Thursday, March 29, 2012

Robot C is a Challenge

     Robot C is a Lego Mindstorm educational kit. Our sixth graders build them using  an NXT brick. The brick can either be charged overnight, or it runs on 4 double A batteries. Students build a variety of different models and I have developed a voicethread to show you our  progress.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Connectivist Theory, Social Learning & Networking in the 21st Century

     I believe people construct meaning primarily through their interactions with others and their environment because homo sapiens are pack oriented, not solitary animals. A scientific description of homo sapiens, which means ‘wise man’ in the dictionary, includes preference to living in groups. By nature, humans thrive on social support systems. I will argue though, that social learning is not the ONLY way in which people learn.
Babies learn from the individuals who care for them. Babies in particular are unable to manipulate the circumstances into which they are thrust, so they learn through experience. Behaviorism plays a large role in a baby’s or toddler’s life. Their action will produce a reaction. If the reaction is a positive, he/she will repeat their antic hoping for the same positive result. Around the age of two to three, a toddler develops enough self image to realize they are separate from their parents.  That is where the term ‘terrible twos’ came from. 
Children ages three to five, might attend a pre-school for a few hours each week. The primary reason parents desire pre-school is for socialization skills, and exposure to learning. The pre-school experience may be the first network of society a child experiences outside of their own family. 
Does this mean they only learn through social interaction? Does society now provide the only route to learning? Of course not. Social learning plays a large part in every students’ life, but Gardner developed the theory of multiple intelligence. This multiple intelligence theory is widely accepted and it expounds eight distinct learning preferences. As children reach pre-teen and teenage years, their network of friends becomes more and more important to them. Teenagers rely heavily on the approval rating of their friends. These growing up years are a right of passage. Social interactions are a huge part of every high school. As we age, society’s reaction becomes the measuring stick we apply to our success.
In our school district, social networking is evident in our school website. In addition to the district website, teachers have their own websites to promote classroom success stories and to post assignments. We encourage parents to visit our websites to see what their children are doing in school. Our district uses Progress Book as a management system whereby parents can log in to see their child’s grades, assignments and missing work. E-mail is accessible right from Progress Book and we are encouraged to communicate with the parents and students whenever necessary.  
Connectivist George Siemans further conceptualizes the theory of social learning as a network of humans developing and sharing knowledge and using technology to facilitate and connect these networks. (Laureate Education, Inc., Producer., 2011.) The question was posed, “How does online learning differ from classroom learning?” Each of us is currently involved in master’s degree procurement, working very hard and connected through Walden University. Our network provides the online community which ultimately delivers our success. The blogs, wikispaces, email and podcasts link us in ways only technology can provide. It is very effective.
Finally,I agree that people construct meaning primarily through the interactions with others and their environment. By integrating technology tools we expand our influence further then the classroom walls. Social networking tools like Facebook, websites and email are becoming commonplace. People rely on these networks to stay informed. Using social networking tools to establish and maintain learning partnerships with families and the community are necessary. I would miss not viewing VON, Vermilion Online News, to see what is happening in my town. When our school website is down, our school secretaries complain they can’t get a thing done because they have to answer the old telephone. As a society, we have come to rely on technological networking, and we really miss it when it is not available.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011b). Program five: Social learning theories[Video webcast].
Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Constructivist/Constructionist Learning Theories

     The reading selection Generating and Testing Hypothesis, from Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that works states when students generate and test hypothesis, they are engaging in complex mental processes, applying content knowledge like facts and vocabulary, and enhancing their overall understanding of the content. (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007., p. 202)
Until this year, I did not use generating and testing hypothesis in any of my computer application curriculum or assessments. With the inclusion of Robot C and Sim City 4 Deluxe into the our middle school computer curriculum, I am now exposed to project based learning and ultimately, to the interesting projects students have produced. 
This new curriculum for the sixth and seventh grade students is different from my former instruction style. Instead of teacher driven lecture and directions, I introduce the idea and model of Robot C, and then facilitate and manage the classroom as the students build their own version of Robot C. Not all robots look alike, and that is correct. At first I thought the variations were a result of misconceptions the students had as I was introducing the project. In fact, variations were desirable and expected.  When students programmed their robot to go through the maze, there were many failures before the correct codes were discovered. This trial and error in programming the robot with different codes tested students hypothesis regarding robot control. There are six tasks teachers can use to help students generate and test hypothesis. The tasks are systems analysis, problem solving, historical investigation, invention, experimental inquiry and decision making. (Pitler, etal., 2007., Page 203.) I believe the students ending up drawing conclusions from all six of the tasks as they worked and worked to discover the successful series of code.
How this strategy relates to constructivist/constructionist learning is evident when the project students have built is assessed. After building a model, does it work as designed? In our classroom, does Robot C travel through the maze accident free? Students need to go back to the drawing board many times in order to program and download correct firmware. The students are excited when they figure out the speed, degrees and turns the code requires.
In regards to this week’s  PBL episodes, I thought the spreadsheet exercise in estimating percentage change in population for the fifty states was fascinating. The teacher did a thorough job of setting up a project based learning exercise for her students. The formula she helped them create produced satisfying results.  With imagination, Web 2.0 tools can be utilized for student collaboration in project based learning assignments. According to Dr. Orey, constructionism can be as simple as having students construct a PowerPoint presentation. (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011) I believe PowerPoint and Keynote were the fore runners of project based learning. New, exciting curriculum is exploding with constructivist learning as the basis for project driven learning. 
Students remember their learning experiences when they are challenged to build, and then assess a project that is different and innovative. Helping students remember their learning experiences is desirable for student advancement.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Cognitive Learning NeedsTechnology 
Most students today are referred  to as digital natives. Our society provides them with cell phones, iPads, MP3 players, Kindles, laptop computers, and numerous other digital devices. The stimulus these devices provide for students is provocative. Educators have discovered that including these technologies in the curriculum results in higher interest levels from the students. Therefore, as I reviewed the coursework for this week, I was thrilled at the many uses of different computer applications used to facilitate note taking, organizing and summarizing information.  
Cues, questions and advanced organizers focuses on enhancing students’ ability to retrieve, use and organize information about a topic. (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007) In addition, cues should be explicit and provide students with a preview of what they are about to learn. Essential questions are necessary to direct students to use background knowledge when answering. When you do incorporate specific cues and essential questions,students have a clearer sense of what they are going to learn. Advanced organizers such as Inspiration help outline main ideas and themes in a web of bubbles and brackets These outlines in graphic form are attractive and provide a visual rendition of the topic being learned.  
The strategy of note taking and summarizing focuses on helping students synthesize information into a new form. Students need to separate the many facts from their reading and concentrate on those; not the extraneous data. Students need to analyze information at a fairly deep level in order to know what to keep and what to delete. Therefore, students need strategies to summarize efficiently. Technology such as word processing can be essential to build, scaffold and organize the main facts students have gleaned from their assignment. Note taking can be a combination of words and pictures and drawings. Combination notes are easier to develop when using a word processor and google images. The advantage of the word processor is that the notes will be legible and have the same format. This is important later when studying the notes and applying what has been learned. 
Templates specifically used for note taking help everyone organize key concepts, facts and questions. By teaching students how to access the many templates in programs, we teach them to build a network of strategies they can rely on.The use of a Wiki page for classroom management relies on note posting and summarization of data to organize the project. The Wiki page becomes the vehicle all students turn to for a concise rendition of the topic. Google documents can be created, stored and shared by teachers and students alike. Google Docs are very popular with technology driven districts because sharing what has been developed by one teacher, benefits any teacher who downloads and uses that particular template.
As Dr. Orey mentions in "Cognitive Learning Theories” (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011), Paivio’s dual coding hypothesis shows how information is stored as images and text. Therefore, is a text definition is combined with a picture of the vocabulary word, a network between the two stimuli is made in the brain. Retrieval of the knowledge later in the lesson will rely on the cognitive learning and the brain’s ability to store the knowledge. We want our students to remember facts, so it is to our advantage to provide various strategic cues, questions and organizers to boost our success at this critical memory illumination. 

