Inquiry #LearningProject Reflection

Basic Inquiry Cycle (1)

As I continue to develop a more robust framework for inquiry learning in my classroom, I have developed a very basic inquiry cycle to guide my instruction.

Before I start my latest reflection on Reintroducing Inquiry Learning Into The Elementary Classroom, I wanted to give a quick shout out to Terri Eichholz  and her recent blog post for turning me onto Barry Schwartz and his TED Talk, The Paradox of Choice, which describes the debilitating effect that too much choice can have on our decision making process.


I directly related the negative effects of choice that Schwartz discusses to the difficulty and time it took students to decide the focus of their inquiry.  I wrongly assumed they would just figure it out in due course – that deciding wouldn’t be a big deal.  I was wrong!

Schwartz says too much choice makes it difficult for people to make a decision and paralysis is a consequence of having too many choices.  He also argues that even when we make a decision by overcoming the challenges associated with too much choice, we end up less satisfied with our final choice than we would have if we had fewer options to choose from.

Reasons:

  1. The more options there are, the easier it is to regret your final decision because it is natural to start to compare the final choice with the original list of choices.  This results in a decrease of satisfaction with the product, even if the decision was a good choice.  In practice, creating a huge list of inquiry topics with the class may be counterproductive.
  1. ‘Opportunity costs’ – whenever one chooses to do one thing it is inevitably at the direct cost of another.  In inquiry learning, the dilemma of choosing to learn about different animal skeletons means it is not possible to learn about gardening.  This causes internal conflict, which can be extremely debilitating for some children.
  1. ‘Escalation of expectation’ – adding excessive choice to people’s lives increases their expectations about how good those choices are. This produces less satisfaction with final decision, even when it is a good decision.  In inquiry learning, student’s expectations surrounding a topic may become over inflated, which leads to an eventual decrease in overall satisfaction.

I plan to counter Schwartz’s findings and help to improve my learner’s chances of self-select an inquiry topic in a timely manner by:

  • involving parents more in the process – parents know their children and their passions better than anyone
  • model my own inquiry learning
  • help my learners narrow their inquiry focus by asking them to think about what they do during unstructured time

How do you help students navigate the decisioning making process around their inquiry projects?

Learning Project Reflection: #InquiryChat

InquiryChat  with tweets  · MrLister · Storify

I am a great proponent of attending Twitter chats to stretch my thinking and engage in professional development.  There are times when I find myself highly engaged in some chats while other times I simply lurk and listen to the engaging conversations.  Whichever mood I’m in, I always leave with valuable resources and nuggets of information that challenge my thinking.  On my journey to reintroduce inquiry learning into my classroom, I found two Twitter chats that may prove useful – #inquirychat and #geniushour.

 

I attended my first #inquirychat on Thursday evening and left with mixed opinions.  I’m used to fast-paced chats such as #bcedchat and #edchat, and I found Thursday’s experience very different from my normal encounters – slow, sometimes awkward, but in some respects more meaningful.  I’m the type of person who needs time to process ideas that challenge my thinking, and need time to craft thoughtful responses to questions.  Thursday’s chat offered time for me to reflect on the questions before sharing my thoughts.

 

One disadvantage of the chat was that there were only six people contributing to the conversations and most of them were looking at inquiry through the lens of the middle and high-school experience.  Another disadvantage was the cultural differences between members of the chat.  Most of the participants were from the U.S. and much of the chat centered on the difficulties of adopting inquiry learning methods in an environment that places so much emphasis on standardized testing.

 

In spite of the limited number of participants, there were several useful pieces of information I picked up.  The topic of service-learning came up in the chat several times and this topic fits in nicely with one of the options in the framework I plan to develop during this learning project.  I appreciated this tweet from @MlleLofthouse because it reminds me to engage my learners in thinking centered around real-life problem/solutions:

InquiryChat   · MrLister · Storify

Points That Stretched My Thinking:

  • Inquiry can motivate learners when it involves real life learning such as service learning
  • ‘Hands-on’ learning opportunities often make the best inquiry learning projects
  • Simulations are great ways to engage learners in skill and content building exercises
  • Game-based learning and simulation-based learning lend themselves well to inquiry learning
Resources added to my Diigo on Inquiry Learning:
  1. http://naturalcuriosity.ca/
  2. http://classroomtools.com/
  3. http://loftylearner.blogspot.ca/2014/10/teaching-ottawastrong.html

Reintroducing Inquiry Learning Into The Elementary Classroom

IMG_2708

In January of last year I introduced an inquiry block named C.H.O.I.C.E (Children Have Ownership In Choice Education) into my weekly schedule.  I told my students that for an hour and a half every Thursday I was setting aside time for them to follow their passions.  Initially there was much excitement on my part and on the part of my students.  Some students wanted to learn about art while others wanted to learn how to use Windows Movie Maker to produce videos.  The first mistake I made was spending more time figuring out a cute acronym for the block of time I was setting aside rather than preparing my students for new way for doing school. Upon reflection I got my priorities all wrong.  As part of my #learningproject in EDCI 569 with Alec Couros, I intend to ‘right the ship’ and reintroduce inquiry-learning into my classroom in more intentional way.

