Friday, October 19, 2012

Final Blog Post: Reflecting on my GAME Plan

The focus of my GAME plan is on the ISTE Standard proficiency indicators 2.a., 2.b., and 3.b., which entail designing learning experiences that incorporate digital tools and resources into the classroom, enabling my students to become more self-directed learners in a technology rich environment, and to communicate with students and community effectively using a variety of digital media (ISTE, 2008).  I have gained a lot of knowledge and have connected with a lot of great resources while working on my GAME plan, however, it is almost too much information.  I have learned that using my Delicious account, a social bookmarking tool, to keep my resources organized is a must.  I have also learned that when planning lessons, using backward design is a must, in other words, start with the standards, determine how you will assess students, and then design your lessons.  Lastly, I have discovered that technology is a wonderful tool, however, it is most effective when it is used to enhance student learning.

Technology in the classroom is an evolving entity that requires teachers to keep up with  rapid and continuous change.  Becoming aware of the steps that a self-directed learner must take to keep up with change and meet the needs of students in this ever-changing environment is the best thing a teacher can do (Cennamo, Ross, & Ertmer, 2009, p. 7).  Learning about the GAME plan facilitated self-awareness in my own learning and has initiated true change in my approach to teaching.   I set specific goals to improve my teaching and incorporate quality experiences with technology into my classroom practice that would directly benefit my students.  One of the goals I set was to design lessons that incorporated digital tools and resources into my classes.   I use a social bookmarking tool called Delicious to organize and tag all of the resources I have found to enhance student learning.  I have made a lot of progress in organizing my bookmarks and have categorized them according to content.   This tool has enhanced my teaching tremendously because I can access resources quickly and efficiently and design lessons that incorporate technology that is free.  One of my goals was to make my classroom a technology rich environment and I am well on way toward reaching that goal.

Another goal I had was to enable my students to become self-directed learners.  One of the adjustments I have made to my instructional practice is directly related to my use of Delicious and my awareness of the GAME plan.  If I want my students to be self-directed learners, I need to model what that looks like.  Think-aloud mini-lessons that explicitly demonstrate how to use a tool and what kind of critical thinking is required to do that will scaffold the learning of my students (Cennamo et al, 2009, p. 154).  Engaging students in their own GAME plan can scaffold the learning process as students monitor and evaluate their own learning.  Another adjustment I have made to scaffold the learning process of students and to help me monitor their learning is to incorporate the use of a reflection journal during inquiry projects (Laureate Education, Inc., 2009a).  I incorporated this into all three of my unit lessons and found that it vastly improved my ability to monitor and evaluate student learning and to provide more effective and immediate feedback.  I believe this helped my students monitor and evaluate their own learning as well.

It is also extremely important to  use backward design when planning lessons.  I learned that I need to start with the standards and then use student data to inform my instruction.  This required me to adjust my approach to planning lessons and think more carefully about whether the technology I am using will meet the diverse learning needs of my students (Cennamo et al, 2009, p. 115).  Universal Design for Learning gives kids alternatives for obtaining and demonstrating knowledge and skills and provides flexibility and accessibility for all (Cennamo et al, 2009, p. 115).  I had never really thought much about this before, I am ashamed to admit that I used my educational assistant to work with some of the lower performing students, but never considered how technology could benefit these students.  I now carefully consider how to group me students based on the standards they must master, learning needs and ability, and available technology.  This made a big difference in my unit lesson for historical architectural  styles.  I was quite surprised when my EL student, whose language skills are fairly low, put together an impressive video of local architecture.

Lastly, I set a goal for communicating effectively with students and community using digital tools.  I have researched teacher blogs and websites and have gathered the necessary information.  I am in the process of completing a storyboard to organize my website, which is something I never would have thought of without this class (Laureate Education, Inc., 2009b).  I have also started pulling together a plan for sharing my work using an e-portfolio as it will keep me more actively engaged in my learning long after this class is done (Lambert, DePaepe, Lambert, Anderson, 2007).

