Saturday, October 20, 2012


With this course now coming to a close, it is of the utmost importance that we take a look back at some of the steps we have taken along the way.  We have been given a plethora of information to use, and a great number of technological resources to try and eventually implement in our classroom.  Looking back at my GAME plan from the very beginning of this course, I feel strongly that the knowledge given to through newer technologies will not only allow for me to carry out my GAME plan, but also to enhance my original ideas.

During my initial GAME plan post, I mentioned that one of the biggest changes that I wanted to make in my classroom was to improve upon ISTE standard number one:  to facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity (ISTE, 2012).  In many ways, I feel as though the subject that I teach lends itself to inspiring student growth through critical thinking and creativity.  My curriculum centers on world cultural geography, and I am fortunate to discuss with my students a vast number of cultures from around the world.  The problem with this is that as seventh graders, they are just getting in touch with the world around them, and many cannot see the world outside of their own small town.  My goal has been to use the newer technologies to show the students the world.  While this certainly is an ambitious goal to teach my seventh graders, I feel strongly that with good guidance, students can see the relevance of the technological lessons that I will be presenting to them.

From the very beginning of my GAME plan, I wanted to implement a lesson using to allow for my students to make relevant global connections.  Though I have not reached the part of my course where I will be having my students write to others from around the world, I have taken almost all of the steps to prepare for it.  The only obstacle left to conquer, albeit a large one, is to find a classroom in another country that suits the needs of my students.  This has not been an easy task to this point.  Some classes that I have found are older, and many in neighboring areas of the world.  However, finding one may prove to be a bit easier than I had originally thought.  Since my initial blog post, I have had a few new students come through my classroom doors.  In particular, one student from Pakistan has entered our middle school, and brings with her an abundance of cultural ideas.  My idea is to set up a classroom connection through her old school in Pakistan, and communicate about cultures through the ePals site.  The student has assured me that it would not be a problem for the Pakistani students to gain access to the computers in that school.

This type of project can instill quite a bit of creativity from the students.  It is a great opportunity to not only make her excited about a project, but to make the world smaller for my other students.  They can get a glimpse into her culture and a better understanding of where she came from.  Additionally, each student will be able to tap into the 21st century skill set to complete this project.  While the project deviates a bit from my original idea of setting up a class discussion through students in South Africa or India, this new option presents itself as an even more real-life experience.

This course has also helped me gain a bevvy of technological knowledge, and has given a tremendous amount of resources for use in the classroom.  From interactive lessons, to virtual field trips, and digital storytelling lessons, we have been given a great opportunity to engage our learners.  In particular, I am excited to attempt two new journeys in my classes.  Edmodo is a resource that frankly I had not heard of before this course.  Each and every single week, there were members from this cohort that recommended it, love it, and use it on a weekly basis.  This type of resource can not only be valuable for instruction since it touches upon relevant skills, but it also taps into the creativity of the students through the online networking piece of it.  Though I have not yet attempted to do anything with Edmodo, I plan to, and I am excited about the possible future uses of it.

I would also like to implement a newer digital storytelling project.  Currently, I have in place an outline for a project that my students complete each and every single year.  They are to research a country and have the opportunity to create some technologically based project (PowerPoint, MovieMaker, etc.).  I think this could be a great chance to get my students completely immersed into their research.  If I were to possibly expand the rubric so that it became a group project, the students could create a ‘newscast’ of their researched country.  They can use a green screen to superimpose an image from the country that they researched, and create their newscast ‘on-location’.  There are relatively few challenges for me to set this project up.  I simply need to be comfortable with the editing piece of our video technology, and I truly think that this project can be a huge success.

Though my GAME plan has taken some turns along the way, I truly believe that this course has prepared me for completing it in a much more advanced way.  I now have more technological skills, more ideas, and more resources to complete my original goals.  Additionally, newer technological skills are in place to assist through a myriad of different ventures throughout the school year.  I am truly excited about what the future may bring, and feel genuinely prepared to embark upon that journey.


ISTE, I.S. (2012).  Nets for Teachers.  Retrieved September 12, 2012 
from:  http://www/

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Monitoring My GAME Plan

The largest component of my GAME plan process, establishing another classroom to contact via ePals, is one that I fully believe will not only present my students with a true authentic assessment, but also will allow for them to step into some higher-level critical thinking skills.  They will be able to formulate their own knowledge through these assessments, and they certainly can use their creativity to design their own questions for their ePals. 


The most difficult part of fulfilling this part of my GAME plan will be establishing contact with another classroom in a region of the world that we will be studying, with a similar age group.  Additionally, I need to garner support from my administration to be able to actually use the site in my building.  Both of these are still a work in progress.  I am not worried about the latter.  My administration has been extremely supportive of technologically-based lessons throughout my tenure, and I am supremely confident that they will continue to be with this lesson.  However, I am very worried about finding a class in another culture that meets the curricular needs of my classroom.  To this point, I have been unable to locate one that fits within the parameters that I have established.  While I find this to be frustrating, I am confident that I will be able to find a classroom that fits our needs.  When I was first introduced to the ePals site last year, I saw multiple classrooms that would match with the needs of my class.  I will continue to look to find another class that my students can write to.


One bit of progress that I have made is speaking with my library/media specialist about the topic.  Frankly, she was as excited as I have been about the project.  Though many of her hesitations mirrored those of others who have tried the site before, she talked to me at great lengths about the possibilities.  We spoke endlessly about the good this will do for our students, and their ability to create their own learning.  We also spoke specifically about how technology has made the world a much smaller place.  Our conversation went extremely well, and we both became very excited about the possibilities that this lesson can bring.  However, she did mention to me some parts of the lesson that could be changed. 


