Thursday, March 29, 2012

Cooperative Learning, Social Learning Theory and Resources

In Using classroom technology that works (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007), I read about the strategy of cooperative learning (chapter 7). According to the text, in order “to be prepared for the fast-paced, virtual workplace that they will inherit, today’s students need to be able to learn and produce cooperatively” (p. 139). This is consistent with social learning theories, which involve collaborative and cooperative learning (Laureate Education Inc., 2011). There were a number of resources that I found helpful.

One resource was, which is the original WebQuest site. I performed a search for energy and found several options that would work in my classroom. I have used WebQuests often but I generally create them myself so they are targeted to what I want my students to see. I include links to videos and simulations and pose questions for students to investigate. However, I do not usually have a final product other than the answers to the questions. I think turning this process into a collaborative effort with an end product would yield more success. Students would be able to talk about what they’re seeing and work together to create something of their own.

Another resource I found helpful was The University of Wisconsin, Stout’s collection of ready-to-use rubrics. There are rubrics for everything relating to cooperative learning from Power Points to Video Projects. I want to use rubrics more but I always have trouble making them. I am excited to find the work has been done for me!

Which resources are you most excited about?


Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program eight: Social learning theories [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E. R., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Voicethread Attempt

Have you tried Voicethread? It allows you to collaborate using artifacts such as photos, documents and video. You can record your own thoughts through video, audio or text and then others can do the same. 

For this week's assignment we created a Voicethread that could either pose a problem we want feedback on or a problem we would present to students. I created a short video to introduce a lab. You can view it here:


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Constructionism, hypotheses, and technology

Generating and testing hypotheses is a strategy that is used beyond the science classroom. We frequently observe phenomena and form explanations (really predictions) about why we think this is occurring. In science the natural next step is to test these predictions. This process is consistent with constructionism, “a theory of learning that states people learn best when they build an external artifact or something they can share with others” (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011) because we end with a conclusion about our findings we can easily share. We are striving for equilibration by creating balance between our current understanding and external reality. We are altering our understanding based on what we experience while testing predictions.

I explored a website called Astro-Venture that allowed students to create and build their own planet. In order to accomplish this they had to learn about concepts and apply them to the situation. In the end they have a final product, and they are engaged in the process along the way. This and other project-based, problem-based, and inquiry-based learning activities allow you to make predictions and test them while creating the final product. Activities can be designed to guide students toward the desired result or we as teachers can facilitate this process. For example, in the Astro-Venture activity, students may predict that a larger star will produce more energy for their planet. They will then discover that a red giant star is near the end of its life cycle and therefore may not be the best choice for their planet. In this way, students are able to test their ideas and still reach the desired outcome.

By having students create or build something, there is a specific goal. Students become so focused on the goal that the learning required happens almost by accident. Suddenly the content becomes less daunting and students are more engaged. The final product serves as evidence that students have achieved not only the project goal but also the learning goals along the way.


Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program seven: Constructionist and constructivist learning theories [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Field Trip to the Moon and Concept Mapping

One of my assignments this week was to use a virtual field trip with my students and create a concept map based on the experience. I am so excited about what I found that I thought I would share it here:

For my virtual field trip I used Google Earth to travel to the Moon. It was so easy and did not cost a thing. My students can easily access it from home if they want to explore further. All you need to do is download Google Earth and select Moon from the toolbar. From here you can explore on your own, view actual images, locate landmarks, or take a guided tour. There is a tour of the Apollo 11 landing, part of which is narrated by Buzz Aldrin (the second man to walk on the Moon). This is the option we chose, and the essential question I used was "What would it be like to walk on the Moon?" Here is the concept map we created using this field trip. We were even able to take screenshots like the one below and easily upload them into the map!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

cognitive theory, technology, and cool astronomy field trips

In this week's coursework we looked at how specific strategies align with cognitive learning theory. The strategies are from Using technology with classroom instruction that works (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007) and are discussed below in two categories: 

Cues, Questions, and Advance Organizers
This section of the book (chapter 4) describes different methods for helping students learn to retrieve, use and organize information. The focus here is on providing tools to help students organize their thoughts prior to learning about a topic. At the center of this process is the essential question, which "is one that requires the student to make a decision or create a plan. It requires more than simple research and regurgitation of answers." (page 75). The book lists Joyce Valenza's article For the Best Answers, Ask Tough Questions as a resource for essential questions, and I found it both interesting and helpful. 