 

I have some important goals I would like to achieve with this project:

  1. Create a framework that is suitable for inquiry learning in an elementary school setting
  2. Scaffold the learning process so all my learners can experience a successful project
  3. Include parents in the project by sharing learning throughout the process not just at the end
  4. Create conditions for students to share their learning at the end of the project with the rest of the class and publicly
  5. Provide just the right amount of guidance so as not to exhibit too much control over learning
  6. Share the resources I collect through the process of my learning via a tool such Diigo or Scoop.It

 

I plan to share my learning on my blog under the category ‘CHOICE’ and the tag ‘#LearningProject’.  My blog posts will also auto populate to Twitter using the hashtags #LearningProject and #TIEGrad.

In addition, I have discovered that with any learning project it is important to connection with a like-minded community for support and inspiration.  With this in mind I plan to attend two Twitter chat each month.  Sadly, they are both on Thursdays at 6pm PST which means I can only attend for the first half hour because of class but something is better than nothing.  #GeniusHour is held on the first Thursday of every month and #InquiryChat is bi-weekly on Thursdays at 6pm.

Let the journey begin…

The Journey: Narrowing Down A Lit Review Topic

The journey of narrowing down a topic for my lit reviews has not been easy.  Fraught with indecision and a stubbornness to find the perfect topic, the delays have been frustrating.  One on one chats with my professor forced me into thinking carefully about what I was looking for in a lit review and subsequent project, and here are some of my musings.

I started to think about what I was looking for in a project and came up with a short list:

  • It may sound simplistically obvious, but I want my lit review to be personally relevant.  I have to be jazzed about the idea.
  • I also need the topic to be meaningful to my practice.  I do not want to complete a lit review and project just for the sake of it.  The information I read and process in the lit review has to, somehow, enhance my practice and help me become a better educator.
  • Selfishly, it also has to be a topic that will help me create opportunities outside of the k-12 classroom.  I cannot see myself working solely as a classroom teacher for the next 20 years.

Next, I started to consider some of the issues I see in education and use this as a driving force to change.  Some of the challenges I see are as follows:

  • The model of school – The more time I spend in education, the more I get excited about the learning aspect of school and the more disheartened I get about the miscellaneous aspects of school.  I often feel that school gets in the way of learning.
  • Another issue, I see in schools, is the culture.  Rank and sort, grouping students by age, individual classrooms, grades, award systems, compartmentalized subjects, and inequity work against a model of learning and inquiry.
  • I believe more and more students are starting to question the personal relevance of their school experience.

When thinking of lit review topics and possible masters projects four themes have started to emerge:

  1. Multi-access Learning – Learning does not always occur between the bookends of a typical school day.  There is an opportunity to develop more freedom for students of all ages to access learning at a time that is personally convenient.  Flexible attendance may take the pressure of certain students and allow for more focused instructional time, and opportunities for asynchronous delivery may reduce anxiety for others. One major disadvantage of choosing multi-access learning as a topic is making it meaningful to my practice.  I don’t think this is a model for elementary school students that we see anytime soon.
  2. Game-based/Simulation-based Learning – According to NMC Horizon Report: 2011 K-12 Edition, “Game-based learning has grown in recent years as research continues to demonstrate its effectiveness for learning. Games for education span the range from single-player or small-group card and board games all the way to massively multiplayer online games and alternate reality games.” (Johnson, Adams, & Haywood, 2011)  I am hesitant of choosing game-based learning as a lit review topic because of the stigma associated with the use of games in education.  Even though I see the value of game-based learning in education the term ‘edutainment’ comes to mind.  I can foresee some of the emails I might receive from parents condemning more of their children’s time allotted to gaming.  I am also slightly conflicted about the reward aspect of gaming.  As an educator, I am very conscious about the destructive nature of reward-based systems as a method of obtaining results.
  3. Open Education – Open education and open practices cover a broad range of subtopics.  The idea, that intellectual property can be shared for the benefit of everyone, is an exciting prospect.  I believe that education can and should be available to anyone at anytime, and there exists opportunities to reduce costs in education by using open educational resources.  One of the greatest challenges I see in pursuing Open Education masters project are the overly restrictive privacy laws in British Columbia.
  4. Inquiry/Personalized Learning – This is the topic I am most excited about right now.  Last year I introduced a block of time set aside each week called C.H.O.I.C.E.  Children Have Ownership In Choice Education (C.H.O.I.C.E) was modeled on #geniushour, Passion Time, and 20% time.  Essentially, it allows time in our weekly schedule for students to direct their own learning, explore areas of personal interest, develop a sense of inquiry, and have an outlet for their own brand of creativity.  It did not go so well when I introduced because I gave my learners too much freedom and did not adequately scaffold the inquiry process.  I believe I can learn from my mistakes and help others avoid some of the schoolboy errors I initially made when I introduced it.

