EdTech 541 My final thoughts

Part 1

I can’t type that title without hearing the classic 80’s rock theme, ‘The Final Countdown’ by Europe. It makes me smile and so did this class. I always reflect on my learning and always seem to start with the fact that I have learned so much. I think that is a good thing.

I learned a lot this term about how and why I should try to integrate technology into my classes. I also learned a few life lessons too. I fell behind at one point in the course due to some hurdles outside of school and work. I struggled to keep up. For the first time since starting this Masters, I really struggled. I was ready to pack it in, imagining that I wouldn’t be able to get caught up. I actually dropped my other class. I haven’t ever failed at anything academically before so it was a big ego bash. I was reminded what it is like to be in a 5th grade class again. To be a student who is struggling, stressed and worried.

I had some great advice and remembered that the learning is what is key, not the grades. I managed to get back on track with this class, albeit late with several posts and assignments.They got finished though and to the best of my ability. I think what I am trying to articulate is that the learning which impacted me most this semester was about myself, studying, life and the big picture. That is not to say that I have not learned lots about integrating technology into my lessons. I have.

I have learned that integrating tech is a process which has to be thought out and evaluated. Instead of finding a great tool and deciding to use it in class, I will now evaluate it and see if it is the right tool to use. I have also learned that I can integrate and use technology to help me develop more cross-curricular lessons and making learning more valuable. I have always understood the power of feedback to pupils but now I am looking for ways to make sure they get better quality and more instant feedback – something technology can help me to provide.

In developing the projects and activities which I did, I tried to keep as open a mind as possible to different learning theories and pedagogies. I would say that constructivism played a big part in my thinking – coming up with activities that students could form their own learning from. I think my activities have always tried to involve some aspect of social learning and have occasionally included some Experiential activities. There aspects of more traditional behavioralism in there as part of different lesson plans. I have always felt that balance wins out in every situation and hopefully my projects and lessons reflect that.

In our summer semester at school, we spend some time studying American history and so I hope that the resources which I made will all be used directly by my pupils – that was certainly the intention. One area which has had an impact already is game-based learning. Following our unit, I experimented by downloading the award winning game 80 days and have been using it with a group of reluctant writers in my class to see if it can help to spark their imaginations. It appears to be working at the moment.

Because I am in the M.E.T program I have to complete a final portfolio which demonstrates that the artifacts I created over my time on the course satisfy the AECT standards. I am confident that the projects which I made go part way to satisfying some of these requirements.

Standard 1 is Content Knowledge. I feel the artifacts which I made are all evidence of Creating, Using and Assessing/Evaluating as described by the standard indicators. Those which had accompanying lesson plans in particular showed clear selection and thought in their creation and development. There is variety in the activities I planned and student learning lies at the heart of all the activities.

Standard 2 is Content Pedagogy. Here I think that I met the standard but less than Standard 1. I tried to use and implement a number of the different lessons in class as I went along. Often asking pupils for feedback on tools and ideas that I was looking at. The projects which I designed were thought out after reading of course materials  and so while the impact of those pedagogies is harder to specify, the work of Roblyer in particular impacted my work.

Standard 3 is Learning Environments. Again I think that the artifacts which I created fall under the categories of Creating, Using and Assessing/ Evaluating. As the course was about  implementing and embedding technology in the classroom, the vast majority of the work I did was informed by these standards, reflecting on the way lessons would work in the class to foster effective learning.

Standard 4 is Professional Knowledge and Skills. Reading the ideas and thoughts of my peers and responding to their feedback was important. Being able to collaborate and share (although I didn’t do it as well as I have in the past) helped me to develop and improve the design of my instruction and reflect on my work. I often worked with teachers at my school to run ideas by them and ask for their input. Collaborative practice was probably the indicator which I met the most. I did reflect a lot on the feedback given to me as well as  thinking about the artifacts I made.

I think the majority of the lessons and projects which I created helped me to satisfy these 4 Standards to varying degrees. Sometimes I am hard on myself and struggle to accept that I have actually achieved what I supposed to.

