Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Article Review #6: The Effectiveness of a PRS

Shaffer, D., & Collura, M., (2009).  Evaluating the effectiveness of a personal response system in the classroom.  Teaching of Psychology, 36(4), 273-277.

     In Evaluating the Effectiveness of a Personal Response system in the Classroom, Shaffer and Collura (2009) evaluated the effectiveness of the use of clickers during an introductory psychology course.  

     The participants of this study included 177 students enrolled in four sections of an introduction to psychology course.  Data was collected regarding student learning and reactions to using the clickers from the first three sections.  The last section did not use clickers.  In the first three sections, students answered four size estimation questions during the lecture using clickers.  The results were displayed to students and included the correct answer.  These students then answered questions evaluating their use of clickers in the classroom compared to a lecture style format that did not involve the use of clickers.  The fourth section did not use the clickers and instead responded to the four estimation questions by raising their hands.  These students did not answer questions related to their method of engagement during the lecture. 

     Two measures were taken during the study: student learning and student reactions.  With student learning, Shaffer and Collura (2009) asked eleven questions on the exam that were covered in the lecture.  They compared the performance of the clickers class to the “nonclickers” class.   The clickers class answered 84.49% of the eleven questions correctly while the nonclickers class answered 81.45% correctly (p.275).  With student reactions, Shaffer and Collura (2009) analyzed the questions given to the three sections that used clickers.  Students thought that using clickers produced more interaction, and made the lecture more interesting and entertaining (p.276).  In general, student reactions to the clickers were very positive.

     One point that cannot be overlooked in this study is how clicker use actually increased student participation.  Shaffer and Collura state that posing an anonymous answer was appealing to the students (as cited in Draper & Brown, 2004; Kennedy & Cutts, 2005; Wit, 2003).  Through the use of clickers, students did not have to worry about having in incorrect answer; they were more willing to participate and to take a risk.  A large part of learning is being a risk taker.  Being a classroom teacher, I see students shy away from participating in class because of the fear of having the wrong answer. Clickers are just another tool students can use to help bridge participation among all students in the classroom.

Thursday, October 30, 2014


Article Review #5: Technology Engagement at the Middle School Level

Spires, H., Lee, J., & Turner, K. (2008).  Having our say: Middle grade student perspectives on school, technologies, and academic engagement.  Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 40(4), 497-515.

     In Having Our Say: Middle Grade Student Perspectives on School, Technologies, and Academic Engagement, Spires, Lee, and Turner (2008) researched what engages students to achieve in the middle school grades.  They assert that “the manner in which new information and communication technologies are being used suggests that children are creating understandings and knowledge in new and different ways” (p.497).   Has our educational system changed and developed to meet these new ways of learning?  The goal of the study was to gain student insight into this matter.

     The participants of this study included 4,000 middle school students who were part of a North Carolina statewide after-school program.  The students took a survey and were also part of focus groups to gain additional information on student views about school, technology, and academic engagement.  Quantitative result were gathered from the student surveys, while qualitative results were collected from the focus group sessions.    

     Spires, Lee, and Turner (2008) organized the survey results into four areas.  First, the highest frequency users of computers reported that they use computers more at home than at school.  Second, the majority of students reported they learned word processing skills at school, but rated themselves as high users of digital music, video games, and cellphones – all technology related skills learned outside of school.  Third, students ranked that using computers and doing research was the school activity they liked best, while listening to a teacher lecture and doing worksheets they liked least.  Lastly, the majority of students said they used the Internet to find information rather than looking in a book.

     Spires, Lee, and Turner (2008) found that the following four technology-related themes emerged from the focus group data collected in this study:
I.         “Do You Know Us?”: Students use a variety of technologies outside of schools for many different reasons.  Technology is an important part of their lives and there was concern that teachers don’t understand this.  The uses of technology inside school were more traditional (word processing, testing, etc.)
II.      “Engage Us”: Students voiced that they enjoy conducting projects that use technology as a tool to gain new learnings.
III.    “Prepare Us for Jobs of the Future”: Students understand the importance of technology skills in the professional world and want to be prepared for this.
IV.    “Let’s Not Get Left Behind”: Students felt strongly about wanting improvements in technology in their schools and recognized the possibilities of where technology could take them in the future.

     How do educators successfully merge the required content of our curriculums to the revolving world of technology in which our students live?  Based on the finding of the above research, it is clear that students want more access to technology in school because it engages them in the learning process.  So how do teachers and districts meet these demands?  With students learning technology at a faster pace than most adults, it makes sense for students to have a voice in determining how different technology tools can impact their learning.  This will not only engage them as students, but empower them as independent learners.  

