Technology That Guides Learning

Using technology in the classroom

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.






Behaviorism in Practice March 6, 2012

Filed under: Education,Technology — emilypartyka @ 6:27 pm

This week we focused on two instructional strategies that imbed technology – Reinforcing Effort and Homework and Practice. Each of these creates ways to engage students and keep them motivated to continue learning. These two strategies correlate to the behaviorist learning theory in different ways while still promoting diverse approaches.

Reinforcing Effort is a strategy which teaches students to see how the amount of effort that is put into a task will directly influence the result. It is extremely important for students to realize that effort is how we make progress. Chapter eight of “Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works” also mentions that “One easy way to help students make the connection between effort and achievement is by using a spreadsheet like Microsoft Excel” (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn & Malenoski, 2007, p. 156). Technology, such as a spreadsheet or even a rubric (this is my favorite rubric maker), helps to illustrate to students even further that the harder we work and prepare ourselves, the more success we’ll see in the end. In terms of how reinforcing effort and the behaviorist learning theory correlate, I refer to the four key principles that James Hartley (1998) believes in. In short, Hartley feels that activity is important in order to learn. When students are actively learning, or putting in effort to learn, they will see results. Secondly, Hartley feels that reinforcement is the cardinal motivator. Through observation it is easy to see that students much prefer positive rewards than negative rewards. And just as students see what their effort can do, they are able to experience and enjoy those positive rewards.

Homework and Practice is the second type of instructional strategy that imbeds technology. This strategy allows students to apply what they have learned in the classroom to their homework. Homework and Practice acts as an extension of the classroom and provides students the opportunity to deepen their understanding of the content (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn & Malenoski, 2007, p. 187). One example of using technology in this instructional strategy is to create web resources that the students can access from home. One suggestion is to create an online game that helps students to master certain skill sets. As it is mentioned in chapter ten of “Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works,” “Online educational games have an inherent appeal and generate immediate feedback that allows a student, parent, and teacher to monitor progress toward mastery” (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn & Malenoski, 2007, p. 195). Students are drawn to games, so taking the opportunity to create or use an educational game will only help them progress to where they need to be. With regards to James Hartley’s (1998) key points of the behaviorist theory, he expresses that repetition, generalization, and discrimination are important notions. More specifically, when a student is using a game to master a skill, he is using repetition to create that mastery. The more frequently a student is exposed to the material and is given various opportunities to practice the skill, the more competent he becomes of it. Also, Hartley (1998) mentions the importance of establishing clear objectives. As students are continuing their skill practice at home, they need to be aware of what exactly they are expected to learn from it. Using the homework and practice strategy effectively will make it obvious to students what their objective is. (Side note: my previous post explores the idea of flipping your classroom so that homework is done in the classroom and learning is done at home. I believe that both of these can be effective depending on the types of learners you have.)

Reinforcing Effort and Homework and Practice are strategies to keep students connected to the content and to ensure that they fully comprehend the material. Both of these strategies have ties to the behaviorist theory which strengthens their effectiveness. The makeup of my students and their learning types keeps me from using the homework and practice type of strategy, but I do understand the usefulness of it. Reinforcing effort is much more appropriate for my type of classroom. Each year my classroom structure changes, so I look forward to seeing what strategies will work in the future.

What types of strategies are working in your classroom this year?                           


Hartley, J. (1998) Learning and Studying. A research perspective, London: Routledge.

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




Flipping Your Classroom February 26, 2012

Every Wednesday during the school year our district participates in “Late Start Wednesdays”. This gives the district, and each individual school, a chance to discuss the current happenings, review testing data, or learn a new tool. This past Wednesday we had a colleague (Kathy) present to us all the new tools and gadgets she learned about at a recent eTech conference. While she mentioned several fun and innovative tools to use in the classroom, she also mentioned the idea of “flipping your classroom”. When I first saw this projected on the board, I thought to myself, oh, she must mean when you only use technology in the classroom and get rid of paper and pencils. I was excited to hear what she had to say because my recent Walden University class had mentioned this theory, and I am interested in working on this in the future. However, my assumptions were a little off.

What our colleague explained to us is that by flipping your classroom, you flip your instruction and homework. Kathy gave us the example of when the student is in the classroom, and the teacher is going over how to do a problem, the student thinks he understands it. But once he gets home to do the assigned homework, he all of the sudden has no idea how to do it anymore. By flipping your classroom, you assign your instruction (reading a chapter, reviewing a formula) to be done at home. Kathy even suggested assigning this work on a classroom Moodle (I’m still a little new to this web tool). The students can access the chapter needed to complete the instruction, then take that knowledge into the classroom the next day. Since the instruction was completed at home, the time spent in class is used to actually apply the new material. Rather than struggling to complete the assignment at home with no support, the students now apply their learning to the work done in the classroom. I think this concept could make the learning much more meaningful and certainly less stressfull to students and teachers alike.

My only questions is, if I can’t get a student to do homework now, then how do I assign instruction to be done at home? If my students don’t buy into the flipping, then the classroom remains like it was before. I’d love to hear suggestions on how to make this more of a reality.

I realize this isn’t necessarily a technology-that-guides-learning type of post, but it is an innovative way to structure a classroom. Plus, technology tools can definitely be incorporated to make it more technology-friendly.

