Technology That Guides Learning

Using technology in the classroom

Connectivism and Social Learning in Practice March 29, 2012

Connectivism states that “Knowledge resides in the patterns of how different concepts are networked” according to George Siemens in the course video “Connectivism as a Learning Theory” (Laureate Inc., 2011). In other words, connectivism is when the learner “plugs” into another network to receive the information that he/she needs at the moment. Because of this, connectivism is primarily considered a new type of learning theory as it more closely relates to learning through technology.

Siemens also introduces the three roles that a learning theory should have. These include the task of explaining how learning occurs, allowing us to create future models of learning, and help us to make sense of the present. Using connectivism, these three roles are easier to see. Connectivism shows us how we learn through focusing on our connections. When we are in need of information, it will show the thought process of where we go for the information. Whether we use Google or social networking, we are finding the source of information most appropriate for our inquiry. Connectivism also allows us to visualize what sources of information work best for learners and create future models of learning. As our society becomes much more in need of social learning, we are able to use that to create useful resources, i.e., YouTube and Pinterest. Lastly, using connectivism, we are able to make more sense of the present because we have a better grasp of why and how we learn in certain ways. Connectivism is helping us to create future trends in education and stay atop of new instructional strategies.

In order to incorporate the information that connectivism offers us along with using technology in the classroom, we look at cooperative learning. As it is stated in “Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works,” cooperative learning “focuses on having students interact with each other in groups in ways that enhance their learning (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, Malenoski, p. 139). Students are able to make more sense of the material being introduced when they have the option to work collaboratively rather than individually. Using each other as resources gives them a different knowledge base and, quite simply, a different way of hearing information instead of always coming from the teacher.

Important information to keep in mind when constructing cooperative learning groups include:

  • Organizing groups based on ability levels should be done sparingly.
  • Cooperative learning groups should be rather small in size.
  • Cooperative learning should be used consistently and systematically but should not be overused. (Pitler et al., 2007)

This particular chapter on cooperative learning gives several examples of instructional strategies to use within the classroom. In the area of multimedia, educators can integrate this learning theory through the use of video making. This relates to the idea of connectivism by helping create new trends of relaying information to a classroom. It also gives students a chance to interact with each other and explore different skill sets. Keypals (ePALS), WebQuests (Zunal), Web Site Creation (TOWeb), Collaborative Organizing (Google Calendar), Shared Bookmarking (, Course Management (Moodle), and Web-Enabled Multiplayer Simulation Games (Jigsaw Classroom) are web resources that allow students to work from multiple locations to solve a problem or work on a project. Students can work with peers in their classrooms or even peers in another state. In referencing Siemens, this contributes to connectivism through offering different ways to learn and creating future models of learning. Students are also given the chance to work and organize collaboratively toward a common goal. Lastly, Communication Software, such as Skype, gives students a chance to interact with others without the constraints of time and location. This technology also gives our students the network tools to use each other as resources when working toward a common project.

The connectivism theory is helping to shape the future of education. As educators continue to find new instructional strategies that include technology, we will also continue to create new paths for students to use to gain their knowledge.


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.


Constructionism in Practice March 21, 2012

Filed under: Constructionism,Education,Instructional Strategies,Technology — emilypartyka @ 6:54 pm

This week we were asked to look at the instructional strategy “Generating and Testing Hypotheses” and reflect on how the strategy relates to constructivist/constructionist learning theories. Generating and Testing Hypotheses is an important tool that can be experimented with on many levels and in several content areas. The constructivist/constructionist learning theories show how important it is to make this type of learning hands-on to promote deeper meaning.

As Dr. Orey mentions in the video “Constructionist and Constructivist Learning Theories” (Laureate, Inc., 2011), the two theories are often mistaken for each other, however, they are very different in meaning. Constructivism is “A theory of knowledge stating that each individual actively constructs his own meaning,” whereas Constructionism states that “people learn best when they build an external artifact or something they can share with others” (Laureate, Inc., 2011). Both of these are important to keep in mind, but Constructionism is most imperative to incorporate in the classroom to deepen students’ understanding.

The instructional strategy Generating and Testing Hypotheses as described in our course book “Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works,” states that “When students generate and test hypotheses, they are engaging in complex mental processes, applying content knowledge like facts and vocabulary, and enhancing their overall understanding of the content” (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, Malenoski, p. 202). Regardless of what is being tested, students are required to access different aspects of knowledge in order to come to a hypothesis. And although this concept of testing hypotheses is generally thought of as a Science tool, it can also be used in other subjects.

Technology clearly plays a vital role in engaging students in generating and testing hypotheses. The examples that our course book offers include spreadsheet software, data collection tools, and web resources. Of these, I find web resources to be the most relevant to my content area – English. Using different web sources, students are given a specific problem or question related to their content. Using the simulators, they are able to manipulate different aspects of the problem to get the desired results or to test their hypotheses.

While there are not very many examples of how to incorporate this into English, I wanted to challenge myself to come up with an example. First I came up with a project-based learning (PBL) unit that gives them a specific “problem,” then I would turn this into a concept where they would have to generate hypotheses. My example includes William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” Using the PBL that is highly praised as a strategy to promote constructionism, I would introduce the story of “Romeo and Juliet,” but I would intentionally leave out any mention of setting except the town that it takes place in – Verona, Italy. The “problem” that my students would encounter is that William Shakespeare has misplaced his notes on what the city looks like and now they have to use their resources to help him describe the city. Using virtual field trips and web sources, my students would need to find ten different facts about the city and its surroundings. In order to make this a group effort, my students would gather their information and place it on a Wiki. This way, all of their information stays in one place and they are able to see if a specific fact about the city has already been found. Once they have found this information, we would read the story in its entirety. Afterward, we would come back to this project to complete the hypothesis aspect. I would ask my students to generate hypotheses on how the story would change if the setting were different. Again, my students would have to do proper research to determine where the new setting would be and how much of a change could impact the story. I’m sure there are parts of this PBL unit that could be fine-tuned, but it was refreshing to come up with a fun activity for my students to potentially do in the future.

