Thursday, 29 March 2012

Connectivism and Social Learning in Practice

This week, I got the opportunity to explored one of my favorite instructional strategies, Cooperative learning.  I also got the chance to investigate the technology that is embedded in cooperative learning.  Cooperative learning as defined in, Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works provides students with opportunities to interact with each other in groups in ways that enhance their learning (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007, p. 9).  This instructional strategy aligns directly with the learning theory we studied this week, Social learning theory, which includes social constructivism, and connectivism.

Dr. Orey, states that if students are actively engaged in constructing an artifact while conversing with colleagues, then they are learning, and social learning theory is in taking place (Laureate Education, Inc. 2011a). Culture and context plays an important role in constructing knowledge and understanding of the world around us (Laureate Education, Inc. 2011a) thus leading to social constructivism.  Connectivism, according to Siemens, is the act of constructing knowledge, making sense of the world (Laureate Education, Inc. 2011b).  From these learning theories stem collaboration and cooperative learning, a must when initiating social learning theories.  When students work together in collaborative or cooperative groups they are assisting each other in developing understanding of the content.

With cooperative learning, the authors suggest five components for establishing assignments: 1) Positive interdependence, 2) face-to-face, promotive interaction, 3) individual and group accountability, 4) interpersonal and small-group skills, and 5) group processing (Pitler, et. al. 2007, p. 140).  With social learning theories, students are required to “construct” something, hence the need for technology, what better way for students to showcase their learning than with the use of technology.  As stated in Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, technology plays a vital role in cooperative learning by facilitating group collaboration, provides structure for group task, and allows for members of groups to communicate even if they are not face to face (Pitler et. al., 2007, p. 140).  

The technology that is embedded in cooperative learning is multimedia, Web resources, and communication software.   Multimedia can stem anywhere from PowerPoint, prezi, movie maker, publisher and voicethread.  This year our school participated in a book study, the book we read was The Art and Science of Teaching, by Marzano, each department choose a topic and presented to our faculty during our faculty meeting.  My department, choose to construct a multimedia project to present our understanding of the chapter.  Each person was given a section of the chapter they had to read and summarize, we would meet weekly to discuss our findings and work on our product, take a look at our prezi . With these activities teachers must ensure that students are provided with a rubric that outlines what is expected and how they will be evaluated, since this will be the driving force for these assignments. Web resources can include blogs, Wikis, prezi, websites, Google, edmodo and blackboard.  Last semester I was given the privilege to work collaboratively with the member of my PLC and construct a Wiki, I enjoyed every moment of this activity, since we worked together to produce a product even though we were miles away from each other, see our final product here. I incorporated edmodo into my reading class last school year; I realized that my students liked working on edmodo much more than working in our text.  With that in mind I would post assignments on line, and have the students respond during class using their phones or tablets.   Communication tools can also include blogs, wikis, edmodo, facebook, twitter, text message, Skype, instant messenger, and email.  At the middle school level, I had email accounts for all my students, and with this students were able to email assignments, questions, and suggestions for class.  Now that I am at the high school level, can use text messages, instant messenger and blogs to communicate with my students and parents.   There is no question as to whether cooperative learning and social learning theories goes hand-in-hand.  Cooperative learning strategies positively correlates with social learning theory, as they both require students to work together and create a product.


Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011a). Program eight: Social learning theories [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011b) Program nine: Connectivism as a learning theory [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from

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

This week I was introduced to Voicethreads, and as an assignment I had to make a voicethread to share with my colleagues. I tried my best, I hope you get an idea of what voicethreads are and how you might be able to use them in your classes.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Constructivism in Practice

This week I explored the following instructional strategy which embeds technology: “Generating and Testing Hypotheses,” I found this strategy to be rather informative, since I never looked at this strategy as one that I could implement in my classroom.  So what is generating and testing hypotheses?  This is a strategy that enhances student’s understanding of and ability to use knowledge by engaging them in mental processes that involve making and testing hypotheses (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007, p. 9).  According to the authors, when we allow students to test and generate hypotheses, we are allowing them to engage in complex mental process, applying content knowledge, and enhancing their overall understanding of the content (Pitler, et. al., 2007, P. 202).   To implement this instructional strategy, we should ensure that students can explain their hypotheses and conclusion, and we must use a variety of structured task to guide students through generating and testing hypothesis (Pitler, 2007, p. 203).  We were introduced to six tasks which we can use to aid students in generating and testing hypotheses, they are as follows: system analysis, problem solving, historical investigation, invention, experimental inquiry, and decision making (Pitler, et. al., 2007, p. 203)

