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Social Constructivism:

Social Constructivism is an educational based learning theory that has been studied in greater detail from the mid 20th century. As Audrey Gray (2010) explains, it focuses, ‘… on the belief that learning occurs as learners are actively involved’ in their own learning and ‘…construction rather than passively receiving information. John Abbott further discusses and explains social constructivism in this Youtube video. He best sums up the learning theory by stating that good teachers will teach children by taking what knowledge they already have and then expanding on it.

Its Background:

Lev Semenovich Vygotsky’s work on socio-cultural theory was a major influence to today’s Social Constructivists. As Anita Woolfolk and Kay Margettes (2010) explain, his sociocultural theory is based on the idea that interaction and dialogue between children and more knowledgeable members of society (educators, parents) is how learning is experienced. Reflective of Abbott’s explanation above, part of Vygotsky’s theory is focused on what he called ‘the Zone of Proximal Development’ (ZPD). AS Woolfolk and Margettes define, the ZPD is a visual representation of the areas between a person’s current and independent knowledge and the possible extend of what can be learned with the social interaction and assistance of more knowledgeable others.

Zone of Proximal Development

It is here repented visually above: the green oval represents what a child with his or her individual knowledge can achieve and the encircling orange oval is the possible level of achievement which can be attained with assistance of someone knowledgeable in that field.

Application today:

As Gray (2010) highlights, a constructivist classroom is one that is student centred, not teacher centred. These classrooms instead of focusing on final products or outcomes focus instead on the processes and techniques of how to create the final product. As expressed by R. White-Clark, M. DiCarlo and Sr N. Gilchriest (2008), three members of a current mathematic reform movement in the US, the traditional teacher-centred approach in teacher pedagogy is “…providing information to passive, uninvolved students (p.40).” In order to bring the students around and get them involved, they urge mathematical teachers to change their teaching styles from lecturing, teacher-centred methods to become a guide on the side, a teacher that “…facilitates the student’s construction of meaning and the understanding of the content (p.41).” Thus emphasis on co-operative learning, one that employs hands on learning, discovery learning, various technologies and critical thinking are all constructivist approaches that see to build a a more engaging, student centred classroom.

Constructivism and ICT:

By looking at what constructivism is, I can see that today’s ICT teaching tools can greatly support constructivist, student-centred learning. Tools mentioned in my previous posts, ICT’s such as the Interactive Whiteboards and Webquests/Wikispaces can all build knowledge through interactive and co-operative learning, which is the aim of  constructivist learning. Webquests in particular, greatly foster the idea of the teacher being a ‘guide on the side’. Having the Webquests set out in a sequence which includes an introduction, task, resources, process, evaluation and conclusion, the student has all the material needed to foster self learning. In addition, having group work and the access to the Internet encourages the ZPD as the students work together co-operatively.

IWBs ability to foster constructivism

Interactive Whiteboards foster this ZPD theory as well. By constructing interactive activities that follow from base knowledge students can work together with the teacher guiding them along. For example, a maths game can be created where the students need to work together co operatively and interact ont he IWB as seen above. Thus together the integration of ICT’s and Social COnstructivist learning methods can have a very positive effect on learning in the classroom.

References:

Dicarlo M., Sr Gilchriest N., & White Clark R. (2008). Guide on the side: An instructional approach to meet mathematics standards. Retrieved from BlackBoard (april 2011)

Gray A. (uploaded 2010). SSTA Research Centre Report #97-07: Constructivist Teaching and Learning http://www.thetrainingworld.com/cgi-bin/library/jump.cgi?ID=12728.

Margettes K., & Woolfolk A. (2010). Educational Psychology. (2nd ed), (pg. 51, 55) Sydney, NSW: Pearson Education Australia

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Digital Natives:

During the past twenty years as the IT (information technology) revolution boomed, a debate has developed over the effect of the new and improving Information Communication Technologies (ICT) on educational processes – in particular focusing on the ‘Digital Natives’ and their technological skills learned as a result of maturing and experiences technology and its advancements in everyday life.

As S. Bennet, L. Kervi and K. Maton (2008) explain, the debate focuses on the claim that the Digital Natives are so adapt at using technology that they are so differentiated ‘…from previous generations of students and from their teachers, and that the differences are so significant that the nature of education itself must be fundamentally changed to accommodate the skills and interests of these digital natives’ (pg. 775-776).