I also need to consider an overarching learning theory to support my project.  Inquiry learning and the learning theory of Constructivism compliment each other.  “Constructivism states that learning is an active contextualize process of constructing knowledge rather than acquiring it.” (“Constructivism,” n.d.)

References:

Constructivism. (n.d.). In Learning-Theories. Retrieved January 17, 2015, from

http://www.learning-theories.com/constructivism.html


Johnson, L., Adams, S., & Haywood, K. (2011). Horizon Report > 2011 K – 12 Edition. Methodology (p. 36). Retrieved from http://www.nmc.org/pdf/2011-Horizon-Report-K12.pdf

Chapter Reflection: Digital School by Clive Thompson

“As various educational analysts have joked, if you brought a bunch of surgeons from a hundred years ago into today’s hospitals, they would have no idea what was going on, because everything about their craft had evolved: antibiotics, laparoscopic devices, MRIs. But time-traveling teachers would have no trouble walking into an elementary school (or even Harvard) and going to work, because schools are nearly identical. Walk to the front of the class, pick up the chalk, and start lecturing.” (Thompson, 2014)

 

Educational theorists from around the globe agree that the model of school has not changed much in centuries.  I believe that is about to change.

 

The evolution of digital technology use in schools is increasing all the time.  Educators are using digital tools to augment the limitations of our brains, provide meaningful and authentic learning opportunities, and create artefacts of learning that can be shared and improved on by others.  Of course, this kind of process takes time.  Whenever a new practice is developed there are always those folk who realize its potential early and jump on board.  For others, it takes a little more time to change.

 

Innovators and Early Adopters are pushing the boundaries with digital technologies in schools while the Early Majority are now moving through the framework of SAMR model of technology integration in their classrooms.  I am sure, upon reflection, the history of school will be divided into the time before and after the digital revolution.

The utilization of digital technologies in our schools is still in its infancy.  Diffusion of innovation theory describes how, why, and the rate in which new technologies, ideas, and processes weave their way into the fabric of society.  According to Everett Brown’s research on diffusion theory, there are four main factors that influence the process of adoption of an idea:

  1. The innovation itself
  2. How information about the innovation is communicated
  3. Time
  4. The nature of the environment the innovation is introduced in  (Rogers, 2003)

The decision to adopt a new idea, process, or technology is based on what Rogers calls the Innovation Decision Period (IDP).  The stages of the IDP are:

 

Innovation Decision Process (IDP) (1)

 

“The adoption of an innovation follows an S curve when plotted over a length of time.  The categories of adopters are innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards.” (“Diffusion of Innovations,” n.d.)  The adoption of digital technologies, aligned with sound pedagogical models of technology integration, which are used to make school more meaningful and personally relevant to learners are still in the ‘early adopter’ phase.  Several factors stand in the way of the diffusion of digital technologies in our public schools and include; inadequate funding, privacy issues related to FIPPA, general resistance to change, infrastructure issues, hype, and misuse.  According to Thompson (2014) classroom technology has a long history of hype that has rarely delivered.  From radio to television, these innovations have been positioned as saviours to the education system but have failed to live up to their claims.  I believe that schools need robust instructional frameworks to manage new technologies and avoid spending a whole pile of money on using digital technologies for the sake of digital technologies by replicating offline activities, online.

 

When embracing digital technologies in the classroom the SAMR model of technology integration is both simple and robust.  The model encourages educators to move the practice of using digital technologies from the acts substituting offline activities to online activities to creative new ways of creating, evaluating and sharing content.

SAMR Model

Image the creation of Dr. Ruben Puentedura, Ph.D. http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/

As educators move from positions of substituting offline for online activities to creating content, developing and sharing knowledge, they improve their instructional practice.  Embracing a model of technology integration like SAMR will increase the legitimacy of digital tools by the majority of educators, parents, and educational leaders.  At this point, comparisons with prophesied educational technology revolutions of the past, such as radio and television can end.  Resulting in a move towards creating a new vision of school where all stakeholders have a voice at the table.

