Blogging, Constructivism, and a Class Project

In my Researching Current Issues Class, we had to work in groups to write a proposal for a sixth grade teacher who wanted to integrate constructionist theories and technology. There were three of us in my group. The members were assigned. Our instructions: “propose two (2) ways that should could make good use of the technologies she [Janice, the teacher] has available in a constructivist way. Each proposal should describe what Janice should do (preparation, class activities, etc.), what the students will be doing, what you would expect students to get out of it, and the technologies used. Details are vital. For each proposed use of technology, explain why and how it fits the constructivist paradigm.”

Basically one of the group members, Bill (alias), had an idea about using a video camera to have student work in groups and research, write, and produce a 4 minute video to create interest in and awareness of a social issue that is important to the sixth graders. Good idea. Everyone agreed and Bill wrote out the proposal, etc.

I had been reading about blogs in the book, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for the Classroom so my suggestion for the second proposal was for the teacher to utilize a BLOG in her class.  My proposal stated that “the students may write about whatever interests them as long as it can be used under the categories in the BLOG.  The categories are science, geography, health and fitness, math, social science, literature, language arts, and mathematics. Each student must make at least one post and two comments once a week. A post has minimum word count of 200 words. The students may use the available video camera to link video, audio, photos—anything as long as it relates to the content the class is studying (the word count may be removed in video instances).

The other two members didn’t care much for that idea unless there were a BUNCH of restrictions attached. (Quote “we need to incorporate some specific activities and expectations. For example, for each blog stating their opinions and research on a subject, the student has to cite at least one unique source and one unique blogger to back it up. I say “unique” meaning a different source or blogger for each of their blog entries. I think it is important to make the students responsible to do research and to collect a variety of perspectives.”) Bah Humbug. They missed the constructivist point! We learn what we are interested in! For instance, even though I am NOT interested in writing a paper for a sixth grade teacher that doesn’t even exist (my goal is to work in higher ed), I AM interested in blogging and constructivism. Therefore, I spent a lot of time looking at web sites of teachers who use blogs in the classroom. And I can tell you they were pretty neat. Not only that, a bunch of stinking rules is propably why smart people like Thomas Edison quit going to school. In the end, we are all selfish and want to learn what we want to learn.

Okay, Okay, I know we can’t run schools that way….too many lazy kids wouldn’t learn anything…I guess. And there are some things we just MUST know. But what would it hurt, for an hour a day for students to learn what they want to learn? Look at all the skills they would learn along the way!

  • Computer skills,
  • research skills,
  • writing skills, proofreading skills,
  • critical reading–bloggers read first, write second,
  • collaboration with their piers (for ideas, how the blog should look, comments, etc.)

The purpose of the blog is to show that exploration is as important as facts, that if the excitement comes first, the learning will naturally follow. Since the “tenets are essentially to encourage pupils to initiate their own learning experiences, with an emphasis on their being able to ‘construct’ their own set of mental representations, topics, and issues,” (Tiene & Ingram, 2001, p. 76), then this assignment, at its very core, is constructivism. This project on blogging, correctly executed, teaches the students that they can learn on their own and write about subjects that they have a passion about. To write a post on the BLOG, the students browse, read and think about what is most interesting to them and then write about it.

Students often write on subjects and topics based on their prior knowledge. Therefore the student is an active participant in the process of building knowledge and are able to expand on what they already know through exploration of multiple perspectives. As the blogger continues to write about their interests, the blogger becomes an “expert” in whatever they are writing about. These ideas combine to fit the criteria of constructivism.

Constructionists believe that learning is social. We become learners by testing our knowledge with other learners. (Tiene & Ingram, 2001) Blogging is social. The BLOG is on the internet, available for anyone to read; in fact, Janice has already recruited an audience. Readers are encouraged to comment which provides a back and forth dialogue. “Constructivism proposes that learning environments should support multiple perspectives or interpretations of reality, knowledge, construction, and context-rich experienced-based activities.”(Jonassen,1998). Blogging encourages different and diverse perspectives in a social environment. The posts in the blog connects readers and writers to real world experiences in a context which is meaningful and builds knowledge.

Another important facet of constructivism is collaboration. “[K]nowledge is constructed individually and socially based on students’ interactions with the world and each other.” (Jonassen & Marra, 2011, Kindle Locations 595–596). The students must work together on the BLOG. Together they decide the name of the BLOG, the artwork and general layout. They work together proofreading and commenting on each other’s posts. The students share leads and other writing pointers. They may work together to produce a video or slide show for the BLOG.