In conclusion, I feel like there is no way that I can do justice to the amount of knowledge and practical application to the classroom learned in this class, however, I now actively use the GAME plan to set goals, take action, monitor and evaluate my own learning as well as that of my students.  I have adjusted the instruction in my teaching practice by using standards and student data to inform that instruction and intentionally provide a variety of digital tools to enhance content and the learning of all students.  Allowing students some flexibility to choose which media tools they prefer to work with and providing scaffolds in the form of rubrics and checklists to help students monitor their learning along the way are all strategies I have learned in the course.  The bottom line is that modeling and scaffolding  a strategy like the GAME plan will ensure that I stay up-to-date in this ever-changing world and my students will be successful in the 21st century workplace.


Cennamo, K., Ross, J., & Ertmer, P. (2009). Technology integration for meaningful classroom use: A standards-based approach. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Lambert, C., DePaepe, J., Lambert, L., & Anderson, D. (2007). E-portfolios in action. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 43(2), 76–81. Retrieved from the ERIC database.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2009a). Video Nine: Spotlight on Technology: Problem Based Learning Part Two. [DVD] Supporting information literacy and online inquiry in the classroom. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2009b). Video Thirteen:  Spotlight on Technology:  Digital Storytelling Part Two. [DVD] Supporting information literacy and online inquiry in the classroom. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Monitoring My Game Plan Progress

.  Last week, I took the first steps needed to carry out the goals I set for my GAME plan and shared what resources and additional information I would need to continue.  The focus of my GAME plan is on the ISTE Standard proficiency indicators 2.a., 2.b., and 3.b., which entail designing learning experiences that incorporate digital tools and resources into the classroom, enabling my students to become more self-directed learners in a technology rich environment, and to communicate with students and community effectively using a variety of digital media (ISTE, 2008).  Today, I am going to discuss the progress I am making toward getting the information and resources I need, what I have learned so far, and new questions that have manifested during the week.

This week proved to be rather frustrating in terms of time and energy.  I am teaching an overload at the high school and am teaching a graduate class in literacy on Saturdays in addition to this technology class, so I am stretched pretty thin.  I have managed to pull together the necessary resources in terms of curriculum maps and lesson plans.  However, after reading the chapter on assessing student learning, I realized that I can’t just stick technology into the curriculum willy-nilly; it should only be used when it facilitates learning (Cennamo, Ross, & Ertmer, 2009, p. 146).  My epiphany is that the process of updating the curriculum maps is going to work best while I am teaching the classes.  I have adjusted my timeline to accommodate this plan and am currently working on 4 content classes.  I have also decided that I want to take a closer look at the assessments that I use to monitor and evaluate student learning.  As I consider what digital tools will facilitate my lessons, it will be important to align the standards to the assessments first.  Once I do that I will be in a better place to consider if technology will facilitate student learning. 

I don’t use a lot of forced-choice assessment formats, however, I am interested in locating student responders since teachers should take advantage of appropriate technology when possible.  According to Cennamo et al (2009), student responders provide instantaneous reporting when doing this type of assessment for the whole class and can help a teacher quickly determine whether students require further instruction in content (p. 145).  Data can be quickly gathered and used to analyze individual responses as well as give an overall picture of the level of understanding for the whole class.  I am pretty sure the Science department has some, but I need to connect with them or the Media specialist to see if they are available to anyone in the school or limited to the Science department only.  I would also like to find out more about e-portfolios and determine what technology is required to create one.  Do I need special software or training so that I can teach my students how to use them?  Is this something that I would like to try to monitor and evaluate my own teaching practice?  E-portfolios are a great way to showcase student work and “involve learners in directing, documenting, and evaluating their own learning” and I think I would benefit from this tool as much as my students would (as cited by Lambert, DePaepe, Lambert, and Anderson, 2007, p. 78).

I have also been plugging away on my Delicious account as I organize bookmarks.  I am really frustrated with this tool because when I first registered for the account, they allowed you to create files, now everything goes by tags.  I wish there was a more efficient way to organize them.  When I created tags for the bookmarks in the very beginning, I was giving inconsistent names to them.  Now, I am trying to tag them with similar terms such as technology tools for the classroom and then I am adding additional tags to aid in sorting, for instance project-based learning or concept mapping tools.  The last few weeks, I have been giving a description of the bookmarks as well, and that really helps.  I have found it most frustrating because when I remember a website that had some great tool such as collaboration on creating a timeline, I can’t find it again.  Do any of my readers have any suggestions to help me sort this out?

