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EDU510: Cognitive Science in Education: Reflections

Exploring the various theories and concepts in the field of cognitive science and its relevance to education has been an interesting, challenging, thought-provoking and mind-opening experience for me as an educator and as a learner.  Reflecting back on all that I have learned throughout this course, I come away with a deeper understanding of the learning processes humans use to make connections and meaning of their knowledge and how the role artificial intelligence systems and developments will shape and assist the future of education.  My goal is to use all that I have learned in this course and apply it into effective teaching practices that will help to make the learning experience “whole” for my students.  Going forward, I feel as though this challenging yet rewarding learning experience will help me in the pursuit of my own personal, career, and educational goals.

 

Artificial Intelligence in Education

This course has focused on the connections between what cognitive scientists are learning through the study of artificial intelligences and what it means for educators when developing effective instruction for their students in the classroom.  Understanding how mental representations and different learning styles affect how a learner processes new information and also applies this information into their own teaching practices is essential to providing a meaningful and successful learning environment that meets the various needs of all students.

Technology and the use of artificial intelligence in the classroom is an ever-evolving and important teaching and learning tool for both students and teachers.  As students become increasingly more immersed in technology and incorporate it into their everyday lives, the greater the demand is for teachers to successfully and appropriately incorporate technology into daily classroom instruction.  Implications for future application in the classroom would include a “best of both worlds” learning environment model, such as a web-enhanced, or hybrid learning environment, in which the predominately face-to-face model connects the learners in a cooperative, interactive environment that offers online interactive activities (Crawford, Smith & Smith, 2008, p.136). Learning in a hybrid environment allows students to have some self-directed learning from online participation and activities, while at the same time, students also benefit from the face-to-face interactions with their peers and contact with their instructor in a traditional classroom setting.  With the assistance of A.I., implementing learning activities that best represent the various learning styles of the students, along with having an understanding of the importance mental representations play in the learning process will help ensure educators deliver the most effective and meaningful instruction that will foster a life-long love of learning.

 

Making Learning Whole

As David Perkins details in his book, Making Learning Whole: How Seven Principles of Teaching can Transform Education, making learning whole is a framework for teaching that allows students to learn and apply skills and concepts while understanding the bigger picture while making meaningful connections to their learning.  It is a practice that helps the learner take ownership of their learning process and be an active participant rather than just learning bits and pieces of information in isolation.  When educators allow various learning opportunities in the classroom for students to learn based on Perkins seven principles, it can provide a meaningful and successful learning environment that meets the various needs of all students.

Implementing Perkins seven principles of teaching into your daily classroom instruction will increase student achievement and help prepare learners for future success through meaningful and enriching learning experiences.  After reading Perkins framework, this is my interpretation of his seven principles and how I plan on incorporating them into my teaching and understanding of my students and their learning experiences…

Playing the Whole Game: learners need to be engaged in the learning process and should have an understanding of what they are learning and why it is important to learn.

Make the Game Worth Playing: engage and motivate each learner to want to learn by connecting them with what is interesting about a topic, thus, making the learning more meaningful to the learner.

Work on the Hard Parts: learners need frequent and individualized opportunities to examine, develop strategies, and practice applying skills that are difficult or need more fine-tuning.

Playing Out of Town: the learner should be able to understand how to successfully apply their skills and knowledge outside of the formal learning environment, in many different situations in order to gain experiences.

Uncover the Hidden Game: learners need to understand that are multiple layers and underlying principles to learning and applying knowledge.  It is important for learners to recognize that learning and applying skills and concepts is not in isolation, rather, it is interconnected in the learning process.

Learning from the Team: learn from the others around you in your learning environment, whatever the setting may be.

Implications for future application in the classroom would include allowing multiple opportunities for students to truly understand what they are learning and why what they are learning is important to them based on Perkins seven principles of teaching.  The overall goal is to help students understand the big picture of what they are learning and to make the learning process engaging, motivating, meaningful and relevant to the learner through guided and independent practice, continual feedback, collaborative group work, and opportunities for application of skills and concepts.

