Module 5 Blog: Engaging learners through the world around them

Throughout this week’s module, we discussed Cooperative Learning and Constructivism. I have found Cooperative Learning to be an approach that applies quite well in my video production classes. Although this strategy holds merit all on it’s own, the reason that I first started using was out of necessity. We had limited materials in our computer lab, which means that students had to work in groups to complete projects. However, the challenge when working with technology is that it is difficult to divide tasks when there is one computer to split between three students. I found that assigning students with different tasks and roles helped them stay on task, and have an individual goal to focus on as well as the overall group goal. Dell’Olio and Donk (2007) referred to Performance Indicator 10 by stating, “Collaborate with peers, experts and others to contribute to a content-related base by using technology to compile, synthesize, produce, and disseminate information, models and other creative works” (p. 273). These action words are the goals of collaborative learning and I see how students can proceed in these actions with technology to further their learning.

John Dewey’s article, “My Pedagogic Creed” presented a very interesting viewpoint as he articulated his beliefs of the roles of education. One quote that stuck with me is, “I believe that the only true education comes through the stimulation of the child’s powers by the demands of the social situations in which he finds himself” (Dewey, 1897, p. 2). I agree with these thoughts because students learn best when they are able to apply their newfound knowledge to the world around them. We discussed this concept in our small group this week and found that society does of course influence knowledge. If this is true, how can we as teachers use the trends of society to make knowledge more impactful in our students’ lives?


Strategy 2: Identifying Similarities and Differences

Identifying Similarities and Differences is a teaching strategy that uses the concepts of comparing and contrasting knowledge so that students can better understand the subject matter. The specific strategies inside this category are comparing, classifying, creating metaphors and creating analogies (Dean et al, 2012). Comparing is when students differentiate subjects based on their similarities and differences. Classifying is when students divide the subject matter into categories based on their similarities. Creating metaphors is when students can find patterns among the subject matter and relate them to similar patterns that they are aware of. Creating analogies is when students pair together concepts to better understand the components of the knowledge (Dean et al, 2012).  The main recommendations for implementing the strategy of Indentifying Similarities and Differences is to first show students how to correctly use this approach, then allow time for them to practice while also guiding them through the process with cues and questions (Dean et al, 2012).

Key Research Findings:

  • With curriculum that is constantly changing and growing, this is a flexible approach that allows students to make connections with what they are learning in the classroom to the world around them (Dean et al, 2012).
  • This approach can be useful in teaching students with learning disabilities because it helps them categorize the world around them (Tarver, 1986).
  • Teachers can utilize technological resources that allow students to visually identify similarities and differences through computer software programs (Pitler et al, 2007).


  1. Guide students through this approach by first modeling what you would like students to do. Do this with different examples until students feel confident to utilize the strategy themselves.
  2. Provide students with visual organizers such as Venn diagrams or charts so that they can see the relationships that the information creates.
  3. Allow students to identify similarities and differences in collaborative small groups while giving them corrective feedback.
  4. When possible, ask students to summarize information so that they can draw conclusions from this strategy’s outcomes.
  5. Use student directed tasks and teacher directed tasks so that students can practice both elements of this approach.
  6. Use this strategy when introducing concepts that may be foreign to students and allow them to apply a creative process to it. An example from Video Production classes that I have taught is applying this strategy when teaching students the difference between good and bad cinematography.

Additional Resources:

  • For descriptions of teacher directed and student directed tasks, go to
  • The process of Identifying Similarities and Differences can be a visual process where students divide their thoughts through the medium of a chart or diagram. To download blank templates that can be utilized in classrooms, go to
  • This strategy gives room for students to contemplate key knowledge while also applying their unique views and creativity. An example of this can be seen in my graphic design students’ work where they were asked to pick an everyday word or phrase, which contains different components and then making a visual representation of it (see examples below).

House Fly:

House Fly

Horse Fly:

Horse Fly

Couch Potato:

Couch Potato



Blog 1: Why Use an ePortfolio?

Some teachers could ask, “why use an ePortfolio?” Is it really going to trump other classroom materials? I don’t think the answer is that you have to choose one way or the other, but to instead allow these resources to work harmoniously with each other to further student learning. In this week’s lesson we were given an overview of what these electronic portfolios are and how they can be utilized.