 

Smarter Than You Think, a book by Clive Thompson, tackles this idea that change needs to be adopted in our education system.  His chapter titled Digital School helped me to question the purpose of using digital technologies in my classroom, and prompted me to critically-evaluate the tools I use.  Deciding whether or not to embrace digital technologies in schools is no longer the question we should be asking.  Instead, we should be asking how we can use digital technologies to create artefacts of learning, which are both authentic and meaningful?

 

Thompson’s discussion on the merits of coding in school were personally relevant as it coincided with my class’s participation in the Hour of Code.  I appreciated Thompson’s discussion around the work Seymour Papert championed in the 1960’s with his Logo programming language.  I’m sure I’m not the only teacher who struggles to make aspects of mathematics personally relevant to their students.  Unlike Logo, where students programmed a turtle to move around the screen during the Hour of Code, my students were making a character skate patterns in ice.  While I walked around the room, I observed several unique moments.  Students did not need to ask me constantly questions about a task; they seemed to understand what was required.  Secondly, I saw cycles of failure and success, which led to new learning.  I rarely see students take these kinds of risks in offline activities.  Thirdly, I saw students collaborate in more supportive ways than I have seen before.  Perhaps most importantly, from an educator’s perspective, I saw student’s experiment and develop new knowledge about mathematical concepts such as computational thinking, angles, and shape naming.  My Hour of Code was a complete success!  I certainly agree with Thompson when he says, “It proves that you learn by experimenting and making mistakes, and not by trying to be perfect the first time.” (Thompson, 2014)

References:

Diffusion of Innovations. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved December 16, 2014, from

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diffusion_of_innovations

Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of innovations. New York: Free Press.

Thompson, C. (2014). Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing our Minds for the Better. New York: The Penguin Group.

The Benefits of Thinking in Public

Mauer-betlehem

(Banksy photographed near Bethlehem by Markus Ortner CC BY-SA 2.5)

I am enjoying reading Clive Thompson’s book, Smarter Than You Think.  His thoughts on public thinking resonate with me at a time when the student use of cloud based tools to document thinking and exhibit artefacts of learning are restricted.

My principal recently asked me what resources I needed for my classroom.  My response was whiteboard paint so I can turn my walls into spaces for public thinking.  I think she assumed I was joking, but I believe we can all benefit from displaying our thinking.  Sadly, we miss out on important learning opportunities when we don’t take the time to share the process of learning. Sharing the process of learning can create a unique bond with the audience.  Thinking in public focuses more on the process than the product (Kleon, 2014).

“In this day and age, if your work isn’t online, it doesn’t exist.” (Kleon, 2014)

 

Benefits

Public thinking is the epitome of sharing knowledge for the betterment of mankind.  Those who share publicly and openly are usually those that are more interested in improvement rather than ownership.  Thinking aloud stimulates creativity and facilitates like-minded people to find each other. “Studies have found that particularly when it comes to analytic or critical thought, the effort of communicating to someone else forces you to think more precisely, make deeper connections, and learn more” (Thompson, 2014).  Thinking aloud leads to more accountability than thinking internally.  Thompson summed this up well when he said,  “It’s easy to win an argument inside your head” (Thompson, 2014). Thinking aloud makes me a better writer, reasoner, and thinker because in the back of my mind there is always a voice that reminds me that my work may be critiqued.

Public thinking leads to better quality products because the collective is always going to be more creative than the individual. “Knowledge has always been created via conversation, argument, and consensus” (Thompson, 2014).  Take the success of the Mozilla Project.  A group of technology minded thinkers and developers who work together to keep the Internet alive and accessible, so people throughout the world can be informed contributors and creators of the Web.  The Mozilla Project shares the source code for their projects so others can remix the content and contribute to enhancing the product.  Mozilla is an organization who models thinking in public.

Public thinking can also lead to social change.  In the spring of 2011 when Egyptians staged nationwide demonstrations against the rule of President Hosni Mubarak. Hundreds of protesters were killed as Mubarak and his allies try to crush the uprising.  The people of Egypt took to social media to share their thoughts by bringing the crisis to the attention of the world. How many atrocities like this happen in areas of the world where public thinking is seen as an overtly defiant attack against government?

Challenges

One of the biggest obstacles to sharing thinking publically is people and institutions that are stuck in the mindset of ownership and protectionism.  In education, at a time when people are developing incredibly beneficial learning networks, many educators work in highly competitive environments.  Movement between jobs, schools, and districts is incredibly difficult and sometimes the only way to get ahead is to develop and hold onto something unique and different.

Privacy is another obstacle standing in the way of thinking in public.  In Canada, educators across the country are bound by overly restrictive school district policies.  FIPPA was created to make public bodies more accountable to the public and protect personal privacy, not limit student’s creative process because their thinking is stored on a server located outside of the country. These laws are standing in the way of student learning and freedom of expression.

