Thursday, October 18, 2012

Final Reflection


FINAL REFLECTION
      As an educator I feel that it is necessary to constantly evaluate my teaching practices and take steps to continue to evolve and change along with the changing technologies and techniques that are prevalent in the teaching world today.  This course gave me a great deal of insight and practice in using technology to increase student engagement as well as improving my own research and technology skills.
The main two goals of my GAME plan were to increase project-based projects that were supported by technology and to improve communication with students and parents through the use of online technologies.  I learned a great deal about project-based learning through this course and I now have a much larger toolbox and set of resources from which to draw examples on different project-based lessons and activities.  The GAME plan helped me stay motivated to include more projects and since beginning the GAME plan, I have already implemented and completed four project-based activities.  I have also learned a great deal about other technologies available for communication with students and parents, such as Class Parrot and Edmodo.  Although I have not used either of these much as of yet, I think they hold great potential.    A great deal of what I learned during this course will help improve my teaching practice and will give me a point in the right direction to create more relevant and authentic learning activities for students.  Overall, I do not think I would change much in my GAME plan because I think that it gave me something to strive toward concerning both my goals.  This GAME plan model could also be used for students in my classes, especially when it comes time for a major project.  For example, students in my Economics classes read a book this past quarter and had to present their book’s contents and connections to their world.  The GAME plan could have helped them set goals for pages read each week, make plans for how they would monitor their progress, and evaluate if they were meeting their goals or not.

     I think that I will have some immediate changes taking place in my classroom because of this course.  I have already begun planning more project-based lessons and plan to have students use technology a great deal more as a working tool and also a means for them to collaborate and present information to each other.   I am too late for this semester to plan a capstone project but I plan to include a capstone project that is problem-based that will ask students to find and research a major economic problem that has either recently occurred or is occurring now.  Students will then create a digital story to tell other students about what they found out about the problem and a proposed solution to the problem.  I have no doubt that this course has given me the kinds of tools I need to create more engaging, holistic, and authentic projects and lessons that will require students to use skills that they will need to master when they are in the workplace.  And for me, that is the whole point of education; preparing our students to meet the challenges they will face in whatever future they chose.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


 

Monitoring My GAME Plan


            Looking back on the previous two weeks, I actually feel like I have made some significant progress on one of my GAME plan goals while the second GAME plan goal has remained somewhat stagnant.
            My first goal of trying to incorporate more project-based learning activities and assessments in my classroom has been fairly easy to pursue.  I have found a great deal of resources concerning project and problem-based learning from websites, educational journals, and advice from colleagues.  For this particular part of my GAME plan, I feel like I am right on track when it comes to taking action.  I have already incorporated several project-based activities in the last few weeks and while monitoring the learning of the students, I have come to the conclusion that these activities are worthwhile and meaningful.  Probably the most important thing I have learned so far concerning project-based learning is the fact that it cannot and will not fit into every single subject or content area.  Rather than forcing a project-based activity on students for the sake of just doing it, I have looked for other ways to tackle some other content in my Economics classes.  The biggest question I have concerning this part of my GAME plan is how many projects or problem-based learning activities do my colleagues use for their classrooms?

            The second goal of trying to increase parent and student communication through technology has no progressed as quickly as I had hoped.  This is despite finding some good resources through research and colleagues, such as Edmodo and Class Parrot.  Because this goal has progressed slower, I think I need to modify how quickly my plan will move forward.  At first I thought transitioning into instant digital communication would be easy.   I found out that even parents who do have computers and internet available do not always know how to use all the digital technology for communication purposes.  This does not mean I will give up on digital communication but rather I will be more patient and sparing in using computer technology.  I am going to try to work on getting parent cell phones linked up to a system like Class Parrot because I know for a fact that more parents and their children have cellular devices than computers and this may be the bridge I need to carry some parents into the digital communication arena.  For sure I have learned that even though technology is all around us in society, not all people can use it effectively and that can be frustrating.  If I keep being patient and use a combination of different communication tools, then I can still reach the goal of increasing parent communication with some use of technology support.  My question for my colleagues on this goal would be “what other communicative technologies do you use to help increase your parent, student, and teacher communication?”  Overall, I think that I am making some good strides in my GAME plan and I will continue to work toward achieving my goals so that student learning and communication improve.

