Sunday, July 31, 2011


This is an awesome collaborative tool to use in the classroom.  I am especially excited to have the students post their designs and have online art critiques.  For the most part it was easy to use.  I had trouble getting my microphone to record but don't fault the site, I just have to work out the kinks.  It was easy to type in my narrative as well.

My voicethread topic centers on the way students interact in the middle school and how that might be modified for the better.  Please visit my link and add comments.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Social Learning Theories and Cooperative Learning

This week in our Walden course we explored in depth explanations concerning Cooperative Learning.  This strategy was paired with the Social Learning Theory.  The Cooperative Learning strategy sprouts from the Constructivist epistemology in that “it is a process which requires knowledge to be discovered by students and transformed into concepts to which the students can relate” (Orey, 2001).  It is further extended to incorporate the Social Learning Theory or Social Constructionism/Constructivism as it requires the students to be “actively engaged in constructing, but also actively engaged in conversing about what they are constructing” (Laureate Education, 2008). 

Vygostsky theories of Zone of Proximal Developments and More Knowledgable Others are cornerstones of the Social Learning Theories.  Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) merely states that the students should be within a range where they are ready to learn the next step, they are capable of moving forward (Laureate Education, 2008).  More Knowledgable Others (MKO) provides that a person with more knowledge be available to steer the student to the appropriate resources to move forward (2008).

It is almost as if Cooperative Learning and the Social Learning Theory are synonymous.  Upon introducing this strategy in Using Technology with Classroom Instruction That Works, Pitler et. al describe Cooperative Learning as a strategy that focuses on “having the students interact with each other in groups in ways that enhance their learning.  By doing this the students make sense of, or construct meaning for new knowledge by interacting with others” (2007).

The most interesting thing about the chapter in Classroom Instruction, besides the abundance of technology tools that can be used as a means for this strategy, were the recommendations for formal groupings in Cooperative Learning.  These suggestions took the strategy beyond a basic Think-Pair-Share.  The suggestions may also be helpful to those that wish to try or have tried cooperative learning without much success.  To begin, the authors suggest a ‘sink or swim’ approach.  If the group is successful, all are successful.  The group cannot be successful if one is left behind in learning the concepts.  Face to face, promotive interaction is key.  This is where the students are rooting for each other to be successful as they help each other.  The third is linked with the first as it describes individual and group accountability.  Each student has to contribute towards the end goal.  The fourth stipulation, and in my perspective the hardest, it to have the students learn and partake of interpersonal skills, such as clear communication, trust, decision making, and conflict resolution.  The final component, which I think many overlook, is the group processing.  This is where the group communicates how well they all worked together and what they could do to make the next session better. (2007)

On a personal note, I have tried cooperative learning, many times.  Some lessons went really well and others not so well.  The suggestions in this chapter and the other articles from this week helped to detail some specific parameters that will hopefully change my entire library of cooperative learning lessons to be worthwhile.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2008). Social Learning Theories. Baltimore: Executive Producer

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.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Constructivism and Contructionism with Generating Hypothesis

This week our Walden course is covering the learning theories of Constructivism and Constructivism.  In the webcast, Constructivism and Constructionism, Michael Orey summarizes the theories respectively as “a theory that each individual actively constructs his or her own meaning” and that “people learn best when they build an external artifact or something they can share with others” (Education Laureate, 2008).   This concept was illustrated in practice when we read about Learning by Design (LBD).  Learning by Design is a template that emerges from advocates of both theories.  “The essence of Learning by Design is in the construction of meaning.  Designers (learners) create objects or artifacts representing a learning outcome that is meaningful to them” (Orey, 2001).

Our challenge this week was to juxtapose Contructivism and Contructionism and Marzano’s strategy, Generating and Testing Hypothesis.  While generating and testing hypothesis, the students are “engaging in complex mental processes, applying content knowledge like facts and vocabulary, and enhancing their overall understanding of the content” (Pitler et. al, 2007).  In the text, Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, Piter et al summarizes this strategy with two recommendations:

·      “The generating and testing of hypotheses can be approached in an inductive or deductive manner.
·      Teachers should ask students to clearly explain their hypotheses and their conclusions” (2007).

To compare the strategy with the theory, it was easier to visualize when dissecting it through the format of Learning by Design, essentially the two theories in action.  There are four goals for a Learning by Design environment.  These goals neatly pair with the processes describe by Pitler et al above. 

1.     LBD promotes students “extracting essential concepts and skills from examples and experiences”, a combination of engaging in the complex mental processes and applying content knowledge.
2.     LBD “engages learners in learning”, again, a connection to the complex mental processes necessary to facilitate the task properly.
3.     LBD “encourages question posing”, a link to the process of inductive or deductive reasoning on the part of the student.
4.     LBD “confronts conceptions and misconceptions”, an experience linked to the recommendation that teachers should ask students to clearly explain their hypothesis and conclusions.  This connection between the theories and the strategy is also illustrated in the components of LBD, which call for; “rich, varied feedback for designers, discussion and collaboration, experimentation and exploration, along with reflection”.
(Orey, 2001)

Clearly, using Learning by Design as a template for lessons, especially those that call for students to hypothesize, utilizes many of the main concepts of Constructivism and Constructionism.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2008). Contstructionist and Constructivism. Baltimore: Executive Producer

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.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Cognitivism in Practice

Cognitivism in Practice

This week we concentrated on the main concepts associated with the Cognitive Learning Theory and how that theory can be linked to the Marzano’s strategies of ‘Summarizing and Note Taking’ and using ‘Cues, Questions, and Advance Organizers’. 

Michael Orrey succinctly summarized the Cognitive Learning Theory as having four main components in the webcast, “Cognitive Learning Theories” (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010).  To start, it is believed that individuals have a limited short-term memory and can only handle about 5-9 pieces of new information at a time.  It is expected that further involvement with this new information (rehearsal) will help to move the concepts into long-term memory.  The Elaboration Theory, another main element of Cognitivism, is the basis for that rehearsal.  Elaboration Theory simply states that the educator should provide as many connections to information for the learner as possible, such as visual images and/or events or episodes.   The Dual Coding hypothesis, the third component, fits nicely with Elaboration as it maintains individuals remember sights and smells better than text alone.  Finally, all three components support the fourth, which asserts long-term memories are stored in networks of information.  Simply stated, long term memories are ideas that are connected to other ideas. 

The main goal of educators is to move that initial 5-9 pieces of information from the short-term domain into long-term.  According to Cognitivist, the best way to do that is to provide connections between the organized information through a multitude of senses or experiences.  Both strategies explored this week are exceptional tools to use as a means of attaining that goal.  The first group of strategies, “Cues, Questions, and Advance Organizers”, helps the students to establish the networks and connections for the new information coming their way.  “Cues are explicit reminders or hints about what students are about to experience.  Questions trigger students’ memories and help them to access prior knowledge.   Advance organizers are structures that teachers provide to students before a learning activity to help them classify and make sense of the content they’ll encounter, particularly new content that is not well organized in its original format” (Pitler et al, 2007).  I would also extend the use of the advanced organizer to include covering the Dual Coding hypothesis as it provides the students an opportunity to see the connections between ideas in an organized manner.   The text, Using Technology with Classroom Instruction That Works, discussed several software tools that an educator could incorporate into their lessons to support these strategies, specifically Microsoft Word for organizers, spreadsheet software to create rubrics, and Kidspiration and Inspiration, as well as PowerPoint (2007). 

In terms of ‘Summarizing and Note Taking’, Pitler et al describes these strategies as a tool to help students “focus on their ability to synthesize information and distill it into a concise new form” (2007).  The students are responsible for discerning what information is important and reproducing that information in their own words.  This is another strategy that helps the students to compartmentalize or network information for long term memory.  Along with Advance Organizers, many of the tools described by Pitler et al for summarizing and note taking are formatted to offer a visual representation of those networks.  Many of the tools mentioned in the first strategy are used for this purpose as well.  However, in addition, this chapter includes the possibility of blogs and wikis to support collaborative efforts. 

Clearly, these strategies synchronize well with the components put forth by the Cognitivists.  Both tools provide a space, many times a visual organizer, to organize ideas into a network of connections all the while asking the students to process the information or rehearse.  Using these strategies helps to take the new information and transfer it to a longer lasting memory. 

Laureate Education, Inc. (2010). Cognitive Learning Theory.  Retrieved from
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E. R., Kuhn, M., Malenoski, K. (2007). Using Technology With
Classroom Instruction That Works. Denver, CO: ASCD

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Marzano and Behaviorist Theory

In both the districts I have worked in, Reeths-Puffer and now Port Huron, I have had the opportunity to explore Robert Marzano and his book, Classroom Instruction That Works through professional development sessions.  Now, enrolled in Master’s classes through Walden, I am interacting with Marzano strategies through a different text by Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, and Malenoski called, Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works.  In the foreword of the book Marzano states, “This book shows teachers how to think about using technology to help their students practice concepts, engage in higher-order thinking, and problem solve. In other words, it helps teachers help their students hone skills and knowledge that will serve them for the rest of their lives” (2007).   The book takes the research-based strategies that are proven to be successful and illustrates how to direct them in a 21st century manner through technology.

Coupled with these strategies, the course is reviewing major learning theories.  After an in depth review of the theory, we are investigating how certain Marzano strategies may correlate with the learning theory of that week.  This week we have focused mainly on the behaviorist learning theory and two strategies, Reinforcing Effort and Homework and Practice.

Behaviorist, Edward Thorndike developed the stimulus-response theory.  This concept was developed further by BF Skinner and is well known to educators as operant conditioning-“reinforcing what you want people to do again; ignoring or punishing what you want people to stop doing”  (Smith, 1999).  With regard to learning, James Hartley, another behaviorist, outlined four key principles:
·      “Activity is important. Learning is better when the learner is active rather than passive”
·      “Repetition, generalization and discrimination are important notions.  Frequent practice, and practice in varied contexts-is necessary for learning to take place.”
·      “Reinforcement is the cardinal motivator”
·      “Learning is helped when the objectives are clear”
                                                                        (Smith, 1999)

Marzano’s strategy of ‘Homework and Practice’ share many similarities with the behaviorist theory.  First of all, Pitler, quotes Marzano as saying, “Students need about 24 practice sessions with a skill in order to achieve 80-percent competency” (2007).  This neatly ties in with Hartley’s principle of repetition or frequent practice.
Pitler et al also goes on to recommend, “homework assignments should have a clearly articulated purpose and outcome” (2007).   Hartley’s fourth principle focuses on the importance of clear objectives.   In additional support of practice, Pitler et al quote McREL’s research as an opportunity for students to adapt and shape what they have learned (2007).  This is coupled with the recommendation that homework should be commented on in a variety of forms of feedback (Pitler, 2007).   In terms of behaviorist theory, the feedback, which should be as immediate as possible, plays the role of reinforcement and helps the students to adapt what they have learned.

Comparing ‘Reinforcing Effort’ to the behaviorist theory is an easier connection to illustrate.  In simplest terms, Reinforcing Effort means to “help students understand the relationship between effort and achievement” (2007).  The most visual way to do this is to help the students track their successes and failures in relation to the amount of effort they exhausted towards specific activities.  This task allows the students to see immediate feedback or reinforcement, positive or otherwise, as it pertains to the results of the activity.  The goal would be for the student to see the positive results associated with elevated effort and shape their behaviors to continue that trend.  Tracking several activities not only provides a stronger, longitudinal relationship between effort and achievement but also provides the frequent practice mentioned above.     

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E. R., Kuhn, M., Malenoski, K. (2007). Using Technology With
Classroom Instruction That Works. Denver, CO: ASCD

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