Part 2

In evaluating my blogging this semester, I think I have performed poorly in compassion to other classes. Overall, I think I started out pretty strongly and finished well but had a dip in the latter part of the Semester. In using the Grading rubric, I would rate my own performance as follows:

  • Content: Proficient with some outstanding (although I don’t like that word!) My early posts and my final ones came from a lot of thought and always with personal reflection. The content was probably my strongest area. 60 points.
  • Readings: I read fully, and looked for other readings to support my learning. In the vast majority of posts I used APA citations  – but they were not always extensive and sometimes limited to the Roblyer text. 15 points
  • Timeliness: Not good. I got into a routine of working Sundays as that was the only day I had time and this meant late posts. I never caught up or got ahead and so I think I fall into the Basic category at best. I did manage to get them all done and put a lot of thought into what I wrote, making them real and as good as possible is hopefully better than quick. That said I would give myself no more than 5 points.
  • I always tried to make at least two comments and sometimes more. I always commented on others’ blogs so that the comments would last. When I fell behind with my own blogs, I fell behind with commenting my peers blogs as well. I did always try to ask a question, or relate a post to my own situation and thinking – engaging in debate as much as possible. I made sure I always replied to comments made on my blog. 25 points.

So that is it, my final words are reflective which is how I started this course. Full circle. As I said at the start, I struggled for part of this course due to some circumstances beyond my control. I did catch up and think I finished strongly. I am proud of the projects which I created and know they will help me in school. An enjoyable class which I know will impact my work and student learning. Thanks to everyone who helped me out.

Andrew

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Integrating Technology Into History and Social Science

The website which I have built this semester focuses on Social Sciences in general but  in particular teaching history to 5th grade pupils. Initially I included some geography resources but then began to narrow down to just history so the project would have more focus. In learning and reading about the benefits and advantages of using technology to support social science subjects I have learned a lot. The reading I have done has also helped me to confirm that I am on the right path in how I have been going about things so far.

In teaching children about the past we aim to try and help them reflect and become better equipped to reflect on their own ideas, thoughts, behaviors and contributions to society. History is not about learning facts and figures but about understanding who we were, who we are and deciding who we are going to be. Technology tools enable us to improve the teaching and learning experiences of our students. They, “make possible a variety of strategies to enhance learning for the diverse topics and concepts that comprise social studies.” (Roblyer  p. 340)

In teaching 5th grade history there are a number of relative advantages of using technology. The nature of the subject often makes in inaccessible to children. They have little in their lives to help them relate to the past and so the more we can ‘bring it to life’ the better their learning experiences will be. It is important that educators ask, “Does the technology-based product help in designing activities that actively engage students in significant social studies content?” Don’t assume just because it is there it is better. Evaluate the Tech. (Rose & Fernlund  p. 166)

The relative advantages of using technology to teach History can be seen through exemplification. Below is a list of ways that the technology provides opportunities that don’t exist without it.

  • Virtual Field trips. The reality is that most children can’t travel the world visiting historical places. A ‘virtual’ field trip can not replace the experience but it goes a long way to making it more exciting than simple book work. Here are some examples of American History Field virtual field trips.
  • Digital Storytelling. Combining images with audio is something that ordinary books can’t do. Students can either use others’  digital stories to enhance their learning experiences or create their own. A digital story can really bring history to life and especially if a student is able to relate past events to their own life. Here is an example from TeacherTube.
  • Simulations. Software which simulates different historical scenarios is a powerful way for pupils to try and understand tropics which are complex and difficult. Problems solving scenarios can be involved, encouraging students to think through different possible scenarios and make decisions based on what they are learning about. Have a look at Making-History to see one example of using simulations at work.
  • Electronic research strategies. A wealth of information is available to our pupils now -largely because the internet has connected us in ways we cold not imagine 25 years ago. Information is much more quickly available but care must be taken that students have good search strategies. Building the correct search skills online just as important as it was pre-internet. Knowing how to look for and then assess results is very important. Historical websites, and online records can be used to help pupils connect with the world around them.
  • Access to Primary sources. Many historical artifacts and records have now been digitized and are available to students to access. “Primary sources foster the visual literacy and historical enquiry of students by making academic content meaningful and building on prior experience” (Robyler p. 341) The National Archives is a great place to start.
  • Visualization tools. “Students often have problems visualizing abstract concepts and data” (Roblyer  p. 343). Trying to have 5th graders understand the scale of deaths in the American Civil War for example is hard. Using software is is now easier to create graphs, charts, pictograms with available data. Looking at a visual is far easier to access for most people than sets of numbers. Have a look at Datawrapper to get an idea.

