Photo by Anne @ indulgy.com

Photo by Anne @ indulgy.com

What has a semester of theory crunching done for me as a teacher?  This semester has already produced some profound reflections throughout the 16 weeks, so I guess it is appropriate that I am provoked to ponder yet another profound question as sort of a finale.   When I think of all I do as a teacher, one of the top thoughts is “how I plan my lessons so that it is relevant to my students”.  When I am putting together the logic and the structure of my lesson, generally, I am not thinking about educational theory.  However, when I think of the “why” of my lesson, it usually fits nicely into one theory or another.  Since I have made it a goal to integrate technology into my teaching, I am witnessing the exploration of a new frontier in epistemology, which has great potential for reshaping our teaching and learning practices.

The Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) is the theory that I spent the most time exploring during this semester.  It resonated with me on many levels, but primarily I grew attached to the concept of humans interacting in society with their tools.  A typical coffee shop conversation will generally render two sides of an opinion about the role of technology in society or in education.  There’s the “technology is changing the way things were” view versus the “technology is creating new opportunities” view.  Ironically, this argument has been around for a long time, nonetheless the world keeps changing; but I must ask, where are all the nay-sayers that protested society’s embrace of the telephone nearly 100 years ago (Farber, Shafron, Hemadani, Wald, & Nitzburg, 2012).  Eventually they declined as more of society embraced the use of the technology.  I consider that the current trends in technology adoption will follow the same pattern in many ways, so I believe that many emerging technologies will one day be used as a standard by the majority of society.  I feel my role is to prepare myself as much as possible so I can prepare my students.

The two major branches of education theory is objectivism and constructivism (Roblyer & Doering, 2012). Even though individual theories attempt to give an account for methodology, they usually rely on the core concept that knowledge is transmitted (objectivism) or knowledge is constructed (constructivism).  Even though I lean more toward the constructive side, as I work with middle aged teens, I realize that there are many gaps in their overall ability, and therefore they are not able to build their own knowledge with missing parts of the foundation.  So, like many educators, I believe that both of these branches must exists to a certain extent.  Even with technology integration, students must be taught the correct way to interact with the technology tools before they can actually use them to construct their own knowledge.

This concept of using technology tools as a basis for social activity still has much ground to cover, but there is significant evidence in society of how it is changing the way we interact (Shum & Ferguson, 2012).  I had the opportunity to explore Connectivism as an emerging theory, which gives an account for our ability to interact in the world using technology tools (Siemens,  2005).  Also, while collaborating with my classmate, Aaron Dore, I learned a significant amount about TPACK, and how we as teachers should be versed in content knowledge, pedagogy knowledge, and technology knowledge.  All of this exposure to theories has helped reaffirm my dedication to educational technology, not only for my own benefit, but also for the benefit of my students.  Unfortunately, change in education takes time, so in the meantime, these theories reinforce confidence in me that I can share with administrators, colleagues, and parents, even when nay-sayers are nearby.

References

  • Farber, B. A., Shafron, G., Hemadani, J., Wald, E., & Nitzburg, G. (2012). Children, technology, problems, and preferences. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 68. doi:10.1002/jclp.21922
  • Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2012). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (6th ed.). Chapter 15: Allyn & Bacon.
  • Shum, S. B., & Ferguson, R. (2012). Social Learning Analytics. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 15(3), 3–26.
  • Siemens, G. (2005, April 5). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. Elearnspace. Retrieved October 25, 2012, from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm
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