Final Reflections on CEP 810: Teaching for Understanding with Technology

I signed up for Michigan State University’s Teaching for Understanding with Technology with the hope of learning about educational technologies in anticipation for my new role as a Tech Coach. While I did learn a lot about technology, more importantly I also learned about sound educational theories. This makes sense since technology is not something that should be used just for the sake of using but rather, technology should be used to enhance student understanding.

For the past few years, I have been looking for a new way to teach AP Biology. The curriculum redesign three years ago stressed the concept of thinking and doing while backing off on the required content. This is understandable in the cell phone age and relates to Will Richardson’s (2012) saying that “information and answers are a Google search away”.

(https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Blended-learning-methodolog.jpg)
(https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Blended-learning-methodolog.jpg)

Therefore, I wanted to design a model of blended learning that centered around the student rather than around the teacher. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that the ideas and thoughts rolling around in my head started to fall into place. A few days ago I attempted to sketch out my vision of the SIMPLE Learning model. It stands Snag (I might change this to Seize), Investigate, Master, Produce, Look Back and Evaluate. This sequence will be repeated for each AP Biology standard.

SIMPLE Learning Cycle (created by Dan Hoekstra, 2015)
SIMPLE Learning Cycle (created by Dan Hoekstra, 2015)

Snag (Seize): I want to capture my students interest and attention right from the beginning. To do this, each cycle will begin with a question (usually based on a data set) that deals with the topic at hand. In order to address this question, the students will have to analyze the data but they will also have to draw upon their prior knowledge. Bransford, Brown and Cocking (2000) state that “all learning involves transfer from previous experiences” (p. 68). This initial phase allows the students to begin to lay the foundation on to which they will add their new understanding. Hopefully, it will also spark their curiosity and inspire them to want to learn more. Bransford et al. (2000) also state misconceptions need to be addressed and broken down before the students can begin to construct correct understanding (p. 61). These misconceptions may surface here and/or during the next phase.

Investigate: This phase may include a full QPOE2 inquiry lab investigation or a quick interactive activity on the computer (or anything in between). An important skill for all students is critical thinking. As students analyze and summarize both their own data and data sets, they meet Renee Hobbs (2011) core competency of analysis. In addition, this phase will often include elements of play where the students can take risks and follow their curiosity (very similar to MSU’s “Explore” element). Also, as students generate their own data, they may continue to encounter their prior misconceptions. When students are involved in major investigations, they will have periodic meetings with me to go over different parts of the investigation process. This will provide them with immediate feedback while building our relationship.

Master: It is during this phase that the student will encounter much of the information. Videos, websites, tutorials, short lectures, textbook readings, articles, etc will be available for students to study. Multiple modalities will be selected to allow the students to choose the format that works best for them. Sometimes, students will also be asked to find and access the information. Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown (2011) state that “students must focus more on knowing where to find information than on knowing what.” Hobbs (2011) also stresses that students must have opportunities to choose their sources.

Produce: Now comes the time for the students to synthesize what they have learned. Thomas and Brown (2011) state that students must “learn to generate content that represents their learning.” This stage also allows students to show creativity as they decide on how they will present their understanding. I believe Hobbs (2011) would agree with this step as it meets some of her core competencies. This product will also be shared within and/or outside of our class.. Bransford et al. (2000) say that “teachers can boost student motivation by providing opportunities to share the information with (and to the benefit of) others” (p. 61). It is possible that this phase might also fit with many of the ideas of connected learning presented by Mizuko Ito et al. ( 2013).

Look Back: This phase is a time of review and reflection in a one-on-one (or very small group) setting between me and the student. This personal time will allow me to ask the student challenging questions about their understanding while also allowing me to recognize and address problem areas. The student must “pass” this review session before being allowed to take the evaluation quiz.

Evaluate: The Evaluate phase is placed in the middle of the diagram because metacognition needs to occur throughout this learning cycle. Bransford et al. (2000) state that “The ability to recognize the limits of one’s current knowledge, then take steps to remedy the situation, is extremely important for learners at all ages” (p. 47). This evaluation piece also relates to what Hobbs (2011) calls reflection. Evaluation also takes place at the end of the cycle as the teacher formally assesses the student’s understanding of the topic or concept through a summary quiz. This provides a much needed checkpoint before the student is allowed to move on to the next topic.

Edify iLMS (http://www.kickstandsystems.com/)
Edify iLMS (http://www.kickstandsystems.com/)

I plan to use the learning management system Edify to structure this cycle, host the resources and provide the summary quiz. This system will also allow students to work at their own pace as they proceed through each phase (although there will be a larger, summative assessment after every 3rd or 4th cycle). This provides a bit of a gaming atmosphere. I am excited to test out my new model but I am sure many things will need to be reworked and revised over this next year. Since much of what I just laid out is still in the brainstorming stage, I still have a lot of work to do. In addition, while I am beginning to achieve technological literacy where I am “able to control, manipulate, and utilize technology” to fit my needs (Kereluik et al., 2011, p. 16), it will take time and patience as I continue to use the TPACK framework as I create my lessons. In particular, I will need to re-purpose technology for the “Master” and “Produce” phases. This will hopefully become easier over time. I am optimistic that my remaining MAET classes will help me refine this model and additional research (and a literature review) will allow me to justify each phase of the cycle.

NOTE: I would love feedback on my SIMPLE Learning Model. Many of the thoughts and ideas expressed above are very new and unpolished and can still be shaped into something much better than what I stated. Also, I would love to create my SIMPLE diagram using something other than MS Word. If you know of another program that would give me more flexibility, please share!

References

Bransford, J.D., Brown , A.L., & Cocking, R.R. (Eds.). (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

Hobbs, R. (2011). Digital and media literacy: Connecting culture and classroom. Thousand, Oaks, CA: Corwin/Sage.

Kereluik, K., Mishra, P. & Koehler, M.J. (2011). On learning to subvert signs: Literacy, technology and the TPACK framework. The California Reader, 44(2), 12-18. download .pdf

Richardson, W. (2012, September 14). Why School? TED ebook author rethinks education when information is everywhere. Retrieved May 26, 2015, from http://blog.ted.com/why-school-ted-ebook-author-rethinks-education-when-information-is-everywhere/

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, Ky: CreateSpace.

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