Thursday, May 28, 2009

Constructing Knowledge with Technology

Constructionist learning theory is the belief that people contstruct their own knowledge by building artifacts. In a constructionist classroom, the teacher is a facilitator and motivator of learning by providing students with options to choose topics of interest to them, to work collaboratively, to construct authentic artifacts and to provide opportunity for rich feedback. Educators have long understood the value of hands-on learning experiences. Technological applications can provide students the opportunity to explore and discover while making connections and creating their own artifacts.

When teaching my third grade students about various graphs, I usually have them learn by constructing their own graph. So I thought, why not add some excitement to the project by using real life technology? First, I give each student a box of Valentine hearts candy. Students are asked to hypothesize how many hearts there are of each color. Once a hypothesis is made, students open their boxes to reveal if their hypothesis was correct. Students then create a spreadsheet document using Excel and enter their data. Students can then quickly convert their data to a variety of graphs, and see the results instantly. They can determine how accurate their hypothesis was. When given engaging, real world experiences, students increase their problem-solving ability, improve their research skills, and work collaboratively as they apply skills and knowledge (Orey, 2001). As sixth-grade teacher, Lynda Donovan (Laureate, 2009) said, “The future is technology. Our job is to prepare them for jobs that haven’t even been developed yet.”

Web resources, interactive gaming and simulations can be “incredibly engaging learning environments, resulting in increased motivation and retention of learning” (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007, p.213). Students have more of a vested interest when they build projects that suit their own interest and abilities. A perfect example of the excitement generated while creating projects with technology, is the class wiki my third grade students are designing. In the initial stages of creating the wiki, students are working in cooperate teams to design and create a page for our wiki. Students are learning how to add text, graphics and edit. They are also experimenting with the wiki at home. They come into class asking if they can add their own page to the wiki.

Check our wiki out at


Laureate Education, Inc. (2009). Constructionist & Constructivist Learning theories. Baltimore, MD: Laureate Ed., Inc.

Orey, M.(Ed.). (2001). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.



Thursday, May 21, 2009

Using Cognitive Tools to Enhance Learning

Cognitive learning theories explain how all incoming information is organized and processed in short-term memory by connections with knowledge in long-term memory. Elaboration and rehearsal facilitates the learner’s ability to move new information from short-term memory to long-term memory in the brain. Elaboration is the "primary mechanism for storing information in long-term memory and it builds numerous connections to stored information" (Laureate Education, 2009). Cognitive tools that emphasize relating new knowledge to the learner’s existing knowledge can foster meaningful learning.

For material to be learned, it must be conceptually clear and presented with language and images relatable to the learner’s background knowledge. An example of cognitive tools enhancing learning is using technology to turn note taking into a true learning experiences. The problem with note taking is that few students are skillful at taking good notes. My eighth grade daughter is a perfect example. She was completely overwhelmed in her U.S. History class when she was told to simply take notes on the important ideas. She was so busy writing notes on everything, that she wasn’t really learning anything. She had a schedule change in the second semester, which resulted in a different teacher for history. Now she is provided with advance graphic organizers for note taking. She prefers using advance graphic organizers to taking notes in her spiral or Cornell Notes, because the graphic organizer provides cues and essential questions. She explains how these cues and essential questions make it clear exactly what she needs to know. Word processing applications, organizing and brain storming software, multimedia, Web resources, and communication software can be very effective tools in helping students classify, organize, and understand new content by scaffolding the summarizing and note-taking process. Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski (2007), state, “the instructional strategy cues, questions, and advance organizers focuses on enhancing students’ ability to retrieve, use, and organize information about a topic,” (p.73).

“Cognitive tools impact student learning by causing them to think about information instead of reproducing and/or recalling information. Information is shifted through and evaluated for its’ validity, reliability, and applicability to research and problem solving activities” (Orey, D. M., 2001).


Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2009). Program five. Cognitive Learning Tools. [Motion picture]. Bridging learning theory, instruction, and technology. Baltimore: Author.

Orey, D. M. (2001). Emerging Perspectives on Learning, Teaching and Technology. Retrieved May 5, 2009, from Multiple Intelligences and Learning Styles:

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E. R., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using Technology with Classroom Instruction That Works. Denver: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL).

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Behaviorist Learning Theory and Technology

The behaviorist learning theory holds that learner behavior is based on prior conditioning and associations with stimuli. Dr. Orey (2001) offers the following, “Students work for things that bring them positive feelings, and approval from people they admire” (p.3). The single most important attribute or behavior for student success is effort. “The instructional strategy of reinforcing effort enhances students’ understanding of the relationship between effort and achievement” (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, p.155). The authors recommend specific instructional strategies for explicitly teaching the importance of effort. Technology makes it easy for students to grasp the impact their effort has on their achievement. First students use an effort rubric to assess themselves honestly on their study habits. Using Microsoft Excel, students record their effort rubric scores and their grades in a spreadsheet. At the end of the unit of study, students select a chart to create a visual image of the correlation between their effort and achievement. After analyzing their chart, students can develop goals to improve in certain areas of the effort rubric. According to the behaviorist learning theory, instructional strategies that reinforce positive behaviors will lead toward positive behavior habits.

