Tag Archives: #tiegrad

Chapter Reflection: Digital School by Clive Thompson

“As various educational analysts have joked, if you brought a bunch of surgeons from a hundred years ago into today’s hospitals, they would have no idea what was going on, because everything about their craft had evolved: antibiotics, laparoscopic devices, MRIs. But time-traveling teachers would have no trouble walking into an elementary school (or even Harvard) and going to work, because schools are nearly identical. Walk to the front of the class, pick up the chalk, and start lecturing.” (Thompson, 2014)

 

Educational theorists from around the globe agree that the model of school has not changed much in centuries.  I believe that is about to change.

 

The evolution of digital technology use in schools is increasing all the time.  Educators are using digital tools to augment the limitations of our brains, provide meaningful and authentic learning opportunities, and create artefacts of learning that can be shared and improved on by others.  Of course, this kind of process takes time.  Whenever a new practice is developed there are always those folk who realize its potential early and jump on board.  For others, it takes a little more time to change.

 

Innovators and Early Adopters are pushing the boundaries with digital technologies in schools while the Early Majority are now moving through the framework of SAMR model of technology integration in their classrooms.  I am sure, upon reflection, the history of school will be divided into the time before and after the digital revolution.

The utilization of digital technologies in our schools is still in its infancy.  Diffusion of innovation theory describes how, why, and the rate in which new technologies, ideas, and processes weave their way into the fabric of society.  According to Everett Brown’s research on diffusion theory, there are four main factors that influence the process of adoption of an idea:

  1. The innovation itself
  2. How information about the innovation is communicated
  3. Time
  4. The nature of the environment the innovation is introduced in  (Rogers, 2003)

The decision to adopt a new idea, process, or technology is based on what Rogers calls the Innovation Decision Period (IDP).  The stages of the IDP are:

 

Innovation Decision Process (IDP) (1)

 

“The adoption of an innovation follows an S curve when plotted over a length of time.  The categories of adopters are innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards.” (“Diffusion of Innovations,” n.d.)  The adoption of digital technologies, aligned with sound pedagogical models of technology integration, which are used to make school more meaningful and personally relevant to learners are still in the ‘early adopter’ phase.  Several factors stand in the way of the diffusion of digital technologies in our public schools and include; inadequate funding, privacy issues related to FIPPA, general resistance to change, infrastructure issues, hype, and misuse.  According to Thompson (2014) classroom technology has a long history of hype that has rarely delivered.  From radio to television, these innovations have been positioned as saviours to the education system but have failed to live up to their claims.  I believe that schools need robust instructional frameworks to manage new technologies and avoid spending a whole pile of money on using digital technologies for the sake of digital technologies by replicating offline activities, online.

 

When embracing digital technologies in the classroom the SAMR model of technology integration is both simple and robust.  The model encourages educators to move the practice of using digital technologies from the acts substituting offline activities to online activities to creative new ways of creating, evaluating and sharing content.

SAMR Model

Image the creation of Dr. Ruben Puentedura, Ph.D. http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/

As educators move from positions of substituting offline for online activities to creating content, developing and sharing knowledge, they improve their instructional practice.  Embracing a model of technology integration like SAMR will increase the legitimacy of digital tools by the majority of educators, parents, and educational leaders.  At this point, comparisons with prophesied educational technology revolutions of the past, such as radio and television can end.  Resulting in a move towards creating a new vision of school where all stakeholders have a voice at the table.

 

Smarter Than You Think, a book by Clive Thompson, tackles this idea that change needs to be adopted in our education system.  His chapter titled Digital School helped me to question the purpose of using digital technologies in my classroom, and prompted me to critically-evaluate the tools I use.  Deciding whether or not to embrace digital technologies in schools is no longer the question we should be asking.  Instead, we should be asking how we can use digital technologies to create artefacts of learning, which are both authentic and meaningful?

 

Thompson’s discussion on the merits of coding in school were personally relevant as it coincided with my class’s participation in the Hour of Code.  I appreciated Thompson’s discussion around the work Seymour Papert championed in the 1960’s with his Logo programming language.  I’m sure I’m not the only teacher who struggles to make aspects of mathematics personally relevant to their students.  Unlike Logo, where students programmed a turtle to move around the screen during the Hour of Code, my students were making a character skate patterns in ice.  While I walked around the room, I observed several unique moments.  Students did not need to ask me constantly questions about a task; they seemed to understand what was required.  Secondly, I saw cycles of failure and success, which led to new learning.  I rarely see students take these kinds of risks in offline activities.  Thirdly, I saw students collaborate in more supportive ways than I have seen before.  Perhaps most importantly, from an educator’s perspective, I saw student’s experiment and develop new knowledge about mathematical concepts such as computational thinking, angles, and shape naming.  My Hour of Code was a complete success!  I certainly agree with Thompson when he says, “It proves that you learn by experimenting and making mistakes, and not by trying to be perfect the first time.” (Thompson, 2014)

References:

Diffusion of Innovations. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved December 16, 2014, from

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diffusion_of_innovations

Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of innovations. New York: Free Press.

Thompson, C. (2014). Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing our Minds for the Better. New York: The Penguin Group.

The Benefits of Thinking in Public

Mauer-betlehem

(Banksy photographed near Bethlehem by Markus Ortner CC BY-SA 2.5)

I am enjoying reading Clive Thompson’s book, Smarter Than You Think.  His thoughts on public thinking resonate with me at a time when the student use of cloud based tools to document thinking and exhibit artefacts of learning are restricted.

My principal recently asked me what resources I needed for my classroom.  My response was whiteboard paint so I can turn my walls into spaces for public thinking.  I think she assumed I was joking, but I believe we can all benefit from displaying our thinking.  Sadly, we miss out on important learning opportunities when we don’t take the time to share the process of learning. Sharing the process of learning can create a unique bond with the audience.  Thinking in public focuses more on the process than the product (Kleon, 2014).

“In this day and age, if your work isn’t online, it doesn’t exist.” (Kleon, 2014)

 

Benefits

Public thinking is the epitome of sharing knowledge for the betterment of mankind.  Those who share publicly and openly are usually those that are more interested in improvement rather than ownership.  Thinking aloud stimulates creativity and facilitates like-minded people to find each other. “Studies have found that particularly when it comes to analytic or critical thought, the effort of communicating to someone else forces you to think more precisely, make deeper connections, and learn more” (Thompson, 2014).  Thinking aloud leads to more accountability than thinking internally.  Thompson summed this up well when he said,  “It’s easy to win an argument inside your head” (Thompson, 2014). Thinking aloud makes me a better writer, reasoner, and thinker because in the back of my mind there is always a voice that reminds me that my work may be critiqued.

Public thinking leads to better quality products because the collective is always going to be more creative than the individual. “Knowledge has always been created via conversation, argument, and consensus” (Thompson, 2014).  Take the success of the Mozilla Project.  A group of technology minded thinkers and developers who work together to keep the Internet alive and accessible, so people throughout the world can be informed contributors and creators of the Web.  The Mozilla Project shares the source code for their projects so others can remix the content and contribute to enhancing the product.  Mozilla is an organization who models thinking in public.

Public thinking can also lead to social change.  In the spring of 2011 when Egyptians staged nationwide demonstrations against the rule of President Hosni Mubarak. Hundreds of protesters were killed as Mubarak and his allies try to crush the uprising.  The people of Egypt took to social media to share their thoughts by bringing the crisis to the attention of the world. How many atrocities like this happen in areas of the world where public thinking is seen as an overtly defiant attack against government?

Challenges

One of the biggest obstacles to sharing thinking publically is people and institutions that are stuck in the mindset of ownership and protectionism.  In education, at a time when people are developing incredibly beneficial learning networks, many educators work in highly competitive environments.  Movement between jobs, schools, and districts is incredibly difficult and sometimes the only way to get ahead is to develop and hold onto something unique and different.

Privacy is another obstacle standing in the way of thinking in public.  In Canada, educators across the country are bound by overly restrictive school district policies.  FIPPA was created to make public bodies more accountable to the public and protect personal privacy, not limit student’s creative process because their thinking is stored on a server located outside of the country. These laws are standing in the way of student learning and freedom of expression.

Fear also stands in the way of public displays of thought.  The fears of failure or critiques are often cited as reasons to internalize thinking.  Thinking aloud makes people vulnerable by revealing intimate knowledge of the way they think.  Risk taking is the precursor to public thinking.  This can be overcome by realizing that nothing worthwhile has ever been achieved without a long line of failures behind it.  In my profession, it is increasingly difficult to encourage my learners to take risks.  The fear of appearing to know everything paralyzes my learner’s ability to share their thoughts.  To conquer this, I need to create an environment that embraces failure as a part of the learning culture.

Implications For My Practice

My goal as an educator is to design meaningful and authentic learning experiences for students, model practices of lifelong learning, and provide opportunities to (co)create artifacts of learning.  After reading Smarter Than You Think, I have realised the benefits of encouraging students to share their work publicly.  It is important to engaging my learners in the act of thinking aloud through their learning, and not just at the end of a learning sequence.  “Public thinking is messy” (Thompson, 2014), but the benefits can be extraordinary.

 

As I continue to develop my own craft and strive to be the best educator I can, I plan to not only continue to share my finished work publicly, but also find the means to document the process of my work.  In my profession, educators slip into the practice of evaluating the end product, but there are clear benefits in evaluating the process in equal measures.

References

Kleon, A. (2014). Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered (Kindle Edi., p. 224). Workman Publishing Company. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.ca/Show-Your-Work-Creativity-Discovered-ebook/dp/B00GU2RGGI/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1415556772&sr=1-1&keywords=show+your+work

 

Thompson, C. (2014). Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing our Minds for the Better. New York: The Penguin Group.

Collaboration Principle in Multimedia Learning: A Remix

A summary of Chapter 23 in The Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia Learning written by Paul A. Kirschner, Kemke Kirschner, and Jeroen Janssen

This chapter discusses three principles for effective collaborative multimedia learning, and they determine when and under what conditions collaboration will positively affect learning in a multimedia environment.

 

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Collaborative learning, learning in teams, is most effective when the learning task is cognitively demanding enough to warrant a collaboration.  A task is described as cognitively demanding when:

  1. It overtly taxes the working memory of the learning
  2. When the benefits of collaboration exceed the transactional activity costs (the cognitive effort expended during collaboration)

 

Three sub-principles of collaboration in multimedia learning:

  1. The learning task is cognitively demanding enough to require collaboration and thus the effective use of a collective working memory.

Collaboration should be considered when the distribution advantage is greater than the transactional activity costs.  The distribution advantage is a benefit of collaboration because the cognitive load generated when collaborating can be spread amongst members of the group.  This allows members to free up cognitive energy to focus on the learning activities.  Transactional activity costs are the costs associated with individual groups members have to expend cognitive energy while collaborating in activities such thinking, communicating and internalizing others thoughts.  Accordingly to the authors, a learning task is recommended for collaboration when the benefits of the distribution advantage outweigh the transactional activity costs.  Collaborating is most beneficial when learners engage in high-complexity tasks and problem-solving activities.

 

How Does This Relate To My Practice?

I need to be mindful when asking my learners to collaborate on tasks.  The task needs to be cognitively demanding enough to warrant a collaboration.  It is possible to collaborate too much, and to do it without much thought.  Collaboration between students is best suited to situations that involve higher level thinking skills such as synthesizing and problem-solving, rather than collaborating for collaborating sake.

 

  1. Multimedia Should Stimulate Effective and Efficient Distribution of Thoughts and Cognitive Processes While Members Carry Out Tasks.

It is important to consider who in a group, of collaborative learners, has the working knowledge of the task and how they effectively share it with other group members. Communication takes place on two levels, the individual and the group level.  Sharing of information involves the externalization of thoughts towards group members and the subsequent internalization of those thoughts by group members.  The effectiveness of sharing information in a group is influenced by factors such as social loafing and the hidden profile paradigm.  Social loafing is the phenomenon where individuals tend to expend less energy when working collectively than when working individually.  Picture team members taking it easy during a tug-of-war event.  The hidden profile paradigm refers to the tendency of collaborative learners, working on complex tasks, not to effectively share information that is only available to one group member.  Interdependence is a key indicator to collaborative success.  The tools used in multimedia collaboration should facilitate group interdependence.  “To maximize information sharing, group members need to be dependent on each other for successfully carrying out and completing a task, should be aware of each other’s knowledge and expertise, and should be made accountable for, visualize, and evaluate the effort they invest.” (Mayer, 2005)

 

How Does This Relate To My Practice?

This is a reminder that, if a cooperative learning task is to be successful, each member of the group must realize that they have an important role to play in the dynamics of the group.  Assigning individual roles to each group member, in order the scaffold the process, may help.

 

  1. Multimedia Should Facilitate Effective and Efficient Communication and Regulations of Actions.  

Effective communication between group members is necessary because collaboration is a complex activity.  In this sub-principle, the authors discuss the importance of relationships in collaborative groups.  A complementary relationship is described as one where people have significantly different functions or characteristics and can compensate for each other’s limitations.  Whereas a supplementary relationship is defined as a relationship where people have many things in common.

Researchers have found that students working in cooperative groups share knowledge and information they have in common, and negate to share their unique knowledge.  Consequently, it is important that members understand the unique skills each member of the group brings to the partnership.  How effectively members do this is a reflection of how useful the group will be at meeting their goals.  Profile and document sharing is a good way for all members to share their expertise and skill sets.

Collaboration in multimedia learning will be effective and efficient if the multimedia environment provides group members with tools to engage in meaningful interaction and thus to effectively and efficiently share their cognitive resources.

The authors suggest three ways multimedia can support effective and efficient communication and self-regulation:

 

  • Offering sufficient opportunities to communicate effectively either through asynchronous communication channels (e.g., email, discussion boards, Internet forums) or through synchronous channels (e.g., chat, video conferencing)
  • Increasing awareness of group activities by creating a multimedia environment that offers information about group members’ knowledge, understanding, or opinions.  In addition, multimedia learning environments should also inform group member of their participation.  Researchers found that this led to a more balanced discussion schedule (Bachour, Kaplan, & Dillenbourg, 2010)
  • Use scripts to support collaboration.  Scripts take the form of adaptations for learns by structuring their interactions including metacognitive activities at the end of a learning sequence. (Weinberger, Ertl, Fischer, & Mandl, 2005)

 

How Does This Relate To My Practice?

I particularly like the use of scripts at the intermediate level to aid in the collaboration process.  I use this practice a lot with my whole-group literacy instruction, but now realize I can incorporate into many other areas of instruction.  Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I plan to think more carefully about when and whom I ask students to collaborate.  It is often detrimental to throw students together and ask them to collaborate on a task when they may not have had the opportunity to develop relationships, and understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

References:

Bachour, K., Kaplan, F., & Dillenbourg, P. (2010). An Interactive Table for Supporting Participation Balance in Face-to-Face Collaborative Learning. IEEE Transactions on Learning Technologies, 3(3), 203–213. doi:10.1109/TLT.2010.18

 

Mayer, R. E. (2005). The Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning. IThe Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia Learning (Vol. 16, p. 663). doi:10.1075/idj.16.1.13pel

 

Weinberger, A., Ertl, B., Fischer, F., & Mandl, H. (2005). Epistemic and social scripts in computer?supported collaborative learning. Instructional Science, 33(1), 1–30. doi:10.1007/s11251-004-2322-4

Social Media Use in K-12 Physical and Health Education

When I first stumbled across Matt J. Vollum’s article, The Potential for Social Media Use in K-12 Physical and Health Education, my initial reaction was that this was another case of using social media just for the sake of it.  However, the more I read about social media use in health and physical education the more benefits I see.

For the purpose of this blog post, I would like to use Wikipedia’s definition of social media. “Social media is the social interaction among people in which they create, share or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks.”

Switching gears slightly while remaining on the topic of social media, my wife gave birth to our first child in February.  Since then, she developed a network of new mothers with children around the same age as our daughter.  Several of the group members have already talked about a second child but felt like they wanted to increase their core strength before putting their bodies through the stress of another pregnancy.  One way they came up with to prepare for this was to start to run together, but that wasn’t always feasible because of schedules.  Instead, they decided to utilize social media.  Each group member downloaded the same smartphone app, Couch-to-5k, by Active Network.  The app allowed them to track their individual progress, be each others cheerleaders, and allowed them to send each other motivational messages of support.  They also found the benefits of collectively sharing technical running knowledge.  If adults enjoy motivationally driven collaborate exercise, then why not kids?

Vollum discusses the potential of social media use in health and physical education by discovering how health and wellness programs outside of education are currently using social media.  He also uses existing research on the topic of social media, which exists in general education.  His argument is simple. If the use of social media in healthy living is useful outside of education and is already being used in other areas of education then perhaps, it might be beneficial to include in health living curriculums in schools.

According to a recent Media Smarts article titled, Young Canadians In A Wired World, 99% of students surveyed from grades 4-11 had access to the Internet outside of school.  81% of those students also used social media that included but was not limited to Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ (Steeves, 2014)

 

Vollum’s research looked at three areas of social media and education:

  1. The relationship between social interaction and the educational experience.
    1. Vollum found that social media has the potential to increase social presence, a feeling of connectedness towards others, which can lead to  brighter educational experience and greater accomplishment (Vollum, 2014)
  2. The relationship between social media and social interaction.
    1. Vollum found that when information can be personalized it becomes more meaningful to the learner, and social media can increase the sense of belonging and connectedness with a prolonged membership on social media (Greenhow, 2011)
  3. The relationship between social media and community and personal physical and health education outside of the K-12 setting.
    1. Social media has the opportunity to develop relationships and partnerships in health and behavior changes thus increasing the communication, which can lead to increasing levels of education (Hanson et al., 2011)
    2. Students in today’s world are already using social media in their educational setting. If increased social presence improves education and a large percentage of students are discussing education already then it would seem reasonable to say that social media use in a K-12 physical/health education environment can increase the educational experience and/or achievement (Vollum, 2014)


The Continuum of Social Media Use in Health and Physical Education

Social Media Continuum - Healthy Living

When one looks at current social media use in health and physical education, a clear hierarchy of practical use is visible.  At the base level, organizations that promote healthy living and physical education in partnership with schools have developed a passive form of interaction to deliver their message.  Healthy living champions typically utilize a webpage, or social media spaces such as Twitter, YouTube, Google+, or Facebook.  Users with an interest in healthy living visit the site to review documents and multimedia resources.  An example of this is the Action Schools BC website, which may be referred to as passive social media use.

When K-12 schools move away from passive social media use to enhance healthy living they take a step closer toward using social media to its full potential.  Teacher-centered social media use is the next logical step in the continuum towards Learner-centered social media use.  In this stage, teachers use social media to create profiles and logs for students to record data about their healthy living experiences.  An example of this is Steps Count, which provides a platform for teachers to set up a class to track and chart student’s step counts using pedometers.

Schools may say they use social media to its full potential, when learners work collaboratively outside of the classroom and without direct influence from their teachers to develop independent, healthy living habits.  An example of this is Zombies, Run! which has amassed over 800 000 members worldwide.  Players combine social media with physical activity.

In contrast to the clear benefits of Zombies, Run!  Meyer, in his Handbook of Multimedia Learning, disagrees with the use of multimedia agents of learning.  In our case, Mayer would say that the feedback delivered by the narrator and zombie in the running app may not lead to increased motivation and learning.  Meyer states, Well designed studies find that when the effects of well designed instructional methods provided by the agent are separated from the effects of the presence of the agents, no learning benefits are found (Mayer, 2005).  If I gave my learners the option of running around the school track, or running around the community while listening to a highly interactive adventure, I’m pretty sure which option they would take.

 

Benefits of Social Media Use In Physical and Health Education

There are many advantages of including social media use in K-12 healthy living curriculum.  Coaches may use video to capture and analyze a performed skill before sharing it with members of a team to learn from.  Younger students could use social media to track their eating habits and compare it with other children around the world.  Teacher can use the power of social to add elements of gameplay into physical education, which may grab the attention of the sedentary video game generation.

 

References

Greenhow, C. (2011). Online social networks and learning. On the Horizon, 19(1), 4–12. doi:10.1108/10748121111107663

 

Hanson, C., West, J., Neiger, B., Thackeray, R., Barnes, M., & McIntyre, E. (2011). Use and Acceptance of Social Media Among Health Educators. American Journal of Health Education, 42(4), 197–204. doi:10.1080/19325037.2011.10599188

 

Mayer, R. E. (2005). The Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning. IThe Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia Learning (Vol. 16, p. 663). doi:10.1075/idj.16.1.13pel

 

Steeves, V. (2014). Life Online.

 

Vollum, M. J. (2014). The potential for social media use in K-12 physical and health education. Computers in Human Behavior, 35, 560–564. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2014.02.035

 

MEd Research Focus: An Exploration In Networked Learning

This blog posting marks the first in a series of posts documenting the process of narrowing down a research interest and developing a research question for my Masters of Education in Educational Technology final project.  You can follow my journey by selecting the tag, ‘Research Focus’ on the sidebar.

Educational technology combines learning theory with science and technology resources to assist learners to meet individual and collective goals.  I see the power educational technology can have on our world when we use it to create more efficient and effective ways of doing things rather than use technology as a substitute for an existing task.  I like to think that our world is a little more connected.  Thanks to technology and science, learning can happen anytime and anywhere across cultures and, time zones, political boundaries, and languages barriers.

IMG_2203

At this point of the journey, I have several areas of research interest, which include networked learning and the sharing of knowledge, motivation, engagement, and inquiry learning.  I am fascinated by what the future of schools might look like as we continue to make advances in science and technology, and I am inspired by leaders in my field such as Will Richardson, Sugata Mitra.  Will Richardson envisions a different kind of school than that which exists in many public schools in North America today.  He champions a school based on discovery rather than delivery.  I agree with his philosophy about, “Asking questions, working with others to find the answers, doing real work for real audiences, and adding to, not simply taking from, the storehouse of knowledge that the Web is becoming.”  Sugata Mitra’s work with The School In The Cloud and his research on self-organized learning is also intriguing.  Gaining learner attention and attempting to sustain it through intrinsic motivation is one of the most challenging aspects of my job.  I believe part of the problem is that school isn’t relevant enough for some of the students I teach.  Technology and science can, in my mind, work towards making school more relevant when combine with inquiry and choice learning.

