Applying Ed Tech Theory into the classroom

In reflection, my Educational Technology course at Marlboro Graduate School has been enlightening in terms of understanding the roots and theories of educational technology in the classroom.  It has helped me hone in on the development of my personal folk pedagogy.  I see validity in many teaching and learning theories.  In fact, I can personally identify with most of them.  See this link to a slideshow explaining many learning theories.

  • First, I believe in learning by doing (situated learning).  
  • Second, I believe in teaching with schemas (learning a chunk at a time).
  • Third, I believe in Skinner’s theory of Behaviorism (learn with repetitive behaviors).  
  • Fourth, I strongly believe in Piaget’s Constructivism (build on experience) and
  • Fifth, Papert’s Constructionism (learning through interpreting change).  

I am incredibly fortunate that I had an elementary school as my palette for testing and proving these instructional and educational theories as I was learning about them.  Here are a few projects that I tested out.  Most projects utilize technology, others just a little, yet all are equally gratifying and engaging when designed well.  

Third grade Pen Pal Exchange with New Zealand students.   Within my circles, I made a connection with Allison, an educator in New Zealand.  Before diving into letter composition, I met with the students to give them a starting point of reference in making a connection with another student.  We discussed the globe, the continents, and found New Zealand.  As a group, we visited the school virtually to check out its Facebook presence, its website (not as interesting) and utilized Google Maps street view to see it up close.  The children had many great questions about the NZ such as Why do they have bare feet?  How come the seasons are different from ours.  Are they sleeping right now?   Here we used Backward Design Theory.  Our overall goal was for the students to compose a meaningful, connected, neatly written letter.  Since it was their first time writing a letter and connecting with a stranger, I introduced some culture, geography, and background information on the school and NZ.  Alison and I shared videos on our students reciprocal morning meetings in which the US students said the Pledge of Allegiance and the Kiwis (NZ peoples) said their daily Maori chant/prayer.  We then had discussions on how to compose a letter and make a connection with someone new.  The final step was to read their pen pal letters, and compose a letter in return.  (We did this twice).   December marked the end of the school year for the NZ students.  A new teacher is taking over in late January.  Our students want to continue this activity so very much.  We had a group discussion whereby we took notes and made points on why this pen pal relationship should continue. Many third graders felt compelled to speak to the camera to be part of this persuasive video. As an assessment tool, this video shows the sincere engagement of the project, plus the fun and patience required to participate.

Success Block – 6 weeks.  Third to fifth grade teachers in my school participate in Success Block.  This special block of time (among teaching teams), allows teacher to break into small groups for special in-depth inquiry or practice in LA, math, or other core topics for students needing the boost.  There are always some students to ‘test out’.  The teachers then ask me or other tech staff if we can take a special group for 30 minutes, 3x/week, 6 weeks.  The goal is that the student will gain basic knowledge of coding and procedures and be able to accomplish blockly-like coding challenges.  I chose to do a coding sequence, starting with Light Bot, continuing to Courses, then Dash and Dot Robots, and finally wrapping up with BitsBox (intro to JavaScript).  Sometimes, we branch into Scratch programming as well.  My challenge of course is to accomplish this in the lightning-fast 30 minutes sessions!  This ‘course’ presents elementary coding challenges using learning theories such as Behaviorism, Constructivism.  Self-paced learning and the ARCS Instructional Design Model.   I find that the students love the challenges, unexpected rewards, positive outcomes for effort, and self-confidence – all while gaining procedure and coding skills.  

Special Project – Global Webquest for flags with fourth and fifth graders.  There are ‘mandates’ in our ETSD curriculum and our school district’s “Ends Policy” to include culture, geography and global citizenship in the classroom curriculum.  This year, the principal asked me (and a few others) to take each classroom (20 of them) for one 40 minute session, while she met with groups of teachers.  Forty minutes?  Let’s make it fun, interactive, engaging and memorable, I thought!  The goal was to task students with finding a national flag in street view in a specific country somewhere on the globe.  The students would do a webquest whereby they would chose a random country (from a hat, of course), search for a flag image, and then use Google Maps to find the country, major city, and ultimately street view to find that country’s flag.  We met as a group first, to discuss likely places to find a flag and to model the challenge and the tools needed to accomplish this quest.  The learning theories I used here include:

  • Operant conditioning.   
  • Self-paced learning.  
  • Inquiry-based learning.  
  • Webquest learning.  
  • Flow Theory (James Gee).

Most of the students went back to the hat to pick out another country and try it again.  One boy exclaimed, “I went to five countries and found five flags!”  Exit (video) interviews prove that the goal was accomplished and the enthusiasm for the challenge unabated.

As an educator, I use technology to facilitate learning, motivate students, and aid instruction.  Technology is a tool that is increasingly prevalent in our culture and the lives of our students.  In my opinion, when used purposefully and with intention, technology helps with retaining focus and continued engagement in a lesson or activity.  Today the internet provides wide educational resources.  Its use is what facilitates global inquiry and infusion of multiculturalism in the classroom.


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