Teaching history is not always easy. Many pupils think it is boring to learn about the past. If we can excite them about history (and social sciences in general) then I really believe that we can help them to become better citizens. Learning about now as a result of the past is what we all do every day. Prior learning is the foundation of our new learning. The tools available to us now present opportunities that were not there before and advantages which are huge. Explore and find out how true that is for you.

A

References:

Roblyer, M. D. (2016). Integrating educational technology into teaching. 7th Edition. Massachusetts: Pearson.

Rose, S.A., & Fernlund, P.M. (1997). Using technology for powerful social studies learning. Social Education, 61(3), 160-166.

The Relative Advantages of Using the ‘Basic Suite’ for Learning

Using the, ‘Basic Suite’ of software tools has become part of my life as a teacher. I use these tools myself to create and organize resources, as well as try and simplify my life as a teacher. With my students they can be transformative tools, lifting their learning to a different level. The ‘Basic Suite’ refers to the Big Three software tools which are: word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software.

One of the most important reasons that I use these tools with my students is that the real world uses them. There are few businesses I can think of that still hand write documents. Fewer still that have employees work out data calculations longhand or expect presentations to be given without visual support of some kind. I have many roles as a teacher but the main one is to play a part in helping prepare kids for the world after K-12 education. That world will most probably require them to use some form of these tools.

(Roblyer, 2016) suggests a number of benefits that using these software tools offer. Increased accuracy, productivity, appearance and greater support for interaction and collaboration (p109) are cited as the main benefits to pupils.

Word Processing

Word processing tools such as Microsoft Word, Pages or Google Docs are all in their most basic form, designed to let the written word be presented in electronic form. As they have developed over the years they have changed into powerful collaborative tools where users in different places can work on the same documents in real time. Spelling and grammar tools are built in and the ability add graphics, track changes or comment on a document has become relatively easy. What were formerly programs to record just words have become multipurpose desk-top publishing solutions.

This affords students many opportunities to develop both their thinking and writing skills. In 5th grade, we use Google Docs to collaborate with each other and pupils in other classes on different activities. We write and edit in Word and publish our finished work on the school moodle page for parents to read. Pupils with specific learning needs use Word to support their writing in a number of ways. Displays of our writing are often typed up so that they can be formatted in different ways and extracts taken out. We don’t use word-processing for all our writing but when we do, the pupils are more excited, engaged and can clearly articulate the possibilities of what can be done with the words once they are captured. There is a fun factor that seems to engage pupils.

Recently we edited some writing in Word and a pupil asked if we could blog our extracts in Kidblog. Great suggestion, easily done with copy and paste and then the students had great discussions about their writing. All possible because the words had been captured electronically.

Spreadsheets

Whether you are using the most widely used spreadsheet software Excel, or maybe Google Slides, the main purpose of the software is to enable collection and manipulation of data. Data is collected in cells and then formulae and rules can be applied in order to draw some kinds of conclusions. Graphs and charts can be created in order to help visualize data. Spreadsheet software is incredibly powerful and is commonplace in the world business.

A 5th grade context is maybe a little easier to introduce the use of spreadsheets because of the cross curricular opportunities which exist. We can teach maths skills while collecting data about Greek Gods, analyze traffic data during a geography study or make charts following an entrepreneur project. We can use charts to illustrate historical data when studying the Egyptians. One of the most important skills though is to teach children the power of data. Understanding what points on a line graph represent is important, helping them to start to figure out what is happening between those points and why it is happening is a valuable analytical skill which can carry over to many other subjects.

Presentation tools

I have a personal loathing of slide transitions! Without guidance, 5th graders navigate towards animations and transitions like bees to honey and will happily spend hours finding the exact way to spin in paragraph word by word! The number of bad training sessions I have sat through in which I was read to is burned into my brain. Presentations are easy to get wrong.