Though she completely agrees that the process should be monitored, she also talked made mention of the fact that my initial plan called for quite a bit of control on my end.  Even though my intentions have been to design this lesson so that my students had creative control of this assignment, she pointed out to me that my students had very little.  Allowing the students to create their own videos, share music, or even share some of their own schoolwork with these other students could stem wonderful creativity.  I had truly never thought of these ideas, and am very fortunate that they could happen through this brainstorming session.  She was still unaware of whether ePals has this creative capability, but we certainly will be testing it before we commit to using the site to communicate.


So far, I feel as though my GAME plan is progressing nicely.  I am very comfortable with the unit plan that I have designed, and am also excited about the collegial support that I am getting.  The input that my fellow educators have shared with me will help me to make my students much more effective self-directed learners (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010).  By giving them the opportunity to create at least some of their own questions and by using their own creativity, my students will now have a voice in their writings and sharing with their ePals.  In my experiences, when students are given this type of opportunity, they tend to do extremely well.  Students can not only learn what they have been taught, but they can also develop their own ideas and thoughts through communicating with their ePals.  I am very excited about the possibilities that this lesson entails, and am certainly eager to have my students start.



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.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2009). Integrating technology across the content areas. Baltimore, MD: Author.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Carrying Out Your GAME Plan

The beginning of the school year is a great time in many different ways.  Students are excited (or not) about their new classes and textbooks.  New faces and smiles warm the hallways, and new opportunities arise for each learner.  This feeling should not be limited to simply students either.  Teachers have a chance to enhance prior lessons, experiment with new techniques, or attempt brand new classroom management approaches.  In my particular case, I am most excited to implement some of the newer technologies that I have learned through my time at Walden, in an effort to enhance student learning.  In essence, my GAME plan centers around my ability to implement new technologies to enhance student learning experiences.  Through this, students can not only enhance their content knowledge, but they can play an active role in enhancing their own education in an increasingly technologically-driven world.

As social studies teacher, there are a vast number of resources that are available to use in the classroom.  From Google Earth to various virtual field trip sites, my seventh grade world geography students have experienced quite a bit in the past few years.  However, one are that we have yet to make significant ground in is through online collaborative efforts.  Today, more than ever, technology is readily available for our students to make the world a much smaller place.  They do this outside of the school building all too frequently.  Sites like Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites allow for students to reach out and connect with students in a myriad of ways, often without true guidance. 

The idea of my students making world connections is a great one tome.  However, the thought of my students not being properly guided into this properly frightens me.  It is possible that students can read false information, or find biased or harmful information even while researching the most well-intended ideas.  This is why one of the main focuses of my GAME plan is to have my students make responsible world connections.  I plan on accomplishing this by making connections through the site  This site is designed to be very classroom friendly, and allows for cultures all over the world to connect with one another.  As the year progresses into our unit on Southwest Asia, it is imperative for my students to have a grasp on the ideas and beliefs that shape this area of the world.  Each and every single year, I show my students multimedia segments to give students a better understanding of what this area of the world is like, and present it through the eyes of teenagers.  Though I have had experiences with many videos to explain the information to the students, the use of video streaming can be an extremely effective way for the students to learn (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010).

At the end of the unit, I have always had my students write to a ‘pen pal’, and ask them specific questions about their culture.  The exercise has always gone fairly well, but has always lacked a bit of the authenticity that ePals can provide.  My students have always written their letters and done an excellent job with it.  However, they have lacked the ability to interact with students of their own age, and truly receive answers to their wonderful questions.  ePals provides them that opportunity.  They can ask appropriate questions, and get feedback from their ePals.  During this process, I can monitor what they write, and guide them through this process.  Not only does this provide genuine 21st century skills for my students, but it also allows for differentiation.  I can guide each of my students through this process, and work with the cooperating teacher from the other school to set up pals that are appropriate for the needs of each student.

The initial ideas for implementing my GAME plan are fully in place.  I have the outline designed, initial rubric for the writing assignment completed, and the unit plan almost completed.  What I have not yet done is speak to the library/media specialist and tech leaders about the usage of ePals in my classroom.  Talking to cohorts from previous classes during my Walden experience, they have explained some difficulties that have arisen with this process.  I am not sure if it ties directly into the fair usage policy for the Internet that each district uniquely possesses, or if it is a universal issue.  I plan on sitting down with the library/media specialist this Friday, when my class is doing a lesson with her on citations.  This will be the first step in making sure that my district is on board with the assignment.  Once I have the authority to go through with the project, I need to find a school district in another area of the world that not only fits in with my needs, but that has similar aged students.  This process, I have yet to begin.  However, once I do set this up, each student can use this technology to enhance their learning of these other cultures.  The more experience that my students have with the technology; the more they can include some of their own technological skills.

I truly feel as though my GAME plan has a well-founded beginning.  Implementation will be the difficult part.  I am hoping that as the year goes along, I will gain valuable insight from my colleagues.  Any input they can give me, or any experiences that they might share with me will allow for my students to reach a higher level of success.  I am always willing to listen to any and all help that other professionals will give me.  In this case, it will only help me to reach success with my GAME plan.


Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2010).  Meeting students' needs with technology part 1 [Webcast].  Integrating technology across the content areas.  Baltimore, MD: Author.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

My GAME Plan

With our world consistently evolving around us, as educators, we need to continually evolve with the times.  If we do not, it is likely that we will not be presenting our students with all of the opportunities that newer technologies can present for them.  If we are uncomfortable with certain technologies and/or newer ideas, it is imperative that we do everything in our power to implement change in our lesson designs.  One way to do this is simply by having a “GAME plan” (Cennamo, Ross, & Ertmer, 2009).   A GAME plan is a way in which we can create our own self-directed learning.  We can set goals (G), take action (A), monitor progress (M), and evaluate whether the goals were achieved (E) (Cennamo et al., 2009). 