 

 

Some resources I have discovered for my goals for both project-based learning and communication”


http://www.udel.edu/inst/-  Project-based learning

http://pbl-online.org/-  Project-based learning

https://www.remind101.com/-  parent/student communication

http://classparrot.com/-  parent/student communication

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Carrying Out My GAME Plan


After reading and listening to this week’s resources about Universal Design for Learning (UDL), it is clear that there are a great deal of tools and resources available to teachers in order to reach all students in the classroom (Cennamo, Ross, & Ertmer, 2009).  Just to refresh my colleagues, my GAME plan is focusing on increasing project-based learning through the use of technology and increasing parent communication and involvement through the use of technology. 

In order to carry out my GAME plan, I will need a great deal of resources, many of which are already at my disposal and the disposal of my students.  For my first goal of increasing project-based learning, I have almost everything I need for resources because my students each have their own laptops for 1:1 classroom learning capabilities.  In the budget project example I gave in my last post, students are now able to communicate with experts and conduct research to find out how much they could expect to pay for items such as rent, food, clothing, insurance, and daycare.  The only information I need is more research and development from continued inquiry and dialogue with colleagues at work and in my Walden community.  As mentioned before, I am already involved in an authentic and realistic project with my students and I have several other “real-world” projects in the work such as a stock market project that involves students buying and selling stock on a virtual stock market site.

The second part of my GAME plan involved increasing parent and student communication using technology.  Again, students have many of the resources they need to help carry this plan forward, especially through the Canvas Learning Management System (LMS) that my district now has.  For parent side of communicating with technology, I would like to have more training and dialogue with other educators about how they communicate with parents through digital mediums.  I do have a Facebook page and email for just school but not all parents have those available.  After some informal conversations with colleagues, the suggestion of Edmodo was given as another means of communicating with students and parents.  I am going to continue to pursue more ways of connecting with parents using technology and I feel I have made some progress as I get more additions to Facebook and I do still get emails from parents.  However, I feel I have a long way to go even though I have taken steps to dialogue with parents as much as possible.

One question I have for my Walden colleagues:  Some of my students and parents do not have wireless internet at their house.  How do I maintain communication with them using technology?  In this case, I have resorted to phone calls but are there some other ways I can communicate using the latest technology?  I have thought about using data and texting through cell phones but that would mean giving out my cell phone number freely.  My phone number will not work on Google Voice.  I feel like I am on the right track but I wanted to see if there were any suggestions that I may be missing or forgetting.
 
Resources

Cennamo, K., Ross, J. & Ertmer, P. (2009). Technology integration for meaningful classroom use: A standards-based approach. (Laureate Education, Inc., Custom ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Developing a GAME Plan for Technology

by:  Scott Embrock


In today’s educational world it is essential for teachers to incorporate digital technology in the classroom.  Technology can support and enhance learning for students and help them reach both content and skill goals (Cennamo, Ross, & Ertmer, 2009).  Because technology support is so important in the classroom, teachers should continue to grow and develop their skills in keeping up with the latest tools and methods that can enhance student learning experiences.

The first standard from the NETS-T that I would like to improve upon is facilitating and inspiring student learning and creativity (International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), 2008).  The one big goal that I have for improving myself in this standard is to incorporate more project-based learning activities in my Economics class that are supported with technology.  Because of this, I plan to implement at least two new project-based learning activities per semester so that my students can experience real and authentic learning with technology support.  One project I have in the works is a budget project where students use Microsoft Excel to create a budget worksheet and use online collaborative tools to communicate with each other about information they discover about mortgages, loans, and other expenses.  I plan to monitor the goal for this standard by keeping track of what projects and activities I have created that used technology as a support for authentic learning.  If I am not working hard enough to make sure that technology is used to support content rather than using technology for the sake of technology, then I have not met my goal.  I plan to do quite of bit of reflection on what type of activities I created with the use of technology and also plan on getting feedback from students on what they thought of the activities and projects that were supported by technology.  If students felt the activities were fun but not content rich, then I need to go back to the drawing board and make new goals.  However, if students felt like the projects and activities were meaningful to them and were also enjoyable, then I have met my goal and can then extend my learning by looking into new ways to improve content learning with the use of technology.

