Final Reflection: Assessment and Evaluation

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/thelibrarianedge/9153251161/
Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/thelibrarianedge/9153251161/

In his article On Assessing for Creativity, Grant Wiggins argues that measuring creativity is a necessary step to bring about change in our schools. One movement making waves in schools across the country and contributing to the increased focus on creativity is “The Maker Movement“. The Maker Movement is ideal for assessing student learning, because it encompasses a number of learning dispositions, such as creativity, curiosity, collaboration, inquiry and risk-taking. These attitudes and skills are vital for students to tackle the problems of tomorrow.

I believe my school is making progress in implementing aspects of the Maker Movement. One of our more popular classes in the school is woodworking. Here young children, including toddlers and second graders alike, “bring their ideas to life, and create new things” (Thomas, 2012). Students use real tools and materials (of course, with adult guidance) to create products that promote self-expression and meaning-making.

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/exploratorium/7024548211
Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/exploratorium/7024548211

Our next step is to extend the making process beyond woodworking and incorporate it into the everyday classrooms. Maker kits could be a great start for our teachers to engage students with subject-based learning. My experience in Week 2 of the course proved that maker kits, such as the Makey Makey, can support other areas of learning as well, including language development and creative expression in the arts. I have observed that the Maker kits lend themselves well to inquiry, which is the foundation of the IB PYP curriculum adopted at our school. In evaluating the effectiveness of maker kits or other technological innovations, it would be prudent to measure its impact on the five essential elements of the IB PYP – namely knowledge, skills, conceptual understanding, attitudes and action. Progress in any one of these areas would indicate successful alignment and integration with the framework of the IB PYP.

EdCamps and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are examples of other innovative technological adaptations that could align closely with our school’s practices, particularly our strong commitment to professional learning and growth. One of the challenges we face at our school during the busy course of a year is the lack of time to dedicate towards professional learning. EdCamps and MOOCs, which allow teachers to address their individuals interests and passions, would serve as effective solutions for teachers motivated to continue learning and improving their practice.

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/catdancing/4454015701/
Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/catdancing/4454015701/

Reflecting on my experiences thus far, I think it would be fair to say that I have made decent progress in my work as an ed tech integrator. My understanding of the challenges and opportunities in integrating and repurposing technology for use in schools is perhaps one of the clear signs of my growth. I also realize the need to apply my learning from this course in my school setting and to share my understanding of innovative technological adaptations with colleagues and others in the community.

I recall being told at the beginning of CEP 811 that this course would be one of the toughest experiences as a Master’s degree student. Now, upon completion of the course, I can confirm that this statement certainly holds true. As described in the MAET statement on evaluation, this course pushes its students to the limits. I have never considered myself to be a creative person, but the experiences offered in the course have revealed some of that unknown potential within me.

When I began my first CEP course (CEP 810) earlier this year, I struggled with wanting to produce the perfect product. It took me a long time to overcome this need for completion and perfection. Over time, this changed and I slowly became more comfortable sharing my “unfinished” work in a public space. One of the key indicators of change this year has been my willingness to make mistakes and experience failure. I have a long way to go in this regard, but I know that being vulnerable and facing disequilibrium will only make me a better learner. I look forward to CEP 812 next semester when I hope to continue on my path of personal and professional growth.

References:

Day, K. (2013, 27 June). Chicago Public Library makerspace – visualization on wall [photograph]. Retrieved October 8, 2014, from https://www.flickr.com/photos/thelibrarianedge/9153251161/

Elling, L. (2010, 3 March). Puddle Reflection 9738 [photograph]. Retrieved October 8, 2014, from https://www.flickr.com/photos/catdancing/4454015701/

Exploratorium. (2012, 17 March). Open MAKE: Tools [photograph]. Retrieved October 8, 2014, from https://www.flickr.com/photos/exploratorium/7024548211

Thomas, A. (2012, September 7). Engaging Students in the STEM Classroom Through “Making”. [Web log comment]. Retreived from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/stem-engagement-maker-movement-annmarie-thomas

Wiggins, G. (2012, February 3). On assessing for creativity: yes you can, and yes you should. [Web log comment]. Retreived from http://grantwiggins.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/on-assessing-for-creativity-yes-you-can-and-yes-you-should/

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EdCamp Reflection

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Last week I participated in an online EdCamp with my colleagues in CEP 811. The unconference model allowed us to select our own topics and engage in conversations. We were given roughly 15 minutes to present our topic related to a theme on educational technology. In order to prepare for the experience, we conducted research and brainstormed ideas to encourage discussions.

