Tag Archives: EdTech 504

EdTech 504 Module 3 Reflection

Over the past three weeks, I have begun exploring theories of educational technology in conjunction with general learning theories. What I have discovered is that educational theory has its basis in the primary learning theories, but it seeks to explain not only how we can learn using technology, but how technology is changing the very nature of our learning.  De Castall, Bryson, and Jenson (2002) indicate that we currently have  a theory of educational technology which “takes for granted…the integration of education and technology,” but that we do not have an educational theory of technology which would “investigate technology from the standpoint of educational values and purposes.” An educational theory of technology would rethink “educational epistemology” and look at how technology is changing our learning. Lankshear, Peters, and Knobel (2000) argue something similar and show how the Internet has changed how we learn.

Lanshear, Peters, and Knobel reference Gilster who has described a five-step process for knowledge assembly using the Internet. These five steps include: subscribing to a news service, subscribing to newsgroups and mailing lists, searching the Internet for background information, accessing other Internet sources to “verify or disconfirm” (p. 30) information, and relating the information obtained to traditional non-networked sources such as television, conventional newspapers, library resources, etc. To me, this process of learning is similar to discovery learning. The learner takes a topic in which she is interested and approaches it from as many angles as possible to gather accurate, credible information. This is a process I plan to have my students follow with a project I designed recently. Students will construct knowledge through extensive research, learn to write a proposal, and present their proposal with limited direction from me. I will offer support materials, but students will approach and assimilate the information on their own. However, because I have studied Bruner’s explanation of discovery learning, I realize that before I put students on this path, I will need to ensure that they have the foundational skills necessary to learn on their own.

An additional item I learned from De Castell, Bryson, and Jenson is that in the new media world, information has become a commodity and due to a lack of an educational theory of technology, schools have become glutted with mass-produced instructional delivery systems that do not necessarily take into account learning theories or actual student needs. In the drive to be the best, or to add value to a student’s education, schools purchase these systems without really evaluating their claims. I have seen this in my own school. We recently purchased a reading intervention program because of the hype surrounding it, and we have found that is meets the needs of very few students. It was not created for the complexity of issues our students face in reading comprehension. I have been guilty of this as a teacher, I see a program that sounds like a panacea for all my students learning issues and I investigate. Unfortunately, these packaged, mass-distributed programs only benefit the technology industry.

Resources

  • Bruner, J. (1979). The act of discovery. In Bruner, J. On knowing: Essays for the left hand (pp. 81-96). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press (Original work published 1962).
  • De Castall, S., Bryson, M. & Jenson, J. (7 January 2002).  Object lessons: Towards an educational theory of technology. First Monday, 7(1). Retrieved from http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/923/845
  • Lankshear, C. Peters, M. & Knoel, M. (2000). Information, knowledge and learning: Some issues facing epistemology and education in a digital age. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 34(1), 17-39. Retrieved from http://michaelbatie.com/papers/information_and_knowledge.pdf

EdTech 504 Module 2 Reflection

This past couple of weeks I have been working on a learning theories paper. Researching and writing this paper (while it’s focus was one learning theory) has caused me to rethink my epistemological beliefs. Since I began my credential program in 2000, I have believed strongly in the idea of discovery learning. However, I haven’t always taught that way. Writing this paper has allowed me to see why.

In the past, I wanted my students to discover literature on their own. For the first couple of years I taught English, I avoided too much discussion of figurative language or historical connections. I wanted students to “discover” the meaning of the work on their own. Unfortunately, I realized that my students, especially the 7th graders, didn’t really have a frame of reference to which they could connect the story. They could “discover” the story within, but, because they lacked an understanding of historical and current events, they could not place the story within a larger narrative and use it to understand the world.

As I reviewed basic epistemological philosophy and basic learning theories, I realized that my teaching style has reflected my underlying belief that both empiricism and rationalism are valid epistemological beliefs. There are times, especially when building a knowledge and skill base, that behaviorism (which leads to direct instruction) is the best course of action. I think this applies especially well to basic reading, grammar, and writing skills. Discovery learning (which is a constructivist theory, evolved from cognitivism) is useful to teach content. It is not, however, an excuse to leave students to their own devices to interpret the content with which they come into contact. Instructors need to make detailed plans to spiral the content from more concrete to more abstract over the course of a year so that students can make sense of it. Discovery learning is likely to be successful when it involves inquiry, problem-solving, and ill-structured problems. The mistake I made in trying to adopt discovery learning was that I left my students to their own devices. I did not teach the process of inquiry or ensure that students had the cultural symbols with which to interpret and organize the information with which they came into contact.