I already mentioned using Moodle to assign work, but can you think of other tools that could make this classroom flipping more realistic?

(I thought the post needed more color. Thanks, Google Images!)




The end of the course… February 17, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — emilypartyka @ 7:46 am

As this eight week’s course comes to an end, I now have the chance to reflect on what all I’ve learned. I think above all else, I have learned that most technology is not as daunting as it first appears. There were definitely some assignments that took longer to complete because it was my first time. However, in the end, I know it was just a learning curve, and if I were asked to complete the assignment again, I would have very little trouble. What I have also learned are all the different ways that these new (to me) technologies can be used in my classroom. While I was asked how I could implement different tools in my classroom, I also learned how others would implement theirs. I gathered some great ideas for what I can use, and I hope that I contributed to others’ plans as well. Lastly, I have learned how to better prepare my students for the 21st century skills. I need to break down any barriers that I may have in order to teach them the skills they need to compete in the world after graduation.

This course has really challenged me to shift my thinking of a teacher-centered classroom to that of a learner-centered classroom. Instead of the students constantly depending on me to push the lesson, I am learning to become more of a facilitator and letting the technology drive the lesson to where it can be. I realize that my position will not become obsolete, but I do see that in order for my students to become media literate, they need to be challenged to use higher-thinking skills and problem-solving skills in order to complete learner-centered tasks.

In order to continue to expand my knowledge of learning, teaching, and leading with technology with the aim of increasing student achievement, I plan to incorporate meaningful technology into my plans. I think the more that I can expose myself and my students to these technologies, the better and more efficient my teaching and their learning will become. I have already created lesson plans that will include the different tools that we have learned throughout this course. Now, I need to continue planning with those in mind, as well as begin exploring other tools that are useful to my classroom.

Two goals that I’d like to set for myself in order to transform my classroom into a learner-centered environment as well as prepare my students for 21st-century skills are:

1)    In each quarter, plan to use three types of technology tools in order to teach the concept or for students to use in order to show their comprehension of the unit.

       a. I will accomplish this by becoming more comfortable with new technologies, as well as      planning enough ahead of time to reserve the technologies for my classroom.

2)    Incorporate more group-based learning in which students use higher-thinking skills and problem-solving skills with the use of technology.

       a. Plan for more group-based lessons and reserve the appropriate technology to use in my classroom.

Lastly, in the beginning of this course, we were asked to assess ourselves on how comfortable we feel with technology, as well as how often we use it. While my answers leaned mostly toward the ‘infrequently’ column, I feel that I am slowly making the shift to the ‘sometimes’ and ‘often’ columns. I feel that I have the tools and skills to plan for these shifts, but at this point, it’s a matter of putting them into action. I think the beginning of the fourth quarter will be slightly easier for me to implement most of these tools as it will be a new set of standards that we are focusing on. I think next year I will be much more comfortable with creating the plans using technology as I will have a better grasp of how I can integrate it. I look forward to when incorporating technology becomes like second nature to me, and I think my students will appreciate it too!


My First Podcast February 4, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — emilypartyka @ 3:49 pm
Tags: , ,

This week’s assignment was to create a podcast dealing with the ever-changing student in today’s society with regards to technology. I asked three of my students a variety of questions, such as how much they use different types of technology and how much technology they use in the classroom. My podcast reveals that only a few types of technologies are being used within the classrooms, as well as at the homes of my students. With this new information, I hope to create lessons that will expose them to newer tools so they will be better prepared for life after graduation. Enjoy my podcast here!


21st Century Skills – How do we stack up? January 29, 2012

Filed under: Education,Technology — emilypartyka @ 8:52 pm
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This week, I had the chance to explore the website Partnership for 21st Century Skills, also referred to as P21. As the home page of the website explains, “The Partnership for 21st Century Skills is a national  organization that advocates for 21st century readiness for every student.” The website is designed to give educators the tools and skills necessary to help students in the United States stay competitive with the innovation of technology among the world.

The following graph, which is P21’s framework, shows how the organization views 21st century teaching and learning with the support system to help our students obtain the skills needed to succeed in this innovative era.

To help myself understand what the framework actually means, I explored deeper into the website. I found an assessment that helped me to get an idea of where I personally thought our school district was with regards to implementing and understanding 21st century technology. At the end of the quick assessment, I learned that we are at the very infancy of what P21 considers to be successfully implementing these skills. I was certainly not surprised by the results, as our school district does not have the funds to invest in the technology that P21 feels is necessary.
Another section I stumbled upon was my own state’s initiative pertaining to P21. It showed that Ohio has taken a step toward training individuals in this particular framework. However, I have never heard of it before this assignment, so I think that more steps need to be made.
The last sections I found most beneficial were the 21st Century Skills Maps and the ICT Literacy Maps. I focused on English for both of these and found useful information on how to implement and promote 21st century skills. While the maps do not show all grades, they are all available for purchase through the website. I think having the chance to really be shown how to use different technologies and skills would be the most beneficial to me, rather than simply reading about them.
I am grateful to now have this resource in my repertoire. It helps me to see where I need to be, as well as what I have done to promote 21st Century readiness to my students.