As long as I have had access to a projector in my class, I have used presentation software to try and engage pupils. Looking back now, many of my attempts probably did not help learning much. Powerpoint became synonymous with presentation software so much that my pupils still refer to presentations as, ‘Powerpoints’ even if they are using Google Slides or Keynote. It has been that influential. Now tools such as Prezi and Emaze make creating different types of presentation much easier – but can lead to a focus on the visual tricks and take away from the important aspect of what is being said. The technical skill of using the software has to be matched with an understanding of how to create an effective presentation. Roblyer states that, “The effectiveness of interactive presentations depends largely on the designer’s authoring skills.” (Roblyer 2016, p135)

In 5th grade we use presentation software in almost every subject area over the course of the year. For sharing solutions to maths problems, group research projects or developing presentation skills in Literacy. What the tools all give is the opportunity for pupils to share their thoughts and ideas in a different way. To support them in their learning as they learn to stand up and talk in front of their peers.

Conclusion

To not use these types of tools in your class, (if they are available) does not make you a bad teacher. Likewise using them in class doesn’t make you a good teacher. They are simply tools which can be used to enhance the learning experience. If used reflectively the ‘Basic suite’ can: engage students, hold their attention and even offer new previously impossible collaborative opportunities. The real world uses these tools and so to not at least try and find a way to incorporate them into lessons might be to do your pupils a disservice.

References:

Roblyer, M. D. (2016). Integrating educational technology into teaching. 7th Edition. Massachusetts: Pearson.

 

Relative Advantages Chart

We have completed a number of tasks for EdTech 541 so far and I seem to have been struggling. I am not sure why. I think I got off to a slow start and have been catching up. Taking two classes and working full time sometimes just creeps up on you.

One of the activities this week was to create a chart which looked at the relative advantages of embedding and using Educational Technology in class. I was stumped with this at first and am really not sure that I have done a good job. My original area for focus was 5th Grade computing but this task seemed moot with that as a focus. We have to use technology to teach computing and so I tried to think outside the box a little. I completed my chart for Social Sciences in my school instead.

I focused on Geography and History which make up part of our the International Primary Curriculum which we use in school. I hope this shift is ok – the result was I had to really think about ways in which my current learning goals would benefit from embedding technology and it worked. My research led me to a number of tools I had not come across as well as thinking about how to use tools we currently have in different ways.

The chart I created is below. Have a look and feel free to add any comments. I think there is a lot to improve but I also feel the process was good and I had some real world take away from the activity.

Screen casting for the first time

My final assignment for my EdTech 513 Multimedia class was to create a screencast. My challenge was to try and apply the principles and theories which I have been learning about to a finished piece of work. Screen casting is not too tricky, the software does all the technical parts, what is important is that you have a script and have rehearsed what you are going to say and do.

I decided to make a screencast which would serve as an introduction to Thinglink for teachers and pupils in our school. I was familiar with Thinglink and so it seemed to make sense to choose something which would actually help and be used. Overall I am happy with the finished piece of work. There is one part in the middle where I tried to pull up a link and it didn’t work. I stopped the recording and adjusted but did not edit it out in the final piece. Voila doesn’t let me do that and so I left it it. I don’t think it detracts from the overall quality too much…

I tried hard to keep my voice sounding natural as possible and I am pretty happy with the outcome. In order to add some dimension to the video, I added questions with Education. If you have not used it, it is a great resource which lets you add a variety of different questions to videos really easily. It adds a layer of involvement to the watching experience. I have only used it once before so my timings are a little out.

Have a look and do please leave feedback.

Great class, great semester. All the best to those of you who are graduating.

www.educanon.com/public/99153/228135

Andrew

Using the Personalization Principle

This week I read about the Personalization Principle in Clark and Mayer’s book on E-Learning. For a task, I had to imagine that I had written a text for an e-learning course and my team leader who was an English major was upset with the more conversational tone I had used. The following is an imaginative response to the hypothetical situation in order to justify the use of the 3 main tenants of the Principle.

Thank you for your feedback Mark, I appreciate it. I know the narrative seemed different from my previous work but if you give me a couple of minutes, I’ll try to explain my word choice. You know that I hate a split infinitive as much as you do but there is some really good research behind my apparent slide to the dark side!

