Personal Learning Theory: Part Two
Week 7 Reflection
Over the duration of this course, I have had an opportunity to revisit my personal theory on learning.  I have been able to re-acquaint myself with the many ways in which students learn and the many different strategies there are to present information to my classes.  Despite the various readings and activities of this course, I am still a strong proponent of Constructionist/Constructivist, Social and Cognitive Learning Theories.  I employ strategies in keeping with all three strategies on a regular basis.

This course has deepened my knowledge and understanding of learning theories and the use of educational technologies in many ways.  Firstly, I continue to be amazed by how much technology is available; there is more than I ever thought possible.  Even something as common as aspects of a word processing program are excellent teaching tools.  We are so used to working with word processing that we overlook even some simple elements like charts, advanced organizers, and spreadsheets.  Secondly, this course has allowed me time to look more critically at the technology that I do choose, and it is has confirmed that the handouts I give to my students are worthwhile.  Sometimes my students have complained that I give out too many handouts, and I have been questioning their purposefulness.  However, I do know that being able to properly summarize content, organize new ideas into a schematic, and highlight key concepts are helpful tools for creating connections in students’ minds.  “Learning is the action of making and strengthening connections” (Laureate Education Inc., 2011b).  Advanced organizers help students do just that.

One immediate adjustment I will make to my instructional practice regarding technology integration as a result of my learning in this course is to consider what kind of learning tools I am employing with each lesson or activity and to vary them.  I tend to favor the Cognitive Learning Theory and accompanying learning strategies as I make great use of advanced organizers, and I have discussion questions for every work of literature I teach.  “A well designed advance organizer is thought to provide a template that facilitates storage and later retrieval of information” (Thompson, 1998, p. 625).  In addition, I favor the Social Learning Theory.  I am constantly putting kids into groups and trying to get them to engage in conversations about literature and literary devices.  As I feel I have these two theories and the accompanying tech tools pretty well down pat, I would like to make some changes in the future to the tech tools I use.

The first tech tool I would like to use is a Keynote presentation.  I would like to assign students several key literary devices and have them develop a presentation in which they teach the rest of the class about these devices.  Palvio’s dual coding hypothesis (Laureate Education Inc., 2011a) states that all information is stored in our brains in two ways, as images and as text.  In order to build strong connections, I must use employ this idea more often.  The second tool is a Voice Thread.  I just love this idea, and I am anxious to see how it will work in my classroom.  Both these tools will support an enhance my students’ learning.  Firstly, the students will be presenting their work to others.  This dynamic always makes students work harder and do their best.  Secondly, they will be creating a purposeful artifact.  “Students use tools and technology to create artifacts in order to resolve dis-equilibration” (Laureate Education Inc., 2011c).  Creating a meaningful artifact helps students make sense of new content and move information into long-term memory.  Thirdly, they will be using technology that they are either familiar with or is very user friendly.  The focus can be on the learning of content and not the learning of the tech.  My repertoire of tech tools has expanded because I do not currently use these tools.

As I enter the second half of my teaching career, I would like to add more and more tech into my classroom practice each year.  One long-term goal I have is to re-evaluate ALL my units and to see where I can add in purposeful technology as both teaching and learning tools.  I can accomplish this at the end of each unit if I take the time to reflect on the activities I had students complete or I can spend some time in the summer looking over my plans.  A second long-term goal I have is to focus on technology that allows students to learn beyond the walls of the classroom.  I would like to research more web-based options as the laptops at school and the applications in them are not reliable.  It does no good to have students work on a project if the tech is more trouble than it is worth.  My district’s Technology Integrator is a wealth of information.  Continuing a dialogue with him and with other members of the faculty is certainly a positive way to find more tools to use.  In addition, I will continue to read tech blogs that I have been following for a while.

I have truly enjoyed this class, as I have all my courses.  As always, I have developed more tools for my practice and have a rejuvenated sense of purpose in my classroom.  I hope to continue this work long after I have concluded this program.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer.) (2011a). Program five. Cognitive Learning Theory. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Baltimore, MD: Author.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011b). Program one: Understanding the brain Bridging learning theory,  instruction and technology. Baltimore, MD: Author.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer.) (2011c). Program seven. Constructionist/ Constructivist  Learning Theory. Bridging learning theory,     instruction and technology. Baltimore, MD: Author.
Thompson, D. N. (1998). Using advance organizers to facilitate reading comprehension among older adults. Educational Gerontology, 24(7), 625.

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