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.