Friday, October 17, 2014

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Article Review #4: Assessment and Instruction of Multimedia

Ostenson, J.W. (2012).  Connecting assessment and instruction to help students become more critical producers of multimedia.  Journal of Media Literacy Education, 4(2), 167-178.

     In Connecting Assessment and Instruction to Help Students Become More Critical Producers of Multimedia, Ostenson (2012) presents the struggle in teachers of how to assess students work with multimedia.  He explains the importance of designing assessments that are authentic and having instruction and assessment tightly integrated.   Ostenson also suggests that while text plays an important role in multimedia, image and audio are likely to play even larger roles in conveying meaning.

     Ostenson (2012) highlights the following criteria (and includes generic rubrics) to be helpful in both assessing and teaching writing in digital genres:
1.       Evaluating the use of images: focus on emphasis, lighting, angle and color to assess and teach critical and purposeful use of images;
2.       Evaluating organizational elements: focus on how to sequence images as well as how to effectively transition between images to convey meaning;
3.       Evaluating the use of audio:  focus on the quality of audio and the appropriateness of it in it being purposeful and strengthening the visual presentation;
4.       Student reflection: focus on student self-reflection and how they have learned to make effective choices in multimedia presentations.

     Ostenson (2012) asserts that our job as teachers is to “help students develop their critical thinking skills needed to make the most of new technologies and teaching” (p.174).  This, in turn, will allow students to develop more authentic media literacy skills. 

     Understanding by design.  Assessment drives instruction.  Always work with the end in mind.  As teachers, we have all heard these phrases.  If we know what we want our students to learn, how do we get them there?

     It is obvious that if teachers are purposeful in choosing multimedia tools to enhance the curriculum, then this will support student mastery of learner objectives.  Yet even more important, students gain the necessary understanding of critical media literacy skills for the 21st century.  Instead of assessing a traditional piece of writing, how can we move our students into composing with different media like podcasts or screencasts?  Furthermore, are we prepared to assess multimedia work so that students become more purposeful in how they use media?  It is a shift in instruction and assessment, but as we all know in education, shift happens.

     As educators, we need to challenges ourselves and “how we learned” in using more traditional forms of communication so that our students can benefit from engaging in new, cutting edge technology and media that will improve their overall digital literacy.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Article Review #3: A "SIMPLE" Model

Huffman, S. (2013). Benefits and pitfalls: Simple guidelines for the use of social networking tools in k-12 education.  Education, 134, 154-160.

     In the article, Benefits and Pitfalls: Simple Guidelines for the Use of Social Networking Tools in K-12 Education, Huffman (20 13) not only examines the advantages and disadvantages of social networking tools, but also discuss how districts can plan effectively for such tools.  This includes taking a look at professional development and the role of teacher preparation programs.

     Huffman states, “Social networking tools provide ample opportunities for children and young adults to explore ones boundaries of self through presentation of self, learning, building relationships, exposure to other diverse groups and perspectives and the self management of privacy and intimacy” (as citied by Livingston & Blake, 2010). In other words, social networking tools are a benefit because they allow individuals to discover who they are.  In addition, these tools allow students to extend learning beyond the traditional classroom setting.  Some disadvantages highlighted include teacher and students sharing private information and cyber bullying.

     Huffman (2013) presents the SIMPLE Model as a plan for using social networking tools in school districts.  There are six components to this plan:
1.  Student/staff assessment – knowing the skills that already exist among teachers and students will allow for proper training;
2.  Inventory – a complete inventory of existing resources will allow for availability of technology resources;
3.  Measurement – assessing current and future needs of the district in regards to new technologies and a standards aligned curriculum will aid with technology training;
4.  Planning – with any tool, teachers should use a professional account with students and parents and all safety features should be used;
5.  Leadership – teachers use social networking tools and have continued professional development in order to grow as a professional;
6.  Evaluation – assessing after each planning cycle will allow for new needs with technology to be met.

     What role do teacher preparation programs play?  Huffman (2013) states, “Having a basic set of skills in crucial for all educational leaders and classroom teachers” (p.159). Teachers, both future and present, must be up to date with current technology tools in order to benefit student learning and growth.

     It is evident that school districts must protect their teachers and students from the pitfalls of social networking tools.  A plan should be put in place at the district level to ensure cyber safety.  The SIMPLE Model provides sound guidelines to aid in the development of that plan.  Technology in education is not going to disappear; in fact, it is becoming a necessity more than ever.  As technology continues to evolve, so should educators.  That is, districts must continue to educate both teachers and students about these new technologies and how to protect themselves from social networking tools.