The second standard from the NETS-S that I would like to focus on is modeling digital age work and learning (ISTE, 2008).  A goal that I would like to accomplish for this standard is to communicate better with students and parents using digital technology.  One action plan I have in mind for achieving this goal is to give parents multiples ways to communicate with me.  I understand parent phone calls are still important; however, I would also like to use email, social media, and cell phones to be able to communicate with parents and students.  I have set up a Facebook account for parents and students to get updates about what is going on in my classes and I already have parents and students checking the site for new pictures, videos, and updates (parent permission slips were signed and returned, which relates to NETS-T standard 4).  As for students, my district has a new Learning Management System (LMS) and email server that allows for excellent, fast communication with students about a myriad of issues and topics, including grades and attendance.  Monitoring my goal of communication through the use of new technology will be done through call logs, email archives, and message or wall posts on my class Facebook page.  I do allow students and parents to have my cell phone number as well and some parents find it more convenient to send text messages as well, in which case I archive and keep track of text messages as well.  When I evaluate my goal for this standard I will look at what impact this is having on student attendance and learning as well as parent comfort and confidence in both me as an educator and the high school where I teach.  By having different means of communication for students and parents, students are developing communication and collaboration skills that will serve them well in their future after their high school career is over.

One big question I have for my colleagues is what types of projects and activities do you implement differently now than before because of new technology and what new projects and activities do you now have for students because new technology supports are available?  Also, are there any communicative methods or strategies that I have left out in trying to reach my second goal of communication and collaboration?  I think if we as teachers can help each other grow and develop then all of our students are set to reap the benefits in the long run.

Resources


Cennamo, K., Ross, J. & Ertmer, P. (2009). Technology integration for meaningful classroom use: A standards-based approach. (Laureate Education, Inc., Custom ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.
International Society for Technology in Education. (2008). National education standards for  teachers (NETS-T). Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/Libraries/PDFs/NETS_for_Teachers_2008_EN.sflb.ashx
 
For some great tips and ideas, watch this video.  Some really great ideas to help all of us teachers!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Final Reflection: Learning Theory and Strategies in Action

     At the beginning of this course, my personal theory of learning mainly focused on project-based learning and cooperative learning.  While I still believe that real-world experiences and group collaboration are extremely important, this course has taught me that there are more ways of approaching teaching and learning.  Through the learning resources and discussions with Walden colleagues, I have learned an approach that includes a variety of different theories of learning can be very beneficial to student engagement and learning.  While I have not made any major changes to the way I approach learning, this course has enhanced my understanding of the learning theories I support most, which include both cognitive and social learning theories.  Also, a variety of different instructional tools and strategies that support researched learning theories were presented and are not at my disposal to use to enhance student learning.
               
     One of the most immediate changes I plan to make to my instructional practice is to take a step back to play a more dominant role as a teacher-facilitator rather than a teacher-lecturer.  While I do try to engage my students in many experiential learning activities, the main way students obtain required vocabulary and other essential information was through lecture.  I will use more technology to guide students to the information so they are able to discover new information rather than obtaining it from me.  One technology tool I want to use with my students is Microsoft Excel for a financial budgeting project.  If I have a spreadsheet set up for the students, they can focus more on the collaborative budgeting process rather than crunching numbers, which supports their learning.  Another tool I want to have students use is VoiceThread. There are so many ways to use this website that it is hard to know where to start.  I would like to have students use VoiceThread to enhance their understanding of managing credit and debt.  Students could set up a VoiceThread that goes through the steps of obtaining and maintaining good credit and have classmates comment on their ideas.  Overall, this course has greatly enhanced the amount technology skills at my disposable, both in the form of technology tools and instructional strategies.

     One long term goal I have for changing my instructional practice is to have almost no lecture in class as an instructional tool.  I know lecture is needed sometime but if I can reduce this strategy a great deal it will leave more room for collaboration and discussion among students and open up more time for learning other concepts.  I plan to take concepts that I have taught in the past and figure out ways to have students access the information in different ways using technology.  The second long term goal I have is to increase the amount of group sharing and students acting as
both teachers and learners.  One skill that students will need in the 21st century skills is communication and many students have gotten used to “sitting and getting” information and memorizing it for a test.  If I can get students involved in the process of teaching each other, then it will increase their ability to learn the information.  Information presented by peers often times means more coming from them rather than a teacher.  I plan to use more strategies, such as digital storytelling, VoiceThread, concept mapping websites, and other multimedia presentation formats, to involve students even more in the teaching and learning process in various content areas in my Economics classes.