My topic for the EdCamp was “Literacies and Technologies”. I shared my thoughts on an interesting article I read and then opened the floor for discussion. Despite some time zone challenges (i.e. confusion with the time difference between the US and Thailand), I found the overall experience to be very smooth and fruitful.

I enjoyed seeing my colleagues “face-to-face” and having the opportunity to hear their thoughts on different issues. I was impressed with the interactive experience of Google Hangouts, including the ability to share documents from our screen while carrying our conversations. I also enjoyed the casual format of the discussion, in which we had the chance to share thoughts and ask questions at any point during the meeting.

I struggled with the flow and pace of the EdCamp. I noticed there were several silent moments during the discussion, which could be attributed either to the inability to connect with the topic or the unconventional online nature of the conversation. At times, I felt I was not prepared enough to contribute in effective ways to the topics. A lot of the information being presented was new and personally, I needed a little more time to digest the material before sharing my thoughts. This could have been remedied by conducting some basic research beforehand to become familiar with my colleagues’ topics.

If I were to do my EdCamp differently, I would focus on asking specific questions related to my topic. For example, instead of asking my colleagues a very general question, “What do you think?” I could ask a more focused question such as, “What is the role of teachers in incorporating technology into literacy?” I would also ask more questions to those presenting topics instead of only commenting or sharing experiences. I think the major difference with this EdCamp experience and others is that we were obliged to participate in sessions that may not have fallen in an area of interest for us.

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EdCamps have tremendous potential for professional development. It shifts the focus on learning and empowers teachers to take ownership of this process. Teachers are able to share best practices with other educators and to seek their input in an ongoing dialogue. EdCamps have the ability to unlock the true potential of teachers while fulfilling their innate desire for personal and professional growth.

For my own school, EdCamps would be a great opportunity for teachers to explore concepts that would help them become more effective in the classroom. I have noticed that professional development in my school tends to be a top-down process, in which administrators decide what teachers need to learn. EdCamps are a unique way to reverse this trend and allow teachers to take the lead through a more grassroots approach. I believe if we are able to follow the children’s needs and interests in the classroom, surely we can do the same for our teachers.

The first step I would take to organize an EdCamp is to conduct more research. I would need to find out if EdCamps exist in Thailand or Southeast Asia and then possibly attend one in order to gather more information. Creating a team of collaborators would be my next step and I could use the existing networks of international school teachers in this part of the world to achieve this. I would create an EdCamp event focused on a specific area of education – early childhood education – in which I could elicit the support of teachers from my own school. Finally, I would search for sponsors within our own community to assist with the costs of the event.

References:

Lasica, JD. (2007, 19 May). Unconference [photograph]. Retrieved October 6, 2014, from https://www.flickr.com/photos/jdlasica/506378526

Sarobhosa, Eliz. (2011, 20 August). DESIGN NERDS + Design Thinking UnConference [photograph]. Retrieved October 6, 2014, from https://www.flickr.com/photos/rocketcandy/6064824254/

SimpleK12. EdCamp The Complete Guide: How to Start & Run Your Very Own EdCamp. Retrieved October 6, 2014, from http://edcamp.wikispaces.com/file/view/HowToEdCamp.pdf/272319586/HowToEdCamp.pdf 

Incorporating Universal Design for Learning in My Maker Activity

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Visual sketch of Universal Design for Learning (https://www.flickr.com/photos/gforsythe/8527950743)

One of the most critical tasks of a teacher is to design teaching and learning practices in order to support a diverse body of learners. This week in CEP 811, we explored the principles of the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and discovered how its framework can “enable all individuals to gain knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm for learning” (Rose, 2011). Through “flexible goals, methods, materials, and assessments that empower educators”, UDL is able to address individual needs (including those with special learning needs) and ensure progress in learning (Rose, 2011).

Our task this week required that we utilize our learning from UDL to revise our maker-thrifting lesson plan from week 2 of the course. Further exploration of the UDL Guidelines, including a useful set of technology tools called the Technology Toolkit, made me realize there were several improvements I could integrate into my lesson.

