Throughout this course, we have examined a variety of learning theories. Each learning theory has its distinct characteristics; however, all focus on student learning (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010d). At the beginning of this course, I had basic knowledge of many of the learning theories presented in this classes. At that time, I contended that I held an eclectic philosophy on how students learned. I believed that there was not one right learning theory and that most had some very important components that educators much be aware of. Through this course, I believe my knowledge about different learning theories and how they relate to technology has deepened dramatically. Even though I still hold an eclectic viewpoint and do not subscribe to one specific theory, I do tend to lean more towards the constructivist and social constructivist learning theories in my instructional practices. I truly believe it is essential for students to construct their own understanding and be responsible for their own learning. Even though I may lean more towards this theory, it is essential for me to really understand all learning theories to best meet the needs of my students. “It is imperative that teachers begin the transfer process with a full understanding of learning so that they can plan and implement appropriate instruction that will result in learning success.” (Lever-Duffy & McDonald, 2008 p.10). Through this course I am getting a deeper understanding of learning and I am now at the stage where I really need to transfer this knowledge into my teaching practices.
With the knowledge of how different learning theories really fit into a classroom, especially in regards to technology, I have some adjustments to do in my teaching practices. First of all, I need to use technology more as a student-learning tool more than a teacher instruction tool. According to Dr. Orey, it is essential to use technology as a tool to help students be active learners by having them create and work with the technology tools (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010d). One way to do this would be through cooperative learning. Cooperative learning is when students interact with each other in groups to enhance their learning (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007). One learning tool we used in this class that I think has the potential to really create a powerful cooperative learning environment is Voice Thread. Since learning about Voice Thread, this has become one of my favorite web 2.0 tools. In the video, “Spotlight on Technology: Voice Thread,” Kevin Jarrett specifically talked about how Voice Thread can bring a class into a conversation (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010c). I am still exploring with this tool, but am excited about the possibilities to have students use this as a way to demonstrate their learning and have students comment, compare, question, and contrast ideas of each other’s work. I believe this will help students critically think and take more time with projects since their work will have real audience critiquing it. The possibilities of Voice Thread are exciting and I look forward to using this tool more in my classroom.
Other technology tools that I intend to use more since rediscovering them in this course are Virtual Field Trips and web quests. There are so many amazing resources on the Internet and I want to take more advantage of digital tool. I often get into a routine where I just use the curriculum my school district provides. I sometimes forget about the other rich and useful sources available outside mandated curriculum. I find when I use Virtual Field Trips and web quests to enhance the state standards and district curriculum, student interest is greatly intensified and students retain so much more of the information than if they just had used a textbook. One example of this is when we were studying about early human cave art. We did fun and engaging activities from the district curriculum. However, until we went on a specific web quest at http://earlyhumans.mrdonn.org/caveart.html about cave art and toured the Lascaux caves (http://www.lascaux.culture.fr/#/en/00.xml) in France, I do not think students really grasped the importance and purpose of this prehistoric art. One piece of evidence was when students created their own cave art. Most of the students really seemed to grasp the important components of cave art. This can be view on our Voice Thread http://voicethread.com/share/2336940/ (although this is still a work in progress). When a few 6th grade teacher did the same lessons, but without the Virtual Field Trip and web quest, her class did not demonstrate the same learning as my class did. Many of her students were drawing basketballs, flowers, houses, etc. This fellow teacher expressed her frustration on how her students really did not understand the point of the lesson. I shared with her how I enhanced the lesson through these technology tools. She was not only impressed that so many more of my students demonstrated understanding, but also at the idea of using Virtual Field Trips and web quests to add to student learning. I plan on continue using these tools, as well as so many other amazing digital tools, to enrich my students’ learning experiences through technology.
To continually enrich my students learning experiences, I have two long-term goals. My first goal is to use technology more as a learning tool than an instructional tool. I often use technology to help improve my instructional practices, but tend to forget to make technology more student centered. To do this, I want to become more of a facilitator and allow students to direct their technology learning more. I will do this by having more technology projects and use problem-based learning where students have more opportunities to use and learn with and from technology. By using more of the problem-based inquiry process in my classroom, students will be able to use the higher-order thinking skills and be engaged in activities that are authentic and meaningful to them (Orey, 2001).
The second long-term goal I have to improve student learning through technology more in my classroom is utilizing my SMART board and student response system better. In the past year and a half, I received a SMART board and student response system from a technology grant. I have been briefly trained, but have been so overwhelmed that I have not really learned to utilize this technology to its fullest potential. Currently, I use the SMART board a few times a week and I have not even began using the student response system this school year. Part of the issue has been because my computer did not have updated software and my district has a new technology group that has not been able to fix my many issues. However, they are currently working on this and my ability to use these tools is slowly improving. Now that I can use this technology, I want to use it throughout the day and make it an important part of our classroom. To help me meet this goal, I will be attending a SMART board training this week. Through this training, I hope to obtain new skills and ideas on how to meet this goal. I also want to make sure I do not just use these technologies as instructional tools. I want this to be more of a learning tool. One way I intend to do this is have students rotate more into using the SMART board as a learning station while I work with small group instruction. Not only will this be a powerful tool to aid in student learning, but it also will be motivating for students so they will strive to be on task to use this tool well while I work with small groups, or they will not have the opportunity to use it at all. Thus, making this tool an example of how technology can be an important behavior modification and instructional tool (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010b).
This course has shown me what a powerful instructional tool technology really can be in the classroom. Technology tools can be a fantastic resource in most instructional strategies and learning theories. Admittedly, I am a bit overwhelmed by all of the amazing things technology can be utilized in the classroom. To make it a little less overwhelming, I plan to take Dr. Pickering’s advice and take a couple of ideas each year and focus on those specific tools and instructional practices (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010a). One of the great things about technology is that it is always changing and ever year I will be able to learn more great resources and skills. Technology really is a tool that makes everyone be a life long learner. As a teacher, this idea makes me love and want to use technology even more in my classroom.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011a). Program eleven: Instructional strategies, Part one [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from http://laureate.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=5700267&CPURL=laureate.ecollege.com&Survey=1&47=2594577&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=0&bhcp=1
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011b). Program four: Behaviorist learning theory [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from http://laureate.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=5700267&CPURL=laureate.ecollege.com&Survey=1&47=2594577&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=0&bhcp=1
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011c). Program ten: Spotlight on technology: VoiceThread [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from http://laureate.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=5700267&CPURL=laureate.ecollege.com&Survey=1&47=2594577&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=0&bhcp=1
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011d). Program thirteen: Technology: Instructional tool vs. learning tool [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from http://laureate.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=5700267&CPURL=laureate.ecollege.com&Survey=1&47=2594577&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=0&bhcp=1
Lever-Duffy, J., & McDonald, J. (2008). Teaching and learning with technology (3rd ed.pp. 2–35). Boston: Pearson Education.
Orey, M. (Ed.). (2001). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/index.php?title=Main_Page
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: