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 https://moodle.org/). 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.

References:

Pink, D. (2011). 3 ways to increase student motivation in schools. Retrieved from:http://smartblogs.com/leadership/2011/07/28/dan-pink-on-3-ways-to-increase-motivation-in-schools/

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

Module 3 Reflection: Things I Am Thinking About

There were a few things that struck me in this module. It was amazing to see how the goals for education were vastly different depending on who the driving forces were. Urban and Wagoner (2009) stated that the four R’s for many households were “…reading, ‘riting’, rithmetic and religion…” (p. 141). In looking at today’s curriculum, some of these elements have remained elevated while others have been pushed aside. I did not realize that religion had such a large presence in early classrooms and it is easy to see the effect of this in that day’s society. It was evident that there was no uniformity that systemized education, and the effects seemed to be that the strongest voices got to choose the many paths that education went down.

The effects of strong class division in the south led to a very slow implementation of a common educational system. African Americans had many challenges to become educated even after the Civil War because opposed citizens saw their attainment of knowledge as a threat.  Urban and Wagoner (2009) state, “Sensing that literacy and schools contained the seeds of insurrection, southern states began to clamp down on educational activities for blacks…” (p. 151). Access to education meant change and action and I believe that is still true today. In current society, education can at times be taken for granted as a “hoop” that children need to jump through before becoming an adult. This is not to say that American citizens are not grateful to be given the freedom of education, however it is interesting to compare the differing viewpoints towards learning today and throughout history. During the Civil War, the connection between freedom and education went hand in hand (Urban and Wagoner, 2009, p. 164). This makes my job as an educator even more impactful because I get to be the means for children receiving this opportunity.

When looking at the first steps towards building a modern education system in America, I see that many of the first terms and ideas are in place today. For example, they saw a need to create a system to separate students into learning groups (age grading), a need to test their learning progress and achievement of goals, and a need to categorize the content material. Decisions started to be made and action started to form the modern school system. Since everything seemed to be born out of organizational necessity, I wonder what would school look like today if we restructured it to first and foremost meet the needs of the students rather than a system that could be replicated throughout American society? I think that some systems are asking similar questions and pushing the structural boundaries today. Even in the beginning of education in America, it was evident that there was a deep connection between education and the students’ enculturation into society. This is still true today and something that we need to remember. Education does not only serve to give young people knowledge that they will need to be successful in society, it also teaches them how to be a respectful citizen. These lessons are not usually in curriculum, but are instead taught through the teacher’s actions in the classroom.

References:

Urban, W.J. and Wagoner, J.L. (2009). American education, a history (4th ed.) New York, NY:Routledge.

Module 2: The Study of Learning

             The study of learning has been quite impactful to my teaching because the more that I understand how students learn, the better teacher I can become. In On Excellence In Teaching, Mayer (2008) described the process of learning by stating, “Learning is a change in the learner’s knowledge attributable to the learner’s experience” (p. 96). The science of learning shows how important the connection is to students’ knowledge and their experience. If a student does not experience or apply what he or she is learning, the student will be much less likely to remember the lesson after test day. In order to facilitate this, Mayer (2008) suggests that teachers need to manipulate their students’ environment in a way that will be specifically organized to foster learning (p.98). This was a challenge because the classroom that I teach in is solely designed for one type of desk arrangement because of the placement of the electrical outlets and network cables for the computers. I began to think about what classroom elements I could change, and the student’s ability to make a mess in the first 30 seconds that they walk into class came to mind. Because of this, I decided to give my students a few lessons on how to properly place their backpacks, sports bags, and purses so that it did not create a roadblock. I also spoke to the class about how to be aware of their surroundings and how to position chair in order to not distract their classmates. After a few reminders, there was a clearer path to walk around the desks and students were being more respectful of each other’s space. There was also a change in the classroom’s atmosphere; a sense of stress had been replaced by a wonderful calmness. I was shocked to find that this small change in the student’s physical environment did indeed yield better learning and fewer headaches for me.

             To better understand how students’ surrounding environments can affect their learning, I decided to read The Third Teacher, which had great insights into this field of study. This book has a collection of interesting interviews and case studies that went over what is conducive to learning in the classroom and what is not. One of the sections that especially stood out to me was over the importance of displaying student work. This chapter started by explaining the exact challenge that I face in technology classes if I want to go down this road. Bruce Mau (2010) writes, “One of the challenges of moving so much intelligence onto computers is that you can’t see their work” (p. 65). The chapter went on to explain how students actively engage in learning when they get to visually interact with the information, which also helps to illustrate student progress. This got me thinking about ways that I could display student work in my classrooms, and I decided to try out a project showcase. In my Junior High Technology class, I ended the last assignment by putting all of the student’s work in a slideshow and displayed an art showcase of the students’ graphic design projects. I quickly noticed students taking pride in their work and sitting a little taller. When we started the next graphic design project, I told the students that we would again end with a showcase of their work. This created a noticeable change in students’ effort that they put into the project, and their focus during my instruction. It seemed that since they knew that their work was going to be displayed, the students then had more motivation to create something that they would be proud of. Through this experience, I have learned that it is important to find ways to post my students’ work not only to show their progress but also to encourage them to do their best.

            Not only did I learn about displaying student results, I learned about learning styles in the article “Multiple Intelligences and Learning Styles: Two Complementary Dimensions.” In the article, Stephen Denig (2004) connects the idea of multiple intelligences with the many different learning styles that students thrive in. He encourages teachers to give students the chance to learn through their strengths because that provides the opportunity for learning to occur rather than simply memorization. Denig (2004) writes that, “…learning style advocates counsel teachers to use different instructional resources in a different sequence in accord with how each learns best” (p. 106). Throughout my time at SPU, these thoughts have been on my mind of how to continuously provide opportunities for students to learn in the ways that work best with how they were uniquely created by God to be. As I spend more and more time in the classroom, I have realized that it takes a large amount of time and effort to succeed in implementing these practices. Is it worth it? Yes. I have spent a large amount of time creating written step-by-step instructions and posting them online for students to download at any time. I have devoted class time to open discussion of what I have been teaching for the verbal-linguistic students to sink their teeth into. For the spatial learners, I have had them sketch out their projects before digitally creating them. I have given space for both the interpersonal learners to interact with each other and the intrapersonal learners to reflect on their own. I have in no way arrived at the completion of in-depth incorporation of multiple intelligence and learning styles in my classroom, but I have gotten a good start on it. Through these experiences, I have learned that no matter the messy outcomes of trial and error, my students’ learning has been positively affected. I know this from the students’ growth, quality of work, and interest in the subject as they learn in their many and varied styles.

              In On Excellence In Teaching, it was interesting to read about the declining time spent on art and music instruction in school systems. I thoroughly enjoyed Berliner’s (2010) response to this alarming event, as he explained how students need to experience ideas through the perspective of the arts (p. 125).  Without this opportunity, students’ thinking and learning will be restricted rather than expanded. I decided to talk to my art mentor teacher and quickly found that she was very passionate about this issue. She said that art not only allows students to explore their gifts and creativity, but it also teaches students vital communication skills as they learn to express their thoughts through art. Through these conversations she encouraged me to not only teach students how to express art through technology, but also how to use these tools well in communication. The technological revolution seems to have encouraged the current generation to type or text  but not to interact well when face to face with another human being. I think that this is a wonderful opportunity for me to show students how to use these tools to foster rather than stifle their personal growth and the important roles they each will play in society.

              How do I as a teacher lead and instruct my students to attain high-order thinking? This question that Pickering (2010) brought up in On Excellence In Teaching was an eye opening experience. In our program at SPU, there has been a great deal of importance placed on the idea of having high expectations for your students. Yet, Pickering (2010) argues that “…setting high expectations for student’s thinking is not enough” (p. 147). She instead states that alongside high expectations, teachers need to, “Teach the thinking skills we expect” (2010, p. 147). This connects to what Seifert and Sutton (2009) discussed in “Educational Psychology: A Global Text” when they spoke of facilitating complex thinking. Since my classes are technology classes where most of the learning is done through hands-on experiences, I decided to take Seifert and Sutton’s thoughts about creative thinking and apply them in my Junior High Technology classroom. The authors explain that creative thinking presents an opportunity for “…the generation of ideas that are new as well as useful, productive, and appropriate” (Seifert and Sutton, 2009, p. 179). They write that teachers could encourage creative thinking by helping students explore different types of cognitive processing. To put this into practice, I decided to focus the next project in my Junior High Technology class on a platform of divergent thinking. Currently, we are in the middle of a graphic design unit, where the students are learning how to utilize Adobe Photoshop, a digital image manipulation software. In this next project, I instructed the students to explore words or phrases that could be visually divided into separate images (an example of this would be cupcake). I then told the students that they would be creating a visual representation of one of these words in Photoshop. The students were given instructions and a list of criteria to fulfill, and they absolutely took off with the project. The students loved thinking outside of the box and overcoming the challenge of visually representing these words. I was taken aback by how immersed the students were in a computer software program, and I think it was because they got to learn and practice creativity (I have attached the project instructions  and a few examples of my student’s work at the bottom of this Module).

              In the article “Educational Psychology: A Global Text”, I absorbed information that has definitely affected the way that I think about non-verbal cues and the affects of the classroom setting on learning. Seifert and Sutton (2009) discussed the extreme affects of “conditioning” in the classroom, both conscious and unconscious. The authors explained, “…any stimulus that is initially neutral, but that gets associated with an unconditioned stimulus and response, can eventually acquire the ability to elicit the response by itself” (p. 25). I immediately began to sift through any neutral stimuli that I might unconsciously create as a teacher, and then I tried looking through my students’ perspectives to see if they might be conditioned by these patterns. I thought about the example that Seifert and Sutton gave in the reading, which were the effects of a teacher smiling at the students. Even though this is a simple pattern to create, I realized that I have not made an effort to create this condition in my classroom. Since I move from room to room, the first moments that I walk into class is usually filled with me frantically trying to set up my computer, visuals, and notes before class starts. My attention is focused on getting everything started on time rather than on my students. After this realization I decided to try focusing my attention on the students the moment that I walked into the class, this was done through a great effort in multitasking and also sitting comfortably with the fact that role was not always taken at the moment that class started. I realize that this can seem like such a simple change in my growth as a teacher, but as I put this idea of “positive conditioning” to practice, I began to see a relational change in how my students interacted with me. I now see students initiating conversation with me; I see them wanting to share more about who they are, even hopes and dreams. As the text said, whether or not a teacher means to condition their classroom, the classroom atmosphere “…can affect student’s attitudes about school and therefore also their motivation to learn” (Seifert and Sutton, 2009, p. 26).  This may be because I am becoming a more seasoned instructor, but I know that the action of smiling and greeting my students as they walk into my class has made an impact not only on my relationship with my students but also on their motivation to learn in the classroom.

References

Brophy, J. (2010). On Excellence In Teaching. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

Denig, S. (2002). Multiple Intelligences and Learning Styles: Two Complementary                           Dimensions. Teachers College Record,106 (1), p. 96-111.

OWP/P Architects, VS Furniture, and Bruce Mau Design. (2010). The Third Teacher: 79              Ways You Can Use Design to Transform Teaching & Learning. New York, NY:              Abrams.

Seifert, K., & Sutton, R. (2009). Educational Psychology: A Global Text. Zurich,                         Switzerland: Jacobs Foundation.  Retrieved from https://learn.spu.edu/webapp              /portal/frameset.

Project’s Instructions and Student Examples:

A Play On Words Project

Horse Fly:

Couch Potato:

House Fly:

Always Remember To Be Flexible

As we have progressed deeper into the school year, I have realized that I had to alter my teaching to honor students’ access to content material.  When I came into teaching, I planned on giving my students homework so that they can continue the learning process at home. I soon found a challenge when I realized that would be disregarding my students’ ability to access the materials necessary for the classes that I teach. The reason for this is because I teach technology classes, and technology is expensive. I cannot tell students to finish their Photoshop projects at home because they probably do not have that piece of software. I cannot assume that students will be able to complete activities in Powerpoint for homework, because I cannot assume that every student will have access to the Office Suite. Most of all, I cannot assume that every student has a computer at home, because they don’t. Even though I work in a stereotypically wealthy area, none of these assumptions will honor my student’s access to the content materials necessary to succeed in these classes.

My school provides my classroom with the technology, and so that has decided where my students do their work. I give students adequate class time to complete projects, and use this as an opportunity to work alongside students in their learning. To honor students’ access to content materials, I also had to be more lenient on late work than I was planning on. If students are absent from class, they probably will not be able to complete a project on time because they do not have the necessary materials at home. After realizing this truth, I changed my late policy to be based on individual student situations and their communication with me about their absence. I had to alter my expectations to honor students’ access to content material and better fit their needs, which is a good reminder to always be flexible in education.