In the article, “3 ways to increase student motivation in schools”, Dan Pink wrote, “Today’s management is designed for compliance, and schools and teachers should be more focused on engagement through self-direction” (p. 1). I agree that students learn better when they are able to take learning into their own hands and ePortfolios create a great space for this type of education to occur in. After studying this week’s materials, I see some of the main challenges in this approach to be tracking student progress and making sure that they are communicating well with other peers. Some students are not self-motivated and need an extra encouraging push to keep going. This is why ePortfolios would be helpful in my junior high and high school classes because the online work would be paired with in class communication.

During this week’s lesson, I learned that ePortfolios exist in a much broader category than I anticipated. In the article, Digital Portfolios: Guidelines for Beginners, the authors state,  “Definitions abound – most of them describe an ePortfolio as a type of online working environment, or learning journey that can house or provide access to many digital artifacts and resources in various media formats (p. 5). I think that this structure of flexibility is a huge asset for educators because it can better fit the diverse needs of a classroom.

As I think about implementing ePorfolios in my classes, I first consider the needs in my media driven classes. In the past I have taught graphic design and video production and there was a great need for students to have an avenue to easily share what they created not only with me for grading purposes, but also with other students. I have used “Moodle” which was a good program but did have some flaws (for more information go to Since this did not check all of my boxes, my hope is to create a system that fits the specific needs of each class. For example, in my Video Production classes, I would love to use an ePortfolio as a way to have an “online film festival” and have students give each other peer feedback. As I continue learning more about ePortfolios, I think that my first attempt to use this as a classroom tool will be focused on the following needs: a place to post student work (videos and graphics) and a place for students to communicate with one another about what they are learning.


Pink, D. (2011). 3 ways to increase student motivation in schools. Retrieved from:

SMS Services Team, Ministry of Education (2011). “Digital Portfolios: Guideline forBeginners”, Wellington, New Zealand.

Reflection: Using advance organizers with media driven classes

The concept of “Advance Organizers” is a new approach for me. After this week’s module, I see how this could easily apply in future classrooms. Since this was an instructional strategy that I had not previously heard of, it was helpful for it to be described in detail from our readings. Ausubel (1978) states, “Advance organizers help the learner recognize that elements of new learning materials can be meaningfully learned by relating them to specifically relevant aspects of existing cognitive structure” (p. 1). I can easily see how organizing new knowledge into categories for students could help them better understand the material.

Dell’Olio and Donk (2007) proposed that advance organizers could also be “visual information” (p. 395). In our small group discussion this week, I talked about how visual advanced organizers could be very helpful in my media driven classes that I have taught in the past. Photography, graphic design and video production all have visual components that are crucial in the instruction concerning the tools and skills utilized in this field. Dell’Olio and Donk (2007) also stated, “Students must understand the purpose of the advance organizer. One this is understood, it is most effectively used if students are reminded to connect their new learning to it” (p. 396). This was an important factor for me in my consideration for implementing this strategy. I cannot just give students a visual map to follow, but rather need to teach them how to use the visuals for guidance in their learning.


Implementing Cooperative Learning in Video Production

Classroom Context:

My school is a private school, and they have given me free range on what the curriculum standards will be in this elective. The school expects me to expand the students’ knowledge of video production while applying their own unique perspective and creativity in this visual art form. I will still base my learning goals on EALRS for better implementation of my chosen teaching strategy of Cooperative Learning. To see my review of this instructional strategy, go to

The school works in a collaborative environment where teachers are encouraged to use each other as a resource; they are not only encouraging teachers to implement Collaborative Learning in the classroom but also with colleagues. The equipment that are available to me are desktop computers are equipped with Premiere Elements (the video editing software program that we will be using), and the room is also stocked with 8 Flip cameras and 8 tripods. Since I do not have enough resources for students to each have a camera and a computer, Cooperative Learning is an excellent approach for video production because they have to learn to share the class’ resources. I have 3 ELL students in this class and they require extra instruction, check-ins and written instruction. The strategy of Cooperative Learning gives the opportunity for other students to come alongside their peers who need extra assistance since this class is comprised of many different grade levels and learning styles.

