Month: August 2016

Module 5 Reflection – Finding Myself

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dreamstime_xs_53393938The most important thing I learned from Edtech 504 was never to judge a book by its cover. Theory and pedagogy are not high on my list of things I am interested in. I find them pretty dry. I am an observer, though, and adjust my teaching methods based on my instincts and observations. I am also a math teacher. While I am an avid reader, my writing skills are rusty. Writing has never been something I particularly enjoy, so I have been dreading this class because it is everything that I tend to avoid. How wrong can one person be? While not my favorite class, 504 definitely resides in my top three. This class will be incredibly helpful when I start back to school in a few weeks.

I will be applying ideas from Gardener’s multiple intelligences and looking at my students in a whole new light. I can’t get past the thought that many of them be labeled as special education simply because their intelligence does not fall into the two intelligences that schools focus on almost exclusively. My entire first week of back to school activities will be heavily impacted by Dweck’s growth mindset theory. I need to find a way to address the fixed mindsets that the majority of my students wear like a badge of honor. We will be celebrating our mistakes this year, using them to deepen our knowledge and increase our perseverance.

I enrolled in the K-12 Online Learning certificate program at BSU to further my knowledge in this area. I would like to find ways to bring my curriculum to my students who for various reasons, cannot find success in a physical classroom. Graduation rates for at-risk students are dropping precipitously. Online learning may be a viable answer for some of these learners.

Finding that my instincts tend to be spot on was gratifying. While I may not have known the theory behind what I was observing, much of what I have implemented in my classroom reflects best practices that I have researched and learned about in this class, further adding to my confidence in my ability to help my students.

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Module 4 Reflection – Looking Ahead

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The alignment of epistemologies and learning theories is fascinating, in that it is making me take a hard look at what I thought I believed, how I teach in the classroom and the connections, or lack thereof between the two. As I mentioned earlier, I believe in the constructivist learning theory, but this does not match my teaching style. I have been blaming it on the population I teach, but what if that is a misconception? My teaching style falls squarely into the cognitivist realm. This has been the most successful method of instructing my special education students in the intricacies of algebra. If I firmly believe this, (and I do), what does that say about my belief system in general? Am I a closet cognitivist? My continued research and reflection seem to imply that I am, that claiming to be a constructivist while actively teaching as a cognitivist is fooling no one but myself.

Studying the epistemological frameworks for learning showed me that I am a pragmatist. We see knowledge as “a negotiation between reflection and experience, inquiry and action” (Siemens, as cited in Kop & Hill, 2008). I learn from experience, often the hard way. It seems that I must do something and experience the repercussions, whatever they may be, in order to learn. I grow when I reflect on that experience and use it to improve my knowledge and mindset. Looking at Kop & Hill’s alignment of epistemologies and learning theories was eye-opening. According to them, pragmatism and cognitivism are closely aligned, leading me to rethink and reformulate my personal belief structure.

This week we looked at emerging theories of learning. The two that seemed most relevant to my classroom are Connectivism and the Transactional Distance Theory. I love how Connnectivism integrates learning and technology. It seems to take the best parts of several existing theories and applies them to the increasing use of technology in our world today. The idea that students work collaboratively in “nodes” that are part of a larger community is very constructivist in nature, lending itself well to project based learning. The ability to find current information while weeding out both extraneous and incorrect digital information fosters those critical research and analytical skills.

The Transactional Distance Theory is particularly suited to my population. Moore stresses that the distance in distance education is referring to the “distance of understandings and perceptions, caused in part by the geographic distance, that has to be overcome by teachers, learners, and educational organizations if effective, deliberate, planned learning is to occur” (1991). My concerns lie in his focus on self-direction and “trust in the learner’s ability to take responsibility” (as cited in Gokool-Ramdoo, 2008). My students are singularly lacking in this area.

The high poverty special needs student population is often a transient one. Students appear and disappear throughout their public school careers, creating large gaps in their learning. Mental illness takes a particularly high toll on attendance rates, with anxiety and depression playing an active role in keeping students away from the classroom. Allowing these students to participate from home on the days they find themselves unable to handle the physical and social demands of school will allow them to stay current with their classes. Google Hangouts is an option here, as is Skype. I wonder if I could stream through something like a GoPro, or wear a camera like police officers are slowly being required to do. If a student gets overwhelmed, it is a simple matter to take a step back. Recording the sessions would allow them to watch and learn at their own pace if attending “live” is too much. I am excited to enter the Online Teaching Graduate Certificate Program in the fall. It is my hope that I will learn ways to incorporate these theories through the thoughtful use of technology, allowing me to create differentiated pathways to success for my students. And isn’t that what this is all about?

 

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 Distributed Learning, 9(3).

Kop, R., & Hill, A. (2008). Connectivism: Learning theory of the future or vestige of the past? The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 9(3).

Moore, M. (1991). Distance education theory. The American Journal of Distance Education, 5(3), 1-6.