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.