I have revised my lesson plan and included the changes in green.

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During the process of imposing the UDL framework on my maker activity, I recognized a number of principles of UDL that I had already incorporated in the lesson. Some of these elements were apparent when I made my first revision to the lesson based on Vygotsky’s “Social Development Theory” and his ideas of adult guidance and peer collaboration.

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Vygotsky’s “Social Development Theory” posits that adult guidance and peer collaborations play a fundamental role in the learning process.

For example, the UDL’s guidelines on “promoting understanding across language” and “supporting planning and strategy development” were fulfilled by the inclusion of adult guidance and scaffolding in the lesson (Rose, 2011). Furthermore, peer collaboration and the “zone of proximal development”, which evolved into key components of my lesson plan, were highlighted by the UDL’s guideline to “minimize threats and distractions” and “foster collaboration and community” (Rose, 2011). It was interesting to note that the principles of UDL seemed to draw from the learning theories and professional knowledge that we explored earlier in the course.

At the same time, after reviewing the UDL Guidelines, I felt there were number of revisions that I had to implement to improve the effectiveness of the lesson in meeting the diverse needs of students. For example, the UDL guideline to “provide options for perception” demonstrated that I needed to find creative ways of introducing the story We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. In addition to a print version of the story, I imagined that the lesson could improve if students explored the story through auditory means (e.g. listening to an audio version using an iPad and headphones) and through visual means (e.g. watching a video version on YouTube). As an alternative to both of these options, I planned to present the students with physical objects and props (such as a teddy bear, flashlight, backpack and a sensory station consisting of bins of mud, grass, water and ice), so that they could experience the story from a unique, “hands-on” perspective.

In order to provide options for deeper comprehension of the lesson, I will highlight the big ideas, key concepts and objectives of the lesson. The purpose behind this is for the students to become expert learners and determine “those features that matter most while avoiding those that matter least” (Rose, 2011, p. 19). This can be achieved by reminding the students and making explicit the conceptual understandings and learning outcomes of the lesson. For example, through large group discussions, the students will understand that one of key aims of the lesson is to use visual presentations to enhance our ability to express ideas. Furthermore, students will understand that the creative process requires us to solve problems, and think critically and imaginatively. These objectives will not only be highlighted at the beginning of the lesson, but also during the activity as students create plans to re-tell the story.

References

Cook, A.M. & Polgar, J.M. (2008). Cook and Hussey’s assistive technologies: Principles and practice (3rd ed.). St. Louis, MO: Mosby Elsevier. Retrieved from Google Books.

Forsythe, Giulia. (2013, 4 March). Universal Design for Learning [photograph]. Retrieved October 5, 2014, from https://www.flickr.com/photos/gforsythe/8527950743/

Rose, D.H. & Gravel, J. (2011). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines (V.2.0). Wakefield, MA: CAST.org.

Wilshaus, Remy. (2011, 16 March). Lev Vygotsky neemt vandaag ook deel aan onze conferentie [photograph]. Retrieved October 5, 2014, from https://www.flickr.com/photos/remywilshaus/5531044853/

Experience Design and Re-Imagined Classrooms

This week in CEP 811 we explored Experience Design and how it impacts learning in educational settings. The course readings and resources deepened my understanding of how values and learning theories are reflected in the design of learning spaces. It became clear, especially through one particular study, that well-designed classrooms positively impact student learning. Our task for this week was to transform the physical environment of a classroom using our understanding of relevant teaching and learning practices and applying it through a unique 3D modeling software called SketchUp.

The Classroom in Question

The first step of this process was to re-imagine a familiar learning space through “21st century eyes”. What came to mind was a school project I had been collaborating with in Tripura, India. After my visit to the school, I realized that improvements were needed in the design of classrooms. The Grade 1 classroom, for example, traditional in its layout, consisted of student desks in rows and the teacher’s desk at the front of the room. Sir Ken Robinson’s statements about conformity and transmission of knowledge was evident in several aspects of the classroom design (OWP/P Architects, 2010, p. 56).

The Redesigned Classroom

My initial thoughts in redesigning the learning space were brought to light by design professional, Michael Waldin, and his intriguing question: “Does this learning environment support a child’s natural instinct to learn through creation and discovery?” (OWP/P Architects, 2010, p. 56).

