Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cooperative Learning

According to Dr. Michael Orey, social constructivism involves students constructing artifacts as a result of communication with others (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010). An important component of the social learning theory is cooperative learning. Through cooperative learning, students are able to share their ideas with classmates and construct meaning to the material presented in the classroom. The meaning to the content is affected by the social interpretation of the topic (Orey, 2001). Students will create meaning based on their backgrounds, personal connections, and personal experiences. These differences will have a strong impact on the development of knowledge and can lead to a deeper understanding of the content that has been presented (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010).
In order for collaboration strategies to be successful, it is important that teachers take the time to group students using a variety of criteria. This will be directly related to the task that the students must complete. Groups must be kept at a manageable size so that each student has a responsibility for a particular task (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010). As well as efficient grouping, teachers must focus on detailed expectations and assessment. Tasks should be focused toward a particular learning standard. Students should be assessed for individual contributions as well as the overall group presentation. Collaborative learning also creates an opportunity for peer teaching.
Technology can provide another aspect to cooperative learning. Through the use of multimedia, such as creating a video, there are many roles that must be filled.  Proper grouping can fill those roles with students that are strong in a particular area.  The strengths are then shared among peers for further understanding, improving a weakness that a different student may have. Technology allows students to create artifacts that can be shared on the web. This allows students to not only communicate in the classroom, but from their home. They can collaborate online with classmates, or venture out to collaborate with students and experts worldwide. Technology opens the door for teachers to quickly be able to share information with their students. This type of course management provides students with access to shared resources and facilitates online discussions (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007). Discussions can take place in a chat room or through more advanced communication software such as Skype.
Cooperative learning is a component of social learning that is necessary for this strategy to be successful. As students work socially with peers, they develop meanings that they may not have created by thinking on their own.  This expands the knowledge base of the student, and creates new connections and experiences that can be used in future learning.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2010). Program eight. Social learning theories [Webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Orey, M. (Ed.). (2001). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from

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

Millennium Park

This is a presentation that I will be using to introduce Millennium Park during an environmental unit on parks and open spaces. This is also a preview for our freshman class before they actually travel to Chicago and visit the park.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Constructivism in Practice

Dr. Orey defines constructivism as “a theory of knowledge stating that each individual actively constructs his or her own meaning (Laureate Education, Inc. , 2010). The theory of learning that corresponds to this would be constructionism. An interpretation of constructionism is that “people learn by actively constructing new knowledge, rather than by having information "poured" into their heads (Thurmond, 1999). The most effective strategy of this type of learning is for students to create actual artifacts that can be shared with peers.  This sharing leads to collaboration on particular topics and can be a beneficial resource when engaging in problem and project-based learning, such as generating and testing hypotheses.

As a science teacher, experience working with hypotheses is common. The most familiar task that my students have encountered is experimental inquiry.  Through this process, students make observations and generate questions relative to their observations.  From here they devise experiments that are designed to prove the question that they have created. The experiments that the students perform can at times provide large amounts of data.  It is challenging for a student to understand how to interpret data and provide conclusions related to their experiment.  In keeping with the constructivist theory, students will experience success in problem-based learning if they can create artifacts. 

Technology can be the necessary tool to create these artifacts. Through the use of spreadsheets, students can interpret data and create nonlinguistic representations of their findings. Because science experimentation involves multiple trials, the use of technology allows students to concentrate more on the process of proving their hypothesis, rather than the vast amount of data that they have recorded. The ability to share the graphics that are developed from their data gives students the opportunity to collaborate with others in the classroom or on the web.  As students develop detailed conclusions to communicate their findings, they are engaged in their learning and experience further retention of the subject matter (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007). This retention helps to develop personal connections as students increase their schema.

Department of Educational Technology, Boise State University. (2005). Designing your project. Retrieved

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2010). 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.

Thurmond, AnnMarie. (1999) Constructivism and constructionism.  Retrieved from

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Cognitivism in Practice

Cognitive learning involves the mind processing various types of information. Dr. Orey describes this information processing model in four steps: sensory input of information, short term memory, rehearsal, and long term memory (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010). Input of information is best done through the use of multiple senses because this incorporates the different learning levels of our students. It is important to remember that a large amount of information can be challenging to understand.  Advance organizers can assist students in their learning. Concept mapping is one example of this.  It gives learners a chance to visualize ideas and make connections between them.