I have not heard back from the Media specialist about the technology survey results, so I emailed him again.  I did figure out how to access student data using the Infinite Campus Grade Portal.  I can create reports of state test results and use that data to compare student performance in my classes; this will help me make better decisions about the effectiveness of the learning activities in my classroom (Cennamo et al, 2009, p. 115).  Those results can better inform what assessments and technology will best facilitate the learning of my students.

Lastly, I did not spend much time this week searching for teacher blogs and websites.  I want to design my own blog or website for my classes and their parents to be able to access.  Could the readers of my blog offer any suggestions?  If you know of a teacher blog, website, or wiki that is user friendly and has some good ideas, please reply to my post with the URLs.  I appreciate your help.  I am planning on working on this goal on Sunday of this week.

In summary, I have made some adjustments to my GAME plan.  I am taking action on my goals by using standards to set learning goals and assessment data from state tests and formative assessment data from my classroom to determine what technologies and instructional choices are best to facilitate student learning as I make adjustments to curriculum maps and lesson plans.  I am checking out whether I can have access to student response systems at my school and paying closer attention to the types of assessment I am using to monitor and evaluate student learning.  I need advice on how to more efficiently organize my Delicious account and connect with peers to see if they have recommendations for great teacher websites.  I am making progress on my goals, however, there are times when I feel frustrated and wonder if I am making any headway at all.  I realize that the real progress is that I am thinking differently as I rework curriculum maps and lesson plans to reflect standards, assessments, learning goals, technology and most of all, the needs of my students.



Cennamo, K., Ross, J., & Ertmer, P. (2009). Technology integration for meaningful classroom use: A standards-based approach. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

International Society for Technology in Education. (2008). National education standards for teachers (NETS-T). Retrieved from

Lambert, C., DePaepe, J., Lambert, L., & Anderson, D. (2007). E-portfolios in action. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 43(2), 76–81. Retrieved from the ERIC database.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Carrying Out My Game Plan

Last week, I set goals for my GAME plan and shared the steps I needed to take to meet those goals.  The focus of my GAME plan is on the ISTE Standard proficiency indicators 2.a., 2.b., and 3.b., which entail designing learning experiences that incorporate digital tools and resources into the classroom, enabling my students to become more self-directed learners in a technology rich environment, and to communicate with students and community effectively using a variety of digital media (ISTE, 2008).  Today, I am going to discuss what resources and additional information I will need as I carry out my plan and share what I have done so far.

This week I started gathering the resources I will need to evaluate my curriculum for the incorporation of digital tools to engage students in self-directed learning.  I have curriculum maps and lesson plans in Word and Excel that are kept on my school server space.   I am already involved in the process of incorporating the English Language Arts standards into our curriculum maps so this will be a good time to add the ISTE standards as well.  I have also begun the tedious job of organizing the bookmarks in my delicious account as I locate links I have created for to digital tools.  I started saving descriptions and adding tags a couple of months ago, so the process is somewhat easier, but there are a lot of links that do not have either.  Another resource I am taking advantage of is my Professional Learning Community (PLC).  I have been sharing my goals and what I plan to do and they are supportive and very interested in the sharing of resources.  Another group I would like to consult is the Technology team I serve on; however, they have not met yet this year.  Lastly, I am using the Web as a resource for locating and evaluating teacher blogs, websites, and wikis that might serve as a model for designing my own.  My intention was to create a checklist of criteria for rating each site; however, I didn’t have time and I couldn’t find one online, so I am using a reflection journal saved to my computer.  If any of my readers have a resource for checklists used to evaluate blogs and websites for layout and design, I would appreciate it.