My goal was to give careful attention to promoting choices, inquiry, authentic learning experiences and the building of relationships. Given that the classroom holds 30 students, I wanted to provide different types of seating arrangements to facilitate the myriad learning styles and multiple intelligences of the students (The Third Teacher, 2010, p. 14.). The spaces I designed offer a large communal meeting area, small group collaboration centers, and quiet spaces for individual learning and reflection.

I felt it was important to create a sense of comfort and belonging in the classroom. The use of cushions, carpets, and bean bags contribute to the home-like atmosphere and help to foster relationships amongst students and teachers. To complement the abundance of natural light in the classroom, I painted the walls a soft, earth-tone color. The re-imagined classroom also contains two large bulletin boards to display learning, including artwork, photographs and documentation of students’ work (The Third Teacher, 2010, p. 15). As the teachers develop their understanding and become more comfortable with the new learning spaces, it is hoped they will begin to “shuffle the deck” and take advantage of the loose furniture by periodically rearranging the environment to suit the learning needs of the students (The Third Teacher, 2010, p. 10).

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Implementation

Implementing my vision requires not only a number of new physical resources, but also the support of the school stakeholders, including teachers, administrators, students, parents, donors and community members.

The costs of implementation are undoubtedly high and may exceed the current school budget. Therefore, efforts will have to be made to raise funds and to call for donations. Experienced designers, carpenters and volunteers in the community will be recruited to contribute time and expertise to building the furniture. Local businesses will be asked to donate wood supplies, carpets, cushions and shelves that are still in good condition. The community will prove vital in alleviating much of the costs.

I am proposing to implement the changes in two separate phases. The first phase will allow the physical restructuring of the classroom to take place without having to utilize all the furniture items. The current student desks and chairs can be positioned together to form group tables. The second phase will include the addition of the remaining furniture. The approximate cost of each phase is outlined below ($1 USD ≈ 61 Indian Rupees).

Phase 1
Shelves (5 sets) = 15,000 rupees
Carpets (3 sets) = 9,000 rupees
Painting = 5,000 rupees
Bulletin boards (2 sets) = 4,000 rupees
Sofa = 3,000 rupees
Low table = 3,000 rupees
Flipchart = 1,000 rupees
Bean bag = 1,000 rupees
Cushions = provided through donations
Plants = available on school grounds
TOTAL = 41,000 rupees (~ $670 USD)

Phase 2
Student tables/chairs (8 sets) = 40,000 rupees
Cubbies (2 sets) = 6,000 rupees
TOTAL = 46,000 rupees (~ $750 USD)

References:

Barrett, P., Zhang, Y., Moffat, J., & Kobbacy, K. (2013). A holistic, multi-level analysis identifying the impact of classroom design on on pupils’ learning. Building and Environment, 59, 678-689. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.buildenv.2012.09.016

OWP/P Architects, VS Furniture, & Bruce Mau Design. (2010). The third teacher: 79 ways you can use design to transform teaching & learning. Retrieved from http://thethirdteacherplus.com/s/Ch2-TTT-for-Web-0y6k.pdf

The Third Teacher. (2010). TTT Ideas Flash Cards. Retrieved from http://goo.gl/v25rRA

My Ultra Micro Mooc

This week in CEP 811, we explored how instructional design principles can help us create effective Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Although a somewhat controversial form of pedagogy, MOOCs allow opportunities for increased access to knowledge to learners from around the world. Combining my new understandings of instructional design and a strong interest in creating learning spaces for young children, I’ve created my very own mini online learning experience!

Purpose 

In my “Learning Spaces 101” course my peers will master planning, designing and assessing learning spaces for young children by creating a blog, setting up their own learning space based on key principles of design and engaging in thoughtful discussions with peers.

Course Topic

Designing engaging learning spaces for young children

Course Title

Learning Spaces 101

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Audience

Teachers, student-teachers, school administrators, curriculum coordinators and parents may all benefit from joining my course. A wealth of resources will provide a solid background for those interested in enriching their classroom environments or spaces in their homes. The collaborative nature of the course and the opportunity to connect with like-minded educators from around the world will also attract participants to the course. Finally, participants will acquire a set of skills in planning, designing and assessing learning spaces, which can be applied immediately to their own educational settings.