While making changes to our own teaching practices is never easy, it is certainly imperative for future success.  The GAME plan idea that we have been discussing for the past two weeks has certainly been a revelation to me, in that I can set up my own course of action to design my own ideas for self-directed learning.  In this case, I know that I need to come up with a game plan to better my technological use in the classroom.  I try extremely hard to better myself through technology each and every single year, but eventually, I find myself going back to tried and true lessons.  This is never exactly what I envision doing, but it is essential what winds up happening.  Part of being an effective teacher is recognizing your weaknesses, and making adjustments to your weaknesses.  In my case, I know that I am not as confident in many aspects of technology as I should be. 

Looking over the NETS-T standards, I immediately recognized two that I know that I can immediately improve upon.  The first standard that I would like to improve upon is standard number one:  to facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity (ISTE, 2012).  While I certainly have students explore real-world issues such as population struggles and large cultural issues, I would like to make these issues much more relevant to my students.  My seventh graders often have a very difficult time making connections with other areas around the world.  It is certainly something that I attempt to do, and often fall short of.  However, I think that I can definitely instill some technologically driven lessons to help my students make those connections.  I frequently bring up the site as a site that can allow my student to do just that.  ePals is a wonderful site that allows students to write to other students from around the world, and make connections with them.  In my humble opinion, it is very teacher friendly, and allows for teachers to construct a setup that works best for their classroom.

In my particular curriculum, my students are consistently learning about new cultures.  We have often experimented with writing new cultures, and students write to students of the other cultures.  The problem with this is that there is no one to answer their questions.  Therefore, students are not able to create a true connection to the content.  ePals allows for that connection to be made.  For myself, my initial goal would be establish contact with another school in one of my content areas, and have my students regularly write to them.  This goal can certainly be accomplished early in the year though this site.  As the year progresses, I can continue to take action by not only allowing my students to write to these other cultures, but I can monitor what my students are producing.  This is one of the great things about the ePals site, in that I can see what the students are accomplishing. I can check for understanding, I can check for creative thinking questions, and I can check to make sure that my students are appropriate.  Monitoring the progress of my students is made easy through this site, and I definitely can gauge their progress with it.  Finally, I can evaluate how my students did at the end of the year.  Though I do not frequently give summative assessments, I can use these to see how well my students progressed throughout the year.  By giving them some sort of formative assessment early in the year, I can compare their progress.

Another standard that I am not as confident with is that of engaging professional growth.  I certainly take part in different professional groups in my building and district.  However, I do not in any way shape or form take part in the technological growth in my building.  I would like to change that.  As someone with a growing background in technology, my goal is to participate in a learning community in my district to help explore creative applications of technology, and explore student learning (ISTE, 2012).  While this concept ties directly into one of the standards, I find this is a rather achievable goal.  I plan on volunteering to take part in our ‘Tech Leadership’ program, which is a few select teachers from each building that are chosen to integrate technology into the building.  Assuming my vice-principal allows me to join the committee (he is usually on board with anyone volunteering to improve the building), I will then take one piece of technology that I use from that committee, and integrate that into my lessons.  By being in this committee, I can monitor my own personal growth, and have some of my fellow committee members do the same for me.  As I progress throughout the year, I can ask for feedback from the committee, and from my administrators.  Finally, I can evaluate and reflect on research regularly to support student learning.  As a result, the more I learn the more that my students will learn.

I am certainly excited to embark on this newest journey, and am certainly open to any sort of feedback.



Cennamo, K., Ross, J., & Ertmer, P. (2009).  Technology Integration for Meaningful Classroom Use.  

          Mason, OH:  Cengage Learning.

ISTE, I.S. (2012).  Nets for Teachers.  Retrieved September 12, 2012 from:

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Final Reflection

Seven weeks have come and gone, and with it, we have accumulated an abundance of technological tools to assist us in our daily routines.  We have also been exposed to a number of different learning theories in order for us to shape and mold our own strategy.  With the course now coming to a close, it is worth looking back at how we viewed our own personal learning theories.  Being exposed to a great number of technologies has certainly shaped some of my individual lesson plans, but I do not think that my overall view of learning theory has changed.

Upon looking back at my initial post from week one, I claimed to follow a constructionist model to my classroom.  I truly had only a moderate idea of what constructionist/constructivist theory was, but it appeared to mesh more with my personal viewpoint.  I do institute quite a bit of cooperative learning, which also incorporates social learning theory.  This course has certainly validated my initial belief that I follow a constructionist approach.  Week after week we were given resources and exposed to a wide variety of different theories.  None of them resonated with me in the way that constructionism did.  Our students crave to create, and with proper guidance from a teacher, students can do just that.  If we make our expectations clear to our students before they begin a lesson, students will indeed strive to achieve those goals.  Albert Bandura, who developed constructivist ideas, believed that believed that outcome expectancies motivate students to imitate the behavior (Lever-Duffy, 2007).  In essence, teachers who model a desired behavior or result will have their students achieve that result. Modeling serves as a great focal point at the beginning of lessons, and in a constructionist classroom, is necessary for student success.

This course has absolutely deepened my knowledge of constructionist learning theory.  In particular, I find the VoiceThread technology that was introduced to us particularly helpful.  Students can certainly construct their own knowledge through a well-guided and maintained lesson including a VoiceThread activity.  By having them post responses to original thoughts, they become accountable for what they say on this VoiceThread, which gives them a piece of accountability.  It also makes their learning experience much more meaningful, and I think it can also be extremely fun for them to do.  Of course, it takes a lot of practice on the part of the educator in order for a lesson such as this to work.  However, since the teacher is a facilitator of knowledge, it is the responsibility of the educator to put the student in a situation where they can create that learning experience.  Looking back at the first week of the class, this was my belief in regard to the theory of constructionism.  I still strongly feel this way.