I have just finished reading about something called the Personalization Principle and it was eye opening.  The basic premise is that in certain circumstances and with certain conditions, conversational style can be used to aid more effective learning. It is covered in the Clark and Mayer book that I have told you about before. (Clark and Mayer 2011)

They have looked a range of studies and hard evidence that support the theory that a more conversational tone can support greater learning. That is why I used second person active rather than passive voice – I wasn’t going crazy! They acknowledge that it seems to go against a common sense viewpoint but that it is inline with research into how the brain works.  The use of personal pronouns helps to engage the learner and build a personal connection with the content.

The chapter I read goes on to look at how using a human voice seems to promote learning more than a computer-generated voice. I know that is something your team have been playing with, so it could fit in perfectly? A more conversational tone also doesn’t mean more impolite, just more personal. There is also some really good data on the use of pedagogical agents on screen that I think we should look into.

The final aspect of their research looks at how visible to make the author of the lesson. By making the author of the lesson more visible to the learner, motivation levels of the learner are higher. When you read the chapter it all makes sense. There is not a huge volume of research yet but enough to justify the theory.

I think that we should really try to use some of their ideas. By changing a few words and using a real voice with a visible author, I think there is a good chance that we can achieve higher learning levels with our students. If we don’t see results, the work involved in going back to a more formal style is pretty minimal. I know that we have to be careful to get the balance correct and not go too far and make our lessons, distracting or condescending, to the students. Maybe I can lend you the book to see what you think – there are some good examples to look over.

Happy to talk about it further when you have some time.

Thanks again for your feedback

Andrew

Clark, R. C., & Mayer, R. E. (2011). E-learning and the science of instruction: Proven guidelines for consumers and designers of multimedia learning (3rd ed.) San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

Coherence Analysis

The Coherence Principle states that adding interesting but unnecessary material to e-learning can harm the learning process (Clark & Mayer 2008). According to the principle, background audio, graphics or words which are added in an attempt to make a lesson more interesting or engaging, but which are not directly linked to the learning objective, can actually have a detrimental effect on the learner. Examples of this could be: background music for entertainment, sound effects to try and maintain interest, video clips or images which tell a side story, overcomplicated or realistic visuals, and overly wordy or detailed texts. The authors suggest that designers of e-learning and multimedia learning resources should consider whether additions can actually distract, disrupt or seduce the learner’s process of knowledge construction (Clark and Mayer 2008).

Evidence which is presented to support the principle is based on some 14 experiments carried out over a period of years. The authors acknowledge that this a small sample size and that the experiments were all short lessons conducted in laboratory conditions. This lead them to state that there is more research to be carried out, especially into whether the same results would be seen in real instructional situations over longer periods of time. The authors also acknowledge that the research was based largely on novice learners and so the effects on more experienced learners needs to be further investigated (Clark and Mayer 2008).

Reflecting upon my own e-learning experiences in relation to the coherence principle has proven difficult. I have not participated in many online learning forums or courses and those that I have taken were some time ago. Evaluating the content of a course, taken in the past, in terms of a principle which I have just learned about is tricky. Thinking back to resources which I no longer have access to could mean that my reflections are hazy. With those caveats, I have tried to remember and reflect on experiences as authentically as I can.

I took part in an online training session on child protection and safety in schools which was composed of videos, text and interactive slides. The format was relatively straightforward and there was an assessment at the end of the course. Information was given and shared and then assessed. There was no background music or sound effects at all in the course. The only audio came with the voiceover of the presenter. I think this was an attempt to adhere to the coherence principle, by avoiding extraneous audio (Clark and Mayer 2008).