One idea I am currently exploring for my final project focuses on the sharing of knowledge. I often end up asking myself the question, who has the knowledge? And how do I access it?  An idea I am pursuing involves developing a skill/knowledge repository or database that would connect teachers, students, parents, and their community together.  For example, let’s say I am a teacher who is looking to develop their numeracy practice.  Who has the knowledge/skills in their school, district, or community, and how do we connect those people together.  If I have a classroom teacher and one of my students expresses an interest in animal biology, who can I connect them with, in the community, so they can continue their passion for learning about the subject.  It boils down to my belief that it takes more than a classroom teacher to educator a child.  I believe that there are people within and outside of the education system with valuable skills and knowledge who would be more than willing to share their knowledge and time, free of charge, if they knew what they had to offer was sort after.  A skill repository database would allow teachers to mentor each other and work on their craft.  For example, if I am a teacher looking to rework my science lessons based on new brain research or changing Ministry of Education curriculum guidelines, but science is not my speciality I could use the database to find a local teacher to mentor me.  In contrast, those offering to share their knowledge and have their skills included in the database would have the freedom to advertise how they would like to mentor.  I imagine some people would be more than happy to open up their classroom and invite teachers/students in to see work in practice while others might be more conformable meeting at a coffee shop to share resources.  Flexibility and convenience are the keys to developing such an idea.

There are many learning theories, which complement my pedagogy and represent a suitable framework from which to pursue my project, but I’m having difficulty narrowing them down. Educational technology lends itself well to the constructivist and motivational and humanists learning theories.  I like Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s Flow Theory were participants who are engaged in an activity that is suitably challenging experience of sustained periods of focus and active engagement.  In this mental zone, learners stay motivated and experience high levels of enjoyment.

I have made the decision to share, openly, the process of developing my MEd document and final project, and it can view here.  There isn’t much in it now, but by this time next year it should be well on the way to being completed.

Self-Regulated Learning In A Changing Educational Landscape

Point Of View: The Importance Of Self-Regulated Learning In A Changing Educational Landscape.

 

The landscape of education is on the precipice of change.  Digital technologies have removed the need to follow an educational epistemology based on the pursuit of knowledge.  Montessori (1918) saw the need for change when she said, “We know only too well the sorry spectacle of the teacher who in the ordinary schoolroom must pour certain cut and dried facts into the heads of the scholars” (p. 28). In order to develop higher-level thinking skills, our youngest learners must enter an education system, which follows themes of inquiry and is learner-centred.  In order for learners to be successful in a system built on inquiry, they must develop robust self-regulated learning (SRL) strategies to take control of their own learning, and reach their full potential. Developing students’ self-regulated learning skills can demystify assessment, increase student engagement and motivation, and form the basis of productive collaborative learning communities.

 

Assessment can be a debilitating experience for many students.  Vaughan found that the four most common words associated with assessment were: fear, stress, anxiety, and judgment (Vaughan, N., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Garrison, D. R. 2013). Self-regulated learners are able to control their environment, evaluate their work, and determine how to adapt their learning to increase performance.  They understand the assessment and feedback cycle, and use it to their advantage.  Self-regulated learners are also cognizant of their academic strengths and weaknesses, and can fully utilize instructor feedback, as well as engage in peer and self-assessment practices.  Digital technologies such as blogs, wikis, collaborative writing tools, and other social media resources can provide students with increased flexibility and communication opportunities to engage in all aspects of assessment. According to Vaughan, Cleveland-Innes, and Garrison (2013), learners cannot observe, analyze, and judge their own performances on the basis of criteria and determine how they can improve without being self-regulated learners. Effeney, Carroll, and Bahr (2013) agreed when they said”Self-regulated learners… monitor their learning by seeking feedback on their performance and by making appropriate adjustments for future learning activities” (p. 774).

 

There exists in our schools today a motivation and engagement gap in learners.  This gap stems from a disconnect between how students learn best and how instructors teach.  Improving self-regulated learning skills in children from an early age can help bridge this gap.  Dabbagh and Kitsantas (2012) found,  “The motivational components of self-regulated learning help students persist in the face of difficult tasks and resist other sometimes more tempting options” (p. 6). Developing the behavioural and emotional states of children is paramount before engaging in any other type of learning. In order for learners to engage with content in the classroom, they need to be present in the learning experience and be active participants.  Regulating behaviour and emotions can help learners to focus, enhance self-belief, and develop the grit they need to embrace success and failure on the way to achieving their goals. According to Clark (2012),  “SRL is predictive of improved academic outcomes and motivation because students acquire the adaptive and autonomous learning characteristics required for an enhanced engagement with the learning process and subsequent successful performance” (p. 205).  Explicitly teaching self-reflection and metacognitive skills to learners can develop higher-level thinking skills, which enhance motivation and increase engagement.

 

Self-regulated learning skills also form the basis of active collaborative learning communities, and can help develop a successful framework.  Organization, motivation, and collaboration are essential factors in the success of any collaborative learning community.  Borup et al. (2014) found, “Researchers have suggested that without adequate organization, online students will procrastinate, especially students with special needs” (p. 115).  Dewey (1929) says, “I believe that the individual who is to be educated is a social individual, and that society is an organic union of individuals. If we eliminate the social factor from the child we are left only with an abstraction” (p. 34). If learning is socialand involves interactions between learners, instructors, peers, and community, then it is important to prepare students with the emotional, responsive, and reflective skills they need to be successful in these areas.

 

In summary, if we want the next generation of students to be self-directed, autonomous, and life-long learners, we must instil the strategies of self-regulated learning into all areas of education, including assessment, motivating and engaging designs for learning, and across all collaborative learning communities.  Essential self-regulation skills such as metacognition, self-efficacy, and self-reflection combined with social skills such as regulating emotions, perseverance, and behaviour are key indicators for success in our changing educational landscape.  The increasing use of digital technologies arm the self-regulated learner with the tools, collaborative learning spaces, and resources to reach self-determined goals and targets, and take control of their own learning.