Sounds like learning is going on to me. Anyway, I wore the other members of the group down. I’m interested to see what the professor will say.

References:

Jonassen, D.H. (1998). Computers as mind tools for engaging learners in critical thinking. TechTrends, 43, 24–32.

Jonassen, D., Howland, J., & Marra, R., (2011). Meaningful learning with technology (4th Edition) (Kindle Locations 595–596). Allyn & Bacon. Kindle Edition.

Tiene, D. & Ingram, A. (2001). Exploring current issues in educational technology.
New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

The Art of Blogging

This week as I was working on a project in my Researching Current Issues in Technology Class, I became more familiar with Blogging as a teaching tool. I am using this blog to teach myself. Learning by doing is a constructivist principle. “The key to understanding constructivism like in the belief that people learn by actively trying to make sense of information and experiences….They construct knowledge through their interactions with people and their activities in the physical world.” (Tiene, D., & Ingram, A., 2001) By writing this blog, I am learning by actively doing.

I’ve been reading some of my RSS feeds on the subject of blogging but the book I am enjoying most is called Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. (Richardson, W., 2010) I read the book back in August but I am re-reading it now, trying to get more out of it. Most of my material fro this blog comes from this powerful book.

“We write not just to communicate, but to connect to others who can potentially teach us more.” (Richardson, et al., p28) Blogging is by it’s very nature a constructivist tool. Another principle of constructivism is that people learn by interacting with other people. And blogging is nothing, if not a social tool. A blog isn’t a journal however. A blog is reflective and complex; it is written for a large audience, therefore must be written with the audience in mind. Readers have the opportunity to comment in a blog, which may create a dialogue and an opportunity for increased learning.

A blog is more like an editorial in a newspaper, where the writer is seeking relevance in the issue. The blogger is editor, writer, and researcher. It is natural to be more careful with thoughts and grammar when the writer knows it will be published for millions to see.

Blogging is much different than writing a paper that only a teacher will read, or a journal kept hidden away in a drawer. A journal leans more to personal thoughts and decisions. The authors put it this way. “Writing stops; blogging continues.”(Richardson, et al., p30)

A really good blogger is someone who reads as much as writes. By reading articles, a blogger is reading critically for ideas to write about.  Bloggers “must be able to find connections and articulate the relevance of those connections.”(Richardson, et al., p32) This is higher learning written down.

Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Tiene, D., & Ingram, A. (2001). Exploring Current Issues in Educational Technology. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill

Constructivism, Situated Learning, and the Selfish Learner

In Researching Current Issues, the authors argue that the best approach to teaching “is to ground all learning as much as possible in tasks, activities, and problems that are meaningful to the student.” (Tiene, D., & Ingram, A., 2001) Simple albeit profound, learning is about the student! If the student learns something important to them, then they will learn not only what interest them but many peripheral facts as well. Ahhh! That’s why I can listen to tapes on how do use a particular software, go through the exercises, and still not retain the knowledge! Not only does it put me to sleep after a while, but if the exercises do not mean anything to me personally, I have a motivation problem and forget what I have learned quickly. That’s why I work better as I follow along if I am working on a real-world project. So, selfishly, I get the project done, and I also learn the task of running the software!

This would also work if I was given a task to make a web page on cloud computing. I would need to research cloud computing and I would have to learn the skills necessary to construct a web page. In addition, if my assignment is to share the web page with the class and to discuss it with others, then according to Mason, R., & Rennie, F., (2008) I have pursued my “‘selfish interest’ of passing the course while at the same time adding value to the learning of other students.”

References:
Mason, R., & Rennie, F. (2008). E-learning and social networking handbook: Resources for higher education. New York, NY: Routledge.

Tiene, D., & Ingram, A. (2001). Researching current issues in instructional technology. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

What about the Encyclopedia?

I’m reading in my Exploring Current Issues In Instructional Technology (Tiene, D., & Ingram, A. 2001), and on page 77-78 there is a discussion on using encyclopedias and how CD/DVDs make it possible to have so much more information within a small amount of space–the thought being that now it doesn’t matter if libraries are small in size. Is that true? I realize it is true in theory, but does having DVDs help with library resources. A DVD isn’t as expensive as an encyclopedia, but don’t you need a computer to run the DVD? (I realize a TV can run DVDs but not interactive ones, correct?) And computers are expensive, take a lot of space, and are quickly outdated. Plus, do patrons scratch the disks? How often do they need to be replaced. And are encyclopedias another medium that will be accessed from the cloud?

