Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Social Learning in Practice

As Wong and Wong state, Cooperative learning is not so much learning to cooperate as it is cooperating to learn (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007, p. 140).  This statement resonates with me so much due to an experience I had with my students today.  I implemented a new strategy to help my students become stronger readers.  During this strategy we high-light all the dialog and divide up groups that read their part as it arises.  All but one of my groups was willing to work together.  One group would not read in unison no matter what.  There was too much competition to be heard rather than focusing on developing their skills like the other groups were.   The groups that cooperated with each other were reading with expression better than ever before. 

Cooperating with others is definitely a skill that needs to be taught.  Many of us have experience taking personality tests, which turns out what type of learner or team player you are.  Well our students are in the same boat.  We need to get to know our students in order to strategically place them in cooperative groups.  We also need to prepare them to appropriately interact with one another.  One way I would to this is have my students develop a classroom web that defines what collaborating means to them.  I would then give them sentence starters and have them practice how to agree and disagree in a proper manner. 

Cooperative grouping allows social learning to take place.  We know as educators that once we teach something our understanding of the concept is that much stronger.  Well this is also true for our students.  Cooperative groups are common in my classroom, but this week I have been introduced to so many new ways to incorporate technology.  Social sites like Facebook are not an option for younger children, but we are able to use sites like Gaggle that allow us to regulate who our students interact with.  Due to the lack of computer access, I find it hard to utilize social sites as often as I would like to.  Although, the is amazing!  My students absolutely loved participating in this week’s project.  Voice Thread was so user friendly, quick, and effective for my students to use.  Once my students saw how this site worked they started sharing ideas left and right about other ways we can use it.  We are going to start by choosing a student’s writing, uploading it, and allowing students to make comments about what they like or would like to see improved. 

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

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Generating & Testing Hypotheses: Constructionism in Practice

In order for students to have successful careers, classrooms need to promote collaboration and technology.  One way for educators to do this is by giving students quality essential questions that they can create hypotheses and test.  When students generate and test hypotheses, they enhance their overall understanding of the content (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007, p. 203). 

In my own classroom, we typically hypothesize during our science units, but now I will incorporate technology.  Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works is a wonderful resource that is packed full of resources that make using technology with your students a synch.  Before the years ends I would like to have my students create their own essential question and collect data to help them answer it.  I teach a unit on data and probability which allows me time to utilize some of these new online sources I know about without steering too far off of the time allotted to complete certain units.  Microsoft Excel is a little challenging, so I plan to have my students use to collect their data.  This site will graph results for my students, which will allow them more time to analyze their results. 

According to (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007, p. 203), there are six tasks that teachers can use to help students generate and test hypotheses; systems analysis, problem solving, historical investigation, invention, experimental inquiry, and decision making.  My students generally use experimental inquiry, but I would like to offer the opportunity for them to engage in more problem solving projects to encourage more dialog that connect to real world problems.  Overall, I am very excited to use these new data collecting tools because they are more efficient allowing more time for students to collaborate and create less opportunity for error. 

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

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Cognitivism in Practice

This week’s resources have left me feeling disappointed in myself.  At the start of the last school year I was involved and continue to be part of a technology grant my district received.  At first, I was eager as could be.  I created digital kits using inspiration.  I had students using the document camera to share their work.  I created concept maps as a partially filled note taking guide for my students.  Basically most of the strategies we discussed this week were ones I tried, but have since thrown to the wayside.  It is not rocket science to understand that students learn best when given these types of opportunities for learning, so why am I not teaching this way?  I believe the lack of time to get through content has forced me to fall into bad teaching habits.  For example, in fourth grade our students must master area and perimeter of a rhombus.  Every year our students struggle to remember which the area is and which the perimeter is.  My colleagues and I have spent a large amount of seat time teaching this concept, but to no avail, the percentage of fourth graders that passed this area on a district assessment was very low.  Yesterday I decided to have them trace their feet and estimate the area and perimeter.  Of course, one lesson my students enjoyed, and there was very little problem with recalling how to solve for area and perimeter or which one was which. 

Dr. Orey mentioned Paivio’s dual coding hypothesis which is information being stored as text and images to improve memory (Laureate education, Inc., 2011).  I could not agree more with this theory.  My building has been working diligently for the last five years now to incorporate what we call visual vocabulary in every content area.  The first few years we printed all the vocabulary, but lately many of us have used some type of software to present the vocabulary electronically.  If I was queen of the world, I would have a classroom set of computers so my students could be responsible for creating the vocabulary presentations.  As it stands now, I will attempt to have students work in small groups utilizing the few computers I have in my room in order to create a slide for a few vocabulary words from our reading unit.  I plan to compare how the results on the final exam are affected by students creating their own.

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

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Behaviorism in Practice

My mother once said, “You don’t wake up and head off to a busy day at work without an incentive…called a paycheck”.  What an incredibly true statement.  It is human nature to perform better when there are positive reinforcements involved.  If only we taught our students the way in which we learn or perform best ourselves. 
As stated in Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, many of us attribute our success or failure to external factors.  With conferences right around the corner, I am preparing myself once again to hear the majority of my parents play the blame game on all the external factors they can come up with attempting to explain why their child is struggling.  When reading the variety of suggestions for reinforcing effort, I continuously pondered the thought of incorporating my parents into the process.  A day does not go by that a parent writes a note explaining why they were unable to get homework completed.  Understandably a couple of my parents struggle themselves academically, but others are providing the wrong message to their children.  Many of my students lack perseverance due to the fact they feel as though they will never understand.  I relate this to effort, which quickly creates a sense of frustration both among me and my students.  I definitely would like to use an effort rubric with my students and their families.  I have created rubrics before using a site I consider very user friendly; 
What I know from experience with my students as well as my own family is positive everything goes a lot further than negative anything.  Again relating this topic to myself, I prefer to always be spoken to in a positive way, even if I am being constructively criticized.  Behaviorism exists in everyday activities and definitely in the classroom.  I am able to use technology to reinforce the skills I am teaching.  Currently my students have created a waiting list a mile long to receive computer time to practice their multiplication facts.  Just as any electronic game, kids get instant gratification from them.  My students have been consistently using the computers for about three weeks now.  By the end of March I will assess whether my students have instant recall of their facts.  Throughout the year we have charted their progress on learning their multiplication facts.  So far my students have simply not put in the extra effort to learn them and I reverted to punishment.  Believe it or not; it’s not working!  Since winter break I have held my class in every morning recess, yet only six students are able to pass the weekly quiz.  Ashamed to say, yet again another teacher has fallen into bad habits even when we know better.   
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., &Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom
instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.