One discovery I made through writing this paper is the idea of constructing a narrative. Bruner’s explanation of narrative and how we use it to interpret, or construct, reality fascinated me. I plan to share this article with my colleagues, as well as with my sister who is a writer. According to Bruner, we use narrative to interpret our world, but we also construct narratives to explain our world. We learn from breaches in the narrative as well as from how we choose to construct it. I’m sure that my explanation does not do justice to the theory, because I am still working out what it means, but I definitely want to embrace it.

Going back to how my practice fits my beliefs, I have never believed in drill-based programs, but I have decided that students need this kind of repetition for learning grammar. I used to think that grammar could be taught in context with mini lessons, but that has not been effective. Many students have not received grammar instruction for years, if ever, by the time they reach 7th grade. Unfortunately, they need grammar as a tool for discussing writing. Mini lessons do not help students to truly understand the concept, so I have gone to direct instruction. While I am not sure how well the lessons transfer into writing, students at least have a language with which to discuss their sentence structure.

Resources:

Bruner, J. (Autumn 1991). The narrative construction of reality. Critical Inquiry, 18(1), 1-21. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/1343711

Ertmer, P. & Newby, T. (1993). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4), pp. 50-72. Retrieved from http://www.itma.vt.edu/modules/spring11/efund/lesson2/ErtmerNewby1993BehCogConComparison.pdf

EdTech 504 Module 1 Reflection

This is my 12th year teaching. For the first four years, I taught Drama, so my use of technology involved DVD players, body mics, a sound system, spotlights, and stage lights. I often used an overhead projector and an LCD projector. Since I began teaching English, 7 years ago, I have gradually included more technology in my teaching. Until a couple of years ago, that technology was almost entirely used by me. I hosted a class website, and projected notes, and occasionally presentations or videos, from my computer. However, I rarely had the students use technology. Part of that was because I didn’t have any computers in my classroom, and we shared one computer lab between the 47 teachers at our school. It seemed pointless to even try scheduling the computer lab for anything but research and typing essays. For the past 3 years, however, I have used technology somewhat more. For instance, I have tested out Edmodo and MyHaiku class and decided that they are not for me. Google Classroom, however, I like, and I have been using Google Docs for 3 years. Since starting my Edtech Master’s, I have realized even more how little I truly use technology for instruction or student products. I have had glimpses over the years, insights about how technology could be useful in certain situations, but when I tried to act on those insights, classroom management became a nightmare. This past week, for instance, I tried to create centers for my students so that they were all occupied and could rotate through using my 9 classroom computers to finish enrolling in Google Classroom and Newsela and to complete an assignment in Newsela. Every center, regardless of how easy I thought it was, required my help and I spent most of my time racing between helping students work on a literature assignment or assemble portfolio folders, and resetting students’ passwords so they could logon to my Chromebooks. I have tried for years to differentiate my instruction, and I see how technology can help, but my classroom management has not caught up with my instructional vision.

For several years, I have wavered between accepting/merging a couple of educational theories. I’m not sure to which I subscribe most right now. One of the changes I wish to see as a result of my experiences in EdTech 504 is to decide what I actually believe about educational theories and arrange my students’ classroom experiences accordingly. While I don’t love direct instruction, I do feel that it has its place, but I feel like it takes over. I feel the same way about student constructed learning activities. Neither seem to get to the core of what I feel my students need. My feelings about technology use go along the same lines. I waver between wanting students to use technology as much as possible, and wanting students to do many things the “old” way with physical books and paper and pencil. I hope that this course can help me decide a path to take and allow me the peace of mind to stick with that path once I begin down it.

Because I am one of the few teachers who has tried several different technologies and web 2.0 capabilities, I am often looked to as someone who “knows” technology. As a result, the office staff and administrators often recommend teachers to me when they have questions or problems with their computers or with the software we use, especially if those teachers use a PC. This reputation has allowed me to influence some of the decisions my school has made about purchasing subscriptions to online programs, as well as to convince my fellow ELA teachers to try new assignments using technology. Last spring, I was able to convince my school to subscribe to Newsela as a result of my experiments with it. I hope that my experiences in the EdTech program and with my own experiments with technology in the classroom will lead others to test different technologies in their instruction as well.