In the same course there was an interactive section where you had to click on different virtual ‘post-it notes’ to reveal text which you then had to move around on little blackboards. I can remember thinking that it was over complicated. I think this would be an example of adding extraneous graphics and thus being a disruption to my learning (Clark and Mayer 2008). I was focused more on the look and activity that the content.  A second possible violation of the principle in the course involved extraneous text. Towards the end of the course, there were some activities which included reading some longer pieces of text. There was the option to expand and read more, however the main and important information which was summarized at the start. I remember clicking to begin reading and then stopping when I realized it was going off at a tangent. I re-read the summary and introduction again and that was exactly the information which was assessed. The expanded information was largely irrelevant to what was being asked for in terms of learning. I think this was a violation of the principle as it did not provide a concise summary of  what I was expected to learn, rather it gave additional complementary material. (Clark and Mayer 2008)

My understanding of the Coherence Principle is that it really relies upon the Cognitive Theory of Multimedia learning as its foundation (Moreno and Mayer, 2000). At the same time it sits alongside contiguity, modality, and redundancy almost as an equal partner. Learners use two channels to process information (visual and auditory) and their relative capacities are limited (Moreno and Mayer, 2000).  This limitation in capacity essentially means that adding extra information is a risky thing, because the channels can be overloaded and the extraneous information takes up space which is unable to be used by the brain’s working memory for the important content. My understanding of contiguity, modality and redundancy is that they are almost like children in terms of their relationship to cognitive theory. Each of them in their simplest form has some aspect of, ‘less is better’. This is all because of the way that learners take on and process information. To me cognitive theory is the parent from which the other sibling principles stem and without which they cannot exist.

In each section of their chapter on the Coherence Principle, (Clark and Mayer 2008) support their theories by relating them to fundamental theories of psychology. In discussing why to avoid adding extraneous audio, they talk about Arousal theory. This theory predicts that emotional arousal can improve cognition and that multimedia presentations with audio which aims to achieve this – will be more effective to learners. They argue that while this seems to make sense that is is actually the opposite of what is true and that extraneous sounds and audio effects actually help to block up the auditory channel and make deeper learning more difficult.

In discussing reasons to avoid extraneous graphics in e-learning the authors argue against the idea that comes from arousal theory that video and pictures add enjoyment to learning. They believe that enjoyment cannot be ‘added on’ but is achieved by the learner when they are successfully able to make sense of material. They argue that the addition of extraneous pictures overloads the capacity of the learner to process information in the visual channel. Three ways that graphics can interfere with learning, distraction, disruption and seduction are detailed and explained.

Finally, the authors discuss the psychological reasons to avoid extraneous words in e-learning. The argument for this is largely the same as before. Words added for interest, elaboration or technical depth are all discussed briefly. The underlying belief is held that Arousal theory is in direct conflict with Cognitive Theory of Multimedia learning. Interest and extra information in the form of words, simply competes for space in the learner’s working memory and leads to less effective learning.

Personally, the principle seems to make perfect sense to me. It fits well with the other principles I have learned about so far and is based on research rather than just conjecture. I like that the authors are honest enough to highlight the areas where they know that further investigation is required (effects on more expert learners for example) and what they don’t know at the moment. Having taught elementary learners for a long time, I have always believed that less is more. I have often found myself reflecting on why a lesson didn’t work for me and thought about information overload as one of those reasons. With that in mind the concept of keeping extraneous information to minimum makes real sense. Overload the channels and less relevant information gets assimilated.

I would like to see further investigations into game based learning and the role of audio and video in that context. The authors acknowledge that there is not enough data at the moment in this field. I wonder if the game based learning which my pupils do would be as engaging with the sound turned off. It would be interesting to see if they remained engaged as long? The only area where I would want to question the authors is the use of Dewey’s work to back up their own. Being published in 1913 the work may well still be very valid, but much has changed in our understanding of how we learn and in education in the last 100 years. Maybe Dewey’s beliefs about enjoyment can be challenged? Overall, I was convinced by the arguments made by the authors and look forward to learning more on the topic.


References

Clark, R. C., & Mayer, R. E. (2008). E-learning and the science of instruction, 3rd edition. Pfeiffer: San Francisco, CA.

Mayer, R. E. (1999). Multimedia aids to problem-solving transfer. International Journal of Educational Research, 31(7), 611-623.

Moreno, R., & Mayer, R. E. (2000). A learner-centered approach to multimedia explanations: Deriving instructional design principles from cognitive theory. Interactive Multimedia Electronic Journal of Computer-Enhanced Learning, 2(2), 2004-07. Retrieved March 22, 2015 from http://imej.wfu.edu/articles/2000/2/05/index.asp