Learning to Learn

I’m taking a MOOC called Learning to Learn*. This is an amazing MOOC. I recommend it to anyone, young or old, who would like to become a better learner. This course is well thought out, professionally done, and Dr. Barbara Oakley has done an amazing job making sure her lectures are clear, engaging, and useful. Please share it.

Do not be shy about sharing this MOOC  with learners, young and old, around you who may make good grades as well those who struggle. Perhaps the A students aren’t really learning the material, just memorizing until the test, as I did so many years ago. I wanted to be a good student; I just didn’t know how. There isn’t a reason not to know how today. The MOOC is freely available to anyone who would like to learn. The next offering is October 5, 2014.

*You can find the MOOC on on Coursera (https://www.coursera.org/) by the UC San Diego. Dr. Barbara Oakley, the is the main instructor. Dr. Terrence Sejnowski also lectures.

Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge or TPACK

In my Computer Applications class we discussed TPACK or Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge. Our discussion centered on what would professional development for teachers look like if it was structured to align with the TPACK framework? It is a pretty simple theory that pedagogy has to align with content, technology and knowledge. I read the article and I was blown away. None of the other articles I’ve read talked about technology in the context of a blend with knowledge and content. However, I also had to agree with Denise Ward that a good teacher uses TPACK without really thinking about it…at least as well as she can within the confines of her school.

Again, since I’m not a teacher, I’m didn’t have much in specific examples. However, I loved this article so much that I called checked out the Michigan State web site and emailed Punya.

I thought the TPACK article was a pretty cool article. But it makes me wonder if I have a place in Instructional Technology? But surely every teacher can’t get a master’s degree in Instructional technology to integrate 21st century skills. Am I learning enough theory to be helpful?

This discussion aligned with a professional development project I was doing in another class. Although I think it is wise not to get wrapped around specific technologies, some technologies would be daunting without some expert help. So, although I agree in theory with the authors, I think someone would need to be around with some practical experience so that the teacher isn’t too overwhelmed.

I found this tip from Theresa Mackanos helpful, “We have a teacher at our high school that posts every one of his lessons via video / podcasts. He shows his examples. Actually, if his kids are absent for a day, they can actually go to their class on his blog site and see the lesson they missed. The kids who are motivated even go ahead as they can go into his history and view lessons from last year to see what the next lesson is.”

The only negative I see in a discussion of this kind is that it is specific to teachers, so answering the threads is a little difficult to fit in. However, fit in or no, I still get a lot out of the discussions.

Using the Blog to Enhance Learning: Practical Applications

A large number of students today come to higher education with understandings and expectations of technology aligned with Web 2.0. Over eighty percent of Americans, ages 18–24 use social networking sites. (Smith, Rainie & Zickuhr, 2011) And surveys have shown that spending time on social networking is not always what we would think. And as it turns out, a study soon be published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, found that students who “frequently shared links on Facebook or checked the site to see what friends were up to tend to have higher grades.” (Ruiz, October 21, 2011)

Many colleges and universities are requiring laptops of all students, some universities even providing pre-loaded laptops. Students expect to utilize these laptops and Web 2.0 skills in their courses. (Orr, Sherony, & Steinhaus, 2008) Studies have shown that blogs have educational value in the classroom. (Churchill, 2011) About one in ten internet users contribute to a blog; one in three internet users read blogs. (Lenhart, Purcell, Smith, & Zickuhr, 2010 ) Therefore, a weblog is a viable social networking tool to introduce into the pedagogy of a course.

Blogs, or web logs, are useful to enhance teaching with a generation of students who are already using the internet and social networking. Blogs are usually free and easy to use. (Some blogs, such as WordPress, will remove the advertisements for a small fee.) There are no sophisticated skills required to set up a blog. In fact, most students are already familiar with blogs. Due to ease of use, even older students that initially have difficulties with the blog soon overcome these issues. (Churchhill, 2011) Blogs work well with other Web 2.0 skills and can include graphics, video, and hyperlinks. Most can accommodate RSS feeds, Flickr, Twitter, and uTube, among others. Therefore, blogs may be used in many constructivist activities and is useful in almost any classroom.

For educators, blogs require a minimum effort to create and maintain. The anytime- anywhere nature of the blog makes it easy for teachers to give fast feedback and display information for students to read before coming to class. An educator may store handouts on his/her blog and post reminders of upcoming assignments. The weblog is also useful for tracking participation. It not only is a forum for the shy to speak up, but also a system of giving everyone a chance to contribute. Opening and keeping track of student’s blogs is streamlined by using a RSS feed to directly collect the posts into a wiki or aggregator. In addition, each student’s weblog may be grouped together into a mini “blogosphere” by connecting the blogs with hyperlinks.