Pet peeve here. I purchased a set of World Book Encyclopedias when my daughter was in first grade. I don’t think a teacher ever asked for research from the encyclopedia. Maybe that is because a library may only have one set, and most homes don’t have them, but honestly, Grace didn’t even know how to USE THEM! It was the first place I went when I was doing research. We were very lower middle class growing up but we had a set of World Books that were well-used. Our set, on the other hand, looks brand new and they are 10 years old.

It is frustrating to me to find all of Grace’s research in the form of URLs. Am I missing something?

Reference:

Tiene, D., & Ingram, A. (2001). Exploring Current Issues In Instructional Technology. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

How can technology develop higher order thinking and problem solving?

Technology can promote retention and higher order thinking skills.” For instance when students are working on a video project for a history project, they must take notes, write the content, collaborate with their group, and make the presentation. A CAST study found that when the internet is used for group presentation projects, the students become “independent, critical thinkers.”

“The process of integrating relevant words and images is a key step in meaningful learning and is facilitated by presenting an explanation using words and pictures in close proximity to one another. ”

“Presenting projects online makes a large audience available. Computers link students to the world, provide new reasons to write, and offer new sources of feedback on ideas.”

The above information was retrieved from:http://caret.iste.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=evidence&answerID=9

Resources: from the above website:

  • Lehrer, R., Erickson, J., & Connell, T. (1994). Learning by designing hypermedia documents. Computers in Schools, 10(1-2), 227-254.
  • Mayer, R. E. (2001). Multimedia learning. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Peck, K. L., & Dorricott, D. (1994). Why use technology? Educational Leadership, 51(7), 11-15. Retrieved February 5, 2003, from http://www.ascd.org/readingroom/edlead/9404/peck.html.

How do you define technology integration? 21st century skills?

How do you define technology integration? 21st century skills? What does effective technology integration look like in your classroom or a classroom you have visited? How does technology integration help students achieving 21st century skills?

These are questions for my Computer Applications Class but they are important questions for ALL my classes.

One of the ways technology helps students use 21st Century skills when they learn to use computers and software. Most businesses require at the very least keyboarding skills. Knowing how to use programs like Microsoft Word, Excel, computer drawing programs and web programs are necessary in many fields. If a student gains these skills while working on a term paper, science project, etc, then the student is not only gaining core knowledge, the student is also gaining 21st century skills. In addition, many of these programs are tools that help a student organize, interpret, develop, and evaluate their own work. (Peck & Dorrcott, 1994).
Retrieved from http://caret.iste.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=evidence&;answerID=13

Along these same lines, I thought :“What does effective technology integration look like in OUR journey for this master’s degree?” How has it helped ME?”

We are only two weeks into classes and I have already integrated technology to help me comprehend and organize the material. Yesterday I started a blog about my classes.  A blog for internalizing my learning is something I would have never done before these classes. However, I decided that by writing down what I am learning, I am making a record of my progress, and if I forget something that I thought was important, I can always go back and review my blog.

An added plus is that I used WordPress. Normally I would create my own simple website. However, if I am going to work in higher education coaching faculty and staff, I realize that most of those people don’t want to touch coding. Many are even nervous with content management systems like WordPress. Therefore, I feel I need to work in these types of programs in order to be useful. (Next blog Drupal). In the end, I am learning the material for the class AND a new 21st century skill.

Constructivism

I’m reading Exploring Current Issues in Educational Technology (2001, pg 65). Quotes are from this book. Right now I am quoting a lot. Constructivism is a learning theory. “The key to understanding constructivism like in the belief that people learn by actively trying to make sense of information and experiences….They construct knowledge through their interactions with people and their activities in the physical world…..Therefore, good teaching does not involve simply telling people facts or conveying information. It means setting up conditions that support and encourage individuals in developing their own concepts and comprehension.”

Ahhh! That’s why I can listen to types on how do use a particular software, go through the exercises, and still not retain the knowledge! Not only does it put me to sleep after a while, but if the exercises do not mean anything to me personally, I have a hard time doing them. That’s why I work better if when I am following along I am working on a real project.

