Foundations of Learning

1 Jun

Last week’s challenge truly stretched my creative ability. Making a lesson to teach content (Spanish) using technology (Squishy Circuits maker kit)  was about as Thomas Edison as I thought I could get in my teaching career. That learning experience, coupled with the lesson for this week, has me re-evaluating my lesson plan I had created along with my “thrifting” project. Did my lesson plan in fact facilitate authentic learning in my students? Was the activity fitting for how students learn? Would I be validated in teaching my lesson to a group of novice kindergarten aged students tomorrow? These were the types of questions I needed answered because “making” is a time-consuming and creativity-stretching activity and it would be a shame if I could not use what I had created to fulfill those purposes. And so I set off in search of the foundations of learning and if, at all, they would justify my approach to teaching (Spanish) with technology.

I designed my maker lesson with pedagogical practices learned in CEP 810 and the beginnings of CEP811 in mind. One of those intentional ideas came from the important role play has in student learning. When we create, we need to play with ideas, tools, and new technologies to “reimagine learning” as opposed to simply using technology “to digitize traditional learning practices.” (Culatta, 2013) Playing allows us to invent new ideas and materials, not construct simple digital carbon copies of old traditional tools. This playing, essentially, gives us the power to bridge the “digital divide” as defined by Richard Culatta. I cannot imagine very many kindergarten students wanting to learn Spanish using flashcards, let alone digital flash cards. Therefore, to learn the color blue in Spanish, the students need to play with the kit and discover the answer for themselves. A couple of factors come to light in this instance to support this: motivation and problem solving. Especially for younger learners, flashcards will and do get boring rather quickly. When a kindergartener is told that playing with play-doh is going to help them learn colors in a different language, motivation on the child’s part increases, and when motivation is high, learning is greater as well. Problem solving is the other reason to support play in learning. When content is only spoken to children, it is like a child being told what to do. Not even adults like being told what to do! But when children face a problem, (in this case four choices to arrive the correct color name in Spanish, as indicated by the four columns of blue play-doh)

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they want to discover the answer for themselves, internalizing the concept or content that much more effectively. Jason Hendryx (2008) puts it this way, “Language play can enhance the learning environment, reduce stress, motivate, clarify content, and aid in the retention process.” (p. 174) My lesson focused on play to spike student motivation, add in problem solving to aid in internalizing the content and it looks pretty good. However, in my approach to assessing the lesson, there was no feedback available to the learner. Effective TPACK teaching always includes feedback for students to gain an understanding of their own learning track. Therefore, I needed to find an answer to this missing piece so that I would be validated to teach this lesson tomorrow to novice kindergarten students.

Grades, for the most part, come to late for them to do any good for the learner. It’s almost necessary for feedback to be immediate to be effective. In my lesson I could have collected their color sheets and wrote notes showing mistakes they may have made at each color discovery center, but how soon could I get those back to each of my almost fifty kindergarten students? More than likely not soon enough, especially for children of that age. In my research, I discovered that there are many software programs available that offer a what is known as a personal learning environment (PLE) within a virtual learning environment (VLE). Some of these VLE platforms include Blackboard and Desire2Learn. A popular open-sourced VLE is Moodle, all of which Panagiotis Panagiotidis says “offer significant services concerning access to resources/courses in a structured way, authentication and course registration of users, as well as monitoring learners’ activities and results.” (p. 422) With real-time monitoring of learner results, real-time offering of feedback is possible, a solution to my conundrum. If I had a VLE already set up in my classroom, I could have a digital version of the lesson activity where students could record their “results” right into it. As soon as the students discover all the colors from the centers, I would have immediate access to their learning and give them immediate feedback. Thus, finishing off the essentials to validate teaching my lesson to future kindergarten students.

 

References:

Culatta, D. (2013, January 10). Reimagining Learning: Richard Culatta at TEDxBeaconStreet. YouTube. Retrieved May 31, 2014, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0uAuonMXrg#t=63

Hendryx, Jason D. (2008). Experienced foreign and second language instructors’ pedagogical content knowledge and language play. ProQuest Information and Learning, 174. Retrieved May 31, 2014 from http://search.proquest.com.proxy1.cl.msu.edu/docview/621758284/B5670B79298D498EPQ/16?accountid=12598#

Panagiotidis, Panagiotis. (2012) Personal Learning Environments for Language Learning. Socialines Technologijos, 422. Retrieved May 31, 2014 from http://search.proquest.com.proxy1.cl.msu.edu/docview/1426562511/B5670B79298D498EPQ/13?accountid=12598#

 

 

 

 

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One Response to “Foundations of Learning”

  1. supowit1 June 4, 2014 at 11:31 am #

    This was really interesting! There are so many challenges that come with teaching spanish in general but must be more challenging in Kindergarten. It’s hard to take kids back to the point of learning colors, counting, etc. when they feel like they’re “too old” for that. The instinct to learn by “playing” is great! It makes learning feel natural and you would probably have little monsters running around your room pointing out every color in spanish (the visual is great). I like that you mentioned using moodle or blackboard, but I wonder how easy it will be for a kindergartner to navigate something like that. Especially for the young kids, you could use Class Dojo- which is more for class management, but could easily transform itself into instant feedback.

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