits of the web, as we learned this week, is the ability to connect with people and sources of knowledge with a few taps or clicks. George Seimens is correct when he says the nature of learning is changing. So is the nature of what it means to be a learner. Learners share information on the web mostly through informal discussion, not lecture followed by Q & A. Which brings me to my point about discussion posts. Since we are all connecting at a distance, I believe the discussion post is meant to serve as a virtual face-to-face discussion. Since we can't meet face to face, it gives us an opportunity to just talk, like real people do, in our own informal voices. I would hope the discussion board doesn't get too formal. I like hearing other people's voices.

Like It's 1999

I read and viewed the resources for this week with great interest.  Each article and video seemed to speak directly to what I am trying to accomplish in my classroom, and hope to develop in a building. I connected most with Debra Sprague and Christopher Dede’s article Constructivism in the Classroom: If I Teach This Way, Am I Doing My Job? Published on the eve of the 21st century, this article makes a strong case for using constructivist pedagogy. By coupling technology with an understanding of how the brain processes information, teachers can create “student-centered, meaningful, and engaging learning experiences” (Sprague and Dede, 1999, p. 6) for students of all ages.  Constructivist classrooms are organized around “concept clusters of problems and questions” (Sprague and Dede, p. 7) and “teachers encourage student inquiry by asking thoughtful, open-ended questions and encouraging students to ask questions of each other.” (Sprague and Dede, p. 8) Learners in a constructivist classroom practice 21st century skills – collaborating, communicating, problem-solving, critical thinking and creativity – as they construct learning socially, building on a shared foundation of prior knowledge brought by each unique learner. (SEDL, 1999, p. 1) This sustainable community of learning shares information through interpersonal collaboration, (Solomon and Schrum, 2007, p. 35) and increasingly through digital social networks organized around a specific purpose, problem or wondering as they are guided up Bloom’s revised taxonomy by learning facilitators. Moreover, students are taking ownership of learning by constructing their own interactive networks through the use of web 2.0 tools. (McPheeters, 2009) George Siemens points out that connectivity via web 2.0 content creation and curatorial tools provides an opportunity for learners to “connect with each other, with databases, with other sources of knowledge [which] is really the point of learning.” (Siemens, n.d). Taken together, these two theories – constructivism and connectivism – offer compelling evidence for transformational change in teaching and learning. Change that not only benefits learners by making the acquisition of knowledge relevant, purposeful, and meaningful, but also benefits teachers, who, by embracing and implementing these theories into pedagogy, create environments conducive to how students learn.
Google circa 1999
As I read the assigned articles throughout the week, I realized that I wanted to teach like it is 1999, at least in the 1999 of Debra Sprague and Christopher Dede. My goal since entering the profession in 2003 is to create a student-centered, collaborative, project-based learning community, even in my first classroom with an Apple iMac, no internet access, Oregon Trail, Power Point and a couple now extinct programs. I guess I knew more about constructivism and connectivism than I thought. But I didn’t learn it from my post-graduate teaching credential program. I learned about Piaget and Vygotsky, guided reading, and small group differentiation. I learned how to plan lessons and units, novel ways to get students attention, and resources for organizing a classroom. I learned how to be a teacher in a teacher-driven environment; an environment where an administrator can walk in and see quiet children at their desks filling out a sheet to prove they were paying attention to the lesson. I don’t fault my credential program; it was actually fairly forward thinking and included not one, but two technology classes. One class introduced me to the wonders of Google and I created the Gmail address I still use to this day. My twitter account is linked to it. And in the other we explored cutting edge web tools, none of which I remember and probably do not exist anymore. We are now 13 years into the 21st century and I’m wondering why more teachers have not embraced constructivism? Why does this seem “new” and “radical” to some professional educators? Certainly web 2.0 tools exist to create technology infused, connected learning environments tailored to the needs of students. Is access to technology and the knowledge housed on the web the issue? New initiatives at federal and state levels promise increased bandwidth to access the web, and school districts across the nation are funding technology upgrades or implementing BYOD programs to increase the number of devices in students’ hands.  At least there is a rhetorical commitment to creating the kind of innovative learning environments that students (and parents) should be demanding. Maybe we should wait for Kevin Warwick’s cyborg technology to enable us to download directly to our brain the knowledge we need when we need it. (Warwick, n.d)  If traditional teachers are scared of project-based learning, I cannot imagine the terror an implanted microchip would create. Personally, I am moving forward buoyed with the knowledge gleaned from this week’s resources.  In my noisy, kinetic, apparently out-of-control classroom, students will continue to connect with each other and the world via the web to construct knowledge. They will engage in projects driven by inquiry and practice 21st century skills, even if it is not 1999.

Sprague, D. & Dede, C. (1999). If I teach this way, Am I doing my job: Constructivism in the classroom. Leading and Learning, 27(1). Retrieved from the International Society for Technology in Education at http://imet.csus.edu/imet9/280/docs/dede_constructivisim.pdf
Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, (1999). Learning as a personal event: A brief introduction to constructivism. Retrieved from http://www.sedl.org/pubs/tec26/intro2c.html
Solomon, G., & Schrum, L. (2007). Web 2.0: New tools, new schools. Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education
McPheeters, D. (2009, March). Social networking technologies in education. Tech and Learning, 29(8).Retrieved from http://www.techlearning.com/article/16250
Siemens, G. (nd). The Changing Nature of Knowledge  [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMcTHndpzYg

Warwirk, K. (nd). Cyborg Life [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RB_l7SY_ngI