 

References:

Borup, J., West, R. E., Graham, C. R., & Davies, R. S. (2014). The Adolescent Community of Engagement: A Framework for Research on Adolescent Online Learning. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 22(1), 107–129.

Clark, I. (2012). Formative assessment: assessment is for self-regulated learning. Educational Psychology Review, 24(2), 205–249. doi:10.1007/s10648-011-9191-6

Dabbagh, N., & Kitsantas, A. (2012). Personal learning environments, social media, and self-regulated learning: a natural formula for connecting formal and informal learning. The Internet and Higher Education, 15(1), 3–8. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2011.06.002

Dewey, J. (1929). My Pedagogic Creed. In D. Flinders & S. Thornton (Eds.),
The Curriculum Studies Reader (pp. 34 – 41). New York: Routledge.

Effeney, G., Carroll, A., & Bahr, N. (2013). Self-regulated learning and executive function: exploring the relationships in a sample of adolescent males. Educational Psychology, 33(7), 773–796. doi:10.1080/01443410.2013.785054

Montessori, M. (1918). A Critical Consideration of the New Pedagogy in its Relation to Modern Science. In D. Flinders & S. Thornton (Eds.), The Curriculum Studies Reader (pp. 22 – 33). New York: Routledge.

Vaughan, N., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Garrison, D. R. (2013). Assessment (Chapter 5). Teaching in blended learning environments, AU Press, Athabasca University. [Retrieved from http://www.aupress.ca/books/120229/ebook/99Z_Vaughan_et_al_2013-Teaching_in_Blended_Learning_Environments.pdf, July 17, 2014.]

 

The Science of Motiviation

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How do you stay motivated to continue learning, doing assignments, and progressing as a lifelong learner?

 

“Humans, by their nature, seek purpose—to make a contribution and to be part of a cause greater and more enduring than themselves.” – Daniel Pink, Drive

 

Why is it then that many of us struggle to motivate ourselves?  What is the secret behind motivation and learning?  We cannot start to answer these questions without first defining motivation.

Wikipedia defines motivation as: “The driving force that causes the flux from desire to will in life.” Educational psychologists define motivation as, “…the processes that energize and give direction or purpose to behaviour (Wlodkowski, 1989).”  

 

In simple terms, I think motivation is the internal desire to complete a task one has imagined possible.  I clearly remember the night I decided to run my first ultramarathon.  It was New Year 2006.  I had been trail running for about a year, and could consistently run for a couple of hours on the trails without issue, but the Diez Vista was an altogether different challenge.  I would be required to run non-stop for over seven hours.  Where did the motivation come from to transition from running two hours on a Saturday morning with friends to running 50km?  Looking back there were six key elements to my motivation:

 

  • Plan/schedule – at the time I was running with friends who had developed a detailed training plan
  • Practice – every time I practiced, I felt stronger and moved a little closer to the goal
  • Confidence – after each training session I had inevitably run longer than I had ever done before, and with that my confidence and belief in myself increased.
  • Overcoming adversity – on our last training run which was scheduled to last about 7 hours.  I snapped the laces on my trail shoes and got lost.  The smaller group I was with turned a 7 hour training run into an 8.5 hour run. At that point i knew I could finish the race.
  • Support – I received and gave emotional support to ten friends for the four months we trained for the race.  I also received coaching, tactical, and nutritional support from my fellow runners.
  • Challenge – for the majority of the time I was training, I wasn’t entirely sure whether I could actually complete the race, and I believe this uncertainty was a driving force behind my motivation.

My mantra throughout my training was an inspiring quote I found in a running magazine in 2006:

Your biggest challenge isn’t someone else; it’s the ache in your lungs, the burning in your legs, & the voice inside you that yells, “Can’t!” But you don’t listen, you push harder. You hear the voice whisper “Can.” and you discover that the person you thought you were is no match for the one you really are.” – unknown

 

Motivation and Life-Long In Education

When I think of my own motivation for lifelong learning it stems from a desire to master my craft.  I can see the educator I want to be.  I have a strong mental image of him.  I know exactly what he looks like, his educational pedagogy, how he interacts with his learners and his peers, and how he designs his learning experiences.

 

A recent Scientific American article titled, Three Critical Elements Sustain Motivation helped me to better understand how I maintain a love of learning, and what keeps me motivated through the process.

 

Self-determination

Motivation can manifest speedily when we feel like we are the captains of our own ship.  When we have a level of control over the direction of our learning, we are more likely to be motivated to move along the continuum to mastery.  The energy and enthusiasm applied to a given task increases significantly when one is given the freedom to approach a new learning experience in ways that best suits one’s own learning style.  Learner autonomy is important in this phase.  As Dirksen says, “You may be able to influence your learners, but you can’t control them.”

 

Purpose

When I compare the most successful learning experiences I have had with my learners with my own learning experiences I noticed that both events have a clear purpose for learning.  When I canvas my learners about learning that is most purposeful I often hear responses such as “Can I use it in real life?” and “Will this help me with…” In order to motive today’s learners the work they complete needs to have real life applications.  It has to be authentic and engaging.  More importantly, the work needs to be purposeful for the learner and not necessarily what the teacher thinks is purposeful.  The only way an educator can achieve this is to spend the necessary time to understand each of his/her learner’s needs.

 

Progress

Proficiency is equally important in the science of motivation.  To maintain motivation levels one needs to feel success on a regular basis.  Going back to my trail running experience for a moment – If I hadn’t see small gains in performance each week, then I’m sure my motivation levels would have dropped to the point that I would have discontinued my goal.  From a learner’s perspective I believe it is important for students to see and measure the progress they are making in order to maintain their motivation levels.  Video gaming is an excellent example of facilitating an ongoing level of progress to maintain motivation.  Gamers are constantly being provided with feedback on their performance.  This feedback enables them to see progress, and they can visualize their goal and maintain their motivation.