Objectives

Over the course of five weeks, learners will be able to achieve the following:

  • To develop a basic understanding of theory including how environments impact and shape learning.
  • To understand how environments reflect values and beliefs.
  • To recognize how the environment acts as the “third teacher” in an early years setting.
  • To become familiar with the principles of design for learning spaces.
  • To apply knowledge and understanding from the course to thoughtfully plan and create a learning space.
  • To use the power of reflection and observation to assess the effectiveness of learning spaces.

Course Projects

Learners in this course will be expected to create the following:

  • Personal blog to write summaries and reflections on key course concepts.
  • Twitter account to share their assignments with colleagues and the world!
  • Infographic to describe how environments impact learning.
  • Voicethread video to highlight principles of design in a learning space.
  • Prezi to share documentation of their journey in creating their own learning space.

Instructional Design

The course design employs the Understanding by Design (Ubd) model by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. The authors of this model stress that the best curriculum designs imply being “more thoughtful and specific about our purposes” (Wiggins, 2005, p. 14). In structuring the course, I have paid careful attention to the essential understandings, which I explicitly identify as the main objective of each lesson. I have also followed Wiggins’ “3 stages of backwards design” to ensure that the weekly lessons stay true to overall goals and objectives of the course (Wiggins, 2005, p. 18). In addition, I have included Dr. Stephen Yelon’s research on instruction design, particularly “a set of essential content”, which Dr. Yelon describes as the “the basic ideas and skills that will allow the learner to complete the task or understand the content” (Yelon, 2001). Finally, as part of my effort to create a collaborative experience for the participants in the course, I have relied on Leo Vygotsky’s “social development theory”, which highlights the importance of social interaction and collaboration as a tool for learning (Kearsley, 2013).

Collaboration

Collaboration and peer interactions are an important part of this course. Learners will use the comments and feedback from their peers to gain a deeper understanding of key concepts in the course. Learners will be expected to comment on the blog posts of peers, participate in exchanges through Twitter, and provide audio commentaries on their colleagues’ assignments through Voicethread.

Course Outline

The design architecture for the weekly course lessons consists of the following:

  • Objective
  • Content
  • Readings/Resources
  • Create
  • Share

The course format focuses on continuously drawing the learner’s attention to the overarching objective of each week. The readings/resources consist of articles for in-depth reading (and others for simply browsing), videos and websites. The tasks for each week allow learners to explore a range of online multimedia applications while also providing them the opportunity to easily share their work with colleagues from around the world.

WEEK 1: THEORY

Objective

  • To develop a basic understanding of how environments impact learning.

Content

  • The variety of learning spaces in a classroom for young students.
  • Connections between learning spaces and learning outcomes.
  • Learning spaces that meet the needs of 21st century learning

Readings/Resources

Create

  • Create a WordPress.com account or use an existing one.
  • Write a 300-word blog post to describe one of your favorite places as a young child. This place could be a room or corner of the house, a learning space in your old classroom, an outdoor space, etc. What made this place a lasting childhood memory? How did this place make you feel? Using your memory of this place to the best of your ability, how would you describe the physical aspects of the environment, such as colors, materials, sensory aspects, and textures in this space? (Curtis, 2003, p. 19).

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Share

  • Create a Twitter account or use an existing one.
  • Tweet this blog post using the hashtag #learningspaces101. Comment on the post of one of your colleagues.

WEEK 2: ENVIRONMENT AS THE THIRD TEACHER

Objective

  • To understand how the environment acts as the “third teacher” in an early years setting.

Content

  • Environments shape learning and affect student achievement.
  • Learning spaces reflect values and beliefs of a program.
  • Learning spaces promote choices, risk-taking, collaboration and discovery.

Readings/Resources

Create

  • Design a one-page infographic (using one of these tools) sharing your understanding of how environments shape learning.

Share

  • Post the link to your infographic on the blog and write a short, one-paragraph introduction.
  • Tweet your blog post to your followers using the hashtag #learningspaces101.

WEEK 3: PRINCIPALS OF DESIGN

Objective

  • To gain an understanding of the principles of design required for creating effective learning spaces for young children.

Content

  • Fundamental elements for the organization of space.
  • The seven principles of design for inspiring learning spaces.
  • The importance of beauty and aesthetics in an early years classroom.