One skill that can help students process their information is efficient summarizing and notetaking. Students often feel that every piece of information should be written down.  It is important that they learn how to effectively delete information that is not necessary.  By doing this, students can summarize information that is rather lengthy, and provide themselves with more efficient notes. This skill can be taught and reinforced with the help of teacher prepared notes, outlines, or teacher questions that focus on the important elements of the lesson. The use wikis or blogs opens the door for collaboration between students. They can communicate amongst each other and contribute to the learning of their peers.

The ultimate goal of the information processing model is to develop the long term memory of our students. To obtain this, reinforcement of concepts is critical.  The use of cues focuses on the ideas that students will be learning.  Questioning students will help to initiate their memory and provide access to prior knowledge that may be helpful when understanding new topics. Combining the two strategies is helpful when developing short term and long term memory.

In order to teach for understanding, teachers must teach the basic skills of summarizing and notetaking.  By providing cues and questions, students are able to synthesize the information they have learned and connect it to what they will be learning. The more we can create connections for our students, the easier it is for concepts to become part of their long term memory. Virtual field trips provide another method for connecting students to their learning. By having the opportunity to visualize an idea, more concrete memories are developed. Cognitive learning tools will not only enhance summaries and notes, but will connect students to their learning.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2010). Program five. Cognitive learning theory
[Webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Baltimore, MD: Author.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2010). Program six. Spotlight on technology:
Virtual field trips [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.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Behaviorism in Practice

Edward Thorndike called it the stimulus-response theory of learning. Skinner labeled it operant conditioning. Still others refer to it as the theory of behaviorism.  No matter what name you choose to use, the conditions are the same: engage a learner in a concept, repeat the concept in various forms, and positively reinforce students when objectives are obtained (Smith, 1999).

Introducing a new concept, and having students retain that information, can be challenging for teachers. The variation of learning styles and levels in the classroom can increase the difficulty of successful retention.  According to Marzano, “students need about 24 practice sessions with a skill in order to achieve 80% competency (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007). With this in mind, it is evident that a student’s success is based on the amount of time spent connecting back to the initial concept.  A coach always emphasizes that practice makes perfect.  A teacher should base their emphasis on the fact that practice makes permanent.  Practice trains the brain to connect this knowledge to future concepts.

Teachers must provide time for students to apply what they have learned.  This practice can be obtained in various ways.  The traditional homework assignment gives students the opportunity to practice what they have learned independently. Allowing time in class to begin homework assignments allows teachers to monitor the understanding of their students. This initial feedback can limit any immediate misunderstandings that a student may have.  To accommodate the different styles of learning, teachers must build homework assignments that fit the needs of each individual, while still working to achieve the established goals of the lesson. Incorporating collaborative work sessions with specific group structure can accommodate the special needs of various students.

Technology is a tool that can enhance skills by implementing various styles of practice.  The internet has a variety of resources that accommodate multiple disciplines.  This can be found in a gaming format, tutorial sessions, interactive simulations, or a set of drills, such as math equations.  The benefit of using these sources is the immediate feedback that is given to a student.  The other benefit is that students can continue to use this practice outside of the classroom, and it engages them in media tools that they are familiar with. This familiarity to technology engages students in their learning and motivates them to continue practicing their skills. Other forms of practice that technology assists with are student projects. Research and presentation are ways for students to continue to apply the concepts that they have learned.

With any sort of practice comes reinforcement of learning. This reinforcement is a critical component to successful and accurate retention.  Teachers are faced with many responsibilities that sometimes postpone the immediate feedback given on homework assignments. Technology minimizes this delay. The quicker a student is able to see their success, the easier it is for them to begin to retain the new concept. The theory of behaviorism is a strategy that can be implemented by every teacher, not just for classroom management, but as a way to achieve successful retention in learning.


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

Smith, K. (1999). The behaviourist orientation to learning. In The encyclopedia of informal education. Retrieved from