 

References:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/three-critical-elements-sustain-motivation/

http://www.personal.psu.edu/bxb11/m&g.pdf

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motivation

Design For How People Learn, Julie Dirksen

Drive, Daniel Pink

Four Skills for the 21st Century Learner

There have been numerous blogs, articles, and websites that have created meaningful dialogue on the topic of the skills necessary for the 21st century learner.  As part of my #tiegrad courses, I have been asked to contribute to this topic by adding my own set of skills.  I designed this model to help myself make the connections between the people, the content, and skills required for learners in the 21st century.

21st Century Skills

Four skills important for the 21st Century learner that relate to my practice are social and emotional skills, and physical/natural skills, basic (core) academic skills, and higher-level thinking skills.  When these skills are supported and practiced by the school, home, and the community, and combined with authentic, meaningful and real-world practice we are preparing our learners to make positive contributions to society.

Skills in order of importance:

1. Social and Emotional Skills

“Research conducted during the past few decades indicates that social and emotional learning programming for elementary- and middle-school students is a very promising approach to reducing problem behaviors, promoting positive adjustment, and enhancing academic performance.” – John Payton, CASEL

I have written about the importance of social and emotional skills in learning before.  As we become more connected in a technology sense, we become less connected in a face-to-face sort of way.  The skills required to be successful in the real world involve collaborating and problem solving with others.  Humans are far more productive and effective when they work together in groups consisting of people with different strengths and not independently.  The 2008 CASEL report, The Positive Impact of Social and Emotional Learning for Kindergarten to Eighth-grade Students emphasizes the importance of these life skills and their direct correlation to academic success.

2. Basic Core Academic Skills

It is critical to develop basic core academic skills in learners, as they are lay the foundation for the development of higher order thinking skills later in life.  How is it possible to develop a cell phone battery that lasts an entire day without knowing how electricity flows in a circuit?  I feel there is a shift in education towards engaging our learners in higher order thinking skills such as critical thinking, synthesizing, evaluating, and producing at the cost of developing basic academic skills.  Higher-level thinking skills are important but there needs to be a balance between these skills and the development of foundational skills.  In my experience those learners who know their times tables are far more effective at completing multiplication task when compared to those who.  They are stronger at working on problem solving, and generally enjoy mathematics more than those who struggles with basic computation.  It can be compared to children reading for information.  Fluent readers are far more effective at reading for information when compared to those learners who need to decode, break apart, and sound out the majority of the words they read.  Learners need opportunities to repeat tasks over and over to achieve mastery.  If they are constantly challenged with new material they may suffer from academic burnout and shut down – effectively stagnating their learning process.  In Kelly Tenkely’s article, Why Drill and Skill are Necessary in Education and later comments she defends the need for drill and skill in education.  By no means does she suggest that her entire curriculum should be founded on these skills, rather she advocates for balance. “These activities give students an opportunity to practice a skill and become familiar with it before creating with it.  Drill and skill games and activities give students room to find patterns and build understanding.”

3. Physical/Natural Skills

“We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this Earth, and to tell our stories. These are the moments when the world is made whole.”

Richard Louv

A 2013 Maclean’s article titled, Early education: this is not a field trip reports on a pilot kindergarten program designed to exposed young children to the wonders of nature.  With “90 per cent of Canadian children are gaming and six out of 10 households have a gaming console” there exists evidence that children are not spending the same amount of time playing outdoors as they once did.  Children who do not engage in active play outdoors don’t learn to socialize, share, and problem solve in the same way children who are in touch with nature do.  In my experience, students spend entire weekends playing video games, and rather venture outside to play.  A healthy balance between indoor and outdoor play has been lost.

4. Higher-Level Thinking Skills

We need to develop, in our learners, the ability to use the technology that exists at their fingertips today, the technology that will be developed in the future.  I genuinely believe we need to be raising a generation of socially conscious learners who, through the use of technology, can make the world a safer and healthier place for generations to come.  By facilitating the learning of higher-order thinking skills such as problem solving, critical thinking skills, a sense of inquiry, comparing and identifying ideas, and using old concepts to create new ideas, we can encourage our learners to innovative.  The basis of robust learning design focuses more on what learners can do with knowledge and not how much knowledge they can retain.

In summary, there are many skills that are useful for today’s learner.  You may or may not agree with the importance of these skills I suggested or how they relate to today’s learner, but in my experience and based on the 9-11 year olds I work with, these are important skills.  When learners have a strong support network, when they engage with content that is relevant and meaningful, when they are allowed to follow their own paths of inquiry, and have their physical and emotional needs met, they take a step closer to becoming lifelong learners.
What skills do you think are necessary for your learners now and in the future?

Social and Emotional Needs: The Basis Of Successful Learning Design

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In my latest #tiegrad class I was asked to think about, and reflect on, a misconception/misunderstanding about teaching and learning I have experienced, and how it has led to new insights and knowledge about my craft.  

The biggest misconception/misunderstanding I have experienced since I started teaching in 2006 is the realization that learning cannot take place before the social and emotional needs of my students are met first.  I used to think my role as an educator was to teach content to students based on a set of guidelines provided by the Ministry of Education, and students would attend class each day ready and able to learn – but I’ve learned the hard way that this is not always the case.  Before I realized the importance of attending to the social and emotional needs of my learners, I tended to open the academic floods gates at the morning bell and get straight to work.  I didn’t know any better.  I assumed that my students were ready, willing, and able to learn.  I couldn’t have been more wrong!

“Self-regulation is the ability to manage your own energy states, emotions, behaviours and attention, in ways that are socially acceptable and help achieve positive goals, such as maintaining good relationships, learning and maintaining wellbeing.” – Dr. Stuart Shankar.