Readings/Resources

Create

  • Using Voicethread, create a 1-2 minute video commentary describing 3-5 images of learning spaces from within your classroom or home (you may use learning spaces belonging to others as long as you have permission). Express how these learning spaces reflect (or do not reflect) the principles of design alluded to in this lesson.

Share

  • Post the link to the Voicethread on your blog and write a short, one-paragraph introduction.
  • Using Voicethread, provide an audio commentary on the videos of two of your colleagues either reaffirming, elaborating or challenging the use of design principles in the images.

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WEEK 4: PLANNING AND DESIGNING LEARNING SPACES 

Objective

  • To apply knowledge of environments and the understanding of the principles of design to thoughtfully plan and create a learning space for young children.

Content

  • Getting started on setting up a learning space.
  • The physical aspects of a learning space.
  • Elements in planning environments.

Readings/Resources

Create

  • Design a new learning space in your classroom or home based on your learning from the course thus far.
  • Create a Prezi presentation to document the process of planing and designing the learning space. Include multimodal features (e.g. photos, videos, etc.) in your presentation.

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Share

  • Post the link to the Prezi on your blog and write a brief, one-paragraph introduction about the presentation.
  • Tweet your blog post to your followers using the hashtag #learningspaces101.

WEEK 5: ASSESSING LEARNING SPACES 

Objective

  • To use the power of reflection and observation to assess the effectiveness of learning spaces and to make adjustments geared towards increasing student learning.

Content

  • Using observation scales to assess environments in early childhood settings.
  • Addressing values, goals and barriers for learning spaces.

Readings/Resources:

Create

  • Complete the exercises in Making Your Environment the “Third Teacher” (p. 24-26)
  • Write a 500-word blog post to summarize the exercises in this lesson and to outline your main takeaways from this course. If possible, observe students engaging in the learning space you created in the previous week. What adjustments could be made to extend the students’ learning in this space? Include three statements in this blog post using the format: “I used to think…but now I think.”

Share

  • Tweet your blog post to your followers using the hashtag #learningspaces101.
  • Comment on the blog post of one of your colleagues. Describe how peer interactions have helped with your progress as a learner in the course. Give specific examples.

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References:

Barefoot, Darren. (2010, May 12). Prezi Editor Screenshot. [photograph]. Retrieved September 21, 2014, from https://www.flickr.com/photos/dbarefoot/with/4601583711

Curtis, D., & Carter, M. (2003). Designs for living and learning: Transforming early childhood environments. St. Paul, MN: Redleaf Press.

DeViney, J., Duncan, S., Harris, S., Rody, M.A., & Rosenberry, L. (2010). Inspiring Spaces for Young Children. Silver Spring, MD: Gryphon House.

DeViney, J., Duncan, S., & Rosenberry, L. (2010). Rating Observation Scale for Inspiring Environments. Silver Spring, MD: Gryphon House.

Fryer, Wesley. (2010, February 7). VoiceThread – Who Was Helen Keller? [photograph]. Retrieved September 21, 2014, from https://www.flickr.com/photos/wfryer/4340121784/

Gugler, Dean. (1945, December 7). Challenge = Childhood Memory. [photograph]. Retrieved September 21, 2014, from https://www.flickr.com/photos/ontario_wanderer/with/6472268381

Kearsley, G. (April, 1, 2013). The Theory Into Practice Database. Retrieved from http://InstructionalDesign.org

MTSOfan. (2008, December 8). More Fancy Tickling. [photograph]. Retrieved September 21, 2014, from https://www.flickr.com/photos/mtsofan/3094438276

Wiggins, G. and McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by Design, Expanded 2nd Edition.  Prentice Hall.  pg 13-33.

Yelon, S. L. (2001). Goal-Directed Instructional Design: A Practical Guide to Instructional Planning for Teachers and Trainers. Michigan State University: Self-published, Not in electronic format.

Foundations of Learning for Maker-Thrifting Activity

Image credit: http://team2developmental.wordpress.com/
Image credit: http://team2developmental.wordpress.com/

Last week in CEP 811, I used my Makey Makey kit to create an engagement that would support classroom instruction. I combined sound and dramatic play to create an interactive version of the popular children’s story, “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” by Michael Rosen. The lesson was designed to give students the opportunity to collaborate together and to use their creativity to re-tell the story in a novel way.

