When this course began eight weeks ago, our first Application assignment was to describe our personal theory about learning. In this assignment, I made my personal learning theory clear: I believe that students learn best when exposed to the content in a variety of ways; assessed on that content both formally and informally; given opportunities to work collaboratively with their peers; and being able to connect their understanding of the material to real-world scenarios. This personal belief has been strongly reinforced with the support of the many teaching and learning strategies and tools discussed within this course. By studying the various learning theories, I have become more knowledgeable in the benefits to my students when applying those teaching strategies. In addition, I have been able to find new and more updated technology tools I am able to use with my students that can strengthen the application of my learning theory within my classroom. Dr. Michael Orey and his many beliefs on teaching with technology have truly helped me make more of a connection between the strategies I use and the benefits to the students as a result. For example, in the past, I
have seen that many of my lower-level students seemed to struggle with vocabulary. I was constantly trying to find new ways to expose my students to the terms they needed to know without boring them or confusing them. But, when Dr. Orey discussed his findings on research based on cognitive learning theories, it helped me think more clearly about why those students struggled and how I can best meet their needs, using certain technology tools as my guide.
As a result of this course, I will make it a personal goal to integrate technology in a more student-centered manner at least three times per week. I plan on accomplishing this goal by using many of the technology tools described in this course. Two tools in particular that I am planning on using within my classroom are Spider Scribe and Voice Thread. I would like to use Spider Scribe to help my students break down more complex topics within the curriculum and help them make connections to prior knowledge. Our students seem to struggle every year with summarizing different pieces of writing. By using this program, I believe I will be able to help students with this task, giving them a more interactive and user-friendly application to work with in the classroom. Since users are able to convert their graphic organizers to Word documents, the students will be able to save their work to their desktop and view it anytime, regardless of whether or not they have access to the Internet. Students will also be able to use this tool to break down significant moments in history and draw connections to previous events to see the impact past actions have on present events. This is one of the main components of my personal learning theory. I want my students to see that history has an impact on the present – that it is not just a story told in a textbook.
Voice Thread is also going to be a beneficial technology tool in my classroom. Many of my students like to connect to their peers using some type of social media. They also like to collaborate with one another on various projects – sometimes digitally rather than face-to-face. Voice Thread will allow students to share their thoughts or information about a particular topic, then comment on each other’s responses digitally. This will not only allow the students to collaborate within the classroom, but also reinforce the proper steps that a responsible Internet user should take when collaborating digitally with other users. This program will also allow those students who may be shy getting up in front of the classroom for a presentation share their information in a way that is not intimidating but more welcoming. I know that many of my students struggle with putting their thoughts into words, missing many opportunities to share their thoughts with their peers. By using Voice Thread, the students can use a digital platform to share their thoughts and opinions using images, sounds, or a recording of their own voice.
In the long run, I plan on making my classroom more student-centered. I want students to become historians and take more of an initiative in their own learning. When it comes to my role in the classroom, I want to be seen as more of a facilitator rather than the main source of knowledge. I plan on doing this my incorporating more student-centered activities in my classroom from the beginning of the school year. Over this summer, I plan on researching technology tools and projects that I can use for this purpose and develop them into working tools specifically for my classroom. When my new students come to me in August, I will share this plan with them up front and have them begin using these tools from the start of the course. They will also be encouraged to research tools we are able to use in the classroom as well and develop student-led workshops for their peers. I believe that this will benefit them in the long run and fit in nicely with the standards in the upcoming Core Curriculum adopted by the state of Maryland. Another long-term goal I have for my classroom is to open it up to students outside of Maryland. I want my students to be digital learners, not only from each other, but from students across the country and, potentially, around the world as well. I will partner myself with teachers in other states (possibly from this very program) and develop activities for them to complete along with my own students. They will share their thoughts using technology in a variety of ways and learn from each other during the process. It has become very clear to me that teaching with technology is not only confined to using programs within one’s own classroom. Students across the
country are learning similar concepts and ideas from educators that use a myriad of strategies. Why not allow my students (and others) the opportunity to learn from each other in ways that they all can benefit from in the long run?
In conclusion, this course has made me more aware of the tools and strategies that can be used to help students thrive in a digital society. Education should not be confined to textbooks, worksheets, and assessments. Students need to be expected to think critically and make connections to other subjects in order to be successful in the 21st century. By incorporating all of the ideas and strategies I have discussed above, I believe I am doing my best to fulfill my personal learning theory and helping students become the best learners they can be.