 

Dynamic Learning Systems

Evolving over time, dynamic learning systems are systems that contain a variety of different variables that can change the way the mind and body react, adapt and/or process information as they work together within certain scenarios.  One dynamic can influence another and will evolve over a person’s lifetime as they grow older and enter new dynamic systems.  Cognitive illusions rely on stored knowledge about the world and are also under some degree of conscious control (World-Mysteries.com, 2003-2011).  Instead of demonstrating a physiological base they interact with different levels of perceptual process, in-built assumptions or ‘knowledge’ are misdirected (World-Mysteries.com, 2003-2011).  The presence of illusions can complicate cognitive sciences efforts to expand mental representation models because your perception of an image does not follow a set of standards or rules and can be seen and processed in various ways.  These different perceptions and ways of processing information can affect our instructional efforts with children (and adults) because we all have different experiences, learning styles, and interpret concepts or images in our own way.  As an educator, you must be mindful of these dynamic learning systems and perceptions and give your students multiple opportunities and various ways to learn and process information.  This will allow the learner to create, build and extend upon their own set of cognitive patterns, making connections to their prior and newly acquired knowledge that is most meaningful to them.

 

Resources

Harman, A. (n.d.). A dynamic systems approach: A revolutionary perspective on childhood development theory. Retrieved October 10, 2012, from http://www.unfetteredmovement.org/resources/articles/a-dynamic-systems-approach-a-revolutionary-perspective-on-childhood-development-theory/.

Check out this Youtube video about cognitive science and being a top performer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FTko1OiZ-3k

 

References

Crawford, C. M., Smith, R. A., & Smith, M. S. (2008). Course student satisfaction results: Differentiation between face-to-face, hybrid, and online learning environments. [Article]. CEDER Yearbook, 135-149. Course Student Satisfaction Results_Differentiation Between Face-to-Face, Hybrid, and Online Learning Environments.pdf.

Perkins, D. (2009). Making learning whole: How seven principles of teaching can transform education.  San Francisco: CA: Jossey-Bass.

Wlodkowski, R. J. (1999).  Motivation and diversity: A framework for teaching.  [Article]  New Direction for Teaching and Learning (78)7.

World-Mysteries. (2003). Retrieved from http://www.world-mysteries.com/illusions/sci_illusions3.htm

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EDU510: Making Connections to “The Game”

Emotions & Motivation in Learning

Emotions play a significant role in a student’s motivation to learn.  It is important for educators to study and understand student engagement and motivation because these two factors are what ultimately make a student successfully understand, learn, apply and retain lesson skills and concepts that are being taught by the teacher.  As Perkins states, “Playing the whole game clarifies what makes the game worth playing because you see right away how things fit together… and artful teachers use many other ways to connect learners with what’s interesting about a topic,” (p. 10).  It is the responsibility of the teacher to design lessons and units of study that will actively engage students while keeping them interested and motivated to learn.  Motivation is the natural human capacity to direct energy in the pursuit of a goal (Wlodkowski, R., 1999).  Being a primary teacher, I also believe that student engagement and motivation heavily relies on how I present the learning material to my students.  Children are very intuitive and can sense how someone feels.  With that being said, my first grade students seem to pick up on my enthusiasm and passion about a subject I am teaching and in turn, they try to emulate those themselves.  If I model to my students that I am excited about what I am teaching, then they are typically engaged in the lesson, motivated and excited to learn the material.  Rather than purely trying to communicate the facts in a rote fashion, teachers who incorporated more emotion and expression in their teaching, thereby making it more interesting and enticing, were more successful in communicating the subject matter and keeping students engaged (Demetriou & Wilson, 2008, p. 939).  It’s not the outcome of the game that motivates the learner, it the process along the path of learning that shapes the game and keeps the learner interested and motivated to keep on playing (learning)!

Intrinsic & Extrinsic Motivation in Learning

Motivation differs in adults and children.  I find that [most] young students want to please their teacher and strive to do well in school.  From my experiences in the classroom, I find that students perform better and try harder at tasks when I am giving them positive reinforcement and praise, which is an example of a motivating factor for the student.  I use various techniques such as earning stickers for a sticker chart, a prize box and earning stars to motivate my students to read at home, hand in their homework on time, and to follow our classroom rules.  This is an example of external motivation.  The students are doing something (for the teacher) in order to gain something for themselves.  I believe in the primary years of a student’s educational experience it is that type of external motivation (along with teacher and parental praise, support and positive reinforcement) that helps to shape a student’s internal motivation to succeed and be successful in school.  When students can see that what they are learning is important, their motivation emerges (Wlodkowski, 1999).