Problems for Digital Immigrants

The debate:

Before I go on, the term ‘Digital Native’ and its counter part ‘Digital Immigrant’, have to be explored in order to have a better understanding on the topic. ‘Digital Natives’, coined by Marc Prensky (2001) and further explained by him are all the people who were raised surrounded by the technologies which the late 20th and early 21st century had to offer, who are as he quotes, “…’native speakers’ of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet. (p. 1)” Thus the opposing term of “digital immigrants” focuses on the older generations, who had not grown up with such technologies and were forced to adapt to a changing environment. In many circumstances these immigrants even today have chosen not to adapt or learn to use new technologies – I’m sure enough to say that everyone with old enough parents were forced at one point or another to help or explain to them how to Text-Message, or how to use the Internet. Here is a mind map explores the differences between the Natives and Immigrants:

Digital Natives vs Digital Immigrants

Prensky (2001) puts great emphasis between the two generations as he claims the older generations – the ‘digital immigrants’, who are teaching the younger, more technically savvy natives, are ‘…struggling to teach a population that speaks an entirely new language. (p. 2)”. It is this argument to which  Bennet, Kervi and Maton debate against. The trio argue that yes, the use of technology in younger people is very high along with their ability to multi task between them also very high. However, they argue that only a small percentage of the digital natives are actually adapt in educational ICT’s (p. 778). From their survey of 4374 students from 13 different educational institutions, only 21% of the students maintained an educational blog, and 21.5% downloaded educational podcasts and materials. Again, I am sure when I say that many of us who made these blogs for our ICT assessments, or any of our previous assessments in that matter, did not use or create the ICT before – which reinforce their data.

Bennet, Kervi, and Maton also raise another point which Prensky failed to comment on – socio economic and cultural differences affect the younger generations in a manner which sees them at a far lower level in technological skills (p.778). Not having the money to afford technological luxuries will seriously hinder a person’s skill in ICT no matter their age. Same goes for schools or educational institutions that a based on lower income areas – the less funding they receive, the less technology will be used in them no matter if a digital native or immigrant is teaching them.

Just by briefly looking at both sides of the debate, its clear that Prensky had in a sense assumed too much and did not factor in account other variables such as socio-economic and cultural differences. To further weaken his arguement, he hardly backs up his work at all unlike the trio who refer to surveys and other scholarly work. It is true that yes, we younger generations do know how to use a lot of the new technology that we come across in everyday life, and we do on the whole know how to operate them better than the older generations. However, it does not mean we necessarily know how to use ICT in educational circumstances -we all know how to Facebook, email, YouTube and download, but how many of us can confidently blog? By looking at this debate I can say that the answer is most likely the minority of us. By Prensky’s arguement every one of us are more adapt at ICT than our teachers, which I can personally say is not true as the majority of the people i know, including  myself are not.

References:

Bennet S., Kervin L., & Maton K. (2008). British Journal of Education: The ‘Digital Native’ debate: A critical review of the evidence. Vol. 30 (5) Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, UK. Retrieved from Blachboard (april 2011)

Prensky M. (2001) On the Horizon: Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. Vol 9 (5) Retrieved from http://www.twitchspeed.com/site/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.htm (april 2011)

ICT Integration:

Throughout the entire blog there has been mentioned various Information and Communication Technologies that are being introduced into our education system. Interactive Whiteboards, Webquests, Wikispaces, and school laptops all have their own pros and cons and together have the potential to turn the classroom into a modern but yet still productive learning environment. However as mentioned in the previous post, a new ICT technology such as the recently implemented school laptops, can have negative effects in the class room. The way I see it, in order for a teacher to successfully maintain a learning environment, teacher pedagogies must evolve as the technologies which are implemented in the classrooms have.

ICT and Pedagogy 

In today’s day and age, there is no doubt that technology and its advancements have a huge impact on our everyday lives. So great is the impact that people have pushed for technological improvements in our schools (as listed above), but there are still those who argue that new technology in no definitive way of improving teacher pedagogy or student learning (Brown, p.17). I agree with such an argument only to the extent that if the teachers themselves do not know how to operate the ICT’s in a proper, educational fashion, then yes, ICT’s are useless in the educational process. Take the Interactive Whiteboard  (IWB) for example (as mentioned in previous post), if a teacher floods the screen with pointless graphics, audio and video clips the IWB would be another distraction in the classroom. The school laptops again, can prove to be a large distraction to learning in the classroom, and as stated in my previous post, I have seen first hand that maintaining classroom focus can be extremely challenging for teachers.