Article Review #2: Professional Learning Networks

Trust, T. (2012).  Professional learning networks designed for teacher learning.  Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 28, 133-138.

     In the article, Professional Learning Networks Designed for Teacher Learning, Trust (2012) defines a professional learning network (PLN) as “a system of interpersonal connections and resources that support informal learning” (p. 133).  Trust presents two types of PLNs.  The first is information aggregation, where educators are able to stay current on new information by following numerous websites and news sources through RSS feeds.  The second type of PLN is social media connections, where teachers use social media tools to network with people worldwide.  Such tools include Facebook Twitter, Wikispaces, and Skype.  Trust states, “PLNs transform the paradigm of the isolated teacher who shows minimal professional growth into a lifelong learner who grows and shares expertise with others in his or her network” (p. 134).  In this way, educators grow and evolve through collaboration with their peers.

     Trust (2012) highlights three popular professional learning networks: Classroom 2.0, Edmodo and The Educators PLN.  Of the three, Edmodo is the most popular PLN.  Teacher benefits include joining subject communities where resources can be shared, questions can be asked, and ideas can be presented.  All of the posts from communities joined are sent to an RSS feed right on the member’s profile page so they have up to date information.  In addition, teachers also can create a cyber-safe group page for their students.  This is where items such as assignments, posts, quizzes, and uploaded files can be posted.  Students too can take part in a learning network through the use of Edmodo.   

     Trust (2012) finally presents the key reasons teachers are using professional learning networks.  These include collaboration, availability of resources, and the ability to get ideas and feedback from educational peers.  According to Trust, “Only teachers who are continual learners that work to improve their practice, skills, and instructional strategies can successfully help others learn” (p. 138).  PLNs can support a community of teachers which in the end will benefit our community of young learners.

     It is obvious that professional learning networks are changing the face education.  Never before were educators able to collaborate and share items, such as unit ideas and lesson plans, so quickly.  To put it simply, PLNs like Edmodo have made the field of education more efficient.  From professional development to learning new technologies, PLNs offer a gamut of possibilities to teachers and, in turn, students.  Most importantly though, professional learning networks are fostering a collaborative community where teachers around the world are sharing their experiences in order to benefit student learning and growth.  

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Article Review #1: Building a Bridge

Chen, B., & Bryer, T. (2012).  Investigating instructional strategies for using social media in formal and informal learning.  The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 13, 87-104.

     In Investigating Instructional Strategies for Using Social Media in Formal and Informal Learning, Chen and Bryer (2012) researched how educators use social media to connect formal and informal learning and allow students to connect to educational experiences in new and meaningful ways.  Research conducted by Banks and his team found that as students progress to high school and beyond, informal learning becomes more important because “learners acquire knowledge as a function of interactions between connected partners” (as cited in Chen and Bryer, 2012, p.89).  In other words, learning is a collaborative effort.  The goal of the study was to investigate how educators could use social media technologies to support the bridge between these two types of learning.

Chen and Bryer (2012) developed three guiding question for their research:
I.     What social media tools do public administration use and why?
II.    What instructional strategies do public administration faculty use to integrate social media in formal learning?
III.   What concerns do faculty have regarding the use of social media for teaching and what strategies do they have for mitigating these concerns? (p. 91)

     The participants of this study included eight educators from various universities across the United States.  They participated in telephone interviews regarding their experiences using social media in teaching.  The interviews were conducted so that all participants were asked the same questions to ensure sound qualitative data.

     Chen and Bryer (2012) found that all the participants used social media for personal and professional purposes.  The participants saw added learning advantages and encouraged student participation for the sake of social connecting and learning, yet they were still cautious about the use of these tools for entertainment.  Social media tools used by the participants included blogs, YouTube, Facebook, and LinkedIn.  Discussions and collaborations were the strategies that most participants used by taking advantage of Web 2.o technologies; furthermore, they also voiced the need for clear instructional goals when using social media tools.  The major concerns communicated by the interviewees were internet safety and privacy concerns, and they perceived there was a need for implementing clear institutional guidelines on the use of social media.

     Chen and Bryer (2012) stated “social media provides them [educators]with the ability to break limitations with course management systems, enables innovative and collaborative interactions, connects text book knowledge to real-world problems, and facilitates personalized constructive learning” (p. 97).  Students are learning in a world that uses a cutting edge form of communication and collaboration.  Educators need to question themselves, is a formal traditional learning environment most effective to support 21st century learners?  Or do educators at all levels use that bridge of social media to create educational opportunities where informal learning can be supported?   It is clear that social media is a means to liven educational experiences by allowing students and educators to connect and collaborate in new and meaningful ways.