Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Final Reflection for Walden Course

In my initial Personal Learning Theory developed for this course I stated that my beliefs were a blend of a potpourri of theories.  I am still convinced the Behaviorists push my classroom management system and help students that are grade motivated to excel.  As an art teacher, I am thoroughly entrenched in the theories of Constructivism and Constructionism as my students develop artifacts to demonstrate their learning and the making of those artifacts provide the students an opportunity to extend their knowledge with and beyond what they bring into my classroom. 

I still maintain the bulk of my teaching style and personal learning theory stems from the Cognitivist realm.  To start, this theory has always stood out for me because it mimics my personal learning style.  The basic concepts make perfect sense to me.  To learn, the information needs to come from a multitude of different senses in order for stronger connections to be made.  The information is stored in a variety of networks so allowing the learner to organize it helps retention.  An opportunity to rehearse or work with the information as much as possible builds stronger connections, hence, provides easier retrieval from long-term memory.  This is so entrenched in my personal learning theory that I was able to see its basic concepts as the foundations for Constructionism and Constructivism as well in regards to the opportunity to work or rehearse the information to create the artifact, or, in other words, elaboration.

While this course did not change my direction as to how I believe individuals learn, it did clarify and strengthen why I feel the way I do.  I am now able to justify the strategies I use in my classroom.  I was also pleased to find small adjustments to old strategies to help further promote the possibilities of learning success.  For example, the Dual Coding Hypothesis promotes matching and image or sound with text to strengthen the learning opportunity.  A small adjustment to a strategy I already use will be to provide PowerPoint presentations but to deliver them with images and use the text for the script. 

I was thrilled to find new technologies that will allow me to present time tested learning strategies in conjunction with my learning theories.  For instance, in terms of helping the students create networks of knowledge, I will begin using the online concept mapping sites along with content vocabulary.  From advance organizers, summarizing and notetaking, to nonlinguistic representations and cooperative learning, this tool is a gem as it can be used for several of Marzano’s proclaimed strategies that work. 

Another tool that I plan to implement immediately is that of VoiceThread.  This online tool will provide the students an opportunity to post favorite artwork produced by the Artist of the Week and record or type in comments.  The discussions will center on how the artists fit into their genre or, simply, on why they chose the piece, all the while using the content vocabulary they are learning.  This provides a social environment where the students can converse about the artworks posted, gives an image to support the vocabulary, and extends their learning by allowing them to rehearse or elaborate the concepts.     

There are still more changes in store for my classroom that I project in the long-term.  I would like to create a classroom blog that would allow the students to explore solutions to visual arts problems like refining a theme, symbols to use, media to use, etc.  This would also be a platform for students to post their designs and ask for suggestions as well as a place to post their final products to instigate art criticism.  Developing a routine and finding the technology to support this endeavor will be the main obstacles to overcome before this vision can come to life.  Our schools are beginning to see the importance of computer availability for each student so I am encouraged that this will ease the stress of access.  I am also taking the initiative of finding refurbished computers and having them restored to accommodate the needs of my room.  I am anxious to initiate this process as I feel it will open a stronger relationship between my students as they collaborate to design, build, and evaluate their pieces, but also a stronger ownership and connection with the content and the pieces themselves as they take control of the development and learning.  

An extension of this social networking would be to provide the students with a global platform to display their work and demonstrate their learning.  This will take place in the form of a VoiceThread or a Wiki.  This would extend the evaluation of their artwork beyond my scope and the walls of our school.  Knowing the audience for their artwork is expanding exponentially is sure to elevate engagement. 

Ideally, I would like to initiate this process by partnering with a sister school that would allow my students to gain different perspectives on their artwork due to the different cultures that stem from that school.  I think this process would mirror the collaborative measures corporations are taking as a means to solve problems and further the development of their products.  Allowing the students to experience this sort of 21st century collaboration will not only prepare them for the workplace but also allow them to refine social skills like accepting criticism and different perspectives within the realm of propriety.  

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