VoiceThread is only one of many technologies that I became aware about during this class.  The website is one that I am absolutely going to use in my classes next year.  This site essentially allows for students to have virtual penpals in other areas of the world. As a teacher of world cultures, I am thrilled for what this website is going to be able to teach my students.  For the first eight years of my career, I have had the students ‘imagine’ that they are writing a student in another country.  They can formulate their own opinions of what the other student may say while returning their letter, but there is never a concrete response.  By using this technology, my students will not only get answers to their questions, but also they will be much more thoughtful and purposeful in their questioning.  Since they will know there will be a return letter coming back to them, students will certainly be much more heartfelt in their questioning techniques.  I am very encouraged for what this site can do for my classroom, as it immediately takes the place of my traditional pencil and paper writing that I have had my students do.  They can construct their own knowledge in the conversations they will have with these other students, and all parties will retain the knowledge much more efficiently.

This course has also taught me more than I had ever dreamed of about PowerPoint.  Dr. Michael Orey and Dr. Debora Pickering both seem to acknowledge its possible uses, as well as its deficiencies.  It can be a teacher-driven instructional tool if an educator simply replaces lecture lessons with PowerPoints.  A traditional PowerPoint may prove difficult for many learners to gather true knowledge out of the topic.  In its traditional form, a PowerPoint can simply be another way for the lecture notes to be passed on to students.  I know that I have used this method quite a bit in the past, where I attempt to give students visuals to accompany the notes.  However, if there is not student-centered focus, many of my students will not be able to retain the knowledge.  Both Dr. Orey and Dr. Pickering would likely applaud my attempt to integrate pictures into the lesson, which would go a long way to helping support Pavio’s dual coding hypothesis (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011).  Even though the attempts have been there, I have continually missed the mark.

I do think that there is quite a bit of room for improvement in my teaching style, and this course has certainly taught me ways to do that.  In particular, the methods in which Dr. Orey has presented his information have resonated with me.  The PowerPoint, which I have mistakenly used in my classroom, is one way that I can make an immediate change.  For years, I have had my students do a research report on a country, with a rubric that details what they need for the project.  As I look back, all I see is information.  One slide will be words.  The next will be more words, and so on.  Though each slide is required to have a picture, what is lacking is true understanding of the topic.  The picture can indeed by the vessel to allow students to remember the topic.  Dr. Pickering suggests that we pull the information from the slide, and have the students present the information  through pictures only(Laureate Education, Inc., 2011).  This would definitely show me if the students have retained what they have researched, and will likely lead to more practice from the students.  I am going to try this during our research project next year.  While I thoroughly suspect mixed results, I am eager to see if the presentations themselves improve.

The final piece of technology that I cannot wait to introduce to my students, was the afore mentioned VoiceThread.  During our discussions throughout the course, just about each member of our class seemed to absolutely love this technology.  I am no exception.  I think that the possibilities are limitless.  VoiceThread is a dream technology for a constructionist such as myself.  Students are given a resource, can create their own knowledge points, and truly construct their own knowledge.  In this manner, a constructionist is allowing a student to create what needs to be created in order to learn the subject matter (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011). 

The goal of any educator is to get these technologies to work for them in the long term.  Having never implemented these activities in lessons before this course certainly can cause for some anxious moments leading up to these lessons.  However, having a long-term plan is vital for the success of each new technological tool a teacher is to use in the classroom.  In my case, I would like to implement the change in my PowerPoint presentations.  The final project my students are to do next year is a PowerPoint on a country from our curriculum.  Instead of presenting the information in the manner they had in past, with bullet points, students will not be using any words on the PowerPoint at all.  They will be using pictures, and presenting the information on each slide while having only the picture on each slide.  Throughout the year, students will be preparing for this larger assignment.  Each marking term, students will create a PowerPoint, and as their skills progress, I will challenge them.  They will start very simple, by creating a 2 or 3 page presentation during the first term, using words only.  They will then progress through using both pictures and words, and eventually to only pictures.  Along the way, I will model for them, as well as provide opportunities to practice presenting. 

Another technology that I would like to implement is VoiceThread.  This technology will be even more challenging for the students than PowerPoint, because it is highly likely that they have never seen it, or even heard of it before.  My long-term (multi-year) goal, is to be able to teach an in-service to my faculty on this technology.  I think it is remarkably easy, and something that everyone can use regardless of subject matter.  I had never heard of this technology before this course, and I plan on continually creating new and unique VoiceThreads throughout the summer and into next school year.  For my students, I would like to have them create a VoiceThread by the end of the school year.  In order to implement this technology, I have to proceed in the same manner that I did with PowerPoint.  Students will first be exposed to the technology.  They will then be required to respond only in text to one of my VoiceThreads.  From there, they will respond with Voice.  Finally, before they create their own VoiceThread, they will be asked to analyze one of my topics, and collaborate with fellow students to respond.  I feel that these steps will ready my students to use this technological tool to enhance their education.

I truly feel that these technological tools can be used in any grade level and in any subject.  It is very exciting to have practiced these skills, and I truly look forward to implementing these in my classroom.  With the summer rapidly approaching, it is easy to simply put aside some of these valuable tools, and tell ourselves that we can work on these when we get back to school.  While I definitely plan on enjoying my summer, I also plan on bettering myself in using these technologies.  I want to be much more prepared for the upcoming school year, and want my students to benefit from these technologies.  After all, that is why we teach.


Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program eleven: Instructional strategies, Part one [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program seven: Constructionist and constructivist learning theories [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program thirteen: Technology: Instructional tool vs. learning tool [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from

Lever-Duffy, J., & McDonald, J. (2008). Theoretical foundations (Laureate Education, Inc., custom ed.).

                Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.

Thursday, May 31, 2012


This was my first ever VoiceThread, and I must say - I definitely see the worth in this website.  I pieced together part of a lesson that I have created for my students, asking them to make connections between a series of maps given.  We spend a lot of time on sub-Saharan Africa, and ask them to make connections between poverty, birthrate, and vegetation. 
As I get much more comfortable, I definitely will fine-tune the VoiceThread itself.  However, I am very excited about using this in my classroom in the very near future.