However I side with those who believe that ICT’s should integrated into schools as a evolution in teacher pedagogy. Just as teachers adapted to Powerpoint presentations the Office Copier, they will adapt the new ICT’s. If teachers are taught how to operate the ICT’s in an educational manner (like us university students), then ICT’s can prove to be valuable assets in a classroom. Again using the IWB for example, if a teacher creates interactive and educational activities that foster ideas and themes, whilst at the same time adding relevant graphics, audio and video texts, then he or she successfully uses the ICT in an educational manner. Peggy Ertmer (2005) quotes Becker who describes what ICT’s offer to classrooms: they serve as “valuable and well-functioning instructional tool”, teachers and students have thus a “a)… convenient access” to research and work online,” (b) are adequately prepared, (c) have some freedom in the curriculum and (d) hold personal beliefs aligned with a constructivist pedagogy (p.25)”.

As stated my other posts on Social Constructivism is the theory that focuses on seeing the students educating themselves through interactions (activities, challenges) with other students, having the teacher accompanying them as a ‘guide’. These ICT technologies can be used to reinforce a constructivist pedagogy as they encourage student-centered learning (see post on Social Constructivism). Thus used correctly ICT’s can serve as great cognitive tools, inside the classroom as well as at home for assignments and Webquests.

Even though there is still a lot of issues regarding the integration of ICT’s in the classroom, there is no denying that the classrooms will change according the the new technologies being developed as they offer so much potential. I can understand why people say ICt’s do not benefit classrooms as they can be distracting, but saying that, is a classroom without ICT’s distraction free? No they are not. That is why teachers must be taught and adapt new ICT skills into their existing pedagogies to successfully use ICT’s in a useful and successful manner. This video for example highlights successful integration and teaching with ICT technology in the US

References:

Brown, M. (2005). The growth of enterprise pedagogy: How ICT policy is infected by neo-liberalism. Australian Educational Computing, 20(2), 16-22.

Ertmer, P. A. (2005). Teacher pedagogical beliefs: The final frontier in our quest for technology integration? Educational Technology Research & Development, 53(4), 25-39

The Interactive Whiteboard:

Technological advancements have always closely affected our schools and other learning institutions or environments. Developments such as the Quill and Ink to the Pencil and Pen; from Chalkboards to Whiteboards; and from Overhead Projects to PowerPoint had all affected classroom functionality in their own particular way. Today, there is particular focus on the implementation and the development in the use of the Interactive Whiteboard. Like the transition from the outdated and dirty chalkboards to the whiteboards, Educational Institutions have seen the educational benefits that come from applying IWB’s into classrooms.

Interactive Whiteboard in the classroom

Essentially, an Interactive Whiteboard is an electronic whiteboard which provides an escape from the traditional ‘teacher on writing on board’ approach. The IWB provides different and very interactive methods of presenting information, it encourages learning through a creative and interactive environment. In conjunction with learning programs such as ‘ActivInspire’, the IWB becomes an abundant source of interactive learning. A glimpse of the interactive lessons can be seen through this video clip found at http://www.prometheanplanet.com/en-us/support/software/activinspire/. Through such programs, information can not only be presented through various different ways but can also be experienced through interactive activities through such technologies.

Reflection:

There is no doubting that the IWB is a wonderful tool that can promote learning, especially if a teacher seeks to differentiate between learning styles of his or her classroom. If a teacher follows Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, the IWB can be a very valuable tool. As C. Lane explains, Gardner based his theory on the basis that there are 8 different types of intelligence and that each person uses their strongest intelligence when learning. They are as follows:

  • Visual/Spatial:these learners think and visualise information in terms of physical space (e.g. builders, carpenters, architects etc.)
  • Bodily/Kinaesthetic: these learners learn best through physical activities
  • Musical:these learners respond well to rhythm and sounds in their environment
  • Interpersonal: these learners respond best through personal interaction with others
  • Intrapersonal: these learners work best individually and access themselves in terms of strengths and weaknesses
  • Linguistic: Learners that respond to and use words effectively
  • Logical/mathematical: learners effectively use logic and calculation
  • Naturalist: learners who “deal with sensing patterns in and making connections to elements in nature”.