Fear also stands in the way of public displays of thought.  The fears of failure or critiques are often cited as reasons to internalize thinking.  Thinking aloud makes people vulnerable by revealing intimate knowledge of the way they think.  Risk taking is the precursor to public thinking.  This can be overcome by realizing that nothing worthwhile has ever been achieved without a long line of failures behind it.  In my profession, it is increasingly difficult to encourage my learners to take risks.  The fear of appearing to know everything paralyzes my learner’s ability to share their thoughts.  To conquer this, I need to create an environment that embraces failure as a part of the learning culture.

Implications For My Practice

My goal as an educator is to design meaningful and authentic learning experiences for students, model practices of lifelong learning, and provide opportunities to (co)create artifacts of learning.  After reading Smarter Than You Think, I have realised the benefits of encouraging students to share their work publicly.  It is important to engaging my learners in the act of thinking aloud through their learning, and not just at the end of a learning sequence.  “Public thinking is messy” (Thompson, 2014), but the benefits can be extraordinary.

 

As I continue to develop my own craft and strive to be the best educator I can, I plan to not only continue to share my finished work publicly, but also find the means to document the process of my work.  In my profession, educators slip into the practice of evaluating the end product, but there are clear benefits in evaluating the process in equal measures.

References

Kleon, A. (2014). Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered (Kindle Edi., p. 224). Workman Publishing Company. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.ca/Show-Your-Work-Creativity-Discovered-ebook/dp/B00GU2RGGI/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1415556772&sr=1-1&keywords=show+your+work

 

Thompson, C. (2014). Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing our Minds for the Better. New York: The Penguin Group.

Google Apps for Education: A Multimedia Evaluation

In my latest #tiegrad class, I was asked to evaluate a resource against Mayer’s Handbook of Multimedia Learning Theories.  I chose to evaluate two components of Google Apps for Education because it is an invaluable yet underused resource in Canadian public schools.  Below are my findings:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ghVywxq9MFQO3FRcWEzBM9kMVwlzJvLLyynm-SrruxY/edit?usp=sharing

Collaboration Principle in Multimedia Learning: A Remix

A summary of Chapter 23 in The Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia Learning written by Paul A. Kirschner, Kemke Kirschner, and Jeroen Janssen

This chapter discusses three principles for effective collaborative multimedia learning, and they determine when and under what conditions collaboration will positively affect learning in a multimedia environment.

 

 

Collaborative learning, learning in teams, is most effective when the learning task is cognitively demanding enough to warrant a collaboration.  A task is described as cognitively demanding when:

  1. It overtly taxes the working memory of the learning
  2. When the benefits of collaboration exceed the transactional activity costs (the cognitive effort expended during collaboration)

 

Three sub-principles of collaboration in multimedia learning:

  1. The learning task is cognitively demanding enough to require collaboration and thus the effective use of a collective working memory.

Collaboration should be considered when the distribution advantage is greater than the transactional activity costs.  The distribution advantage is a benefit of collaboration because the cognitive load generated when collaborating can be spread amongst members of the group.  This allows members to free up cognitive energy to focus on the learning activities.  Transactional activity costs are the costs associated with individual groups members have to expend cognitive energy while collaborating in activities such thinking, communicating and internalizing others thoughts.  Accordingly to the authors, a learning task is recommended for collaboration when the benefits of the distribution advantage outweigh the transactional activity costs.  Collaborating is most beneficial when learners engage in high-complexity tasks and problem-solving activities.

 

How Does This Relate To My Practice?

I need to be mindful when asking my learners to collaborate on tasks.  The task needs to be cognitively demanding enough to warrant a collaboration.  It is possible to collaborate too much, and to do it without much thought.  Collaboration between students is best suited to situations that involve higher level thinking skills such as synthesizing and problem-solving, rather than collaborating for collaborating sake.

 

  1. Multimedia Should Stimulate Effective and Efficient Distribution of Thoughts and Cognitive Processes While Members Carry Out Tasks.

It is important to consider who in a group, of collaborative learners, has the working knowledge of the task and how they effectively share it with other group members. Communication takes place on two levels, the individual and the group level.  Sharing of information involves the externalization of thoughts towards group members and the subsequent internalization of those thoughts by group members.  The effectiveness of sharing information in a group is influenced by factors such as social loafing and the hidden profile paradigm.  Social loafing is the phenomenon where individuals tend to expend less energy when working collectively than when working individually.  Picture team members taking it easy during a tug-of-war event.  The hidden profile paradigm refers to the tendency of collaborative learners, working on complex tasks, not to effectively share information that is only available to one group member.  Interdependence is a key indicator to collaborative success.  The tools used in multimedia collaboration should facilitate group interdependence.  “To maximize information sharing, group members need to be dependent on each other for successfully carrying out and completing a task, should be aware of each other’s knowledge and expertise, and should be made accountable for, visualize, and evaluate the effort they invest.” (Mayer, 2005)

 

How Does This Relate To My Practice?