Teachers assign homework to increase students’ expose and practice with concepts to further deepen their understanding of the content and to gain proficiency with their skills. Technology provides a wealth of resources for enriching student learning outside of the classroom. When students are given the opportunity to design and create a project-based homework assignment using a word processing program it reinforces a desired response. When students use a word processing program like Microsoft Word, they can utilize the research tools within the program to enhance their work. Using the thesaurus, dictionary, Encarta Encyclopedia, and eLibrary can facilitate immediate, positive feedback on their projects. Students can also use the Flesch-Kincaid grade-level rating along with the AutoSummarize to evaluate the sound writing skills and sophistication of their work. Web resources give students the opportunity to increase their conceptual understanding and practice skills toward mastery. Online games are motivating, fun and generate immediate feedback to reinforce positive behaviors. Technology has far reaching implications for student success both in and out of the classroom. Technology supports the behaviorists learning theory as it provides positive reinforcement for maximum learning experiences.


Orey, M.(Ed.). (2001). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Understanding the Impact of Technology on Education: A New Mind Set

Reflections on Insights Gained From the First Of Six Technology Courses in the Master of Science Education - Integrating Technology in the Classroom at Walden University.
Through this course, I was invited to take part in the technological revolution by examining 21st century media tools and their implications for inspiring and challenging today’s students. I gained first hand knowledge of the powerful learning opportunities afforded by technology by exploring the use of podcasts, blogs, and wikis in the classroom. I have to admit that before this course, I had no prior experience with Web 2.0 tools. Although there were times when I was frustrated, for the most part, I found the process of creating with digital media very challenging and exciting. I expanded my own technological knowledge and abilities by creating a blog, podcast and collaborative wiki. These experiences and insights have given me the confidence to effectively integrate this new technology into my own classroom. Although I still have a great deal to learn about the Internet based world, I am ready to shift the focus in my classroom to student centered learning. During our learning journey, if we come across something I don’t know, I am confident that my students and I have the problem solving skills to discover the answer together.During this course I learned that children growing up in a media rich environment have a different way of learning. Teaching methodologies must focus on creating an environment that facilitates students’ capacity to learn things in different ways. Effective teachers provide rich learning experiences that require students to develop expert thinking and complex communication skills. They develop activities that incorporate 21century skills such as collaborative creative thinking and problem solving, technology and media tools into the curriculum. Students are provided opportunities to communicate, create, collaborate, and interface with the technology environment they are going to need for the rest of their lives.I have always incorporated a knowledge-centered approach to teaching in my classroom. I see myself as a facilitator of guided discovery. Students are guided in analyzing information, comprehending new ideas, communicating, making decisions, and thinking critically. Students are given a variety of resources and instruction on how to use those resources to make their own discoveries. Working in flexible cooperative learning groups and with partners is the norm in my class. I now realize that in order to create a learner-centered classroom it is not necessary to teach new subjects, but instead teach the subjects currently in the curriculum in a relevant and exciting way. By integrating digital media into the curriculum, I can provide opportunities for students to create their own authentic learning experiences. Students will develop learning skills and content knowledge by interacting and collaborating with others to design and publish their learning in wikis, blogs and podcasts.I have made a commitment to bring 21st century learning and technology skills to my classroom by continuing in the Master of
 Science Education - Integrating Technology in the Classroom. I also plan to continue my involvement with several educational websites such as The Partnership for 21st Century Skills. During this course, I have also subscribed to a variety of educational blogs that have served as an invaluable source of information and support. What I am most excited about and looking forward to is the collaboration with our technology teacher to start infusing Web 2.0 tools into the curriculum to intellectually engage and foster the love of learning within every student.My first goal is to transform my classroom into a 21st century learning environment by making content relevant to students’ lives and create opportunities for students to interact with each other using Web 2.0 tools. Students would develop informational wikis in social studies and science content areas. Students would become the teachers, as they talk about what they have researched and what they’ve learned, using new vocabulary in authentic contexts. Students would have the ability to work on their wiki outside of class as well. I would also like to develop a class blog as a forum for my students to contribute their thoughts and ideas in a discussion format. My second goal for transforming my classroom is to purchase a lap top cart. I would accomplish this through a combination of fundraising and grant writing efforts to obtain the funding.Although I have always been a teacher leader in acquiring computer hardware and software and technical support at my school, I now realize that this is only one factor to integrating technology into instruction. This course has provided me the skills, knowledge and motivation to become a teacher leader for integrating learning skills, 21st century tools, and core subjects to create a vibrant education for students (Partnership for 21st Century Skills).ReferencePartnership for 21st Century Skills.  A report and mile guide for 21st century skills