multiple-intelligences

By looking at both this information as well as what the IWB’s offer, it is clear that differentiation between Visual, Bodily, Musical and Logical learners can be easily achieved. This can be done through the use of activities that include: graphics that can be drawn from the teacher’s computer or the internet, interactive activities and educational games that see children working on the IWB themselves, video or musical clips and samples, and programs which include mathematical tools for the students co-operatively. As J. Gage (2006) quotes: “Using an IWB increases the pace and depth of lessons and gives more time for discussion and questioning… moves from writing the question down… to brainstorming it… this helps students focus… on the lesson content and sharing ideas… (p. 25)”
However I do have one criticism of this ICT. As explained above, the tools used can be very appropriate in catching the attention of children – thus if a teacher puts too much focus on the appearance of his lesson by perhaps flooding it with irrelevant graphics, sounds, colours or tools, it could become a distraction rather than an effective learning tool. As P. Kent (2007) explains, ICT tools that promote thinking skills actually are effective in improving student results, thus is we truly want to use this ICT to its full affect, WE must first learn how to use it properly. Gage (2006) reinforces this, he states that there should be certain features that a teacher needs to implement when using this ICT. Features such as checking for student prior knowledge, checking if they can identify the relevance of the lesson, keeping the lesson well structured, making sure that the content requires high level thinking and making sure ICT includes differentiation etc.
The IWB is a tool with great educational potential. Not only is its potential recongnised in school environments, it has also been implemented in the workforce as a presentational tool.
IWB in the work force
References:

Gage, J. (2006). How to use and Interactive Whiteboard really effectively in your secondary classroom. London: David Fulton Publishers. p. 25

Kent P. (2007). Pedagogy before Technology: The pedagogical Underpinning of the Effective Integration of ICT. Presented at Latrobe University. Retrieved from Blackboard (April 2011)

Lane, C. (Nd).  The Distance Learning Technology Resource Guide: Gardner’s Theory of multiple Intelligences . Retrieved from Blackboard (April 2011)

As technology develops and advances, so to does the means which we experience or use them. The ICT’s that are household items today gone through tremendous evolutions in both size and capabilities. Have a look for example the evolution of the mobile phone:

When it comes to these more personal and handheld ICT’s in particular, there has traditionally always been a negative view upon them by educational institutions. Remember all those all those school rules forbidding the use of mobile phones and ipod? However these ICT’s even though they can at times serve as distractions in a classroom, can be in fact transformed into mobile learning devises.

Google earth for example, is an application that allows you to locate, zoom in, measure distance from and locate routes all from the comfort of your computer or even your iPhone or Android. This would be a great interactive tool for a geography class.

The iPhone in particular has thousands upon thousands of downloadable applications (many of them free) that have an educational value. Downloadable educational applications include unit and size converters for mathematics, diaries to plan school week, musical tuners for music classes, and even work out routines and programs for PEHDE classes. These are just a few mentioned, this Apple website lists many many more. Furthermore, websites such as www.iear.org not only list purely educational applications (or apps for short) for all year levels but they also review them and mention their usefulness.

It was only just recently however, that the Australian Government saw potential in ICT’s as learning devices. As Mitchell Bingerman (2009) explains, the NSW Department of Education had given laptops to over 200 000 government secondary schools. As reported, the then Premier Nathan Rees said the technology was meant to improve and increase collaboration and methods of school assessments and projects. Mr Rees stated that because the children and teachers will share the common technology, class presentations and work should be conducted more efficiently using programs such as Microsoft Office and Adobe. This Youtube video highlights the events and motives behind the release in 2009.

This ICT initiative is excellent for supporting all types of learners. Together with IWB’s, access to the internet, Webquests, and traditional texts books all forms of differentiation can occur within the classroom. Not only that, but because the laptop is a mobile devise, it allows work to be completed virtually anywhere. Furthermore, with internet driven activities such as Webquests, the work can be home if a student is sick or injured, or across the globe if on a trip with the family. Thus with such mobile devices, cognitive activities are no longer reserved for the classroom and can be completed anywhere with internet connection – it wont be te teacher’s fault if students fall behind in their work.

However, even though mobile technology is very promising, from my personal observations in my university school experience I found that the laptops are also another source of distraction for the classroom. Even though yes, websites not relevant to learning are blocked, the level of technological savvy that the young teens today possess means that they by pass any web restrictions anyway. Furthermore, if the teacher is at the front of the room or  tending to a student, there is no possible way to see if the other students are working, and not surfing the net, playing a game or watching a movie. Thus if mobile ICT’s such as the laptops are to be introduced into schools, there must in my opinion be a large focus into how classrooms should be set out and managed accordingly.