This is a reminder that, if a cooperative learning task is to be successful, each member of the group must realize that they have an important role to play in the dynamics of the group.  Assigning individual roles to each group member, in order the scaffold the process, may help.

 

  1. Multimedia Should Facilitate Effective and Efficient Communication and Regulations of Actions.  

Effective communication between group members is necessary because collaboration is a complex activity.  In this sub-principle, the authors discuss the importance of relationships in collaborative groups.  A complementary relationship is described as one where people have significantly different functions or characteristics and can compensate for each other’s limitations.  Whereas a supplementary relationship is defined as a relationship where people have many things in common.

Researchers have found that students working in cooperative groups share knowledge and information they have in common, and negate to share their unique knowledge.  Consequently, it is important that members understand the unique skills each member of the group brings to the partnership.  How effectively members do this is a reflection of how useful the group will be at meeting their goals.  Profile and document sharing is a good way for all members to share their expertise and skill sets.

Collaboration in multimedia learning will be effective and efficient if the multimedia environment provides group members with tools to engage in meaningful interaction and thus to effectively and efficiently share their cognitive resources.

The authors suggest three ways multimedia can support effective and efficient communication and self-regulation:

 

  • Offering sufficient opportunities to communicate effectively either through asynchronous communication channels (e.g., email, discussion boards, Internet forums) or through synchronous channels (e.g., chat, video conferencing)
  • Increasing awareness of group activities by creating a multimedia environment that offers information about group members’ knowledge, understanding, or opinions.  In addition, multimedia learning environments should also inform group member of their participation.  Researchers found that this led to a more balanced discussion schedule (Bachour, Kaplan, & Dillenbourg, 2010)
  • Use scripts to support collaboration.  Scripts take the form of adaptations for learns by structuring their interactions including metacognitive activities at the end of a learning sequence. (Weinberger, Ertl, Fischer, & Mandl, 2005)

 

How Does This Relate To My Practice?

I particularly like the use of scripts at the intermediate level to aid in the collaboration process.  I use this practice a lot with my whole-group literacy instruction, but now realize I can incorporate into many other areas of instruction.  Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I plan to think more carefully about when and whom I ask students to collaborate.  It is often detrimental to throw students together and ask them to collaborate on a task when they may not have had the opportunity to develop relationships, and understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

References:

Bachour, K., Kaplan, F., & Dillenbourg, P. (2010). An Interactive Table for Supporting Participation Balance in Face-to-Face Collaborative Learning. IEEE Transactions on Learning Technologies, 3(3), 203–213. doi:10.1109/TLT.2010.18

 

Mayer, R. E. (2005). The Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning. IThe Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia Learning (Vol. 16, p. 663). doi:10.1075/idj.16.1.13pel

 

Weinberger, A., Ertl, B., Fischer, F., & Mandl, H. (2005). Epistemic and social scripts in computer?supported collaborative learning. Instructional Science, 33(1), 1–30. doi:10.1007/s11251-004-2322-4

The Art of Finding: An Important Digital Literacy

Internet Stats

 

In his book, Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds For The Better, Clive Thompson talks about the emergence of important new digital literacies.  He asks the question of what it means to be literate in a world where our relationship with digital technologies is omnipresent.

According to Internet Live Stats, a highly recognized developer of visual statistics, over 3 billion people around the world use the Internet on a daily basis basis.  Almost 2.5 million emails are sent every second.  5.5 million videos are viewed on YouTube every minute, and 165 million people query Google every hour (“Internet Live Stats,” n.d.)  A massive amount of data is exchanged on the Internet each second.  We used to query libraries for knowledge and information, but now we query powerful search engines instead.

In order to make sense of the information and data we produce every second, we need a new set of skills – new literacies.  The art of searching or finding is an emerging digital literacy.

 

In chapter 5 of Thompson book, The Art of Finding, three important ideas stood out.

 

Separating What is Valuable from The Noise

With Petabytes of data being generated and transferred every hour through the Internet, a mass of data and information is produced.  Those who can develop the skills to search, extract, and make meaningful sense of the data will be more literate than those who cannot.  Developing accurate search techniques can be developed at an early age and should be taught in all k-12 schools.  Google has realized the importance of effective and efficient searching and offers two excellent video tutorials on power-searching.  If we choose not to embrace new digital literacies or equip our learners with a new set of tools we are doing them a disservice, and from a global perspective we may be inadvertently leaving them behind.