Connectivism and Social Learning in Practice

This week, we were introduced to the learning theory of social constructivism.  Going into this week, I fully expected a challenge with this theory.  Previous learning theories such as behaviorism and cognitivism I had heard of, and even knowingly implemented them into my classroom.  Social constructivism however, I had never heard of before this course.  I did not have any prior knowledge to its central components, its core strategies, or any of the founders of this theory.  Not having any prior knowledge of a topic can indeed be intimidating to a learner at any age, and I felt a lot like many of my students must when I introduce a new topic to them.  However, after researching social constructivism this week, I have found that I unknowingly subscribe to many components of this theory and employ many of them in my daily practice.

In essence, the theory of social constructionism/social constructivism is that students learn when they are actively engaged in constructing artifacts and conversing with others (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011).  Dr. Michael Orey described this process very efficiently to me this week, and I definitely feel as though I consistently use it in my classroom.  One part of social constructionism that I certainly use often in my classroom often is the idea of cooperative learning.  In a cooperative learning group, students are responsible for learning information and teaching it to their teammates (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011).   In essence, cooperative learning is not so much learning to cooperate as it is cooperating to learn (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007, p 143).  Students may complain about working in a group with specific partners, but ultimately they will get out of the lesson what they put into it.  The student becomes directly responsible for their education, and the teacher serves to guide them through that content.  I completely agree with Dr. Orey in that when a person teaches others, then that helps the learner develop a deeper understanding of the content that was presented (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011). 

It is important that when teachers are designing cooperative learning groups that they use a variety of criteria to group all students (Pitler et. al, 2007, p 140).  Some students are better suited in particular roles in a group, and may struggle if they are not in roles that best suit their individual needs.  The difficulty with designing these types of lessons is that it takes a lot of time to get to know how students work.  Many educators are unable, or perhaps unwilling, to devote the time necessary to get to know the learning styles of each of their students.  This task may indeed be daunting, but there are ways to do this without completely revamping a teaching style that has taken years to develop.  One way to do this is by combining cooperative learning with other classroom structures (Pitler, et al., 2007).  One way that I do this is by having students read core texts in cooperative groups.  As a teacher, I can still guide the lesson when necessary, and I can interject points into the reading as I am walking around the classroom.  Students will usually read the topic together and summarize the information, thus sharing previous knowledge and different skills together.  There are many of my students who do not enjoy the cooperative groups, as many learners prefer to construct meaning on their own.  However, I strongly believe that these types of groups are for the betterment of all students, and they construct their own meanings.

Cooperative learning can certainly be effective through group learning such as described above, but technological tools can enhance the construction of knowledge. The creation and use of blogs, wikis, and podcasts are all ways to engage our students in cooperative groups while integrating technology.  My social studies curriculum allows for me to be extremely creative with the integration of technology into my class.  It allows for opportunities in the technological world that others may not.   We discuss world cultures and global topics, and modern technology allows for information to be passed globally with one click of the mouse.  

As we read this week in Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, “communication with students from other cities, states, and countries broadens the perspective of students and challenges them to learn about other cultures, languages, and issues throughout the world” (Pitler, et al. 2007, p 145).  Newer technologies allows for this to happen much easier.  For my first 8 years of teaching in my district, I have had my students writing a pen pal letter to a 'student' from another culture.  Students may watch a film on another culture and be curious as to some of the nuances of that culture, and want to ask questions so I allow for them to be creative.  However, students do not get much in the way of TRUE feedback to their questions.  I answer them, and may not be able to construct true knowledge for the student.  This week, we were introduced to the website  This site allows for students to connect with classrooms all over the globe.  As a teacher of world cultures and social studies, this tool is very exciting for the next school year.  I am very eager to try it out with my students, and develop lessons surrounding the site. 

New and exciting tools like this allow for students to converse with one another, and to create meaning to a broad range of topics.  I definitely love to use cooperative learning in my classroom, and believe that the above activities are directly influenced by social constructivist/constructionist theory.  Now that I know this to be true, I completely subscribe to this learning theory and actively employ it in my classroom


Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program seven: Constructionist and constructivist learning theories [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.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Constructivism in Practice

Going into the resources for this week, I truly could not make the distinction between constructivism and constructionism.  Dating back to the first time I heard of these theories, I distinctly remember not being able to tell them apart.  I am unsure as to why, whether it was the way it was taught to me, my inability to grasp the concept, or I simply could not process the information, I just could not tell the difference between the two.  This week, a few simple words from Dr. Michael Orey made it very clear to me.  Constructivism is the theory that states each learner constructs his or her own learning experiences and own meanings.  Constructionism is the theory that states people learn best when they build an external artifact or something they can share with others (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011).  Dr. Orey then went on to make this perfectly clear to me, in the constructionism revolves around "the learner building stuff" (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011).  Though this may seem like a simplistic way of describing this process, it is certainly very descriptive.  In a constructionist setting, learners are directly involved in building artifacts, and sharing their beliefs with others. 

After I gained a sense of understanding about what these two theories were, it was time to see how they could be used to enhance the learning of my students.  Both constructivism and constructionism do indeed have a place in the classroom, and the learning resources from this week made it clear as to where they can fit into a well planned lesson.  Our classroom reading this week, from Using Technology in the Classroom that Works truly highlighted some ways that constructivism is able to be used in the classroom, notable through the use of spreadsheets.  Spreadsheets are interactive, in that students can manipulate the spreadsheet to help their own learning, they can consider graphical patterns, and they can test their predictions by receiving quick feedback on multiple scenarios (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, and Malenoski, 2007).  Students can use that feedback to help them construct their own understanding of what they have studied. 

While this certainly seems like a worthwhile endeavor, spreadsheets themselves are extremely time consuming, and difficult to set up.  Many more experienced teachers are not as savvy when it comes to many of the newer technologies, and they may feel overwhelmed when setting up a spreadsheet.  Additionally, even if the spreadsheet is set up, many teachers may feel that they do not have the class time to teach the students how to create their spreadsheets.  This is the great thing about this technology.  Once a teacher creates a formula, the student simply needs to input the data, and the formula does the rest.  Students are then able to use class time to use these spreadsheets to learn the content (Pitler, et al. 2007). 