The ability of my learners to self-regulate is an important part of meeting the social and emotional needs of my learners.  Making time to explicitly teach skills around self-regulation (making our learners aware of conditions they need to be successful, teaching them how to deal with unexpected situations, and how to relate to others) has become increasingly important in today’s classrooms.  The best learning design in the world cannot reach the dysregulated learner.  One can design experiences, which engage students fully in the learning process, ask questions that lead to meaningful exploration of the topic, and allow time for students to follow their own line of inquiry, but unless we are able to decode our learners and understand their state of mind as they enter our classrooms we are fighting a losing battle.

Two Techniques To Attend To The Social and Emotional Needs Of Students:

1. Restorative Classroom Practices

By creating conditions where students feel safe to express their emotions and build community and support with their classmates, Restorative Classroom Practices can have positive effects on learner’s emotional needs.  The simple act of gathering in a circle at the start of the school day, checking in with how we are feeling, creating a sense of equality, and giving a voice to every student, Restorative Classroom Practices have had positive and meaningful impact on the student’s classroom experience.  Perhaps the biggest shift I have made over the years is that I have been able to shift decision making process from teacher to the students with remarkable success.

2. MindUp Curriculum

Using the latest research in neuroscience, MindUp curriculum provides educators with the tools to engage their learners in how the brain functions, what the optimum conditions for learning are, when the brain develops roadblocks for learning, and techniques to overcome these roadblocks.  Many of my learners struggle to attend to the ‘present’ while in the classroom.  They’re either reflecting on the past, or looking forward to the future, and this lack of attending to the present is having negative effects on their school experience.  Creating a ‘mindful’ classroom is not just a buzzword of 21st Century learning.  It is precisely because of the speed and the attention grabbing technological world we live in that students need to create time and space to disconnect, focus within, and calm their minds.  A mindful classroom creates a space for the dysregulated learner to find comfort and a sense of belonging.

Learning Design: A Memorable Learning Experience

In my latest #tiegrad class I was asked to reflect on a highly memorable learning experience and link it to my understanding of learning and memory.

Sadly, I can probably count on one hand the number of highly memorable learning experiences I have encountered.  With this in mind, I don’t know why I am so surprised to see some of my students unengaged and unmotivated.  As it turns out, learning experiences are more often than not largely forgetful because it is a complex and individual experience:

“Learning is not simply a process of absorbing information from the environment. Rather, it is a process of making—actively and intentionally constructing—knowledge and understandings.” – Ormrod (2010)

One of my most memorable learning experiences occurred recently.  For six weeks in November of last year I attended prenatal classes with my wife and unborn child.  These six sessions, although highly engaging, did not involve a lot of ‘hands on’ work, nor was there time allotted to practice the skills necessary for a healthy, active, and participatory labour experience.  This contradicts some of the learning strategies we use in schools and classrooms around the country while creating robust learning experiences for students.

Why was this experience so memorable?

For two main reasons:

I was highly motivated about the content because I could see how the skills learned in the classes would help make my life easier during a transitional time in my life.  I had enough life experience to know that there was a real benefit for me to retain as much information as possible in an effort to retain a healthy work/life balance.  Retaining information is sometimes difficult for me.  Most of the time, especially during professional development opportunities my district offers, I do not move information from my working memory to long-term memory very effectively.  Why?  I think I am an automated learner, and are not actively engaged in my own learning – especially when my life is busy and my mind seems full.  In our text, Design For How People Learn, Dirksen talks the steps required to move information from working memory to long-term memory.  She uses the  example of ‘shelves’ on which information can be stored, much like a well organized filing system in the brain.  The more shelves one can place important information the better chance one stands of retrieving it when needed.  “Anything that you do remember becomes part of a series of associations – you don’t learn anything in isolation.” – Dirksen.

When it came to prenatal classes the information was easy to encoded because I had enough life experience to see a direct and immediate need the information.  It was easily retrieved during the lengthy labour process because I filed it away on many ‘shelves’ including being a support to wife, being a good husband, be an advocate for my wife during labour, and being able to care for a newborn.

Another reason why this was a memorable learning experience was because the content evoked strong emotions within me all the learners present.  The use of role-playing was highly effective during class, and helped a great deal prepare my wife and I for a very different birth experience than we had planned.  One of the last activities we completed in our prenatal class was to role play what it would look like if labour did not go to plan and an emergency cesarean section was required.  Our instructor, Michelle, did an excellent job of explaining how a cesarean section was vastly different from a natural birth.  She directed the fathers in the group to role-play what would happen in this scenario.  After the session I knew at what point a caesarian would happen, how my wife’s care would be transferred from midwife to obstetrician, that we would separated for a short period of time before and after birth, that the operating room would be full of doctors and nurses, that the room would be painfully bright, and that I would be with baby directly after surgery and not, ideally, my wife.

“Even though we know it’s not real, role-playing can be an effective way to create the feel of the emotional context, especially if you have effective playing the part.” – Julie Dirksen  

In summary, in each of the six prenatal lessons the information that caught my attention the most, information I moved from sensory register into short-term memory, was information that evoked strong emotions, and information I needed in order to be the best support I could be for my wife.  As working memory tends to hold information for only a few seconds I needed to encode this information into long-term memory, quickly.  I used many associations to encode the information as mention above.  I placed the information on several ‘shelves’ with labels such as ‘best practices for being a supportive husband’, ‘skills required to be a great first time father’, ‘baby’s needs’, ‘worst case scenarios’, etc.  Having numerous associations helped me easily retrieve information when I needed it, even under stressful and unexpected conditions.  “Learners are especially likely to retrieve information when they have many possible pathways to it – in other words, when they have associated the information with numerous other ideas in their existing knowledge.” – Ormrod (2010)