So you’re asking, how is generating and testing hypothesis related to constructionist learning theories?  Well first we must familiarize ourselves with the constructionist learning theory. The constructionist learning theories states that people learn best when they build an external artifact or something they can share with others (Laureate Education, Inc. 2011).  Both constructionist learning theory and generating and testing hypothesis learning strategy, requires students to construct a product, using some form of technology such as; spreadsheet software, data collection tools, or Web resources, and then present or share them with their peers.  This will also incorporate Project-based learning, Learning-By-Design, and Problem-based-inquiry. 

Project-based Learning is a comprehensive instructional approach that engages learners in sustained, cooperative investigation (Hans & Bhattacharya, 2001).
Learning-By-Design emphasizes the value of learning through creating, programming, or participating in other forms of designing (Hans & Bhattacharya, 2001),
Problem-based inquiry emphasizes learning as a process that involves problem solving and critical thinking in situation context (Gazer, 2001)

With these instructional strategies, we are moving our classrooms from teacher-centered to student-centered; we are now facilitators, and our students are now investigators.
For more information on constructionist click here

Glazer, E.  (2001). Problem Based Instruction. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging Prespectives on learning , teaching, and technology,  Retrieved 3/14/2012, from Retrieved from “”
Han, S. and Bhattacharya, K. (2001). Constructionism, Learning by Design, and Project Based Learning. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved 3/14/2012, from Constructionism,_Learning_by_Design,_and_Project_Based_Learning
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program seven: Constructionist and constructivist learning theories [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007).   Using technology with classroom instruction that work. Alexandria, VA. ASCD

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Tools for Cognitive Learning Theory: “Cues, Questions, and Advanced Organizers” and “Summarizing and Note taking”

This week we learning resources focused on cognitive learning theories and the learning strategies that would go hand-in-hand with cognitivism.   What is cognitive learning theory?  Cognitive learning theory focus on learning as a mental operation that takes place when information enters through the senses, undergoes mental manipulation, is stored, and is finally used (Lever-Duffy & McDonald, 2008, p. 16).  Cognitive learning theory includes; i) limited short term/working memory, ii) elaboration, iii) dual coding hypothesis, and iv) episodic expressions (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011).    Cognitive learning theory gives students powerful tools that they can use to help process information that they don’t usually use (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011).  Thus our learning strategies for this week; Cues, questions, and advanced organizers, and summarizing and note taking.

In chapter 4 of our text, “Using Technology with Classroom Strategies that Work,” I explored cues, questions, and advance organizers.  In this chapter we look at ways in which to enhance student’s ability to retrieve, use, and organize what they already know about a topic (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007, p. 9).  These tools are very important when it comes to the cognitivism, since they allow the students to focus on what they are learning.  Cues allows teachers to provide students with hints about what they are preparing to learn, questions are similar to cues by accessing students prior knowledge, and advanced graphic organizers, allow students to organize and focus their learning (Pitler, e.t al., 2007, p. 73).
 In my daily lesson plans, I provide my students with an essential question, which they should be able to answer at the end of the lesson.  This question gears my teaching and at times acts as a guide for classroom discussion, this question also allows the students to think back to previous lesson and try to connect it to the new lesson.  I find that it is necessary to activate student’s prior knowledge to gage their knowledge of the lesson; I have used different graphic organizers to carry out this process, such as Frayer’s Model and K-W-L charts.  With these strategies comes different form of technology applications which we can implement in our classes to engage learning and deepen understanding. These technologies include word processing applications, spreadsheet software and organizing and brainstorming software.  With these technology tools, teachers are able to input students’ responses, and organize these responses in to useful information (Pitler, et. al., 2007, p. 75).