Pitler et. al describe six different processes that help students generate a hypothesis.  They are:  systems analysis, problem solving, historical investigation, invention, experimental inquiry, and decision making (Pitler et. al, 2007).  It is clear to me that when students are involved in the invention process, they are involved in constructivist activity.  If they are inventing, they are clearly creating their own learning process.  As Dr. Orey stated, constructivism is indeed when students constructs his or her own meaning to a topic (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011).  If a student is involved in any kind of activity that involves creation of meaning to a topic, and I believe that constructivist theory fits this.

However, the same can be said for constructionism.  If a student is creating, or inventing, they are building an external artifact for learning, and they can share that with others (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011).  In other words, I believe this process can be both constructivist and constructionist.  I also believe that the other five tasks Pitler et. al describe are all constructionist.  Additionally, I believe that these five can fit into the parameters of project-based learning.  As Dr. Orey states, project based learning involves students in the creation of a product or performance, conducting research, and synthesizing information (Orey, 2001).  This sounds quite similar to the chapter from Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, in that investigation, inquiry, decision making, and analysis help students generate hypotheses (Pitler, et al., 2007).  These types of activities are certainly capable of allowing students to use an external artifact to help drive both instruction and learning.

Although I believe that I have a much better understanding of what both constructivist and constructionist theories are, I still feel that I may be overlapping the two.  I do think that the two overlap in some ways, and can certainly be confusing to those who have not studied them.  Still, both theories have a place in the classroom of today, and certainly are driving many modern instructional models.  I would like to think of myself as a constructionist thinker, as in my social studies class I have the students using information (artifacts) to help drive their knowledge.  One thing is for sure, I can certainly better my instruction, and I strongly believe that this course is pushing me to become a much better teacher for my students.


Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program seven: Constructionist and constructivist learning theories [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology.

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.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Cognitivism in Practice

Dr. Michael Orey would state that cognitive learning theory is a process that revolves around the model of information processing, which is done in three distinct steps (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011).  First, the information goes through sensory registers.  What this means is simply that we receive the information.  The second step would be short term memory.  Short term memory, as the name suggests, only allows for information to be held for a short period of time.  Studies have shown that the human brain can hold about seven, plus or minus 2, pieces of information at a time in our short term memory (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011).  This is why many of us are not able to remember lists that are extremely long.  In order to remember things in more detail, we need to make connections between our short term memory, and the third step which is to make a piece of information a long term memory.  Rehearsal will help to make those connections, and help to make sure that information is retained.

Cognitive learning theory may indeed be a bit difficult to follow, but knowing that there are three distinct ways to create long term memories will certainly help to guide teachers to designing lessons that best suit the needs of all their students.  The first 'network' of information where memories are stored is declarative information.  Declarative information is where facts and other bits of information are stored (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011).  As Malenoski et. al. discussed in our readings this week, cues and advanced organizers can help students have a clearer sense of what they are going to learn  (Pitler, H., Hubbell, E. Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K., 2007).  Giving students an idea of what they are going to be doing during a lesson will also help them to make connections to prior knowledge, which in turn allows for declarative information to be stored.  Even if the content is new, teachers can give advanced organizers to help sutdents understand new content  (Pitler, H., Hubbell, E. Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K., 2007).  Whether the information is old or new, students can retain information given to them through technological tools as simple as a PowerPoint presentation.  Information and facts are then stored, and students will be able to access those ideas for future use.

The second 'network' is procedural information.  In this network, we remember how to do things.  Procedures, such as tying your shoe, your drive to work, or the process on how to solve specific equations.  In many ways, the technology that we have used not only for our classroom applications and instructions, but also for our blog posts constitutes procedural information.  We have to know where to go, how to log on, and how to access our grades.  Think about how hard it was for all of us when our school site changed to the new Blackboard model.  The procedure that we used to not only access our information, but also the way we posted that information changed drastically.  We needed to relearn that information.  For me, making the connection between our previous classroom model and the current one was indeed difficult, and certainly tough to master because it deviated from the procedure that we were used to.  In our classrooms themselves, giving the students ideas on how to properly take notes, and gather information can lead to this as well (Pitler, H., Hubbell, E. Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K., 2007).  Teaching students through reciprocal methods also shows students a variety of different approaches to gather the information necessary for each lesson.  In order to get that information, students also need to follow procedures, and a good teacher will be able to model that for their students.

The third 'network' involves episodic information and memories. The events of each and every person fit into this network.  We adapt to life through our experiences, and this is true both in school and out of it. The idea of concept mapping is a wonderful way to bring in ideas from the lives of each of the students in the classroom.  Students will be able to share together, brainstorm, and create connections between difficult topics.  Concept mapping can also be used in all other networks, but I believe it certainly fits into this network extremely well.

Finally, the idea of using blogs and wikis can certainly expand on cognitive learning theory. Students are exposed to a vast array of resources and activities well before they have to turn in their finished product, and have ample opportunity to make connections.  These connections are further amplified by the genuine learning experiences that they are having in creating these blogs and/or wikis.  Powerful tools such as a blog are simple to set up, simple to maintain, and can produce significant learning for students.

The more that students are exposed to a variety of teaching approaches, the better chance they have to making connections to prior knowledge.  Technology can certainly expedite the process, or at the very least provide an aid to helping students make those connections. 

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

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Behaviorism in Today's Classroom

In the world of education today, the theory of behaviorism has been rendered a bit obsolete.  Popular during the mid 20th century, the theory of behaviorism centers around the belief that humans react a specific way because of a stimulus, and a response to that stimulus.  B.F. Skinner is likely the most famous behaviorist, notable for his introduction of operant conditioning. However, behaviorism has fallen out of favor with many educators, as it is relatively limited in its scope.  Notably, behaviorism does not allow for much higher-order thinking skills.

