Monday, April 16, 2012

Reflection on Bridging Learning Theory, Instruction and Technology

First and foremost, I believe every student is capable of learning. The speed at which the learning process is accomplished varies for every child. Models of learning theory include behaviorism, cognitivism, constructionism/constructivism and social constructionism. To think that my personal theory of learning guides everything I do in the classroom is very enlightening. My classroom actions and delivery style are intentional and guided  with a depth I did not previously realize. This concept, that my personal learning style is directing my behavior, offers me the opportunity to examine my actions. 
Brain research can facilitate a shift in focus from teaching to learning. (Laureate Education, Inc. 2011). Dr. Patricia Wolfe states the brain is sculpted from experience. (Laureate. 2011).   Since the brain in not a camcorder, it will reject nonsense and sift though what it learns for what is meaningful. (Laureate.) To easily teach a new concept, a wise teacher will hook the new information to prior knowledge  to create a meaningful pattern or logical connection.
Learning needs memory which is a process the brain goes through. Procedure memory, for example walking, is unconsciously  retrieved and performed.. Declarative memory is consciously remembering facts, like Christophe Columbus sailed to the new land in 1492. Students need memory to learn, and the more emotionally pleasing an experience is, the better it is remembered. 
Dr. Orey introduced instructional theory and learning theory. What a teacher does to engage student’s minds is instructional theory. How that instruction is perceived in the minds of their student’s is learning theory. When a teacher mindfully conducts their delivery of information to provide active learning, students are immersed and captivated with the lesson. Hands on experiments, group discussions, and collaboratively building a model are good examples of interactive learning.
     Understanding learning is the first step a teacher must take in planning effective learning. Learning theory tells us how learning might occur.  A teacher’s style is typically a function of one’s personal preferences. (Lever-Duffey, McDonald., 2008.) Therefore, after reviewing, reading and analyzing the different theories, I related best with the cognitivist and constructivist perspectives. I believe learning is a mental operation that takes place when information enters through the senses. Information undergoes mental manipulation, is stored, and is finally used. (Lever-Duffy, McDonald., 2008.) 
I also subscribe to the contructivist perspective wherein knowledge is a constructed element resulting from the learning process. Many computer programs used to introduce firmware  and codes reply on constructivist theory. Scratch, a MacBook application, allows students to animate a sprite, which is a figure they choose from a folder. The sprite can be coded to bounce, count, score points or interact with another sprite. The application is endless with possibilities. As students build their sprite’s code for movement, they are constructing the project. I do believe this type of instruction is shaping contemporary eduction.
As I reflect on the learning theories, instructional strategies and technology tools covered in this course, I believe I am better educated in behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism, and social constructivism theories. It was enlightening to read professional brain research and findings. Understanding how the brain works is important information when delivering teaching instruction. This course has deepened my knowledge and understanding of learning theory by defining the four theories with examples and expert findings. After reviewing the nine instructional strategies, I have adjusted my instructional practice by specifically choosing cooperative learning strategy. Our district specifically wants problem and project based learning instruction for sixth and seventh grade computer applications class. I have been asked to extend Robot C building and programming to include all sixth graders next year. This class has prepared me to concentrate on mastering cooperative learning strategy and I know I will be successful now that I have gained knowledge regarding the strategy.
A second adjustment I will make in my instructional practice is to increase my reinforcing of effort and provide more recognition to all my students. I do provide positive encouragement when I see students are following steps in our project successfully, however I now know that consistent and relevant recognition will increase  success by twenty-nine percent. (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011).
     Two technology tools I will  use with my students are concept maps and voice threads. These are tools I had not previously been introduced to. These  tools will enhance my students’ learning by having them be actively involved in creating their own project. My students readily opened accounts in Spiderscribe, watched the video tour and began making excellent maps. I realized I was holding the class back by not providing new meaningful ways to use technology. I realized my fear of making mistakes was mine alone. Students are eager to incorporate technology tools and they do not obsess over knowing every detail ahead of time. I am grateful that this class has  expanded my repertoire of instructional skills to include webquests, voicethreads, concept maps and wikispaces.
       One long term goal I would like to make to my instructional practice is to develop a 6th grade and a seventh grade class wikipage. By integrating a wiki, I will provide more cohesion among the classes. Students can communicate with each other in a one venue. Students can also collaborate with each other beyond our class period time. One strategy I will incorporate to increase class participation is to post homework and announcements on the wiki. Students will be required to post at least one comment a week to the wiki.
A second goal I would like to make in my instructional practice is to increase my use of venn diagrams to illustrate similarities and differences. Dr. Pickering states that this instructional strategy increases student learning by forty-five percent. (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011). I plan to use concept mapping to have students create a visual representation of similarities and differences from several novels they are required to read in language arts class. I have already begun discussing this plan with the sixth grade  language arts department.
Finally, I am better educated in understanding how the brain works. The four learning theories and the nine instructional strategies have been very well outlined in this course. I have more confidence now, knowing my underlying motivation as I deliver instruction based on students successfully building their own models and projects. I do believe that when children encounter new knowledge they accommodate it. This process of assimilation and accommodation continually modifies their cognitive structures, and thus knowledge is continually under construction. 


Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program two: Brain research and learning [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory,instruction and technology. Retrieved from

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program one: Understanding the brain [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from

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 twelve: Instructional strategies, Part two [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from
Lever-Duffy, J. & McDonald, Jean B., Theoretical Foundations,Laureate Education, Inc. taken  from Teaching and Learning with Technology, Third Edition, (2008), Allyn and Bacon., Boston, Massachusetts.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Bringing Theory, Instruction, and Technology Together

This course has introduced important concepts effective teachers need to be aware of. The nine research-based instructional strategies and the four learning theories are presented after Dr. Patricia Wolfe initiates us into how the brain works. Dr. Wolfe explains that the brain is sculpted from experience. The main function of the  brain is to survive and it seeks meaningful patterns in order to do so. (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011).  Dr.Wolfe continues teaching by explaining procedural memory and declarative memory. She states brain research can facilitate a shift in focus from teaching to learning. (Laureate, 2011.)
         Dr. Michael Orey explains how the brain receptors view and store experiences in memory. The more connections a good lesson plan induces for a student, the more easily the topic is learned and remembered. Therefore, the lesson needs to be relevant for the student, it needs to follow prior knowledge of the student, and it needs to deliver subsequent knowledge and information. Dr. Orey then expounds on the four learning theories behaviorism, cognitivism, constructionism/constructivism and social learning.
After reviewing the previous weeks information,  I have decided to focus on technology tools because I believe using 21st century skills bridges the gap between learning and instruction for this generation. The first instructional strategy I will use incorporates cooperative learning. I will use this strategy of cooperative learning by introducing a Voicethread with sixth graders. Previously I taught the Character Counts unit using the application Keynote which is similar to PowerPoint. This was a constructionist activity, but it was individual and repetitive. Instead of having students produce these individual keynote presentations, I will prepare a Voicethread detailing the six pillars of character and posing a question for the students to solve. The question will be, “How can our students practicing respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, trustworthiness and citizenship to help a new student at Sailorway adapt to their new school?” I will introduce the virtual student as a reserved fifth grade boy with younger siblings, none of which are middle school age. The student will be assign an ambassador for the first week of school. (The ambassador is a student council member trained to help transition a new student.) How will the day go for the new student and the ambassador? What helpful advice  can you give that revolves around the six pillars of character?
This Voicethread will require at least two comments from each student in the class. Students can comment on the original slides, or they can comment on each others comments. In addition, in order to balance the comments among the six character traits, I will assign small groups of four or five students to comment on one slide in particular. with their second comment connected to any slide. This instructional strategy aligns with constructionist learning theory and dabbles into social constructivist theory. Dr. Orey states interactions with others to build some artifact and become actively involved in conversations promotes social constructivism. (Laureate Education Inc., 2011) Also, to be prepared for the fast-paced, virtual workspace that they will inherit, today’s students need to be able to learn and produce cooperatively. (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007.)
The second instructional strategy I will practice is identifying similarities and differences.  Dr. Debra Pickering states that research has proven students’ retention of information increases forty-five percent when this strategy is correctly used. (Laureate Education, Inc. 2011) The technology tool I will incorporate to practice this theory is Concept Mapping. The website provided an excellent, easy to use format to develop a map. 
The learning theory this lesson will encompass is cognitivism and constructivism. Fifth graders read the novel, Through a Door in the Floor, by Joan Stiver. The novel is about an underground railroad adventure. The concept map will be created using three cross-links coming from the question, “What is life like for ten year old Lizzie Coffin and for 10 year old Effie Mae Blue?  One link will represent Lizzie Coffin , a white homesteader in Indiana. One link will represent Effie Mae Blue an escaped slave. The middle link will represent any  similarities in life the girls share. 
This concept mapping will graphically illustrate the similarities and differences in the girl’s lives. It will also touch on summarizing and note taking since the map will ultimately probe many of the novels details. Incidentally, fifth grade students are usually ten years old during some part of their fifth grade year, so the novel is age appropriate. Students will be encouraged to identify topics from the novel, and will also be able to relate their lives now, to the situation of a ten year old in 1850 when The Fugitive Slave Act was  enforced.
As different details arise from student discussion, different cross-links may appear in relation to the first three cross-links. We will keep the general concepts at the top of the map and more specific concepts arranged below the main topics. 
One question that has evolved for me is, “Do the learning strategies  blend?” It seems my concept map will lead from cooperatively building similarities and differences, to a note taking and summarization of the novel. Is this ok? Is this correct? 
Laureate Education, Inc., Producer. (2011). Program one: Understanding the brain [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from
Laureate Education, Inc., Producer. (2011). Program eight: Social learning theories [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. Alexandria, Va.; Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.