Constructivists believe that 1. “knowledge depends on the situation and the context.” So “it is important that we ground our learning and teaching in specific situations.” 2. “learning is….social…..we must test our ideas against those of other people: arguing, explaining, collaborating, and discussing.”  Ahhh! So that’s why we are doing discussions in every class!

Effective learning is relevant. Effective learning is active. Effective learning is personal. Effective learning is social.

Activities should be “experiences that are personally meaningful to the learners, that require significant amounts of work to master, and that are not especially ‘canned’ to produce a given result.” (65) “intellectual detours are ….the central point of the learning.” “Focus on the process of learning and inquiry.”

Scaffolding–instructor helps you but doesn’t lead you.

Situated learning–“ground all learning …in tasks, activities, and problems that are meaningful to the student.” We learn better when what we are learning is more meaningful to us. I seems simple as I read it but it makes so much sense that I can’t believe that it took so long to discover constructivism!

The constructivists argue that a better approach is to ground all learning as much as possible in tasks, activities, and problems that are meaningful to the student. If it is important that we learn facts, then we will learn them most effectively while engaged in meaningful tasks. To see what this means consider something that you are “expert” in, whether it is sports statistics, popular movies, or anything else. If you are well-versed in the area, then clearly you know a lot of facts and concepts related to it. How did you learn them, by sitting down and tediously memorizing them? Of course not. You picked them up as you went along, pursuing your interest for its own sake. As you learned more and more about your area of expertise you undoubtedly have found it easier to learn more. In addition, your understanding of the area has deepened and become richer. All this happened not because you drilled yourself in the basics but because you were engaged in activities that were important to you. The learning then came naturally.

Another principle of constrictivism is the idea of collaborative learning. According to constructivists , “we learn by expressing our ideas to other people, testing them, and getting feedback.?” It makes sense now why when we turn in a project, we go through a peer review before the professor grades the paper, as in my Computers in Education class. It is also why the discussions are graded in content. We are not just supposed to say something because we need to post, we are supposed to think through what the others have said, and say something meaningful in response,–challenge–debate–collaborate! According to the book, by working with other students we “naturally engage in many of the social aspects of good learning….to come to a shared and deeper understanding of the subject.” Wow. I had no idea.

How does this translate into teaching?

Problem based learning–where student is given a problem to solve and in order to solve the problem, s/he has to find out the concepts and research the answers.

Goal-directed scenarios–where the student is given a realistic situation and has a goal to reach.

“All this sounds like a lot of work, and it is. but you should realize that a good constructivist-style lesson , including a goal-based scenario, will be long and complex one for the students as well. You are trying to develop meaningful goals and missions for the students to achieve. These goals should require them to learn and use a variety of skills, perhaps in more than one discipline. Therefore, a good lesson will probably take the students many days or even weeks to complete….a goal-based scenario or PBL problem will keep you and the class busy for a long time while teaching much more in the process.”(72)

These are questions in the back of the chapter. Maybe later I will answer them.

  1. What do you think about constructivism as an approach? Will such a
    potentially unstructured strategy work?
  2. What is the most effective way to plan class activities which give students
    more freedom (and more responsibility) to learn ?
  3. From your experience, do you believe that constructivist teaching methods
    are appropriate for all students? Or might some students benefit more from
    those methods while others do better with more instructivist methods? How
    would you characterize the types of students in each group?
  4. Do some subjects lend themselves to more constructivist methods than
    others? If so, describe them. Why do you think this is so?
  5. Perhaps we do not have to choose either constructivist or instructivist
    teaching methods. Perhaps instead we should see teaching strategies as
    lying on a continuum between the two extremes. If this is so, then maybe
    different strategies are most appropriate for different situations, subject
    matters, and audiences. Discuss this possibility and how you might put it into
    practice.
  6.  Perhaps even more difficult than reconciling the idea of “planning” with that
    of “constructivism” is the problem of reconciling the fact that states and
    districts have prescribed curricula. How can you plan lessons that teach a
    given curriculum and still use genuinely constructivist methods?
  7. You have spent years in various educational institutions (although hopefully
    were never “institutionalized!”). As a student, did you ever have a teacher
    who used constructivist teaching methods? How did those experiences differ
    from more traditional ones? Which did you think were most successful?
    Which were more enjoyable?