When appropriately managed by the educator or other facilitator, the blog supports teaching and student centered learning. A blog is a convenient tool for students to journal their learning processes. Because the blogs are archived, the postings are easily reviewed for progress as well as represent knowledge learned. Plus, the web based nature of the blog makes them easily accessible to peers for commentary. Over time, blog authors may form networks of conversations in the blogosphere and further learn from each other.

One of the most effective ways of achieving content goals and developing creative thinking skills is to find ways to engage students outside of the classroom. The blog may be used by students to discuss assignments, review peer work, and share results. A report by Daniel Churchill (2011)stated that students felt that the aspects of blogging that contributed most to their learning was the assessing and reading of other student’s blogs. Bloggers find that the environment in a blog creates a sense of community. A student publishes their writing in a blog for all the public to see. The blog fosters a sense of pride and gives a student a sense of worth as the blog is a platform for the blogger to have their opinions recognized.

A blog enhances the use of constructivist teaching philosophies by supplementing traditional activities with student involvement with the course material. Without the time constraints of the classroom, blogs give the student more time to improve their writing and reflect on the task given. Peer pressure is removed and students more reticent can speak up within the blog.

Utilizing blogs in the classroom is beneficial to teachers as well as students. By reading blogs, an instructor can see what students know and fill in the gaps. (Paulus, Payne, & Jahns, 2009) A problem of the classroom is focusing too much time on the mechanics and precious time on the conceptual understanding of the material. Students profess a lack of knowledge or preparedness as a reason for not participating in the classroom. (Mandernach, 2006) While reading can be effective in preparing students for class prior to the discussion, it is hard to enforce. Therefore, a large amount of class time is spent reviewing basic concepts rather than deeper discussion and critique. A blog can help shift the basic concepts out of class using a social adaptation of just-in-time teaching developed by Jude Higdon and Chad Topez (2009).

Just-in-time teaching utilizing blogs works like this. Every student has a blog and the instructor has a single digital location like a wiki or a RSS reader where the posts are aggregated. The evening before every class, students post on their blog the answer to the two questions below. The questions are not changed with content of the class and are not discipline specific.

[1.] What is the most difficult part of the material we will discuss in tomorrow’s class?

[2.] What is the most interesting part of the material or how does the material connect to something you have learned…?
(Higdon & Topaz, 2009)

The day of the class the educator reads the answers to the questions and adjusts class time to address the areas identified by the students as problem areas. The rest of the class is spent on higher learning. If the assignment is graded, students will likely do the assignment and supplying a rubric is helpful to obtain useful responses. (Higdon & Topaz, 2009) It should only take a few minutes to go over the posts; however, if the class is large and a teaching assistant is unavailable, it is possible to sample the responses as long as the students are unaware the posts are not being graded.

Another framework in which blogs can contribute to learning is the What, So What, and What Now technique developed by Gregory Gifford. (2010). This system uses blogs by requiring students to ask these three questions to enhance reflection and critical thinking.

What?   The student address the facts without judgement or interpretation.

So What? Students interpret meanings, describe emotions, state the impact and why they came to that conclusion.

Now What?   The student considers the big picture and the broader implications.

This study showed that bloggers using this method of reflection more consistently meet the objectives of the assignment than students that were simply given questions provided by the instructor. (Gifford, 2010)

There are some drawbacks to blogging in course work. Unless the instructor plays a key role, the blog may be superfluous. Students participate better when they are graded and are provided detailed requirements and expectations from the blogs. (Churchill, 2011) It may take practice for students to understand how to think critically. For high quality discussions, the instructor needs to be present to model the dialogue between the students and to provide feedback. (Churchill, 2011)

Some students may have privacy concerns using a blog. They may be uncomfortable with their thought in a forum where anyone can read them. Some may feel that their thoughts are silly, or not good enough. (Churchill, 2011) If this is an issue, the blog may be made private so that a user has to log in in order for the post to be accessed.

Used correctly, social networking does not need to be a distraction to learning. Rather than discouraging student from using a technology that they engage with daily, the instructor can leverage this technology to deepen comprehension, reinforce retention, and create a broader virtual classroom.

Reference

Churchill, D. (2011). Web 2.0 in education: A study of the explorative use of blogs with a postgraduate class. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 48(2) 149-158. Routledge

Gifford, G.T. (2010, Winter) A modern technology in the leadership classroom: Using blogs for critical thinking development. Journal of Leadership Education, 9(1).

Higdon, J. & Topaz, C. (2009, Spring) Blogs and wikis as instructional tools: A social software adaptation of just-in-time teaching. College Teaching, 57(2). Washington, DC: Heldref Publications.