I have begun to explore technology that more effectively meets the needs of the diverse learners in my classroom and familiarize myself with what is already available on the school computers.  I asked the Media Specialist what software we have available for students and discovered that we have the basic programs that come free with Windows 7 and have Adobe Photoshop on one set of computers for photography class.  We had a discussion about whether I would be able to access some of the software online such as Voicethread or webpage design software and learned that it is a filtering issue.  Tech Support will open any website that I request through the Media Specialist.  Not only do I need to understand what resources are available in my school, I need to assess the learning needs of all of my students.  I am going to need additional information about student access to technology outside of school, so I have requested that information from the Media specialist.  He conducted a technology survey last year. Cennamo, Ross, and Ertmer (2009) stated that teachers need to use a variety of technologies in order to engage students because individuals have differing levels of ability, backgrounds, and learning styles, which may require different types of software, different amounts of time, and opportunities to work both independently and in diverse groups (p. 174).  My hope is to have a repertoire of tools in my technology tool bag that I can be proficient with; however, I want to be sure that I am using student performance data from assessments and state tests to inform my decisions about what learning experiences and technology can support my diverse classroom (Cennamo et al, 2009, p. 113-117).  I need to access state test data on my students so that I can compare that performance to the grades my students are achieving in class.  This will help me identify struggling students, but it also may help me identify students who may not feel challenged in class.  I need to gather information from the students on their proficiency level and interest in using computers and help them identify their strengths and preferred learning style.  If any of my readers know of online resources for assessing learning style, please share them with me.

This week I have felt a range of emotions from excitement to frustration as I tried to make the time to begin the steps toward achieving my goal.  I am getting there, but I realize that this is going to be a journey that may take a year or maybe even years as I traverse the rocky terrain of acquiring resources for my classroom and meeting the needs of so many different types of learners.


Cennamo, K., Ross, J., & Ertmer, P. (2009). Technology integration for meaningful classroom use: A standards-based approach. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

International Society for Technology in Education. (2008). National education standards for teachers (NETS-T). Retrieved from




Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Developing My Personal Game Plan

There is one thing about being a teacher that I have always loved and that is the fact that I can constantly improve upon a lesson.  Over the last 18 years, there have been many times that I have been excited about the results of a lesson because not only did my students learn, but they were engaged and having fun in the process.  There were also times that I trudged home trying to figure out where I went wrong and how I could improve my teaching.  This is a natural process for me, because I am constantly trying to improve on my teaching practice.  Setting goals for improvement and reflecting upon the results is part of what a self-directed learner does and this is what teachers do all of the time, but I also want my students to get this worked up over their learning.  One of the ways to get students engaged in their own learning is to incorporate the use of technology.  According to Cennamo, Ross, and Ertmer (2009), technology is a “powerful resource for engaging students in authentic experiences, typically increasing motivation and their learning,” (p. 51).  I am going to use the GAME plan recommended by Cennamo et al (2009) to direct my own learning process (p. 3).  The first step is to set goals.  The question is what goals should I set for implementing technology into my teaching practice, especially when the district where I teach does not offer a lot of professional development?  The ISTE National Education Technology Standards and Performance Indicators for Teachers provide a framework for teachers to design and implement lessons that engage students with technology (ISTE, 2008).  I have chosen to set goals for strengthening my confidence and proficiency in three of the performance indicators in the NETS-T.

I have chosen to focus on ISTE Standard 2.a, 2.b, and 3.b, which are to “design or adapt relevant learning experiences that incorporate digital tools and resources to promote student learning and creativity, to develop technology-enriched learning environments that enable all students to pursue their individual curiosities and become active participants in setting their own educational goals, managing their own learning, and assessing their own progress, and to communicate relevant information and ideas effectively to students, parents, and peers using a variety of digital age media and formats ” (ISTE, 2008). 

In order to meet proficiency 2a, I will explore technology that I can use in my classroom.  I am confident in my ability to use new tools and am already proficient with Power Point, Voice Thread, Blogs, and Edmodo, however, I have a delicious account full of other resources that I haven’t begun to explore.  Proficiency 2b concerns providing a technology-enriched environment and my goal will be to familiarize myself with what my school district already has available to teachers and students in terms of technology.  We have media center access and can sign up for either computers or a limited number of wireless laptop carts; however, I am not versed in what software programs are available or what digital tools are available.  We have a school filter which may not let my students access some tools.  Finally, my goal to meet Proficiency 3b will be to create a website, a wiki or a blog for my classes where I can communicate with students, parents, and peer about what is going on in my department. 