Image credit: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/220746819208216409/
Sample recreation of the children’s story “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” (image credit: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/220746819208216409/)

This week our assignment was to relate our Maker-Thrifting activity to learning theories and professional knowledge. As teachers we understand that learning theories form the foundation of our work. Furthermore, spending time reflecting on how learning takes place is useful in improving our instructional practice. In this particular case, I was going to explore how I could use specific learning concepts to inform my Makey Makey lesson design from the previous week.

We began by exploring big ideas about learning presented in a Tedx Talk by Richard Culatta. One point that caught my attention was Culatta’s (2013) description of a school in North Carolina that had been focusing on reimagined learning. The classroom environment and instruction was designed in such a way that one could not tell where the front of the room was. Why was this the case? Culatta explains that students were constantly engaged in collaborative projects (and perhaps it is fair to assume that traditional instruction methods in the school were limited). It became apparent to me that collaborative learning was a vital aspect of reimagined learning.

Leo Vygotsky’s “social development theory” similarly highlights the importance of social interaction and collaboration as a tool for learning. In fact, a key component of Vygotsky’s theory is the “zone of proximal development”, which explains that our learning can be extended only with the help of “adult guidance or peer collaboration” (Kearsely, 2013). Peer collaboration is able to enhance student learning, because it “promotes higher order thinking skills including: creating, evaluating, analyzing, and applying” (Cicconi, 2013, p. 60). The social development theory had reaffirmed one of my original pedagogical choices in the Maker-Thrifting lesson plan, which was to encourage students to engage in group work and to learn from one another.

Image credit: http://www.innovativelearning.com/educational_psychology/development/zone-of-proximal-development.html
The Zone of Proximal Development (image credit: http://www.innovativelearning.com/)

However, there was one element of Vygotsky’s theoretical framework which was missing from my lesson design. This involved adult guidance and the role of the teacher in scaffolding student learning. In an article entitled “Talking It Up: Play, Language Development, and the Role of Adult Support”, the authors explain that when children are engaged in guided play (or dramatic play in the case of my lesson design), adults have important roles in facilitating the learning process. In order to scaffold learning, it is suggested that the teacher “prepares the environment”, “joins subtly in the play to help children focus on specific elements” (Weisberg et. al, 2013, p. 42), and “capitalizes on teachable moments” (p. 47).

Scaffolding Play
In guided play, teachers should scaffold student learning (image credit: http://thekglawyerblog.com/).

Another interesting research article focused on how technology can be used in the early years to support collaboration. The author, Megan Cicconi, summarizes several ways in which technology “acts as a conduit for collaborative learning” (Cicconi, 2013, p. 58). In particular, “student-initiated publishing and sharing” (p. 59) and the “use of Vokis, VoiceThreads, and Vodcasts” (p. 61) are ideal solutions to promote socialization and collaboration (including virtual collaboration). I felt my Makey Makey lesson design could be improved with some of the suggestions from this research, including providing opportunities for reflective discussion and students collaboratively sharing thoughts through technology.

To achieve this purpose, I have redesigned and improved the quality of my lesson plan. I have attempted to incorporate the research findings above and to identify ways of supporting authentic learning. My revised lesson plan includes changes highlighted in BLUE.

Image credit: http://www.teachersfirst.com/schoolwidelit/gk.cfm
Technology in the early years provides opportunities for collaboration (image credit: http://www.teachersfirst.com/)

References

Cicconi, M. (2013). Vygotsky Meets Technology: A Reinvention of Collaboration in the Early Childhood Mathematics Classroom. Early Childhood Education Journal, 2014 (42), 57-65.

Culatta, R. (2013, January 13). Reimagining Learning: Richard Culatta at TEDxBeaconStreet [Video file]. Retrieved from http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/Reimagining-Learning-Richard-Cu

Kearsley, G. (April, 1, 2013). The Theory Into Practice Database. Retrieved from http://InstructionalDesign.org

Weisberg, D.S., Zosh, J.M., Hirsh-Paske, K. & Golinkoff, R.M. (2013). Talking It Up: Play, Language Development, and the Role of Adult Support. American Journal of Play, 6 (1), 39-54.