References:

Bingermann M. (2009). NSW Government awards contracts for school laptops. The Australian. Retrieved from http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nsw-govt-awards-contracts-for-school-laptops/story-e6frgal6-1225700527023

http://www.apple.com/iphone/apps-for-iphone/

http://www.iear.org/

The Internet:

The World Wide Web (or just the internet for short) has come a long way from its early development in the 60’s by military institutions, in particular the US Pentagon. Just as other technologies have evolved into everyday household items (e.g: televisions, MP3 players, computers), so has the internet. Today, the internet connects almost 2 billion together from across the entire globe (statistics of internet usage and its growth can be found here). Within Oceania and Australia alone, the numbers of internet uses has risen from 7,620,480 in the year 2000 to 21,263,990 only a decade later.

world wide web

Why has the mount of users increased so drastically? The answer lies within the many uses which the internet has to offer. The internet is a source for anything and everything that can be virtually uploaded, including:

  • music
  • videos
  • video games
  • graphics
  • information or how to do’s (on virtually ANYTHING)
Educational Uses:

However, the internet’s most potentially useful feature is that it offers boundless limits of educational information to be shared across the world instantly. With today’s developed culture becoming increasingly more and more technologically dependent and advanced, it is only suitable that education should also follow suit. We as students have already experienced the benefits the Internet has to offer when conducting out research – the simplicity of typing your desired information into a search engine or data base, where it then can be saved or downloaded for later use is a far more desired approach than re-typing information gained from actual books or texts found in libraries.
However, because of the amount of information available to anyone on the Internet, a problem arises where the information posted could not actually be accurate and thus be detrimental to any learning. It is therefore why educators are encouraged (or we future educators are taught) to create online work stations where the teacher can monitor and assign work to their students. Thus, the internet can become an affective ICT tool. ‘Webquests’ and ‘Wikispaces’ are such online work stations created by teachers. As Dianne Ruffles (no date) explains, ‘Webquests or such activities… provide opportunities to motivate both students and teachers to work together collaboratively in learning teams…responding to an engaging task and developing their skills in information and literacy and ICT (p.137).” Therefore by making the students practice their online research skills through by assigning research tasks and being able to monitor them, the Internet becomes a very powerful ICT tool. An example of a one of these online learning activities can be found here.

A look at a Webquest

Cognitive abilities:

Furthermore, not only would these tasks improve student ICT skills, Bernie Dodge (1997) explains on his website that through the use of these tasks,  students improve their comparing, classifying, inducing, deducing, analysing, constructing support and abstraction skills. In addition these Webquests and Wikispaces are beneficial to those students who work better in both groups and individually, as the tasks can be focused on both group and individual work.
Through these ICT tools, the teacher can create tasks that include various texts found on the internt which can be applied to different learning styles (see ICT current trends, Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences) or to different subject areas. Say for music for example, the teacher can construct a Wikispace that encourages a student to better their musical skills by researching and practice certain musical scales. The teacher can post audio clips, musical scripts or tablature  and also video clips like the ones found this website.
Furthermore, interactive scripts or games known as ‘Widgets’ can also be placed in these web tasks making them more engaging (an example of one of these widgets can be found on my wikispace here). Thus differentiation can be achieved by  using this ICT tool.
However the most important aspect of the Webquest or Wikispace, is the way which they are composed. As Ruffles highlights, there is a certain method when constructing one which must include these steps for the students to follow:
  • Introduction – setting the stage for the activities which includes the central question
  • Task – description of the challenge, or activities that the students need to complete
  • Resources – links. clips. resources that you provide to start off student research
  • Process – how the challenges and activities are to be conducted (rules, assigning roles etc)
  • Evaluation or Assessment – a rubric that outlines the outcomes that need to be achieved
  • Conclusion – Final statement, could include both the teacher’s and the students’, including reflections on the tasks
By constructing a template which to follow and by including up to date and reliable websites for the students to work with, the ICT becomes a powerful tool that teaches the students how research, work and gather information on the ever expanding World Wide Web.
References:
Dodge B. (1997). Some Thoughts About WebQuests. Retrieved from http://webquest.sdsu.edu/about_webquests.html
Ruffles D. (Date not known). WebQuests: Tools for Information Literacy, HOTS and ICT. Retrieved from Blaclboard (april 2011)