Generating and testing hypotheses easily correlates with the concept of constructionism and the PBL that helps students to gain a deeper meaning in their learning. This week’s resources have shown that students are much more engaged in the learning process when they are actually building or creating something. What is unique about this week’s theories and strategies is that the individual learner is able to create his/her own experiences as he progresses creating a more meaningful education for himself.

A video I found offers a great description of what constructionism is in the 21st century classroom. Check it out.


Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program five: Cognitive 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.


Cognitivism in Practice March 14, 2012

Filed under: Cognitive Theories,Education,Instructional Strategies,Technology — emilypartyka @ 6:20 pm

This week in class we focused on two important instructional strategies called Cues, Questions, and Advance Organizers and Summarizing and Note Taking. These two strategies not only integrate technology into the classroom, but they also relate to the cognitive learning theories as presented by Dr. Orey in the video “Cognitive Learning Theories” (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011).

The four cognitive learning theories addressed by Dr. Orey include limited short-term memory, elaboration, dual coding hypothesis, and network model of memory. Each of these is important to educators as they help to structure our lessons in order to create a meaningful and beneficial education for our students. Limited short-term memory shows us that humans are only able to hold about seven (give or take a few) items of information at a time while still processing it into our short-term memory. Another cognitive learning theory is the idea of elaboration. This theory is the “primary mechanism for storing long-term memory” (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011). This theory states that we must elaborate on what we’re learning in order to make a meaningful connection. Dr. Orey specifically discusses how some students may remember Robert E. Lee by associating him with their favorite pair of Lee jeans among other things. As long as we are able to make those connections by associating the information with things we know, we gain a much stronger understanding of it. Dual coding hypothesis is a theory that illustrates that “information is stored as text and images” (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011). In other words, the link between a specific text and an image that corresponds with it will help us to find a deeper meaning as well as help us remember it later on. Lastly, Dr. Orey introduced us to the network model of memory. Robert Biegler states in the article “Network Models of Memory and Distributed Coding” that “The common features of network models are that activation flows through connections or links between units or nodes. Activation flows through many links at the same time, providing parallel distributed processing” (Biegler). When we are able to network our information, it gives us a more in-depth understanding of the content because we are connecting it to other information. Rather than learning information in individual sections, it helps us our long term memory to build on the information

Chapter four in “Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works” (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn & Malenoski, 2007, p. 73-85) discusses the instructional strategy Cues, Questions, and Advance Organizers. As stated, this strategy “focuses on enhancing students’ ability to retrieve, use, and organize information about a topic” (Pitler et al., 2007). While the book lists several generalizations that support this theory, I think there are three that are most important. The first generalization says to focus on what is important in the material and not the useless information, the second includes higher-level questions for a deeper understanding, and lastly, asking questions before the learning experience is an efficient tool. In order to effectively use these generalizations, the book also offers different learning instructions that incorporate technology. While there are several listed such as word processing applications, spreadsheet software, and organizing and brainstorming software, I think two of the most useful instructional strategies are the virtual field trip and the concept map. Using these two tools, a teacher can create a concept map to show the students what they will be learning, and then show a virtual field trip that focuses on the key nodes of information in the map. The use of the map keeps information organized and helps students to make connections to the material. The virtual field trip gives the students the real life experience they can associate with the knowledge they’re gaining. Bringing it back to Dr. Orey’s cognitive learning theories, the use of concept maps and virtual field trips helps to develop the limited short-term memory and elaboration. It develops the short-term memory because the student is being asked to focus on only the nodes that are presented in the concept map. Likewise, the students are able to elaborate on a specific topic with the use of the virtual field trip.

Summarizing and note taking are also instructional strategies that were illustrated in chapter six of “Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works” (Pitler et al., 2007). As stated, this strategy “focuses on enhancing student’s ability to synthesize information and distill it into a concise new form” (Pitler et al., 2007). With summarizing, the authors point out that it is important for students to understand how to analyze the information being given in order to find out what is the most important. They need to know what they can delete or add in order to gain the most from their notes. With note taking, it is mentioned that taking verbatim notes is the least effective way of taking notes, notes should be used as study guides, and the more notes that are taken, the better (Pitler et al., 2007). Several recommendations are given as to how to incorporate technology into these strategies. With summarizing in particular, I especially like the use of the auto summarizing tool in Word. It is an easy tool for students to grasp and they can use it anywhere they have access to Word. With note taking, I am most apt to use a concept map. In referencing Paivio’s theory (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011) of dual coding, which suggests that humans remember things in text and images, the concept map is able to do just that. Whether students are following the teacher’s concept map or they are creating their own, they are being asked to use a series of pictures and text to find a deeper meaning. This also ties into the strategy of networking, where we are able to tie several concepts of information by focusing on one central question or node.

Both of these strategies are important to use in the classroom as they focus on several different types of learning styles. As students become more familiar with them through class interaction, it is my hope that they would begin using the strategies in everyday life.


Biegler, R. (n.d.). Network models of memory and distributed coding. Retrieved from

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program five: Cognitive 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.