Lenhart A., Purcell, K., Smith, A. & Zickuhr, K. (Feb 3, 2010) Social Media and Young Adults. Pew Internet. Retrieved from: http://pewinternet.org/topics/Blogs.aspx

Mandernach, B.J. (2006). Thinking critically about critical thinking: Integrating online tools to promote critical thinking. Insight 1.

Orr, C., Sherony, B., & Steinhaus, C. (2008, June). Student perceptions of the value of a university laptop program. College Teaching Methods & Styles Journal.vol 4,(6).

Paulus, T. M., Payne, R. L., & Jahna, L. (2009, Spring). “Am I making sense here?” What blogging reveals about undergraduate student understanding. Journal of Interactive Online Learning Vol 8(1) ISSN: 1541:4914

Ruiz, R.R. (October 21, 2011) Facebook’s impact on student grades. The New York Times.
Retrieved from: http://thechoice.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/21/fbook-grades/

Smith, A., Rainie, L., & Zickuhr, K. (Jul 19, 2011) College students and technology. Pew Internet Retrieved from
http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2011/College-students-and-technology/Report.aspx

More Research Concept Maps

According to Jonassen, D., Howland, J., & Marra, R., “Building models using different computer-based modeling tools is perhaps the most conceptually engaging classroom activity possible that has the greatest potential for engaging and encouraging conceptual change processes.” (2011, Kindle Location 4564). The assumption is that if the student can’t model it, they don’t know it. Modeling may be created using concept mapping, spreadsheets, and databases, among others. “When using computers as Mindtools to model phenomena, students are teaching the computer, rather than the computer teaching the student.” (Jonassen, et al., 2001, Kindle Location 4593) Students cannot use concept mapping without deep thinking about the content. In other words, the user has to think harder about the content than how to use the computer to render the content.

Concept Mapping  and other Mindtools (Jonassen, 2006) help students comprehend and remember what they are learning. Should the model be of systems and how they are integrated together, then it helps the student understand how the information is tied together. In addition, if the students compare their concept maps with other students they can see how others represent the same ideas, for deeper thinking.

Working together on concept maps are also useful because this gives the learners a reason to reflect on knowledge  in association with ideas presented by the others in the group.

A concept map is composed of nodes (or concepts and ideas) that are connected by links which are propositions or relationships. In software programs the nodes are represented by blocks and the links are represented by lines. According to Jonassen, et al., (2001) the ability to describe the links is the most important intellectual requirement and that concept mapping software without this ability is not useful. “The more exact and descriptive these links are, the better the map is.” (Jonassen, et al., 2001) For this reason, Jonassen, et al do not think that adding graphics, etc. is prudent. It’s easy to get carried away with the graphics and give less importance to the links.

Jonassen, David H.; Howland, Jane L.; Marra, Rose M. (2011). Meaningful learning with technology, 4th Edition. Allyn & Bacon. Kindle Edition.

Jonassen, David H. (2006). Modeling with technology: Mindtools for conceptual change. Columbus, OH: Merrill/Prentice-Hall.

Blogging, Constructivism: A Class Project, Part II

Well, my professor didn’t care much for my blogging idea either. His comments, in red.  “The two things that bother me a little are first, that it was hard to know the goal or the point to these. Why are kids blogging, for example?” Should I have to tell HIM that? It is in his book!

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)

(or is he saying I didn’t explain my reasons well.)

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.

If they are to blog about almost anything, then that seems to put a lot of responsibility on them. Why?

because they learn better if they can construct their own topics and issues. He says so, in his book, So is his question that we didn’t explain why or is he really asking why?

I feel really bad on this point because the blog was my responsibility and my team members had all sorts of guidelines and rules they wanted to add to the blog section. But I wore them down because I thought that it took away from the spirit of constructivism, which is what we were writing about.

I never heard of constructivism before this class. I’m not an educator, but I do know that I learn when I am excited about learning, and I thought how exciting to begin 6th graders on constructivist activities.  I was so excited about what I learned in the textbook that I started a blog about my learning process. And that is where I got the idea about the blog. I had also read about blogs in Will Richardson’s book about Blog, Wikis, and Podcasts. He gave examples of some elementary classrooms that used blogs as a learning tool. I looked those blogs up and they were really cool.

Second, I’m not clear on how assessment will done for these.
Why must everything be assessed? Can’t learning be for fun, at least some of the time?  I’m not a teacher, how would I know if everything should be assessed, especially for 6th graders? Is there something I should know here?

Debate: Bill (alias) and I aren’t teachers, not sure about Kim (alias). So I don’t understand how we are supposed to think like teachers and write effective scenarios for elementary school students.

errrr………………

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.

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.

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.