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:


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 (  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.

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

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)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Cognitive Learning Theory: How Can It Help?

The basic idea behind cognitive learning theory is information processing (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011).  All learners process information in slightly different ways.  Because of this, we as educators need to vary the strategies used in the classroom to try to make as many connections as possible to the content being taught.  
One of the strategies discussed in this week’s resources concerns the creation of advanced organizers.  There are several different types of organizers that can be used to help students process information and, naturally, every advanced organizer will yield slightly different results (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007).  One of the most effective ways to use advanced organizers is through the creation of cueing and questioning organizers.  These types of organizers give students a preview of what they are going to learn in both a linguistic and visual manner.  Most organizers of this nature will have an essential question that students are trying to answer as well as some sort of visual representation of what topic is being discussed.  This type of organizer supports cognitive learning theory in that it creates more connections through the use of text and pictures, which is aligned with the dual-coding hypothesis mentioned by Dr. Orey (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011). An advanced organizer using cueing and questioning also asks students to access prior knowledge and make predictions, another important piece of information processing.

Another excellent strategy that supports the cognitive learning theory is that of combination note taking strategies.  Although students should practice many types of note taking strategies, the combination note taking strategy involves written notes, drawings, graphs, concept mapping, and pictures, all of which can create an increased number of connections to the material for students (Pilter et al., 2007).  Combination notes can be created in a variety of mediums, including word processing programs and multimedia programs such as PowerPoint and Prezi.  These technologies offer new ways for students to process the information in a way that is meaningful and unique to their own learning style or preferences.  I offer an example of a combination note taking template at the end of this blog post for everyone to view.

Both of these strategies are very useful in teaching for understanding in that they offer different ways for students to access and process the information.  With combination note taking, students they can customize their notes to fit their particular learning style and still meet the learning objectives.  However, without the learning objectives guiding the information processing, students will have nothing pointing them in the right direction.  Similarly, cueing and questioning organizers will help teach for understanding by having students preview what they will learn and make cognitive predictions about what they need to understand at the end of the lesson or activity.  These strategies and many more are essential in helping students process and understand information in today’s digitally driven classroom.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program five: Cognitive learning theory [Video webcast].
Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from

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

This is also another link to a sample combination note taking strategy:

This is a link to more information about cueing, questioning, and advanced organizers.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Behaviorism and Technology in the Classroom

The behaviorist learning theory is one that is often looked down upon because it based on concrete, observable behavior.  It pays little attention to what is happening inside the brain of students and focuses on what behavior patterns can be repeated.  Despite this, there is a great deal of behaviorism based strategies than have proven useful in the classroom setting.

One instructional strategy that is related to the behaviorist learning theory is that of reinforcing effort.  The goal of this strategy is to get students to think and behave a specific way that will enhance their overall confidence and learning (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007).  If students acknowledge the fact that the effort they put towards certain learning activities directly correlates with their scores and grades, they will hopefully modify their behavior in a way that is beneficial to them (such as studying harder).  Technology can also help with making the process of reinforcing effort quicker and easier with various programs and software, such as Microsoft Excel.  The concept of reinforcing effort is to create positive reinforcement so that students realize that an increased effort can increase their performance in all areas of their academic life.

Another instructional strategy that is related to behaviorism is that of homework and practice.  Homework is often seen by students as boring and meaningless, one of the true negatives of being in school.  However, if it is assigned properly and given a purpose, practice and homework can be quite enjoyable and effective in creating meaningful learning.  Practice and homework, to be considered behaviorist-driven, must work toward certain behavior goals (as cited in Smith, 1999) so that students can all derive the same general meaning or skills from the homework.  Hartley (1998) said that practicing certain skill sets over and over are critical for learning to take place.  However, practice and homework must take place using several different approaches and in different contexts in order to keep students interested and focused (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007).  Technology is also very useful in terms of practicing skills.  There are thousands of websites and tutorials available to help students hone specific skills they need to be successful in the classroom.

The role of technology today in regards to the behaviorist learning theory is essential.  Most of the technology available to students is easy to use.  Technology can also make it easier for teachers to help students of all different learning styles and levels.  Through the technology and behaviorist-driven strategies aforementioned, richer and more meaningful learning through various methods ranging from math e-flash cards to online learning games can take place.  On top of that, students enjoy using technology as part of their learning so it only makes sense to use it in reinforcing effort and in practicing skills they need to be successful in life. 

Hartley, J. (1998) Learning and Studying. A research perspective, London: Routledge.
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom
      instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Smith, K. (1999). The behaviourist orientation to learning. In The encyclopedia of informal  
      education.  Retrieved from

I also found a couple of other very helpful and interesting videos on youtube to "positively reinforce" what we have learned about behaviorist learning theory.  Although I did not use them in my blog post it relates to behaviorism.
Video #1:  embeding was disabled, so follow the link please.

Video #2: