Reading through the text and articles for this module has certainly opened my eyes, though I have felt a bit overwhelmed with trying to make sense of the practical application of various theories. The hardest part of the learning theories paper was its length–or lack of it. I found it incredibly difficult to read that amount of dense material, find a common theory to focus on, and synthesize it into one page. I certainly see the value of such an assignment, painful as it was, because it ensured that I 1) read the material, 2) made sense of it, and 3) morphed it into an academic synthesis paper. I’m not certain how well I succeeded but the effort alone was a good experience.
The hardest part of studying theory, for me, is actually applying it to everyday life. When I was a young piano student, I had one teacher who spent a significant amount of time on musical theory. At the time I hated it because all I really wanted to do was play the notes. However, over time I grew to realize that the theory I had learned made me a much better player than I would have otherwise been. This same idea applies in the classroom.
I just attended my 6th-grader’s Back to School Open House. I listened to all seven of his teachers express their teaching philosophy (which I now know to call their epistemological beliefs) and how they would strive to help my son learn throughout the year. What has yet to be told, however, is how well they will align their beliefs with day to day classroom instruction.
After reading more about constructivism, particularly social constructivism, I realized my own beliefs closely align with its principles. I certainly believe that we all “build personal interpretations of the world based on individual experiences and interactions” and that learning should occur in realistic settings with tasks that are relevant to the learner’s lived experience (Ertmer & Newby, 1993, p. 63). I am not a classroom teacher, but I do have the opportunity to visit K-5 grades for technology integration activities that I design. In alignment with NETS standards, I have flexibility in what I choose to focus on. My goal is to make technology use as seamless as possible, to blend it with other experiences the students are having and make it relevant to their own lives.
This week they did word clouds. We started with spelling words, then science vocabulary they had been learning, then they created their own. Some chose to focus on family or friends, while some highlighted favorite games or sports. While I have had to lay some groundwork for these young students who are fairly new to using the laptop carts, I will give less instruction and allow them more freedom to problem solve. They are so quick to raise their hand if any little thing goes wrong, and I want them to try first to solve the problem before asking for help. I’m excited to bring in some more collaborative work and limited social media, even with the lower grades. I read an article recently on Edutopia that said, “The evolving world of Internet communication — blogs, podcasts, tags, file swapping — offers students radically new ways to research, create, and learn. But, too often, schools use computers as little more than glorified workbooks, and that’s criminal” (Smith, 2007).
There is such potential to allow students to construct their own knowledge, give them room to experiment, learn deeply, and share. The trick is applying the theory to practical daily application, and that’s where teachers need all the support they can get. I consider one of my most important jobs this year as technology integration coordinator is to help empower teachers with the resources they need to reach their students.
Ertmer, P.A., & Newby, T.J. (1993). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4), 50-72.
Smith, F. (2007). How to use social-networking technology for learning. Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/how-use-social-networking-technology