504 Writings: Theoretical Foundations for Education

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This first paper was a general justification for educational theory.

When I was first introduced to the Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT), I wrote this review.

As I focused more on researching CHAT, I put together the Annotated Bibliography.

Finally, my classmate and I composed our synthesis paper, Learning Theories and the Use of Technology Tools

 

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EdTech 504: Final Reflection, Cars and Educational Theory

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Final Reflection

EdTech 504, Theoretical Foundations for Education

 

While growing up, I didn’t learn a lot about fixing cars, so when I became a car owner, I asked a lot of questions about cars, from mostly guys, especially when there was a problem.  I actually learned a lot, but eventually I stopped asking opinions from people about what might be the problem with my car.  It was too frustrating hearing many different theories formed from personal experiences with their cars; it either sent me on a wild goose chase, or it was useless information for me.  Fortunately, I was blessed to have a good mechanic, and when I took my car to him, I knew that even if he couldn’t fix my car, he could explain what the problem was.

In some ways, this account from my life relates to my experience with this course.  I have been teaching for a few years, but prior to this course, I had limited exposure to teaching and learning theories.  We began by getting a general understanding of the role of learning theories in education, and then we dove deep into education theory.  I learned a significant amount about theory, but eventually I was in theory overload.  The time came when I needed to focus my attention on one theory in particular.  Even though there were several options, it seems that I was led to one, the Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT). 

Additionally, I have discovered that there are many varying opinions about the role of technology in education.  The EdTech program has served as a safe haven, in general, for listening to or voicing my opinions about how education is changing and that technology will make a huge impact.  Unfortunately, it was not the same in my working world.  It seems that both educational theory and technology integration can be misunderstood, and neither topic is very easy to dissect.  I hate conversations that take up time and go nowhere, so I tend to avoid these circumstances and develop my teaching around my philosophy as much as I’m allowed to do so.   

Therefore, this course has helped me develop more of my own philosophy regarding education theory and the role of technology in education, both now and in the future.  Whether it is for my students, my parents, my administration, or myself there are times that I am called on to give an account of why I use certain teaching strategies.  Even though CHAT may not cover all my students’ needs, it does provide a good amount of justification for what I do as a teacher.  I understand that learning is a social activity, and people interact in society based on cultural norms, which include the use of tools.  Strong trends in society are indicating that people are able to interact in multiple ways through their technology tools.  As these trends grow, they will become staples, which we will need to function in all facets of society. 

In conclusion, EdTech 504 has given me more foundation in my approach to education, which will help me today as a teacher.  However, it has helped me to imagine the future of education and how we can apply theory to it.

A Theory X-Ray: What’s Inside Me

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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

EDTECH 504: Emerging Theories Reflection

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How do you view education, and what is at stake for manifesting that view in the “Three”?  For students, if their view is not clouded by negative experiences or environmental influences, they generally view education as means to an end, or a way to improve their level of knowledge and abilities.  In this case, students accept the personal investment of time and money to help them achieve their goal.  Teachers, who truly desire to teach, view education as a way of making information and learning experiences relevant to their students.  Their manifestation is in the time spent to organize content for their students, and in many places if the institutional goals are not met in the performance of the students, they risk their livelihood.  Administrators tend to view education as a system for transferring or building knowledge in a mass collection of students.  They manifest this by building curriculum around learning theories and they risk public scrutiny or job loss if their direction does not produce desired results.  Even in traditional educational environments, these three have struggled to maintain a harmony among their views and manifestations because of the many variables.  Now, considering the impact of how technology is changing the playing field, these three have even a greater struggle to find harmony.

As a result of advances in technology, many emerging educational theories are attempting to point out the effects of shifts in sociological and psychological factors in the process of education.  These shifts are especially present in online or virtual environments.  The Transactional Distance Theory attempts to account for the gap in clarity or understanding that can exists between students and teachers in a virtual environment, especially referring to learner independence and teacher engagement as key factors for narrowing or bridging that gap (Gokool-Ramdoo, 2008).  Another theory, Connectivism, portrays the vast amounts of interconnected knowledge as a sort of chaos that can be accessed and harnessed by individual learners in real time to not only achieve a task, but also analyze information for current relevance, because knowledge and information are constantly changing (Siemens, 2005).  The changing medium for delivering and interacting in educational environments has also brought considerable attention to the epistemological and methodological understandings.  To further explore this, the terminology, technological pedagogy of content knowledge (TPCK), was developed to account for effective and non-effective ways for implementing a systematic online approach to education.  TPCK has identified several flaws simply due to environmental shifts, and the protocols that exists in the old environment, do not necessarily work effectively in the new one (Angeli and Valanides, 2009).