Attention, Memory & Transfer in the Learning Process

Attention and memory are interdependent components in the learning process.  Sustaining focused attention and filtering out distractions when learning new information allows a student to organize, comprehend, retain, and utilize that information in way that creates a meaningful and memorable learning experience.  The various aspects of this mental process (attention) enable learners to then utilize their memory to encode, store and retrieve information in the brain.  These aspects of attention and memory are what influence the anticipation and instruction of the “hard parts” when learning and teaching new information.  As Perkins states, “Good work on the hard parts is one of the fundamental structural challenges of teaching and learning and we need to build in versions of deliberate practice.” (p. 83).  Engaging students and retaining their attention is essential when teaching any concept, but even more so when it comes to teaching and learning the “hard parts”.  Creating multiple learning situations and opportunities that are meaningful to the different learners in a classroom will help the students retain the new information in their long-term working memory over time.  We struggle with new ideas not just because of their very real surface complexities, but also because they presuppose concepts, frameworks, and ways of thinking that are not apparent (Perkins, 2009, p. 100).  Educators should strive to bring these “hard parts” of learning into focus for their students by providing them with many opportunities and various strategies for practice, learning and making meaningful connections to the new information.

Teaching Strategies that Support the “Hard Parts”

The whole point of education is to prepare people with skills and knowledge and understanding for use elsewhere, often very elsewhere (Perkins, 2009, p. 114).  Educators need to provide opportunities for students to put their newly acquired knowledge into play and effectively apply and transfer that knowledge into other areas, thus making meaningful connections to distinguish and figure out the “hard parts”.  Understanding something involves thinking and acting flexibly with what you know about it (Perkins, 2009, p. 112).  Some strategies that best support the teaching and understanding of the “hard parts” is to make the learning process engaging and meaningful to the student by allowing the learner to make connections to the information that will enable them to transfer and apply that information in other learning situations.  This can be done by providing students with useful, consistent and specific feedback related to their performance, creating active and cooperative learning activities where students can apply their knowledge in hands-on situations, and create performance tasks and assessments that will build upon prior knowledge and allow students to transfer and connect the new knowledge in a meaningful and useful context.

Resources

Here is a resourceful website on teaching strategies for motivating students from the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching:  http://www.crlt.umich.edu/tstrategies/tsms

Watch this YouTube video with David Perkins discussing what’s worth learning and how to educate for the unknown: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7UnupF-uJk

Check out this inspirational YouTube video on motivation and learning:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwX0OLrWbFg

References

Brain Injury Association, (2008). Learnet. Retrieved (Sept, 2012) from: http://www.projectlearnet.org/.

Demetriou, H., and Wilson, E. (Nov. 2008).  A return to the use of emotion and reflection.  [Article]  Teach & Learn (21)11, p. 938-940.

Perkins, D. (2009). Making learning whole: How seven principles of teaching can transform education.  San Francisco: CA: Jossey-Bass.

Wlodkowski, R. J. (1999).  Motivation and diversity: A framework for teaching.  [Article]  New Direction for Teaching and Learning (78)7.

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EDU:510 Cognitive Connections in Education

It has been a very busy and informative three weeks in EDU:510!  Units 1-3 have focused on the connections between what cognitive scientists are learning through the study of artificial intelligences and what it means for educators when developing effective instruction for students in the classroom.  Here are some of the highlights and how they apply to my educational setting…

Mental Representations such as logic, rules, concepts, and problem-solving are important ways in which the human brain uses and processes information.  Understanding these cognitive connections can help to improve student learning in the classroom.

Logic:  The ability to use reasoning to problem solve, make decisions, and reach a proper conclusion based on a set of previous experiences and knowledge.  As a first grade teacher, I try to develop and foster my student’s ability to apply logic in many different situations.  For example, this week during our shared reading lessons we were practicing the skill of predicting.  The students had to predict what the character (a mouse) would eat next for lunch based on a small piece of a picture clue and a few adjectives.  Students had to apply logic and think what would make the most sense based on the information provided in the text, the visual clue and their own background knowledge.

Rules:  A set of standards to be followed based on actions, conduct, and procedures that are used to ensure safe, consistent, and fair results.  During the first few days of school, my students and I generate a list of classroom rules to be followed for the year.  These include rules for safety, behavior and classroom procedures.  We also discuss the consequences for not following the rules and implement a tracking system.  We use a stop light (red, yellow, green) chart to monitor their progress through the day.  Students earn a sticker for their sticker chart for staying on green.  When stickers are accumulated, they can earn a small prize/reward.  Students on yellow will not earn a sticker for the day and lose time from an activity.  Students on red will lose a sticker for the day, lose time from an activity and a note will go home or a phone call will be made to their parent.

Concepts:  An abstract idea, thought, notion, or mental image used to categorize learned information.  Teaching first grade students how to read involves the students understanding and mastering many skills and concepts in order to be successful.  First, the students must understand concepts of print.  Next, students must understand letter, sound and symbol relationships.  Then, students must learn and memorize sight words.  They must also learn to apply reading strategies to decode words and read fluently.  Finally, they learn how to apply comprehension skills to make meaning of what they are reading.

Problem-solving:  Is a fundamental human cognitive process that searches for a solution to a given problem and finds the means to reach an identified goal.  Problem-solving requires the use of other cognitive processes such as analyzing, inferring, synthesizing, decision-making, searching and learning.  Problem-solving is different between children and adults due to experience, maturity, brain development and level of knowledge.

 

Artificial Intelligence in Education

Artificial intelligence systems can be used to assist me in teaching skills, planning units of study and by evaluating and monitoring student progress and tracking student data.  Implementing game-based learning activities and utilizing interactive software systems into my classroom instruction helps my students practice and reinforce learned skills and concepts.  Using web-based resources and programs helps me plan for lessons and units of study based on curriculum standards and learning objectives.  I also use assessment software that helps me evaluate, monitor, and track student data based on performance goals.  The use of this data also helps me plan for intervention strategies.

Understanding Learning Styles & Brain Process

There are many connections between learning styles and brain processes.  According to Chudler (2001), a synapse is the information that is transferred from one neuron to another.  Neurotransmitters travel to the receptors in the brain and give out numerous signals. The synapse allows learners to adapt to new situations and absorb information, which then transmits to different parts of the brain.  Learning styles are the ways in which the brain processes that information and then makes connections to or modifies the information we are receiving.

What are Learning Styles?

Active / Reflective
Sensing / Intuitive
Visual / Verbal
Sequential / Global

Understanding the various learning styles and reflecting upon my own styles of learning has a great impact on how I teach and present information and concepts to my students.  As an educator it is important to understand the different styles of learning, as all students process information differently.  Teachers must find various ways to differentiate instruction in order to meet the individual needs of their students.  Understanding the ways in which students learn can help educators identify their students learning styles and provides their students with opportunities for learning that best align with those learning styles.  As a first grade teacher, I strive to blend my instructional strategies by providing my students with multiple ways to learn skills and concepts.  I encourage my students to be active participants in the learning process, as most students at this age learn best by doing things hands on.  I present information both visually and verbally, as students typically benefit from a good mixture of both.  However, after reflecting on the learning styles inventory, I find that I focus my instruction more sequentially than globally.  I present my students first with the “big picture” and then teach the skills and concepts in sequential order, concluding with the “big picture” again (then we repeat and practice again!).  Overall, I find that my students learn and retain information best when they are provided with many opportunities for learning and solving problems by finding a good balance between utilizing whole-group, small-group, cooperative learning and independent learning activities that will allow them to explore and develop their own styles of learning.

 

Resources

Want to know more about your personal learning style?  Click here learning styles inventory  to complete the inventory at the NCSU website.

Watch a YouTube Video on differentiating instruction and multiple intelligences http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zBKAT3Ie_s&feature=relmfu

 

References

A. K. Barbey & L. W. Barsalou. (2009). Reasoning and problem solving: models. Encyclopedia of Neuroscience, (v)8, 35-43.

Thagard, P. (2010). Cognitive science. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from http://www.plato.stanford.edu/entries/cognitive-science.

E. Chudler, (2001). Neuroscience for kids: A computer in your head? Retrieved 11 September, 2012, from: http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/computer.html.

Felder, R. M., & Soloman, B. A. (2011). Resources in science and engineering education. Retrieved from http://www4.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/users/f/felder/ public/ILSdir/styles.htm.

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EDU520: Digitally Mediated Learning Activity

Introduction

Digitally-mediated teaching and learning is an ideal and fun way for educators to extend and enhance the learning that takes place within the context of a traditional formal classroom setting. Creating a learning environment that incorporates best learning practices along with age-appropriate technology integration will foster active engagement and motivation for all students within the classroom, regardless of varying learning abilities and styles. Incorporating various modes of technology into a well-developed lesson while focusing on Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences learning theory will ultimately lead to overall student success and achievement in the classroom.

Overview of Proposed Learning Activity

The proposed learning activity would be taught mostly whole group in a regular classroom of first grade students, with the average student age being six years old. Some portions of the learning activity will be completed independently by each student as the teacher observes and monitors student progress and checks for understanding of the lessons objectives. The digitally mediated learning activity will first integrate the student’s use of an interactive reading and phonics based website for primary-aged students, starfall.com, and then transition to an extensional follow-up review lesson utilizing a SMART Board to interact with a teacher created PowerPoint lesson infused with TurningPoint Technologies software.

During the first part of the learning activity, the students will use the internet to access the literacy website, starfall.com in the school’s computer lab. The students will be directed by the teacher and follow oral directions on how to naviagate through the site to locate the story that they will read. The students will then be directed to independently read the interactive online story that was chosen by the teacher for this learning activity. The teacher will monitor and observe student reading during this time and will assist and prompt students as necessary if they need assistance. After each student completes the online reading activity, they will be directed to participate in a game-based learning activity on the website that will review key vocabulary and phonics skills related to the online story.

Next, an extensional follow-up review lesson will take place back in the regular classroom and will be completed whole group. This portion of the digitally mediated learning activity would use the SMART Board along with an interactive PowerPoint lesson, created by the teacher, utilizing TurningPoint Technologies software and student response systems to review and assess the students’ overall comprehension skills of the online story previously read on the literacy website, starfall.com. Each student will use the TurningPoint response clicker to select their answer to various comprehension questions related to the online story. Questions and choices of possible answers will be read from the animated, child-friendly PowerPoint slides that will be displayed on the SMART Board. Once each question and possible answers are read by the class, students will be prompted by the teacher to select their answer and will be given a short period of time to complete this task. An animated countdown will be displayed on each slide for students to see. After each student has selected their answer and time is up, the correct answer will be revealed on the screen and then discussed by the group. This ensures that the students will receive immediate feedback about their answer choice that either reinforces or corrects their initial response to the question. The teacher will use the data gathered from each student’s responses from this portion of the learning activity to reinforce and re-teach any skills and concepts that were not mastered by a student at a later time in a small group or one-on-one setting as needed.

This interactive reading comprehension, vocabulary, and phonics lesson would include several pertinant learning outcomes that are age-appropriate and relavant to key learning objectives, which are aligned with district and state Language Arts and Technology standards within the context of a curriculum for first grade students. These important learning outcomes will include: (1) the student’s application of previously learned reading strategies, decoding, and fluency skills while reading the online story; (2) identifying specific sounds, word patterns, and sight-word vocabulary through an online game-based learning activity related to the story; and (3) answering comprehesion based questions related to the online story to determine and assess the students’s understanding and recognition of main ideas, story concepts, and pertinate details.

Although this digitally mediated learning activity focuses mainly on formal learning objectives, it can also extend itself and lead to various informal learning opportunities because the students will be able to access the interactive literacy website, starfall.com outside of the formal school setting. Informal learning is the unstructured, spontaneous learning that can take place anywhere, at any time. It is non-sequential learning that is not evaluated and is most commonly associated with intrinsic motivation (Eshasch, 2007). The learner is responsible for any informal learning that occurs because individuals have certain interest, and therefore seek to acquire additional knowledge about the things that are of interest to them. Most (if not all) students will find the literacy website, starfall.com to be a fun and engaging way to practice important reading comprehension and literacy skills outside of the formal setting of school and may seek to read the many other online stories and play the related educational games based on their own individual interests.

Evaluation and Assessment 

Throughout the various parts of the lesson, the teacher will use a combination of formative and performance-based assessments as a means to evaluate, assess and increase student learning. The purpose of formative assessment should be to increase student learning and works best when it is treated as an assessment for learning, not as an assessment of learning (Frey, B. B., & Schmitt, V. L. (2007, p. 14). Formative assessment may be used solely to inform the teacher, or it may be used as a powerful means of providing feedback to students, allowing students to alter their strategies to improve learning (Frey, B. B., & Schmitt, V. L., 2007, p. 2). Any assessment that asks the student to demonstrate a skill or produce a product is a performance assessment (Frey, B. B., & Schmitt, V. L., 2007, p. 15). Performance-based assessment is now the commonplace in many classrooms as more teachers become more concerned about the authenticity of their assessments and how assessment information can be used as formative feedback to improve teaching and learning (Frey, B. B., & Schmitt, V. L., 2007, p. 1). While the students are completeing the independent reading portion of the lesson, which is a performance assessent in the skill of reading, the teacher will also use the formative assessment tool of observation. Observations assist teachers in gathering evidence of student learning to inform instructional planning (Garrison, C., & Ehringhaus, M., 2007). The teacher will observe and record student reading behaviors during this time, taking informal notes about reading and decoding strategies being applied, student strengths and areas for improvement. This evidence can be recorded and used as feedback for students about their learning or as anecdotal data shared with them during conferences (Garrison, C., & Ehringhaus, M., 2007).

As the students move on to complete the game-based learning activity and then the comprehension portion of the lesson on the SMARTBoard utilizing TurningPoint Technologies student response clickers, the teacher will continue to observe student performance and take notes as needed. In addition to the formative assessment of observation, these two activities will also serve as performance-based assessments because it will measure the student’s ability to apply phonics, vocabulary, reading comprehension and retelling skills to solve problems. Formative assessment helps teachers determine next steps during the learning process as the instruction approaches the summative assessment of student learning (Garrison, C., & Ehringhaus, M. (2007).

References

Eshach, H. (2007). Bridging in-school and out-of-school learning: Formal, non-formal, and informal education. Journal of Science Education& Technology, 16(2), 171-190.

Frey, B. B., & Schmitt, V. L. (2007). Coming to terms with classroom assessment. Journal of Advanced Academics, 18, 402-423.

Garrison, C., & Ehringhaus, M. (2007). Formative and Summative Assessments in the Classroom. Association for Middle Level Education. Retrieved from: http://www.amle.org/Publications/WebExclusive/Assessment/tabid/1120/Default.aspx.

 

Links to Resources:

Starfall.com educational website: http://www.starfall.com

SMARTBoard information: http://smarttech.com/smartboard

Create your own rubric for assessment: http://www.rubrics4teachers.com/

TurningPoint Technologies website: http://www.turningtechnologies.com/studentresponsesystem/

 

YouTube Videos on Turning Point and response clickers:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J4J08E6Vz_g (Overview of creating an interactive PP using TuringPoint Technologies)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1J_vQ_4zh2A (Middle school classroom using clickers)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YiNtQRCGfJc (Second graders using clickers)

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Pros & Cons of Open Education

Technological advancements and the internet have definitely changed the way we communicate and connect with others worldwide.  We now live in a much more connected world, with the ability to digitally share and retrieve information almost instantaneously, in many different formats.

Open Education has many promising and exciting aspects which have the potential to change the future of education.  The Open Education movement seeks to improve educational access and quality by enabling educators to develop, use, re-use and share digital learning resources (Saulnier, 2011).  The Open Education takes the inspiration of the open source software movement, mixes in the powerful communication abilities of the Internet and the World Wide Web, and applies the result to teaching and learning materials like course notes, curricula, and textbooks (Baraniuk, 2006).  This growing movement can allow educators and students to create learning communities that are free and open to anyone who has an interest in learning about the content that is made available in this open format.  Open access is one of the key ingredients now helping all people to learn (Bonk, 2009, p.181).  Open Education provides educators, students and anyone who has a passion for learning the opportunity to access free, high-quality materials and resources from a variety of sources.

There are also some challenges to Open Education.  One issue that the Open Education movement faces is the issue of quality control.  The educational content that is used in an open format needs to be accurate, relevant and reliable, ensuring that high-quality materials and resources are easily accessible to the learner.  Due to the sheer volume of the Open Education universe, Open Education resources exist in various stages of development, and hence, at various quality levels (Baraniuk, 2006).  This requires both a means to evaluate and credential Open Education resources and a means to direct users to those deemed of high quality (Baraniuk, 2006).

Question: Are you “open” to Open Education?  Why or why not?

Here are some useful links about Open Education:

http://www.openeducationweek.org/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xGRztrWv-k&feature=related

References

Bonk, C. J. (2009). The world is open: How web technology is revolutionizing education. (1st ed.). Jossey-Bass.

Baraniuk, R.G. (2006). The Open Education Movement is Gaining Speed, but Potential Roadblocks Lie Ahead. Campus Technology. Retrieved (9 August, 2012) from http://campustechnology.com/articles/2006/05/the-open-education-movement-is-gaining-speed-but-potential-roadblocks-lie-ahead.aspx.

Saulnier, D. (March, 2011). Retrieved (9 August, 2012) from http://saulnier.typepad.com/learning_technology/2011/03/open-education.html

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Advantages of Face-to-Face, Online & Hybrid Learning Environments

There are three primary types of learning environments.  These include the traditional face-to-face classrooms, web-based online classrooms, and web-enhanced hybrid classrooms.  Each type of learning environment has both positive and negative attributes along with various teaching and learning strategies that can enhance the experience for the learner.

In the traditional face-to-face classroom setting that students are most accustomed to, all learning activities, except for homework, takes place in the classroom.  The traditional face-to-face learning environment ensures that instructors and learners engage in multiple forms of support and communication occurs over a fixed period of time (Crawford, Smith & Smith, 2008, p.136).  In this setting, students learn by actively participating not only with their instructor but with their fellow students. They ask questions, they join in discussions, and they move the process of learning forward in unpredictable directions through their inquiry and participation.  Instructors and students have the opportunity to build strong working relationships in this setting; with the instructor really getting to observe first hand each individual student’s learning styles, abilities and needs.  Instructors can then facilitate learning to each student through a variety of teaching methodologies that is most appropriate for the learner.Some examples of instructional approaches that I like to implement in my first grade classroom are cooperative and collaborative learning activities in which students work together in small, flexible groups to accomplish a common learning goal facilitated by the teacher.  I also encourage my students to become active learners in the classroom by creating age-appropriate learning activities that promote meaningful hands-on learning experiences.  Research shows that active learning improves students’ understanding and retention of information and can be very effective in developing higher order cognitive skills such as problem solving and critical thinking (MERLOT, 2012).

In web-based online learning environments, all course materials and communications are provided online through the use of Learning Management Software.  There is a lot more freedom and less structure with online learning environments.  Learners can participate and engage in learning at their convenience, as there is no set time that learning takes place.  Online teaching uses different ways of learning… through online instruction, a student can learn by reading text, listening to audio, observing either still or animated images, watching video, interacting with a virtual environment, or communicating via electronic mail (Bates & Watson, 2008, p.39).  Some examples of teaching techniques that would work best in the online learning environment would be the inquiry method of instruction and learning communities.  With the inquiry method of instruction, students arrive at an understanding of concepts by themselves and the responsibility for learning rests with them. This method encourages students to build research skills that can be used throughout their educational experiences (MERLOT, 2008).  Communities bring people together for shared learning, discovery, and the generation of knowledge. Within a learning community, all participants take responsibility for achieving the learning goals. Most important, learning communities are the process by which individuals come together to achieve learning goals (MERLOT, 2008).  The examples outlined above are some of learning methods we are currently using in our own online learning environment at Post.

A “best of both worlds” learning environment model is the web-enhanced, or hybrid learning environment, in which the predominately face-to-face model connects the learners in a cooperative, interactive environment that offers online interactive activities (Crawford, Smith & Smith, 2008, p.136). Learning in a hybrid environment allows students to have some self-directed learning from online participation and activities, while at the same time, students also benefit from the face-to-face interactions with their peers and contact with their instructor in a traditional classroom setting. The instructor must find a balance between utilizing the classroom time for only lectures and the online time for only tests and quizzes (Bates & Watson, 2008). Some examples of teaching techniques that would benefit the learner in a hybrid classroom would be implementing games, experiments and simulations, and developing discussion strategies. Providing learning activities such as educational games, and simulations online can be a rich learning experience for students. Games and simulations enable students to solve real-world problems in a safe environment and enjoy themselves while doing so (MERLOT, 2008). In addition to online games and simulations, actively engaging students in meaningful discussion both online and in the classroom deepens their learning and motivation by propelling them to develop their own views and hear their own voices (MERLOT, 2008). 

