Sunday, April 25, 2010

Reflection on My Personal Learning Theory

Teaching high school math to teenagers who see no relevance between upper level algebra and their lives is the challenge I must face every day. With a hundred and twenty students I am faced with an equal amount of different learning styles. My personal belief is that not all students have to like math but all of my students can be successful in math. Over the years I have used teaching strategies that address the behavior, cognitive and the constructive perspectives on learning, to create a classroom where all students can succeed.

Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences has a big influence on my personal learning theory. I believe that individuals have strengths and weakness in the nine intelligences that determine the different ways each student learns. Gardner states that technologies give teachers multiple ways of addressing student learning by making materials vivid, easy to get and fun to play with (Weiss, 2000). I spend a lot of time at the beginning of the school year getting to know my students likes and dislikes so that as the year progresses I am able to adjust my lessons to meet the needs of all my students. Since starting this course I have added more cooperative activities to my lessons. Students have gone to the computer labs and created collages of quadrilaterals found on the internet. Two young men who are interested in music found lots of shapes in various pictures of guitars. Normally underachievers these students were very proud when I asked if I could use their collage as an example in other classes.

High school math has traditionally been a subject students want to and do forget. There are not many videos or movies to show and we spend a lot of time drilling and practicing problems. This repetition has its value but not all students need to do the same concept twenty or even ten times to feel the rewards of success. Dr. Patricia Wolfe states that the brain seeks meaningful patterns (Laureate Education, Inc., 2009). It can be challenging to find any real meaning in algebra and geometry but with the use of technologies I have been able to open up new avenues to relate some abstract concepts to my students. In my advanced Algebra II class the computer and the smartbaord have let me show them the concept of imaginary numbers and their real world application.

Dr. Patricia Wolf tells us that emotion is a catalyst for learning (Laureate Education, Inc., 2009). I work hard at creating a learning environment that is safe, friendly and successful for any student who enters my classroom. I maintain a calm, positive and enthusiastic attitude at all times. Students will not learn if they are fighting a teacher and their defenses are up, creating a shield that prevents learning from happening. I also encourage and praise all accomplishments by students. My strongest belief is that as students feel success in math they will like begin to like it and their progress will continue to grow.

Gardner says “ education and technology will be a happy marriage only if those charged with education remain clear on what they want to achieve and [remain] vigilant that the technology serves those ends” (Weiss, 2000). I have seen some teachers who have used technology as a “baby sitter” for classes. If used carefully and correctly technologies are powerful tools to enrich education.

Understanding the various learning theories and the different technologies available to educators is what I take away from this class. Spending hours investigating many of the suggested sites from our text has given me many ideas in math and other subject areas. I have already shared with the art teachers the idea of using voicethread for students to critic different art works. He is having a lot of success with the AP students critiquing each others portfolios. One history teacher assigns students power point projects so often they hate the idea of ever having to do another power point. I suggested that he take them on a virtual tour of Gettysburg. I helped this teacher create a mapping with links and suggestions of where information could be found. The students loved working together and told me they really learned a lot more with the mapping. Technology is a good tool if used correctly and not over used in one area.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2009). Program 2. Brain Research and Learning. [Educational video]. Baltimore: Author.

Weiss, R. (2000). Howard Gardner Talks About Technology. Training & Development, 54(9). Retrieved 3/5/2009 from Academic Search Complete database.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Social Learning in Practice

Dr. Michael Orey describes social constructivism as learning where the students are collaborating in building artifacts and then talking about what they learned((Laureate Education, Inc., 2009). Lev Vygotsky talks about the zone of proximal development as what a student knows and what they are able to learn at a given time. When the learner seeks new information, then they must go to a more knowledgeable other; parent, teacher, computer, and friend. Technology has contributed to this learning theory by making information more accessible and collaborating with other students with many on line tools. Google has created many tools that make collaboration much easier and they are all free. When using google docs in the classroom, all students can be contributing, editing and learning all at the same time. In geometry class students can create vocabulary reference folder with definitions, pictures and real life examples that can be saved for the entire year.

Virtual learning is becoming popular as a supplement to traditional classrooms. Teen Second Life is a place where students come together from around the world to create solutions to international problems. Virtual worlds bring relevance into the classroom, as well as to prepare students for the information environments and globally distributed work teams they will surely encounter later (Czarnecki, 2008). Virtual environment simulations lend themselves to situations that are otherwise too dangerous or hazardous. Universities are using virtual chemistry labs where student mistakes are not costly and can be repeated until the student accomplishes the correct results.

I feel that there are many opportunities for educators to incorporate cooperative learning strategies into the classroom. Working with their peers helps to increase students’ ability to communicate, show leadership, resolve conflicts and make wise decisions.

Czarnecki, K. (2008). Virtual Environments and K-12 Education. MultiMedia & Internet@Schools, 15(4), 14-17. Retrieved March 22, 2009 from Education Research Complete database.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2009). Bridging learning theory, instruction, and technology. Baltimore: Author.