So as I consider the Three along with all this information for learning theory, I must reflect on what this means to education.  First, I will start with my current primary role, teacher, which definitely has a changed from a deliverer of content to more of a facilitator of activities designed to produce challenges for the students, which produce understanding and skills, which can be applied to lifelong learning.  I have a secondary role, student, in the Master’s of Educational Technology program, which from the beginning has been adapting my understanding of how I can problem solve with technology tools in order to achieve my learning tasks.  Though my students are not as far along in the education continuum, and therefore need certain content delivered to them, I still have a need and desire to introduce them to challenges where they engage with technology tools, for I understand this will mark so much of their future education. Finally, administrator is a role I have not had, and based on experience is one that I desire very little.  However, I have come away with a greater appreciation for the decision making process that they undertake, because the decisions are tied into big budgets that they have to give an account for not only in purchases, but also in results of students’ performances in system wide implementations.

References:

Gokool-Ramdoo, S. (2008). Beyond the theoretical impasse: Extending the applications of transactional distance education theory. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 9(3). Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/541

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

Angeli, C., & Valanides, N. (2009). Epistemological and methodological issues for the conceptualization, development, and assessment of ICT–TPCK: Advances in technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPCK). Computers & Education, 52(1), 154–168. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2008.07.006

Learning Theories and Moral Dilemmas

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I’m the kind of guy that instead of watching a movie for it’s entertainment value, or for the quality, I sometimes get bogged down in analyzing the ideas promoted in the plot or by the characters, I might consider if the movie has an agenda that I agree with or not, or sometimes I walk away offended by faulty arguments.  In some ways I am thankful for this tendency, but at times I consider it a curse.  The times that I am burdened most by this characteristic is when I have trouble articulating why some ideas of a movie are a  struggle for me to accept.  My wife probably bears more of the burden as she tries to hear what I’m thinking, but eventually we both get tired of trying to figure it out and we just go on living.  This introduction is intended to set the stage for talking about educational theories, which are causing a similar reaction.  I will go on, not knowing if I can clearly identify where the dilemma exists. 

Due to the heavy amount of research that I have done with learning theory, I have dug deeper, and perhaps this, more than anything, has caused core beliefs to be shaken.  I don’t mind being in this situation and I don’t even mind admitting that doubts appear.  When I read about learning theory within the context of education, I tend to lean more toward constructivist theories and I like much of what I have read about Connectivism.  Unfortunately, in my opinion, education can’t stand alone, but it is tied into your world view.  I’m not referring to educate others to a specific world view, I am merely pointing out how difficult it would be to teach something that is contrary to your own world view.  I became aware of this possibility when I was reading one of the resources with quotes like this: “Hence, in connectivism, there is no real concept of transferring knowledge, making knowledge, or building knowledge. Rather, the activities we undertake when we conduct practices in order to learn are more like growing or developing ourselves and our society in certain (connected) ways“(Downes, 2007).  In an education setting, this is practical and acceptable to me, but beyond education, I feel this contradicts my belief of universal truths, which live above what humanity can establish.  Besides, when networks within a society are based on norms, popular belief, or manipulation of popular belief, history has proved that that can be detrimental, especially when the norms and beliefs are based on false information or faulty reasoning.  I suppose one of the arguments with Connectivism is that the network has now become global and the diversity of input will help to balance the ideologies of the network, but for me that is not enough of a guarantee to stop enough people from rallying around a false belief and create their own network of knowledge.

By no means do I feel that my knowledge and understanding are complete.  I have experienced enough shifts in my own beliefs, even at the core, to know that I am not finished in obtaining knowledge and understanding.  Nor do I believe that humanity has or will have all the answers to life’s riddles, therefore, how much stock can I put in a human network of ideas.  However, there are many practical ideas and teaching within Connectivism as an educational theory.  George Siemens in his article, “A Learning Theory for the Digital Age”, provides many rich nuggets which argue for the need to adapt education to a society  that is changing according to what technology provides us, in terms of information acquisition, and the way we interact through technology.  “The pipe is more important than the content within the pipe. Our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today. A real challenge for any learning theory is to actuate known knowledge at the point of application. When knowledge, however, is needed, but not known, the ability to plug into sources to meet the requirements becomes a vital skill. As knowledge continues to grow and evolve, access to what is needed is more important than what the learner currently possesses” (Siemens, 2007) .  The best example I have for this is from personal experience.  Even in recent years, some teachers have argued for the need of a printed and high quality dictionary in the classroom, perhaps they think it is important to teach dictionary look-up skills too.  I don’t doubt that there is benefit in learning that, but in today’s learning economy, I believe this is one of the skills that can mostly be replaced by knowing how to access technology for the purpose of understanding or completing a task.