However, it does appear that there is a small place for behaviorism in the classroom today.  I do not think that the place for behaviorism is large, but there are a few pieces that seem to fit.  Dr. Michael Orey states that operant conditioning has two possible outcomes to behaviors:  punishment for undesirable behaviors, and reward for positive behaviors.  Dr. Orey continues to state that "reinforcement of positive behaviors is easily the more powerful of the two mechanisms" (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011).  Positive behavior can be just about anything that leads to a desired result in the classroom, from picking up a piece of paper that was dropped on the ground, or going the extra mile by putting in their best effort on an assignment.

Many students do see the results from their effort, however not all students realize the importance of believing in effort (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007).  We need to make sure that we teach the students about the importance of effort, and make learning meaningful to them.  For example, the text Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works introduced us to a great tool using Microsoft Excel that can keep track of student effort (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007).  Students are responsible for creating their own spreadsheet, and inputting all information about their effort.  They are also required to post their scores regarding any sort of assessment tool.  Results are visible to both the teacher and the student, and there student and teacher can make connections.  Graphs that are easily accessible to students of all ages can show both educator and student the correlation between the effort that they put in, and the results that they get.  At its core, this is a behaviorist principle, as students have some sort of reward for their desired behavior.  Students who do not succeed can likely see the correlation between their effort and their results.

Other uses of behaviorism encompass the practice aspect of learning.  In other words, behaviorism can help us achieve success in the favorite activity of our students:  HOMEWORK!  The word itself strikes fear into the minds of our young learners, and the lack of homework completion can sometimes drive their teachers mad.  In order for students to complete their work, they first need to know that there is a purpose to the homework that they are doing.  The purpose of homework should be explained to students before they begin the homework, and doing this should help to make it relevant.  One way to do this is by implementing a homework policy.  Sure, just about all schools have a policy in place for completion of homework.  However, clear communication with a homework policy gives the students clear expectations on what they can and cannot do (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007).  Again, at its core this is a behaviorist idea.  Students can be rewarded for completion of their homework, but at the same time they can be punished for lack of homework completion.

Homework should also give the students timely feedback into their efforts.  While homework in our classrooms of today may differ from the ideas of programmed instruction from the mid-20th century, there are some parallels.  Immediate feedback for student responses is a key feature in programmed instruction (Lever-Duffy & McDonald, 2008), just as quick responses to student homework is vital for creating some worth to the homework assignment.  Homework feedback may not be as immediate as in programmed instruction, but the similarities are there.  While the programmed instruction model may not have an overwhelming impact on education today, there are certainly some positives.  Online tutorials and other ideas that give students interaction on the Internet give immediate feedback to the learner, and teach them right from wrong.  As with all behaviorist approaches though, this process falls short of creating any higher level thinking skills.  This is certainly the major factor that behaviorism has not translated well to the 21st century, and newer 21st century skill set.

While it appears on the outside that behaviorism may be going the way of the dodo, there is still room for limited usage of this theory in classrooms.  Classroom management, introductory lessons, and homework can all have some sort of behaviorist component.  However, educators that want to get more out of their students will likely want to incorporate other learning theories into their lesson designs.


Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011).  Behaviorist learning theory. [DVD].  Bridging learning theory, instruction, and technology.  Baltimore, MD: Michael Orey, Ed.D.

Lever-Duffy, J., & McDonald, J. (2008).  Theoretica foundations.  (Laureate Education, Inc., custom ed.).  Boston, MA:  Pearson, Inc.

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E.R., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007).  Using technology with classroom instruction that works.  Alexandria, VA:  Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Technology in the Classroom - A Reflction