This weeks readings about the three primary types of learning environments are important to my digitally mediated learning activity because it helped me to differentiate between them and more fully understand how these learning environments benefit student learning, motivation and engagement.  In my learning activity I will be using the hybrid model to incorporate various elements of phonics, reading and comprehension skills through the use of a seveleal technologies.  These technologies include a game-based learning activity from an interactive educational literacy website and then transitioning to a follow-up extension lesson on the Smartboard utilizing Turningpoint Technologies student response systems.

Questions: Which learning environment is most appropriate for primary aged students?  How young is too young for online learning?

Resources

Check out this YouTube video on integrating blended (or hybrid) learning into an elementary special ed classroom: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ppDhtv1zIFU

Check out this website about Hybrid Learning:    http://getquest.cns.utexas.edu/about-hybrid-learning

References

Bates, C., & Watson, M. (2008). Re-learning teaching techniques to be effective in hybrid and online courses. Journal of American Academy of Business, Cambridge, 13(1), 38-44.

Crawford, C. M., Smith, R. A., & Smith, M. S. (2008). Course student satisfaction results: Differentiation between face-to-face, hybrid, and online learning environments. [Article]. CEDER Yearbook, 135-149. Course Student Satisfaction Results_Differentiation Between Face-to-Face, Hybrid, and Online Learning Environments.pdf

MERLOT. (2012). Teachingstrategies. Retrieved from: http://pedagogy.merlot.org/TeachingStrategies.html

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Learning Communities: What are CoPs & PLCs?

A CoP, or Community of Practice is a group of people who “share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly” (Wegner, 2006).  Wegner (2006), also states, “Communities of practice are formed by people who engage in a process of collective learning in a shared domain of human endeavor.”  A CoP is a term usually associated with the business world, however, communities of practice within an educational organization allows teachers, administrators, specialists and support staff to effectively work together to achieve common goals.Picture of collaborative learning found on yahoo images site.

A PLC, or Professional Learning Community, fosters collaborative learning among a group of educators.  According to Adams (2009), PLCs can help you be a better teacher while saving you precious planning time, thanks to the power of collaboration.  The PLC is typically made up of a small group of teachers, usually by common grade level or subject, who meet regularly during a common planning time to discuss lessons and learning objectives, assessments and outcomes, interventions and support strategies.  At my school, we participate in PLC groups by grade level every ten days.  It is a great way for all us to brainstorm, collaborate and discuss any issues we may have.  It is a process that really builds communication and cohesiveness within our grade level.  We are all professionals, dedicated to our students and the teaching profession who share ideas and learn from each other’s experiences.  When everyone is on the same page and working together towards the same goal, it is beneficial to the students’ overall progress.  As a team begins to refine what it does, teamwork kicks in and you become specialists, essentially dividing the work of problem solving, (Adams, 2009).

Technology can have a positive impact on CoPs and PLCs.  People within the groups can meet and collaborate virtually with others who work in different schools, districts, states or even countries.  It opens up the lines of communication to a greater audience.  Group members can also use technology as a source to gather information and ideas when planning and strategizing.  While technology for the most part can enhance CoPs and PLCs, there are also ways in which it can possibly detract from the overall purpose.  Groups are meant to be small and informal where each member can contribute and share ideas.  If groups are collaborating virtually with others, the group can then become too large and may begin to lose sight of its original focus and purpose.

Question: How do you incorporate technology into your PLC meetings (if at all)?

Check out this informative website about PLCs at http://www.allthingsplc.info/

For my digitally-mediated learning activity, I plan on incorporating game-based learning through the use of SMARTboard technology in my first grade classroom.  I believe that game-based learning is an ideal and fun way for educators to extend the learning that takes place within the classroom.  I use a variety of interactive on-line learning websites to help my students reinforce essential math, reading and phonics skills.

References

Adams, C. (2009).  The power of collaboration. Instructor, 119(1), 28-31. Retrieved from: http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=44074095&site=ehost-live

Wenger, E. (2006, June).  Communities of practice. Retrieved from http://www.ewenger.com/theory

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