Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Piaget's Constructivism and Project-Based Technology Use

Constructivism is ideal in most subject areas as the main courses in every grade level are either skill based (math and language/reading) or an application of those subjects (science, social studies, etc.). This means that application is natural to the learning environment.
Constructivism relies on an artifact, proof, learning evolved and applied. Orey explains that we are in a constant struggle for equilibrium in learning. We are constantly given new information that we are required to sort into some kind of schema, or heaven forbid, we are required to create a new "file folder" based on the new information. (Laureate Education, Inc. , 2008)
Constructivism naturally requires a person to create hypotheses upon applying and cultivating a new skill. Decision making, problem solving, and experimental inquiry are natural to my subject area, mathematics. These are 3 of the six tasks listed in Using Technology with Classroom Instruction That Works (pg. 203). Quite often students are asked a question (real world math problems) that require them to make an educated guess as to what methods or courses of action make sense to investigate the given problem. I love math particularly because there is often more than one way to answer a question. Math affords a great ability to be adapted into many inquiry and research based investigations for this very reason.
I found that the website listed on page 214 of our textbook, "Using Technology" was a great example of incorporating numbers and operations into a science question, such as an investigation as to how the water cycle works. It requires students to make assumptions, revise or completely change these assumptions based on new information. This sounds a lot like the basic theories Piaget outlined.
If you are asking, what about an artifact? Constructivism asks for proof, for investigation through construction. The number one way to incorporate math using a technological artifact is Microsoft Excel or any other spreadsheet program. I myself have used Excel to have students investigate rainfall in rainforests, while including math topics such as average, adding and subtracting decimals, comparing and ordering numbers, and other sixth grade math concepts.
Be prepared to sacrifice time for constructivism.
But keep in mind, what is better, skimming through and only reaching the short term memory experience, or creating, applying, and reaching a long-term connection? (Laureate, 2008).
Glazer, E. (2001). Problem Based Instruction. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved 3/23/2010 from
Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2008). Program 1: Understanding the Brain. [Educational video]. Baltimore: Author.
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cognitive Theory

Robertson, Elliot and Robinson (2008) consider cognitive learning as using resources to learn and apply, rather than watch or absorb passively. It becomes quite clear that technology is a very good tool that coincides with this belief. Having students apply knowledge and explore its depths through powerpoint, webquests, blogs, wikis, Inspiration, and other technological avenues is a "no-brainer" for one trying to create a cognitive theory-based learning environment. While students are usually off-put by such tasks as taking notes, it is much more interesting for students, and it also becomes easier for students to divide information and outline.

Of course, when one takes notes, it all becomes very uninteresting and difficult to sift through, especially for a young student who is not used to note-taking in general. This is why it is important "to use a variety of formats" (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn & Malenoski, 2007, p.124). I love the idea of using interesting graphics or mobile features to keep notes varied and also grounded in previous knowledge. “For many students, multimedia is very effective because it helps them both activate prior knowledge and develop a mental model to help them understand new information” (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn & Malenoski, 2007, p. 82). Programs like Powerpoint, Inspiration and even a website like allow students to do this (2007, pg. 128).

I actually have students hand write notes in my math class using charts and student's hand drawn pictures. I would like to have students begin to use flowcharts and graphic organizers on or Inspiration to reinforce student's learning and put notes in their own words and organization. I am also planning on having students create their own online posters on as a review for standardized tests, a further instillation of our spiralling curriculum.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Behaviorism and Technology

I was very excited to read our textbook this week. This is very strange considering its close to PSSAs and who has the time to actually READ?!

It should be stated that the topics in our reading were "reinforcing effort" and "homework and practice" from our textbook Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works. Nothing gets me more than when my students are not performing at these two things. Effort and homework/practice are so important to success in math.

I was particularly drawn to the generalization I saw in the homework/practice chapter of our book on pg. 187 that stated "if homework is assigned, it should be commented upon." My first thought was, "Oh heavens! Over 100 assignments at least twice a week to comment on!" This is where I believe technology would be a wonderful resource. There are so many tutorials out there especially for math where students can do the work for pre-established problems and then have them checked and commented on by a computer to ensure direct and speedy reinforcements according to methods of conditioned responses of the behaviorist design. One such website was listed by Dr. Larson in our resources: WebMATH. I especially like the idea of allowing students to work on at home for an assignment because they get the immediate response from the computer and results are automatically emailed to their teachers as well to focus instruction or have private conferences regarding results. Instant gratification is a huge reinforcer as the behaviorist theory is used!

Along similar lines having measurable data on each student provides a very good lesson in effort correlating to success. It is very easy to use technology (particularly spreadsheets and graphs in this case) to visually stimulate a student response as it is difficult to have students run automatically on internal motivation. All that is needed is a simple rubric as shown on page 158 of "Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works." One can easily set this rubric up including individual scores to compare effort to grades. This is a positive reinforcement in Skinner's "operant conditioning" system. Students can watch as their effort improves, their grades also do that same.

Once again I ask:

How do you AVOID using behaviorist theories?

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). 2009. Behaviorist Learning Theory [Motion picture]. Bridging
Learning Theory, Instruction, and Technology. Baltimore: Author

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using Technology with Classroom Instruction
that Works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.