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program five: Cognitive learning theory [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E. R., Kuhn, M. & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development., Alexandria, VA., 2007.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Technology driven Behaviorism in the Classroom

The discussion of learning theory, instruction and technology has opened a platform to introduce how our students think, how they learn, and how to engage them in the 21st-century learning environment.
Behaviorist learning theory has a long history according to Dr. Orey. (Laureate Education, Inc. 2011.) When positive behavior is reinforced a positive element of praise or acceptance induces more positive behavior from the student.  Negative or off-task behavior results in punishment, which as a negative response is just as powerful as praise, but results in a destructive force. The behaviorist learning theory recognizes the emotional implications of each of these reinforcement styles. I believe all teachers rely on behaviorist theory if only to control and management their classroom.
For instance, of the 3000 decisions we are said to make every day, how many answers are rote? “No, you can not change seats.” “Yes, if you bring your agenda book you can go to the bathroom.” “Stop running in the classroom this instant or you will be writing sentences during recess.” These are all behaviorist remedies to classroom management.
Reflecting on these strategies and how they relate to behaviorist learning theory I also believe reinforce effort is positively displayed in technological computer game strategy.
The website,  has map games that have stimulating colors, flashing prompts and encouraging voices giving instructions. The games reward the student for positive behavior by letting the student advance to the next question. Points and positive reinforcement are quickly connected in the student’s brain to develop a positive response sequence of behavior in the student. These games also quickly provide the final score of answers, so feedback on assessment is timely.The basic strategy of ask a guided question, answer the question, than an immediate correct/incorrect prompt from the computer mirrors behaviorist theory and outcome.
As long as students are playing games with solid curriculum backing, the use of this technology is school appropriate. Behaviorism and reinforcement effort are paired in computer game development and the use of this technology in the classroom.
Homework and practice is another instructional strategy with behaviorism as it’s basis.  While I do not assign homework since I teach computer applications as a “specials” class, I do subscribe to technology driven homework since our 6th and 7th grade students have school issued MacBook laptop computers. Our students should use Pages to prepare a writing response. They are shown how to access the thesaurus and the dictionary to expand their word selection and improve their writing  competence level. Students are shown that the calculator is scientific, actual or binary by just clicking a button.  Homework and practice are extensions of the classroom. Homework provides a student an opportunity to deepen their understanding of the content presented in class. (Smith, M. K.. 1999.) As students practice a skill, and receive positive reinforcement for completing the work, the behaviorist approach is providing the  reinforcement energy to produce the result.
The current practice of flipping the classroom entails students watching an instructional video as homework and then completing the assignment at home. The student can rewind the video as many times as they wish to review the instructions. The next day in class, the teacher reviews the assignment which was created at home. This flipping brings the students’ rendition of the homework back to class to be discussed. This discussion become the classroom lecture as opposed to the teacher presenting singular lecture during classroom time. This model still follows behaviorist theory, it just reverses the lecture to homework and the homework to classwork. I think this new version of an instructional technique lecture is brilliant.  
For our district, the technology can go home with every student, but a well planned lesson driven by a technology savvy teacher is still the impetuous for a dynamic classroom.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011a). Program one: Understanding the brain. [Video Webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved February 27, 2012 from 
Smith, M. K. (1999) ‘The behaviourist orientation to learning’, the encyclopedia of informal education,, Last update: December 01, 2011.