     The amount of information I have learned in this class is mind boggling.  I will take most of the information and strategies in this course and be able to apply them immediately to enhance the learning of my students.  I truly understand how different learning strategies and tools are connected to research-based learning theories.  One of the most important things I learned is that technology needs to be used as the helper, the tool that allows students to learn
information in a new and unique way.  It has become very clear the impact that technology has on student learning and in
the development of essential 21st century skills needed to be successful in today’s world.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Being Social is the Name of the Game!

The idea of cooperative learning has been around for awhile but with the advent of new technologies, cooperative learning can be even more powerful than before.Cooperative learning is directly related to social learning theories in that students work collaboratively in groups to construct new knowledge (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007).Social learning is a very active process where students are involved in the creation and building of something.This is why cooperative learning fits in perfectly with social learning theories because students are actively engaged in the thinking and collaboration process while working toward a common goal.

Technology can greatly enhance the effectiveness of cooperative learning.Today, students have the ability to connect with each other any time and anywhere due to many social media sites and collaborative web resources such as blogs, wikis, moodles, and voicethreads.Cooperative learning, with the enhancement of technology, gives students the ability to become both the teacher and the learner, and many students will learn more through teaching others in their group than from being dictated information from a teacher’s lecture (Orey, 2001).The ability of students to work together to create large and complex multi-media projects, such as videos, websites, and prezis shows the real power of technology integration into cooperative learning, which supports the essential role of social learning theories.

One of my favorite cooperative learning activities when I taught American History was the webquest.I chose to use webquests specifically for the level of inquiry and engagement required by students.As supported by social learning theory, students were asked to research and construct new knowledge based on the directions of the webquest.Furthermore, webquests with new technology can be even more powerful as teachers now have the ability to create their own customized webquests for students to use that are tailored to students’ needs in the classroom (Pitler et al, 2007).Ultimately, cooperative learning is effective because it teaches students to work together in a way that is meaningful and practical for them as future citizens and leaders.

Link to my Voicethread:   https://voicethread.com/share/2902688/

                                                                      Resources

Orey, M. (Ed.). (2001). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom
instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Added for a little bit of humor...this is NOT what collaboration is all about!

I prefer a Dell...just saying!



Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Under Construction...Building Meaningful Learning!

     All of the different technologies presented by the learning resources this week had one thing in common:  they all engaged students in creating something authentic to share with others.  Whether the activity is labeled Learn By Design, Project-Based, or Problem-Based, technology can be used to enhance student creation and construction of knowledge.  One of the most practical technologies used in conjunction with constructivism was the spreadsheet created to compare possible saving and investment plans for a family inheritance (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenosk, 2007).  Students were to hypothesize which investment plan would make the most money in the long run and they were able to use technology to test their hypotheses.  The generating and testing of hypotheses in this activity directly relates to constructionism in that students create their own ideas because they are engaged in creating something interactive and useful (Orey, 2001)
 

     Another fantastic example of constructionism taking place in the classroom is that of gaming simulations.  Hundreds of simulations exist for a myriad of subject areas and create very fun and interactive learning experiences.  These types of simulations allow students to construct their own understanding and ideas about a particular topic while being immersed in an interactive learning environment.  The example used in this week’s learning resource dealt with a World War II game that asked students to make complex decisions as a nation’s leader during the war (Pitler et al, 2007).  This type of strategy asks students to use prior knowledge to construct new ideas and hypotheses about what decisions to make in the game and what possible consequences could occur given certain decisions.

 
     I also use a simulation game in Economics where students must invest virtual money in the stock market and make investment decisions (http://www.marketwatch.com/game/).  This project is fun, challenging, requires critical thinking, collaboration, and engages students in a real-world task, all very important aspects of constructionism learning theory.  At the end of the project, students write a reflection and share with classmates the results of their investments.  This is a good example of a technology rich, project-based learning activity that correlates with constructionism in that students develop skills and knowledge in an engaging fashion while creating their own ideas about how a real-world institution like the stock market actually works.


                                                                           Resources
Orey, M. (Ed.). (2001). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from 
     http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/index.php?title=Main_Page


Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom 
     instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Two additional points beyond my "academic" blog post:

1)  I love webquests and used them often in American and World History.  I did not write about them because I did not want to write too much and bore people (again, they are awesome and are absolutely constructivist)


2)  I know we all have a lot on our plates, BUT is anyone interested in playing a Walden EDUC 6771 virtual stock exchange game just for fun.  Let me know and I will set it up (I will post to classroom also)