Final Thoughts: Using Technology to Support Student Learning

First of all, I just have to say that I LOVED this course. It was fun!! A lot of work, but there is so much that I am taking away. A theme that has emerged for me, especially in the last few weeks, is how engaging the coursework was. I am a wife and mom of two young kids and my attention is ALWAYS divided. If this course was a “read the articles/books, write a research paper, etc.” type of course, it would have been very difficult for me to be motivated and concentrate on the coursework. However, every week in CEP 811 we were exploring a different tool to create a product that was meaningful and useful (to each of us personally), and the projects were engaging. Design your ideal classroom? Make a remix video? Make a game for my Spanish students?  So much more interesting and engaging than your typical masters course! I am so glad that I chose this path for the focus of my degree.

That being said, I know that the same is true for my students (and everyone else’s). Projects are engaging. They are meaningful because you get to design them. As much as I would rather play with computer programs and create products that I can use in my career, my students would be much more engaged by relevant, useful projects than by rote memorization and work from a textbook. Prior to this course, I had thought a lot about differentiated instruction, but not as much about project based learning, creative problem solving or personalized learning environments. I now understand the importance of centering learning experiences around “play, experimentation and authentic inquiry” (constructivism), as well as emphasizing a product  and designing experiences that will lead to students to learn “by constructing knowledge through the act of making something shareable” (constructionism) (Halverson & Sheridan, 497-498). I touched on this a little bit in my last post, but I think the idea of coming up with a SHAREABLE product is huge. If students are presented with a task, or a problem that they need to come up with a realistic, innovative solution for, they will (hopefully) be motivated to use creativity and find the best possible solution that they can. However, if they know that they are going to present this solution to others who may potentially need it or be interested in using it, I think that takes the task, and hopefully their motivation, to the next level. This isn’t just a project for school, or for a grade, it’s actually going to be used by others. In addition, in a classroom setting, they are one of several groups working on the same problem, so the pressure to come up with a truly, unique, innovative solution is increased by adding the share-ability component. In that way, I think that project-based and creative problem solving learning environments are very powerful, as long as the content remains a main focus and students are able to master the same key concepts that they would in a more traditional classroom environment.

In terms of integrating technology into my teaching and using it in innovative ways to support student learning, I feel much more prepared to do this after taking CEP 811. One thing that I still remember from Richard Culatta’s TEDx talk “Reimagining Learning” was that he talked about a “digital divide” that exists in our country between “those who know how to use technology to reimagine learning and those who simply use technology to digitize traditional learning practices” (Reimagining learning, 2013). I would argue that some technology is better than none; even if it isn’t an innovative use, it’s a step in the right direction. Before CEP 811 I had not really considered this “digital divide” but after hearing Richard Culatta describe it, it made a lot of sense and I definitely see that what he says is true. That being said, I feel very prepared and confident as a result of this course to use technology to truly reimagine learning. Of course there will be some limitations based on what is available in whatever school I teach in, but I feel very equipped to adapt and innovate whatever is available to me to give my students powerful, concrete, relevant learning experiences.

For example, the programs and applications that I used to create my projects in this course could easily be adapted to any content area as a teaching tool or as a tool for students to express what they have learned.

  • Popcorn maker – As a teaching tool, I could create videos to introduce the key points and ideas of a unit and capture students’ attention. Students could make remix videos to demonstrate the points that were most prominent to them in topic of study.
  • Scratch – I could create games (like I did in my Maker Inspired Lesson Plan) to help students review grammar/vocabulary. Students could design review games for each other to review Spanish grammar/vocabulary.
  • Sketch Up – Students could design and furnish their dream home, then describe it in Spanish to others. I could do the same to teach them the vocabulary.
  • Infographics – are amazing tools!! It’s like a remix that you scroll through instead of watch. I could have a lot of fun creating these to use as teaching tools to present information. Students could also design infographics to represent their learning on a topic, or present information to teach a concept to others.

SO MANY POSSIBILITIES! I’m actually kind of bummed that I’m not currently teaching (staying home with my babies for now) because I have no real outlet to try these things! But I will definitely remember them for the future.

Whenever I go back to teaching, I know I will not be the same teacher that I was. My mindset has completely changed and I can see the bigger picture now – the purpose of school and education is, of course, content mastery, but it is also preparation for the real world. I always knew this, but didn’t know how to truly incorporate teaching life skills (leadership, group work, adaptation, etc.) into curriculum. Project based, creative problem solving learning environments naturally incorporate these elements, as well as personalizing learning and allowing opportunities for me to differentiate instruction. This type of learning environment will be my focus in the future, along with innovative use of technology to support student learning.

Overall, I really enjoyed this course and I know that I will be a more effective teacher and better able to serve my students because of it. I’m already looking forward to CEP 812!

Sources

Halverson, E. & Sheridan, K. (2014). The maker movement in education. Harvard Education Review, 84:4, 495-504.

TEDx. (2013, January 10). Reimagining learning: Richard Culatta at TEDxBeaconStreet [Video File]. Retrieved from http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/Reimagining-Learning-Richard-Cu

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