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.

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