With a massive amount of content being created and shared every hour, I find it almost unthinkable to reread a book or re-watch a video.  Like Thompson suggests in this chapter, I invariably end up skimming over the content, unable to comprehend at a deep level, but able to get the gist of the topic.  In my defense, I make copious notes but the reality is unless I develop methods to organize, store, and retrieve that information for later use, I am a less active learner.  As we create and store more and more data that helps us navigate our daily lives, the more important powerful search techniques will become.

 

Augmentation Through The Use of Digital Technologies

The ability to store information in our mind suffers when cognitive load demands tax the capacity our limited working memory.  Computers and the plethora of digital tools can help alleviate this problem.  Those who use embrace digital tools to augment their mind/memory will be more literate than those who cannot.  The freed-up cognitive effort of ‘outsourcing’ some of the mind’s most strenuous tasks to computers and technology allows more time for learning to occur.  Research suggests that digital tools can enhance or work and our lives (Thompson, 2014)  Without an app to save articles from the web, filter that content for specific information, and organize in a way that is meaningful for me, my life would be less organized.  I would also miss countless meetings without the convenience of entering them into my calendar, setting a reminder, and then essentially forgetting about them.

Thompson talks about the term ‘spaced repetition’ in reference to a digital tool he uses to help him remember content in the books he has read.  Amazon’s Kindle app has the function to send reminders in the form of emails, which contain the important information you highlight in the book.  These daily reminders follow an instruction strategy names spaced repetition.   Spaced repetition works on the principle that we forget things over time, but this can be overcome if we review material on a regular basis.  Amazon’s Daily Review is a unique solution to the problem of reading a book once and subsequently losing knowledge over time.

In many classroom, educators do not fully utilize the ability of digital tools to help learners organize their thinking, and offset some of the cognitive load stressors associated with remembering information (Thompson, 2014)

The question of whether technology is making us smarter or dumber is somewhat irrelevant.  Digital technologies are already integrated into every aspect of daily life.  We must find ways to embrace these technologies to our betterment.  Howard Rheingold is focussed on using technology to make use smarter.  He asks the question, “What if humans could build electronic tools that leverage our ability to think, communicate, and cooperate?” (Rheingold, 2012)  Perhaps we can harness new technologies to help us become more socially conscious and extend and augment the capabilities of our incredible minds?

 

 

Focus or Distraction?

Some might say that our creativity may be negatively affected by the digital tools we embrace for our most creative work.  If I am to be honest, I am easily distracted when working online.  It is too easy for me to get sidetracked on a topic while browsing online.  If I am not checking my Twitter feed, then I easily succumb to cross-checking something I have just read with another source online, and before I know it, half an hour has passed.

Most of my eureka moments happen not when I am directly thinking about an area of research, but when I am cycling to work, or out for a run.  Thompson explains that research suggests that if the content we are reading is meaningful to us, then we will remember it.  If it’s not, we are likely to forget.  From an educator’s perspective this brings us back to the age-old problem of attention, and how to create learning opportunities that are meaningful to students.  As learners access digital tools in schools more and more, educators have an obligation to teach strategies to combat distractions while working online.  It turns out that the self-regulated learning skills required to be a successful offline learner are the same ones required to be successful online.

 

References

Internet Live Stats. (n.d.). Retrieved November 08, 2014, from http://www.internetlivestats.com

Rheingold, H. (2012). Mind Amplifier: Can Our Digital Tools Make Us Smarter? (Kindle Edi.). TED Conferences. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.ca/Mind-Amplifier-Digital-Smarter-Kindle-ebook/dp/B009GQXRQ8/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1415556570&sr=1-1

Thompson, C. (2014). Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing our Minds for the Better. New York: The Penguin Group.

 

Social Media Use in K-12 Physical and Health Education

When I first stumbled across Matt J. Vollum’s article, The Potential for Social Media Use in K-12 Physical and Health Education, my initial reaction was that this was another case of using social media just for the sake of it.  However, the more I read about social media use in health and physical education the more benefits I see.

For the purpose of this blog post, I would like to use Wikipedia’s definition of social media. “Social media is the social interaction among people in which they create, share or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks.”

Switching gears slightly while remaining on the topic of social media, my wife gave birth to our first child in February.  Since then, she developed a network of new mothers with children around the same age as our daughter.  Several of the group members have already talked about a second child but felt like they wanted to increase their core strength before putting their bodies through the stress of another pregnancy.  One way they came up with to prepare for this was to start to run together, but that wasn’t always feasible because of schedules.  Instead, they decided to utilize social media.  Each group member downloaded the same smartphone app, Couch-to-5k, by Active Network.  The app allowed them to track their individual progress, be each others cheerleaders, and allowed them to send each other motivational messages of support.  They also found the benefits of collectively sharing technical running knowledge.  If adults enjoy motivationally driven collaborate exercise, then why not kids?