The strategies in this chapter utilize 1. word processing applications and spreadsheet software to create advance organizers and 2. organizing and brainstorming software and multimedia to provide cues for students. Both of these strategies align with the cognitive theories of elaboration and the network model of memory. Elaboration involves building as many connections as possible to information in order to be able to retrieve it when needed (Laureate Education Inc., 2011), which these strategies encourage students to do. I think the organizing and brainstorming software in particular encourages students to make their own connections to topics. In addition, both of these strategies present information in an organized way where the ideas are connected. This network of ideas transfers well into our network memory. 

Summarizing and Note Taking
Chapter 6 of the book describes how we can use technology to help students summarize information and organize it in a concise way. The authors suggest using word processing applications, organizing and brainstorming software, and multimedia to aid in the process of summarizing and taking notes. Some of these examples are particular representative of cognitive theory. For example, one suggested method for note taking is something called "Combination Notes". This style of note taking has students take notes in one column and draw pictures or import images into the other column. The dual coding hypothesis states that information is stored as both images and text (Laureate Education Inc., 2011), so having students make these associations while processing information will likely help them to remember it better. The organizing and brainstorming software ideas follow a similar organization style to the strategies for cues I discussed earlier, and therefore align with the network model of memory and elaboration theories for the same reasons. 

In addition to researching strategies and making connections to cognitive theory, this week we have also been working on applying these ideas through investigating virtual field trips and creating our own concept maps using brainstorming software. The virtual field trips allow students to gain a multisensory experience as they can see and hear experiences they may not otherwise have access to. This will allow them to better remember the information according to the dual coding hypothesis. The concept maps support elaboration and the network model memory theory. 

I have been busy exploring this collection of astronomy virtual fieldtrips gathered by Edutopia. One of the programs is Starry Night, which we currently use often in my district. Some of the programs were new to me (and free!) like Celestia. This one looks like it would answer so many of the questions my students are always asking about the universe, like "what will happen when our Sun dies?" Here's a screen shot from the program that shows the orbits of asteroids and major planets: 


Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program five: Cognitive learning theory [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E. R., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

behaviorism, technology, and an idea

This week’s coursework centers on behaviorism and technology. I began by watching a video entitled Behaviorist learning theory (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011). In this video, Dr. Michael Orey discusses how prevalent the theory of behaviorism is in classroom technology in the form of tutorials and games that allow for practice and rewards for correct answers. I had never considered this before and it has made me think about how I currently use these tools in my own classroom.

The second resource I examined was Using technology for classroom instruction that works (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007). In focusing on the chapters surrounding “reinforcing effort” and “homework and practice”, I saw many parallels to behaviorist theory. Behaviorism is all about reinforcing positive behavior, and effort is certainly considered positive. Therefore reinforcing effort is unquestionably based in this theory. This text suggests using spreadsheet software to monitor correlations between effort and achievement, and data collection tools to compile and display data supporting this same correlation. Both of these strategies would allow students to reflect on their effort level and see the connection between good behaviors (effort) and rewards (better grades).

Behaviorism also calls for practice, which brings us to the “homework and practice chapter”. This book recommends that homework should focus on “specific elements of a complex skill or process” (Pitler et al., 2007, p. 188) and suggests using word processing applications, spreadsheet software, and multimedia. I chose to focus my attention on multimedia since that is the area I find most useful in my own classroom. According to this text, “multimedia homework is an opportunity to deepen understanding and gain proficiency” (Pitler et al., 2007, p. 192). In science it is difficult to find meaningful homework that allows students to practice the skills we have done in a lab. Multimedia provides us with many more options to make this possible.

Currently my students are investigating why we see lunar phases. I found this tutorial ( which has some really nice animations. Something like this would be great for students to complete individually so they can take their time. This would be a good homework assignment after completing the modeling labs in class because it reviews the concept and presents it in a new and different way. While this would not necessarily require practicing a skill, it does require students to practice going through the process of thinking about what is happening to cause these phases.


Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program four: Behaviorist learning theory [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E. R., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.