Concerning academic development, most of the students come into class with general knowledge of video production from what they have learned from social culture. This elective has a diverse range of learners from freshmen to high school students. These students also understand how to work with the technology that they are familiar with like multi-function devices. Previous lessons have given students a new perspective of video production; where they not only understand how to use video production tools but how to use them to create visual art. Cooperative Learning will not only teach students the skills of editing a music video, but also give them practice of working together as a team. In past lessons, I have already implemented Cooperative Learning by placing students in “film groups” where each student chose their role for the “Music Video Project” (director, writer, cinematographer, etc). This learning segment has been a continuing experience of Cooperative Learning where different aspects of the strategy have been implemented.

Learning Goal Specification:

Visual Arts EALR 2: The student uses the artistic processes of creating, performing/presenting, and responding to demonstrate thinking skills in dance, music, theatre, and visual arts. Component 2.1: Applies a creative process to visual arts (Identifies, explores, gathers, interprets, uses, implements, reflects, refines, and presents).

Supportive Description:

As stated in the classroom context, this class is a diverse range of ages and technological experience. Dean et al (2012) states, “Cooperative Learning provides an environment in which students can reflect upon their newly acquired knowledge…” (p. 37). Video editing is a fairly new concept for this group of students, and they need a lot of practice to develop this skill while also applying their creativity. The implementation of this strategy will allow the students to deepen their knowledge of the subject matter by working together to create a finished music video by the end of this learning segment. Cooperative Learning will also be a tool that allows students to reach the learning goals, as they will be able to grow through applying their creativity and learning from the unique perspectives of their peers.

Implementation and Outcomes Predicted:

The strategy of Cooperative Learning has already been applied in this video editing unit when I divided students into their film groups. In these groups these were given specific instructions to each take different leadership roles on their film team. The first aspect was writing a script for their music video, filming, and now they need to edit their footage. This project is divided into different sections so that each individual student is given the opportunity to lead the Cooperative Learning at different times throughout the project. Students were allowed to choose any piece of music that was also approved by myself because copywriting laws allow the use of media in a learning context through educational institutions.

At this point, students not only know how to use the computers, but they know how to use two video editing programs called Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe Premiere Elements. Even though students have already been able to practice Cooperative Learning through writing and filming, the editing portion of this project will create a lot of opportunity for Cooperative Learning. I will guide students through the group discussions that they will need to have with their film team to make important editing decisions. I predict that some students will do very well in this area while others will have a harder time agreeing with the majority of the group. Students will be using their unique perspectives and creativity to edit, which means that there is no one-way to edit their project. This will frustrate students who prefer doing things their way rather than hearing other student’s opinions.

Concerning social and emotional development, this video production class is an interesting mix of ages, temperaments, and maturity levels. The students are all growing at different paces and from different places. Even though some students are in higher grades, I predict that will not be a defining factor in the students’ progress because that truly depends on each student’s technological background. However, I do also foresee the older students working together better through Cooperative Learning because they have had more time to socially mature. When implementing Cooperative Learning in this class, I created the groups based on the students’ skill levels rather than on their ages. I predict that this will prove to be a good strategy so that students are forced to work with each other rather than lean on what may seem to be the “stronger” students in their film groups. Through the strategy of Cooperative Learning, I also foresee the students realizing that their fellow peers are resources and learn to turn to each other with questions whenever I might be busy with another student.


  • Lesson Plan Example: View this sample lesson plan to see one of my lessons in this video editing unit. The implementation of Cooperative Learning proved to be an effective tool in teaching students how to import music into their editing timelines.
  • Music Video Example: Look at the following link to see an example of one of the group’s finished music videos: This film group was comprised of students who all worked together very well through their assigned roles. Their silent film was a new and interesting take on the idea of music videos and it was clearly evident that they were proud of their progress and newly developed video production skills.