Vollum discusses the potential of social media use in health and physical education by discovering how health and wellness programs outside of education are currently using social media.  He also uses existing research on the topic of social media, which exists in general education.  His argument is simple. If the use of social media in healthy living is useful outside of education and is already being used in other areas of education then perhaps, it might be beneficial to include in health living curriculums in schools.

According to a recent Media Smarts article titled, Young Canadians In A Wired World, 99% of students surveyed from grades 4-11 had access to the Internet outside of school.  81% of those students also used social media that included but was not limited to Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ (Steeves, 2014)

 

Vollum’s research looked at three areas of social media and education:

  1. The relationship between social interaction and the educational experience.
    1. Vollum found that social media has the potential to increase social presence, a feeling of connectedness towards others, which can lead to  brighter educational experience and greater accomplishment (Vollum, 2014)
  2. The relationship between social media and social interaction.
    1. Vollum found that when information can be personalized it becomes more meaningful to the learner, and social media can increase the sense of belonging and connectedness with a prolonged membership on social media (Greenhow, 2011)
  3. The relationship between social media and community and personal physical and health education outside of the K-12 setting.
    1. Social media has the opportunity to develop relationships and partnerships in health and behavior changes thus increasing the communication, which can lead to increasing levels of education (Hanson et al., 2011)
    2. Students in today’s world are already using social media in their educational setting. If increased social presence improves education and a large percentage of students are discussing education already then it would seem reasonable to say that social media use in a K-12 physical/health education environment can increase the educational experience and/or achievement (Vollum, 2014)


The Continuum of Social Media Use in Health and Physical Education

Social Media Continuum - Healthy Living

When one looks at current social media use in health and physical education, a clear hierarchy of practical use is visible.  At the base level, organizations that promote healthy living and physical education in partnership with schools have developed a passive form of interaction to deliver their message.  Healthy living champions typically utilize a webpage, or social media spaces such as Twitter, YouTube, Google+, or Facebook.  Users with an interest in healthy living visit the site to review documents and multimedia resources.  An example of this is the Action Schools BC website, which may be referred to as passive social media use.

When K-12 schools move away from passive social media use to enhance healthy living they take a step closer toward using social media to its full potential.  Teacher-centered social media use is the next logical step in the continuum towards Learner-centered social media use.  In this stage, teachers use social media to create profiles and logs for students to record data about their healthy living experiences.  An example of this is Steps Count, which provides a platform for teachers to set up a class to track and chart student’s step counts using pedometers.

Schools may say they use social media to its full potential, when learners work collaboratively outside of the classroom and without direct influence from their teachers to develop independent, healthy living habits.  An example of this is Zombies, Run! which has amassed over 800 000 members worldwide.  Players combine social media with physical activity.

In contrast to the clear benefits of Zombies, Run!  Meyer, in his Handbook of Multimedia Learning, disagrees with the use of multimedia agents of learning.  In our case, Mayer would say that the feedback delivered by the narrator and zombie in the running app may not lead to increased motivation and learning.  Meyer states, Well designed studies find that when the effects of well designed instructional methods provided by the agent are separated from the effects of the presence of the agents, no learning benefits are found (Mayer, 2005).  If I gave my learners the option of running around the school track, or running around the community while listening to a highly interactive adventure, I’m pretty sure which option they would take.

 

Benefits of Social Media Use In Physical and Health Education

There are many advantages of including social media use in K-12 healthy living curriculum.  Coaches may use video to capture and analyze a performed skill before sharing it with members of a team to learn from.  Younger students could use social media to track their eating habits and compare it with other children around the world.  Teacher can use the power of social to add elements of gameplay into physical education, which may grab the attention of the sedentary video game generation.

 

References

Greenhow, C. (2011). Online social networks and learning. On the Horizon, 19(1), 4–12. doi:10.1108/10748121111107663

 

Hanson, C., West, J., Neiger, B., Thackeray, R., Barnes, M., & McIntyre, E. (2011). Use and Acceptance of Social Media Among Health Educators. American Journal of Health Education, 42(4), 197–204. doi:10.1080/19325037.2011.10599188

 

Mayer, R. E. (2005). The Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning. IThe Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia Learning (Vol. 16, p. 663). doi:10.1075/idj.16.1.13pel

 

Steeves, V. (2014). Life Online.

 

Vollum, M. J. (2014). The potential for social media use in K-12 physical and health education. Computers in Human Behavior, 35, 560–564. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2014.02.035