As I sit back and reflect upon the past seven weeks for this course, I must remind myself where I was in my classroom prior to this course in terms of technological usage.  Seven weeks ago, I found myself using PowerPoint to give notes at least twice a week.  Students would diligently take notes, and I would post the links to my PowerPoint lectures on my website.  As we have learned, this is simply “putting old wine into new bottles” (Laureate, 2010).  Students are still being presented information the same way that they always have through PowerPoint.  The only difference is that we are using a different vessel to transmit that information.  Instead of simply putting a piece of chalk to the board and having the students take notes, the students are now taking notes from a technological piece that their teacher uses to present that information.  To the student, this is still the same thing.  They are being given notes, and their job is to put their pencil to paper, and take the notes down.
As educators, we need to change this method of teaching.  It is not that this type of teacher-centered instruction has no place in the classroom.  I would disagree with anyone who would state that it serves no purpose to have lessons like the one described.  However, as educators, we need to adjust with the changing times, and adopt newer ways of thinking and teaching into our classroom.  As our culture shifts to a technologically driven one, we need to make a similar shift in our way of presenting information to our students.  If our students are truly going to be successful in the 21st century workforce, we need to implement more lessons that are learner-centered.  These past seven weeks have presented us with a great deal of information on how to make that happen.
Each and every one of the students that we teach every day has had technology in their lives since birth.  “Kids today are connected to the entire world around the clock, in real time, through their media and their myriad personal devices, both electronic  and digital uses” (Prensky, 2005).    These same students are always on their cell phones, personal gaming devices, IPods, and many more technological devices when they are outside of school.  If we are going to reach our students, we need to find ways to reach them in the classroom, so that they do not “power down” (Prensky, 2008) when they get in the classroom.  Assignments such as blogs, wikis, and podcasts will certainly allow for our students to satisfy their technological needs, and allows for us to design lessons that align with 21st century skills. Blogs, podcasts, and wikis can all be made into collaborative activities with just a bit of extra effort from the teacher.  A few extra steps at the beginning of the lesson from the instructor goes a long way towards creating a successful technology-based lesson, and if teachers are willing to work at it, many critical thinking questions can be answered.
While I have yet to implement a new technology-based lesson into my classroom, I have certainly taken steps to do so.  I have always used collaborative activities in my classroom, so transitioning some of my lessons will be much easier than I had anticipated.  In fact, I have already changed one of my tried-and-true lessons into a more technologically-based one.  As I introduce different continents in my social studies classes, I place the students into groups and give them an assortment of maps on that continent.  From the maps, they have to collaborate, and come to a conclusion as to which areas would be the most likely to have a higher population, and their job is to explain why they have come up with that response.  They have always been required to write out their responses.  This lesson has always been successful in giving the students an opportunity to understand why humans settle in specific areas, instead of simply accepting the fact that they do.  Even though this has been a success, I firmly believe that implementing a blog to accompany this lesson can only enhance its success.  Students can post their thoughts about their maps, and collaborate with other groups as they are progressing.  This lesson will not take place until the next school year, but I am already excited about the prospects of instituting it.
While this lesson is certainly a start to the change that needs to be done to help integrate technology, there is a lot more that needs to be done.  I certainly need to limit the amount of teacher-oriented lessons that have dominated my planning in the past.  In order to do this, I need to set some long-term goals to accomplish that change in planning.  The first goal I am setting for myself is to institute at least one lesson including a podcast, one with a wiki, and one with a blog by the end of the next school year.  By the end of my second year, I would like to enhance that number to two lessons for each of the three technological pieces.  By doing this, I can make changes to lessons as necessary, and at the same time I can add newer parts to make lessons better.  My second goal might be loftier.  I would like to teach an in-service for my school, and possibly multiple schools (the high school), on ways to use podcasts effectively in the classroom.  I found the podcast activity during this course to be extremely worthwhile, and definitely can see the benefits of using it.  By taking a leadership role in my school community, I believe that others will see the benefits of using this technology in the class.  A podcast assignment may take some time to develop, but the ease in which it is likely to be completed is well worth the extra time developing the lesson; not to mention the excitement that our students will get from using this sort of technology in their education.
Our students all love and use technology, it is time that we bridge the gap between the technology they use at home, and the technology they use in school.  While just about all school districts are facing some sort of budget crisis, technology still can be used in classrooms to meet the technological demands of our students.  Students may not be able to get newer technologies as often as they would like, but a creative teacher can foster 21st century skills by making a conscious effort to integrate collaborative activities that challenge the students.  It may be overwhelming for many teachers, but as I’ve said from the beginning, we need to take ‘baby steps’ to get there.

Laureate Education Inc. (Producer). (2010). The changing role of the classroom teacher part 1. [DVD] Understanding the impact of technology on education, work, and society. Baltimore, MD: Dr. David Thornburg.
Prensky, M. (2005). Listen to the natives. Educational Leadership, 63(4), 8–13.

Prensky, M. (2008, March). Turning on the lights. Educational Leadership, 65(6), 40–45.

Saturday, March 31, 2012


I will have to be honest, of all of the technologies that we have learned to this point, I was most fearful of podcasts. Blogs, wikis, and other technologies (though I have not used them much-or at all in the classroom) I had no apprehension about using. Likely, this is due to the amount of time that I spend online each day, and the ability to navigate and post things on the web. I have been posting to message boards (that are very similar to wikis) and using social media sites for some time now. But podcasts? No experience whatsoever. I have never recorded my own voice on my laptop, nor have I created a podcast for any reason. My ITunes account only has one downloaded podcast to it, and to be honest, it has nothing to do with education.

Can podcasts be useful for education? Alter this week, I am 100% convinced that podcasts can serve as a great educational tool. Once a teacher gets comfortable with the technology itself, there are a variety of ways a podcast can be used. Teachers can record lectures, and post them on teacher websites for note purposes, or for absent students. Students can collaborate on a project, and can edit their own work before posting it to the web. Students can create guided questions for a class, and even create individual homework assignments based on questions that are created for the class. Whatever the usage, there are 21st century skills evident in the usage of podcasts. Students can work with one another to do research and use their creativity in the completion of their podcast. They are using critical thinking skills to make these decisions as well.

This week, we were tasked to interview a few of our students about technology in the classroom, and create a podcast with our findings. Truthfully, this assignment terrified me, and at the beginning of the week I was unsure of my completion of the work. I really had no idea about the sound recorder on my laptop, and was nervous about that as well. I could not have been more relieved about the ease of that as well. Recording the audio from my students was simple, efficient, and very worthwhile. My students came up with some tremendous responses to guided technological questions, and were very eager to share their beliefs with me on the audio. I interviewed six students this week, and all six had some very interesting things to say about technology. Though they all admitted to using technology in school, they seemed a bit confused as to what I was referencing. All six mentioned the use of laptops and interactive white boards, along with three referencing PowerPoint as a technological tool. While all of this DOES mean that students are using technology, I doubt that these technological skills truly incorporate what we are searching for in regards to 21st century skills. PowerPoint is a computer based program, but many teachers (me included) use it as a technological means to replace standard note taking. Interactive white boards are great, but how many lessons are designed to have the students being the ones interacting? Each student referenced laptops and computers, and how they were used "a lot" in the classroom. I cannot see this as a possibility. Each student referenced spending about an hour a day at home online. Seven hours a week at home, and I am fairly certain that this is a low-end number. Students MAY spend one hour a week in school online. Frankly, this is not enough.

I truly believe that podcasting can be a way to combat this. Giving students a topic, having them brainstorm their ideas, then recording their ideas, and finally posting their ideas truly touches upon their needs for interactive learning and creativity. It also certainly touches on critical thinking skills. We may want to omit mentioning the critical thinking part to the students though, because I know my students hear those two words together, and the group lets out a collective groan. Having them think and collaborate often leads to wonderful results, and the more comfortable I get with this technology I will certainly be more apt to use it in the classroom.

Here is the podcast that I created for the application for this week:

for download:

Though I did find the podcast settings easy, I did have a bear of a time getting this file onto the podcast site. I hope you enjoy!