The second step of the GAME plan, is to take action to meet my goals.  In order to achieve my first goal, I will need to look at my curriculum and choose where I could use technology to enhance the content.  Then I will access my delicious account to look over resources.  I have not done a stupendous job of organizing my bookmarks and they have changed the format, however, as I peruse what I have, I will take the time to update the tags so that they are better categorized.  I don’t want to feel overwhelmed, so I will select three or four tools that could be used with my students.  Next, I will become familiar with the tools that I have selected and try them out in the classroom.  When supporting students’ use of technology, it is important that the teacher is skilled in using the technology and that it is used appropriately to support the content and standards (Cennamo et al, 2009, p. 96).  My second goal is to familiarize myself with what the school has to offer to teachers and students in terms of technology.  The action I have already taken is to join the high school technology team whose purpose is to make recommendations for school policy on technology use as the school goes wireless.   The team consists of content area teachers and the media specialist, all of whom already use technology in their classrooms and are interested in supporting teachers and students as we determine best practice for using personal devices such as kindles and cellphones to enhance classroom practice.  My final goal is to create a website, wiki, or blog in order to communicate with my students, their parents, and my peers about my department.  This will require several steps.  First, I will investigate what other teachers or school websites are doing and what they look like.  Using a checklist for rating each site will allow me to summarize my preferences for layout and design as I begin my own design and make my final decision about what forum to use.  Then, I will plan the content and create a storyboard so that I can plan navigation as suggested by Cennamo et al (2009, p. 63).  Finally, I will develop my website, wiki, or blog and make it available to my audience.    

Monitoring and evaluating are the last two steps of the GAME plan.  Monitoring and evaluating require time to reflect on whether progress is being made and whether goals are actually achieved.  The most appealing tool for monitoring would be to keep a reflection journal for recording my thoughts as I progress toward my goals and process whether the strategies I have selected are working toward accomplishing those goals.  This would provide ample opportunity to modify the strategies I am using so that I can be successful.  In addition to a reflection journal, as I explore technology and integrate some new tools into my classroom, I can use student feedback as a way to monitor and measure my progress toward my first goal.  I will use that feedback to evaluate whether the tools I have chosen to implement in class were useful and determine if I need to explore further options.  Discussions with the technology team and progress made toward the smooth implementation of school-wide wireless will be a way to monitor progress toward my second goal.  The discussions will not be enough, however, I will need to engage in conversations with students, teachers, and parents as we establish policies that enable students to use their own technology and engage in their own learning (Prensky, 2008).  The evaluation process for this goal will be ongoing as our school adapts to change and teachers begin to allow students to become self-directed learners.  The conversation will be ongoing as well, since it would be important to engage all those involved as we run into problems.  Lastly, implementing a blog is a natural way to reflect on experiences and provide a place for colleagues or peers to respond and this would provide a way to monitor progress on my third goal as well as be one of the action steps (Cennamo et al, 2009, 75).  A blog is one of the easiest things to set up for the purpose of communication and I could use the blog to monitor my progress as I examine teacher wikis and websites and evaluate my discoveries for the purpose of developing my own.

Setting goals for improvement and reflecting upon the results is what teachers do all of the time.  Teachers are natural self-directed learners as they learn about new ways to implement technology and improve classroom practice.  Using the GAME plan provides the opportunity to set specific goals, take action, monitor progress, and evaluate and extend learning.  It is the perfect tool for teachers and self-directed learners to check in with themselves on their own learning.


Cennamo, K., Ross, J., & Ertmer, P. (2009). Technology integration for meaningful classroom use: A standards-based approach. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Prensky, M. (2008). Turning on the lights. Educational Leadership, 65(6), 40–45.
Retrieved from the Academic Search Complete database.

International Society for Technology in Education. (2008). National education standards for teachers (NETS-T). Retrieved from

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Final Reflection on Integrating Technology into the Classroom