Constructivism and Connectivism are connected and they both have strong links into the Cultural Historical Activity Theory.  My understanding of these theories appear in my teaching strategies.  I understand that the world has changed since I was a K-12 student, and education has to adapt to those changes.  I also have experienced these theories first hand when I was able to obtain knowledge through technology tools so that I could accomplish certain tasks.  Just do a “How to” search on the Internet to find most anything you need to know how to do.  I also recognize that the wealth of information available was provided by someone and somewhere out there, so I have seen the positive benefit of networked knowledge and interaction with technology tools.   As you can see, I subscribe to these theories, just not 100%, and it is difficult to know how much percentage I am willing to concede, but it is likely above 90%.  I know it gets a little gray in my mind sometimes, so eventually I just have to walk away and continue living life.

 Reference:

EdTech 504: Reflection of Annotated Bibliography

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This is the first time that I have completed an annotated bibliography.  Even though the reading and research was tedious, I found many interesting investigations in areas of personal and professional significance.  Each annotation seemed to flow through certain areas of experience and goals.  For example, the first half of my listed resources seemed to focus heavily on system wide technology integration in ways that I have not yet experienced.  Nonetheless, I have increased my professional knowledge base and have already implemented many strategies in technology integration, which is helping prepare me for the next stage of my career.  Of particular interest is a study done on mobile learning environments and the effective use of mobile learning tools (McAndrew, Taylor, and Clow, 2010).  Also, I am very interested to see how education will incorporate the use of virtual worlds, and there are two resources that take an early look at educational investigations and practices within the virtual world called Second Life (Minocha, Quang Tran, and Reeves, 2010) (Jamaludin and Elavarasen, 2011) .

The second half of my annotated bibliography focuses on observations that I have made in my content area and other educational domains  throughout my professional teaching career.  Whether the article addressed technology integration or not, I made a point to reflect on the significance of the findings as they relate to trends in educational technology and social and communication patterns among the modern student.   Since my content area is language development through literacy, writing, and oral exchanges, I found some resources that specifically addressed this area.  For example, using a literacy app to allow students to manipulate the text and images in ways that traditional literacy study is limited (Allington, 2011).  Also, the changes in technology and its affect on how students and teachers are interacting in society (Shum and Ferguson (2012) is something that we are currently witnessing in all areas of education.  A investigation into process of implementing a change in educational practices (Bourke and McGee, 2012) is also very significant, since many institutions are faced with a need for adaptation of curriculum and teaching strategies.

Additionally, during my teaching stint in the USA, I could not escape the subject of high-stakes testing and its effect on education.  One investigation drew considerable attention to the negative effect it has had on language development and teaching strategies, but in the process they reveal a complex dichotomy that exists between teacher training programs and the real world teaching experience.  (Stillman, Anderson, Fink, and Kurumada, 2011).    Also, during that time, the educational domain that I worked in was bilingual education.  One investigation revealed the benefit of connecting with students in their native language (Razfar, 2012), but it did not apply any  information for virtual learning environments, and the study was conducted in informal learning settings.  It seems at this point, research is somewhat limited with bilingual education in virtual settings.

I really liked the research and information that I found, which is based around the Cultural Historical Activity Theory.  Based on my personal and teaching experiences, the framework of this theory seems to make more sense when analyzing the cognition process, because we are inseparable from our environment and culture, and we learn to interact with the acceptable tools used within that culture.  Yet, technology has caused shifts in society which affect the way we interact and  education is either adapting or resisting those changes.

Annotated Bibliography: Cultural Historical Activity Theory

Reference:

  • McAndrew, P., Taylor, J., & Clow, D. (2010). Facing the Challenge in Evaluating Technology Use in Mobile Environments. Open learning, Vol. 25(No. 3), 233–249.
  • Minocha, S., Quang Tran, M., & Reeves, A. J. (2010). Conducting Empirical Research in Virtual Worlds: Experiences from two projects in Second Life. Journal of virtual world research, The Researcher’s Toolbox, 3(1).
  • Jamaludin, R., & Elavarasen, M. D. (2011). Second Life & Education. Centre for instructional technology & multimedia’s bulletin of instructional technology, 7–8.
  • Allington, D. (2011). Learning to Read in the 21st Century. Centre for research in education and educational technology: The Open University. Retrieved from http://www8.open.ac.uk/creet/main/projects
  • Shum, S. B., & Ferguson, R. (2012). Social Learning Analytics. Journal of educational technology & society, 15(3), 3–26.
  • Bourke, R., & McGee, A. (2012). The Challenge of Change: Using Activity Theory to Understand a Cultural Innovation. Journal of educational change, 13(2), 217–233. doi:10.1007/s10833-011-9179-5
  • Stillman, J., Anderson, L., Fink, L., & Kurumada, K. S. (2011). To Follow, Reject, or Flip the Script: Managing Instructional Tension in an Era of High-Stakes Accountability. Language arts, 89(1), 22–37.
  • Razfar, A. (2012). ¡Vamos a Jugar Counters! Learning Mathematics Through Funds of Knowledge, Play, and the Third Space. Bilingual research journal, 35(1), 53–75. doi:10.1080/15235882.2012.668868

