Thursday, April 14, 2011

Technology: A Learning Tool

     Reflecting on my learning experience from Education 6711, I recognize the importance of having a deep understanding of the learning process.  Our studies encompassed not only the “how” learning takes place but what teaching strategies and technology tools help to ensure student success.  At the onset of this class, I described my personal learning theory as closely aligned with the constructivists’ beliefs.  What I did not understand is how all of the theories are intertwined and must be considered concurrently to create the best learning environment to meet the diverse learning styles and preferences of today’s classrooms.  A common thread that links the behaviorist, cognitivits, constructivisits, and social learning theories, is that when students are actively engaged in meaningful learning they think deeply about it (Laureate Education Inc., 2010c).  Toward this goal, I will select from the nine learning strategies to support the instructional objective and carefully integrate selected technology tools to create a rich and engaging learning environment.   When students use technology as a learning tool, learning preferences and styles are addressed through visual, auditory and kinesthetic senses. (Laureate Education Inc., 2010a).  Furthermore, technology tools, used correctly, change the classroom landscape to student centered where they feel empowered to take control of their learning (Pitler et al., 2007).  Additionally, technology can play a significant role in facilitating cooperative learning.   Students, experts and community leaders can participate collaboratively in building on their present knowledge through their group interactions, conversations and research. 
     To improve my pedagogy I must design lessons that are more personalized, hands-on, and creative (Han, S., & Bhattacharya, K., 2010).  Additionally, I need to implement cooperative learning activities on a regular basis to prepare my students for the 21st century workplace. Technology can play a significant part in my endeavor to improve my teaching practices.  I have already begun using concept maps and blogs in my classroom to enhance organizational skills and students’ writing.  Students delight in the ability to construct an artifact for the world to see and comment on.  I look forward to introducing a multitude of technology tools as my proficiency in integrating them improves.  Prior to this course I considered myself computer literate; able to construct e-mails, write reports, and post pictures. Little did I know how limited my skills were.  My new understanding of the power of technology and its universal appeal will be invaluable in trying to meet my students’ needs.   Technology tools that actively engage students, stimulate conversations and collaboration, and require feedback provide a wider variety of avenues within which students of different readiness levels and interests can learn (Pitler et al.).  I intend to use them extensively to enhance my students learning experiences. 
     My two long term goals for technology integration are the following:
·         Utilize technology to enhance grade level vocabulary development
·         Develop cooperative learning activities around grade level standards using technology
     My plan for implementing goal one, is rather than have students draw pictures of target vocabulary words found in their text, I will invite them to use Microsoft Word, Glogster, Kidspiration, and students’ choice of visual images available from the interne, to present nonlinguistic representations of unfamiliar vocabulary.  Students will work in pairs or cooperative learning groups with explicit directions in the beginning. As they acquire proficiency skills, they will be invited to cooperatively create different ways to represent word meanings using technology.  Synonyms, antonyms, analogies, and word parts will be addressed (Laureate Education Inc., 2010a)/
     I look forward to using the strategy of cooperative learning as a necessary tool from my newly acquired tool kit of instructional strategies.  The integration of technology will allow learning to occur anytime and anywhere and facilitate the growth of lifelong learners (Pitler et al., 2007).  At the outset of this undertaking, students will focus on learning how to collaborate successfully to complete a group project.  Next, grade level content projects will be assigned as students take control and I step back in the role as facilitator.  As students become proficient at working collaboratively on wikis, concept maps, and voice threads, they will soon be offered choices to determine how they will present a given assignment.
Although I realize that my goals to integrate technology into instruction will be a challenge for both my students and I, their energy and enthusiasm for learning in this way cannot be understated.  Using explicit modeled guidance in the beginning, teaching the steps, and providing independent practice, my students will become active participants in their own learning (Laureate Education, Inc. 2010a).

Han, S., & Bhattacharya, K. (2010). Emerging perspectives on learning,     teaching, and technology.  Retrieved     20Perspes%20on%20Learning,%20Teaching,%20and%20Technology.pdf
Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2010a). Program eleven. Instructional strategies, Part one [Webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Baltimore, MD: Author.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2010b). Program five. Cognitive learning theory [Webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Baltimore, MD: Author.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2010c). Program seven. Constructionist and constructivist learning theories [Webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Baltimore, MD: Author.
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.