During the first week of class I was asked to explain what my own personal theory of learning was.  I strongly believed that each student has a unique way of learning and that as a teacher I needed to use that knowledge of individual differences to structure the learning environment in a way that facilitated learning based on a variety of learning theories.  I discussed how important it is to provide reinforcement, to allow time for students to learn through hands on activities, and to provide opportunities to construct knowledge by collaborating with others.  My initial thinking has not changed, but it certainly has been enhanced by the knowledge and understanding of learning theory and how to use technology in my teaching practice.  I understand much more clearly that reinforcement and feedback are important to student success because it is a powerful motivator and enhances achievement (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007, p. 41).  According to brain research and cognitivism, students need a variety of modalities to retain and recall new information, which includes reciprocal teaching, problem based learning, simulations, hands on activities and the use of visuals and graphics, which supports my opinion that students need hands on activities (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011a).  Constructionism and social constructionism are important learning theories for teachers to consider as they design learning experiences because research has demonstrated that people learn best when they build an artifact, especially when collaborating with others to construct knowledge (Kim, 2001, as cited by Orey, 2001).  I have modified my thinking about my personal learning theory to include the use of technology to enhance student learning in a student centered learning environment and am moving away from what remnants of teacher centered instruction that I have been doing.  Technology plays a huge part in engagement and motivation of students and I want to create a student centered learning environment where technology is the tool that facilitates their learning.

Next year, I am going to create a student centered classroom that makes use of specific technology to enhance student learning.  I have tried out several new things this year that made use of collaborative and cooperative learning, however, Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski (2007) recommend that cooperative learning should be combined with other structures (p. 140), so I would like to model and scaffold the use of word processing applications and organizing and brainstorming software to facilitate note taking and summarizing.  Microsoft Word has several applications that I can use to create note-taking templates, PowerPoint templates, and summary frames.  I would like to practice more with brainstorming software such as and bring in the mobile laptop cart to facilitate the use of technology.  Lastly, I would like to incorporate the use of web site creation for my cultural foods class and interior design.  Obviously, this course has exposed me to a variety of learning tools that are student centered and I want to share what I have learned with not only my students, but with my colleagues, too.  I am giving a workshop in the fall that involves sharing some of the tools that are available to enhance learning using technology.

One long term goal that I have is to learn how to use Excel and spreadsheet software and incorporate its use into my classroom practice.  I am completely intimidated by it and have no real experience with it.  So, I plan to take a class or some online tutorials in the fall.  Another long term goal that I have is to share technology with my peers.  The first step is the workshop in August, but since I am on the newly formed Technology committee at the high school, I plan to be heavily involved in planning staff development opportunities and suggest peer visits in classrooms that are already incorporating technology.

My own personal learning theory has changed as I add technology to engage and motivate students and create a student centered learning environment where technology is the tool that facilitates their learning.


Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011a). Program two: Brain research and learning [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011b). Program thirteen: Technology: Instructional tool vs. learning tool [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from

Orey, M. (Ed.). (2001). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

What should cell phone policy look like in a wireless school?

This week, my class is experimenting with Voice Thread, which provides a place for people to have conversations about problems, places or topics of interest.  The issue that I would like feedback on is the issue of cell phone use in the classroom.  My school is going wireless next year and we need to change the school policy to accomodate personal devices such as cell phones and kindles.  I would like input from both teachers and students on what that policy should look like.

Here is the link to the URL:

I invite you to share your thoughts, questions, and recommendations.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Connectivism and Social Learning Theory in Practice

This week I was taken aback by the complexity of learning theories.  Social constructionism was added to the mix and a new idea was presented as part of social learning theory and that was the idea of connectivism.   Social constructionist learning theory was distinguished from constructionism by Dr. Orey and George Siemen’s theory about networked learning environments was described.   The readings and videos this week involved discussing a variety of ways to integrate technology using social and cooperative learning strategies in the classroom.  When using cooperative learning in the classroom it is important to group students in a variety of ways and utilize multimedia, web resources and communication software.  Using technology with cooperative learning strategies will prepare students for competing in a global economy and the 21st century workplace.