EDTECH 504: Reflecting on Epistemology

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Before this course, Theoretical Foundations of Educational Technology, the word epistemology did not exist in my vocabulary.  OK, so I don’t anticipate that this word will appear in any popular titles of songs or movies, but surely in teacher circles you would expect to see or hear the word emerge from time to time.  However, in my decade long plunge into professional education, I don’t recall the word arriving to my consciousness.  Suddenly, I find myself in a situation, where I have to reflect on my own epistemological views and acknowledge my own teaching strategies, whether they follow along with my views.  Fortunately, my professor recently assigned me a substantial amount of reading on this subject, which is going to help me not only put together a position, but also reflect on where I see my professional self within that view. 

The term, epistemology, means the theory of knowledge and it was coined by a Scottish philosopher named James F. Ferrier (1808-64)(dictionary.com).  It is at the heart of education, through which knowledge is acquired.  The concept has its roots in centuries of philosophy and discussions related to the effect of education on individuals and societies (Phillips, 2009).  Overtime, theories have been developed to consider the most effective way to transmit knowledge to individuals.  The majority of the last century was dominated with behaviorism theories, which were based on external stimuli and external receptors (Roebler and Doering, 2012).  Technology’s influence over communication and data collection has led to epistemological shifts for creating and sustaining a variety of learning environments that are more student-centered rather than teacher-centered (Jonnasen and Land, 2012). Furthermore, in the 1990’s there was such a surge in brain research and identifying consciousness in individuals, even more theories are being developed around the internal process for obtaining knowledge (Demasio, 2002). 

As I was reading through many of these theories, the major theory branch of constructivism is where I was more inclined.   I recognized my inclinations towards its major characteristics for two primary reasons.  First, as a student in the EdTech program at Boise State, our content is steeped with constructive learning approaches.  Also, I have notice especially the last few years of my teaching profession, I have pushed for more constructive learning activities.  I think this approach came me both instinctively and as a learned strategy.  The instinct developed as part of my own learning experiences; growing up accepting mediocre achievements in my own education, I learned that by applying myself to a subject matter, I was able to accomplish beyond my low expectations.  Beyond the time frame of my formal education, I was able to acquire many skills, including near fluency in a foreign language.  Obviously, these personal experiences have effected me as a teacher, so that I understand that most of my students have untapped cognitive potential.  However, when I first started teaching, I fell back into teaching modes that were modeled for me in my earliest educational experiences.  Over time, I have adapted my teaching styles, where I try to submit my students to rich learning situations, but I try to let the learning grow from within them. 

I perceive the world through my perception, but I had to step aside and consider the world perceived by other learners.  Due to the many readings on learning theories, I found myself formulating the framework of my own theory.  Up to now, I have not deeply investigated one particular theory to see how much of my own philosophy matches up against it.  Basically, I see life and cognition within multiple phases.  As people develop through those phases, their cognitive senses respond differently.  Depending on the phase, certain systematic approaches to teaching and learning can be applied at varying intensities.  However, I am aware that theories related to society also affect the “how” and “what” that many learners obtain and the also effect the way people relate.  I have experienced cultural tendencies in life and in education.  I have witnessed people and students that are confident in one environment and when thrown in another, their personality is muted.  I also have imagined modern-day learners, with all their abilities to access to technology, entering into a primitive environment and they would be seen as useless.  I have also observed many generational differences that affect perspective.  Therefore, I believe that no learning theory can be independent from the theories that calculate society.  According to some of my readings, this philosophy has some similarities to the Social Activism Theory by John Dewey and the Child Development Theory by Jean Piaget, as well as some tidbits from other constructivist theories (Roebler and Doering, 2012).

When it gets down to the educational experience with my students, I am willing to use technology software such as drill and practice and tutorials to help them develop more foundation.  Some students have struggled to produce in a constructive learning approach due to their lack of prior knowledge or skill with language.  Yet, many of the technology tools that I try to introduce to my students are to give a queue or guide toward a learning challenge and let them a chance to create their own understanding.

References

epistemology. (n.d.). Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved September 26, 2012, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/epistemology

Phillips, D.C., “Philosophy of Education”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2009 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = .

Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2012). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (6th ed.). Allyn & Bacon.
Jonassen, D., & Land, S. (Eds.). (2012). Theoretical Foundations of Learning Environments (2nd ed.). Routledge.
Demasio, A. R. (2002). EBSCOhost: How the Brain Creates the Mind. Science American, Special Edition, 12(1), 4–9.

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