Blog #3: Attaining Knowledge

This week we studied the Concept Attainment model, which I found to be quite interesting. This model could be very useful when teaching new concepts to students who have no previous basis to build their knowledge on. When students compare, contrast and categorize new knowledge, they can better understand the subject matter. Dell’Olio and Donk (2007) state, “The Concept Attainment model allows students to categorize items based on an analysis of their characteristics, or critical attributes” (p. 114). This approach can be an important tool in my graphic design and video production classes because there are many concepts that are very foreign to students. Most students are familiar with social media and every day technological devices, but they have no basis to understand why you would manually need to color correct a video camera or what settings your editing timeline should be in. If I could help students categorize new concepts, they would better understand how to use them and why they need to know this information in the first place.

In our small group discussion, we talked about how to plan for different types of knowledge and the many challenges that arise from that goal. My classmate Hugo Molina said that effective instruction is “…engaging, measurable, student-centered, careful to scaffold learning, relevant, rigorous, and facilitated.” We agreed that these elements are crucial to reach the many different learners who are in our classrooms. We found that it was difficult to elevate one element since it is the combination of instructional strategies that truly creates a place where learning can thrive. One of my favorites quotes from this week was from Bruner when he states, “Discovery teaching involves not so much the process of leading students to discover what is ‘out there,’ but, rather, their discovering what is in their own heads” (p. 1).  So much of teaching is not merely getting information into the students. Rather it is allowing them to soak it up through careful instruction and then teaching them to evaluate and discover through their own personal lens.


Strategy Entry 1: Cooperative Learning

Cooperative Learning is a broad teaching strategy that uses group communication to deepen student learning. Researchers tend to differ in their definitions of this approach because of the components that they believe must exist (Dean et al, 2012). This approach can encourage motivation for learning because it is the students’ peers holding each other accountable rather than simply the teacher. For best results, the group tasks should be interesting and involve a sense of challenge that the students must work together to overcome. The main recommendations to consider in the implementation of Cooperative Learning is to keep the groups small to ensure that all students participate, have both individual and group accountability, and to have a well structured plan for students to follow together. (Dean et al, 2012). This is a helpful approach if your curriculum relies on a good amount of technology, such as my graphic design and video production classes that I have taught in the past. Cooperative Learning allows students to work together to promote not only each individual’s learning but also the progress of others.

Key Research Findings:

  • This approach can be very effective in online learning contexts with the use of programs and online tools (Roseth, Akcaoglu, and Zellner, (2013).
  • Cooperative Learning can have very positive results with ELL students because they not only learn language, but also can actively participate and implement it through group communication (Colorado, 2007).
  • Over 650 primary studies across 9 decades and 27 countries have proved that Cooperative Learning is an effective instructional strategy in the classroom (Johnson, Johnson & Holubec (2008).
  • Since Cooperative Learning is a process, teachers need to first teach the students the process and allow space for practice. The teacher should start implementation of this approach once he/she is confident that students understand the expectations for their involvement in Cooperative Learning (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler & Stone, 2012).


  1. Have students break into small groups where each person takes on a different assigned role. Each role has key descriptions of what is expected from them. Motivation comes from group accountability because everyone’s effort is needed for the group to have success. An example from video production classes that I have taught is placing students on “film crews” and assigning the following roles: Director, writer, cinematographer and editor.
  2. Have small groups process a lesson together through guiding questions. Encourage communication between group members so that students not only learn information, but they analyze it with peers and see the content material through the perspective of others.
  3. At the end of lesson segments, give students reflection questions that allow them to focus on the main points and reflect on their learning as a group.
  4. Give instruction to students on how to collaborate with others in their small groups. Teach students how to have positive discussions; showing them how to listen to others and respect them as individuals.
  5. Give students positive interdependence in projects and teach students to use their individual gifts to contribute to the success of the overall cooperative group.
  6. Use Cooperative Learning with online media resources so that students can collaborate without having to meet in person. Give students clear guidelines and expectations for their online actions and communication with other peers.

Additional Resources:

  • For new collaborative ideas, look at what other teachers are doing by accessing the online application Pinterest:
  • For examples of specific Cooperative Learning programs go to: This contains short descriptions of the programs and contact information of key people that would accept questions.
  • For an example of a film crew Cooperative Learning experience, look at this final music video project from my freshmen students: Each student was assigned a different role, and part of this project was assessing each other’s contributions so that there was individual and group accountability.