Chapter 6 of our text dealt with summarizing and note taking.  Summarizing and note taking, enhances students’ ability to synthesize information and organize it in a way that captures the main ideas and supporting details (Pitler, et. al., 2007, p. 9).  To begin with the author’s states that we should first teach students the rule-based summarizing strategy then use summary frames and finally teach students the reciprocal teaching strategy (Pitler, et. al., 2007, p. 120).  One way of getting students to summarize information in math is to have them skim the text, and identify the key concepts, which are usually bold or written in color.  I also stress to students that the formulas are necessary when summarizing. 

Note taking is considered the most powerful study skills a student can cultivate, the authors suggest that we give students teacher prepared notes, teach students a variety of note-taking formats and use combination notes (Pitler, et. al. 2007, p. 120).  The note taking strategy that I implement in my classroom is Cornell Notes, this strategy allows students to question, reflect and review their notes.  This is also a requirement of our schools’ AVID program and for our 9th grade academy.  The Cornell note also comes with a rubric that can be used to grade the given assignment.  The technology tools that are aligned with note taking are multimedia, wiki, blogs, word processing applications and organization and brainstorming software. 

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program five: Cognitive learning theory [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from
Lever-Duffy, J., & McDonald, J. (2008). Theoretical foundations (Laureate Education, Inc., custom ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.  Chapter 1: Theoretical Foundations
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007).   Using technology with classroom instruction that work. Alexandria, VA. ASCD

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Behaviorist Learning Theory and the Impact it has on Instructional Strategies: Reinforcing Efforts and Homework.

This week we were asked to explore two instructional strategies that were embedded with technology.  These two strategies are closely aligned with the behaviorist learning theory.  Behaviorist learning theory emphasizes changes in behavior that results in stimuli-response association made by the learner (Orey, 2002). 

The first instructional strategy I explored was reinforcing efforts; this strategy allows students to see the correlation between effort and achievement.  In “Using Technology with Classroom Strategies that Work” the authors gave two recommendations on using this strategy; i) explicitly teach students about the importance of effort, and ii) having students keep track of their efforts and achievements (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007, p.156).  Since behaviorist believes all behaviors are learned, I can definitely see how reinforcing effort align with one of James Hartley‘s key principles that “reinforcement is the cardinal motivator,” (Smith, 1999).  Even though I have stressed “you get what you put in” in my classroom, I never thought to designing a rubric which my students can use to chart their effort and achievements.  As a high school math teacher, I can see how this would benefit majority of my students, since my students cannot see how valuable it is to study or even read over their note.  With the implementation of technology, it is now easier for teachers to develop a rubric or a spreadsheet which they can provide to students with an opportunity to chart their effort and achievement.  Once students are able to see how both effort and achievement correlate, they will in turn want to be successful.

The second instructional strategy I explored was Homework and practice; this strategy extends the learning opportunities for students to practice, review and apply what they have learned (Pitler et al., 2007, p. 9).  In math it is imperative that students are given the opportunity to practice what they have learned, thus the need for homework.   In order for students to deepen their understanding and achieve proficiency, they will need multiple exposures to the material, (Pitler et. al., 2007, p. 188).   I find when we start the assignment in class; the students are more inclined to doing the assignment.  With homework and practice, the following key principles of James Hartley come to mind, “repetition, generalization, and discrimination are important notions, and learning is helped when objectives are clear” (Smith, 1999).  With the use of word processing applications, spredsheet applications, multimedia, web resources, and communication soft ware, we can take our homework assignment to an innovative level.  One website that I allow my students to use for practice is Khan Academy, whenever I introduce a new topic I pull instructional videos from this site to present the materials, my students also use the practice problems provided on this site to check for understanding.  Our text also offer an online module that allow students to self-assess, where they can take the assessment for the given section, this is for personal use and at times can count towards n extra-credit activity.

For more information on instructional strategies with technology click here
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007).   Using technology with classroom instruction that work. Alexandria, VA. ASCD

Smith, M. K. (1999) The behaviorist orientation to learning”, the encyclopedia of informal education,  Last updated: December 01, 2011.

Strandridge, M..(2002). Behaviorism. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved March 05, 2012, from