Social constructionism is described by Dr. Orey (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011a) as collaborative learning in which students are actively engaged in constructing things and actively engaged in conversations about what things they are building.  He discusses Lev Vygotsky’s ideas about the ZPD (Zone of Proximal Development) and MKO (More Knowledgeable Other) and how those ideas support learning.  I love Vygotsky’s work and see the ZPD and MKO in action every day when I work with struggling readers.  The ZPD basically describes that there are three levels of learning, one in which the child can do something, such as possess phonemic awareness (that each letter represents a sound), one level in which the child is on the verge of learning something new such as phonics (that letters chunk together to make word parts), and the higher level is what the child is not ready to learn, for instance reading polysyllabic words fluently.  A child needs asocial interaction with someone (a peer, a teacher, a parent) who knows more than they do (MKO) to scaffold their learning and begin to understand how to chunk those word parts to sound out words (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011a).  Of course we use this theory in education all of the time, to teach math, to model our thought processes before we let our students try, to show how to complete a task.  Cooperative and social learning strategies use Vygotsky’s ideas too.  As students collaborate on projects or problem solving and discuss their ideas and perspectives, they are scaffolding each other’s learning, too.  Dr. Orey (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011a) tells us that when we use cooperative and collaborative learning to have students build something together, whether it is an artifact or whether they are conducting research to solve a problem, and they construct knowledge together and then share that information with others, it is learning at its best.  This makes sense to me because cooperative learning provides students opportunities to elaborate on what they are discovering and as they discuss what is important and bring in individual ideas and perspectives this is what creates connections to long term memory and retaining and recalling information.

Cooperative learning can be daunting when it comes to planning and implementation, however, and that is where technology comes into play.  Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, and Malenoski (2007) provide various strategies in which cooperative learning can be enhanced through technology (p. 139 – 154).   George Siemen’s connectivism theory focuses on the cultural and social dimension of learning as people interact with the abundance of information that is available and that there is no way that people can possibly keep up with the changes that develop day to day unless they connect with a larger community (Laureate Education, Inc. 2011b).  That is why he suggests that individuals need to network with communities of people as well as use computers, databases and phones to connect with information.  According to Pitler et al. (2007) we need to prepare our students to learn and produce and work cooperatively in a fast-paced, virtual workplace (p. 139).  The best way to do that is to use cooperative learning strategies that utilize technology to make things more efficient, more organized and more global.

Pitler et al. (2007) recommend that teachers use a variety of criteria to form informal, formal, and base groups and keep them at a manageable size.  They also recommend that a variety of classroom structures and strategies be used so that cooperative learning does not get ‘overused’ (p. 140).  Informal groups are used all of the time in classrooms, especially at the secondary level.  We often ask students to turn to a tablemate to discuss what they just learned or to find a partner and compare notes for two to three minutes, but formal groups need to be more carefully selected and should be intentionally designed in order to create a sink or swim interdependence in groups where students support one another in their efforts and individually contribute ideas as well as communicate and reflect on what they learn (Pitler et al., 2007, p. 140).  Groups that are student and peer centered will facilitate learning as students share what they have found or created with one another and with other groups (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011a). 

Multimedia tools can help the teacher design lessons that are clear in terms of what is expected and the roles and responsibilities of each individual.  Pitler et al. (2007) suggest the use of rubrics and advance organizers to make expectations clear (p. 141).  I know one of the biggest complaints that my colleagues make about cooperative learning activities is that kids do not stay on task and it is difficult to assess individual effort in a group situation, a rubric and the use of advanced organizers will help maintain clear expectations.  Multimedia resources support cooperative learning as students work to create movies, prezi presentations, and other artifacts as well as supporting the teacher in assessment.  

Web resources provide a wide array of tools to facilitate students as they ‘cooperate to learn’ (Pitler et al., 2007, p. 143).  Students learn in a networked environment as they connect with students near or far using email pen pal programs.  Two of our social studies teachers use email correspondence and collaborate on projects with students in other countries.  Webquests are another great tool for keeping students focused on gathering information and interacting in small groups to solve a problem.  I found a great website that shares several ideas and links for online collaborative projects:   Collaborative organizing tools support cooperative learning by providing a more efficient way to share information and organize responsibilities (Pitler et al., 2007, p. 149-152).  Communication software has the amazing potential to expand on formal cooperative learning experiences as students use Skype or instant messaging to work on projects anywhere, anytime. 

Social learning and connectivism is facilitated by technology and allows students to practice the skills that they will need to compete in the 21st century workplace using multimedia, web resources, and communication software.    Have you used cooperative learning in your classroom?   What kinds of opportunities do you have to help your students network with a larger community as they work collaboratively on projects or to solve problems?  Do you find that cooperative learning intimidates you or your colleagues?  If so, in what way?

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011a). Program eight: Social learning theories [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program nine: Connectivism as a learning theory [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.