Last week, I created a 1st grade social studies lesson using my Makey Makey. I created an activity using Scratch that asked students a series of questions that tested their knowledge about maps. They would answer each question by touching the correct answer on the map. This activity tested the students’ knowledge about maps, while allowing them to authentically interact with a real map. The Scratch activity was programmed so the student would receive immediate feedback as to whether they selected the correct answer.
This week, I watched the talk from TEDxBeaconStreet by Ruchard Colatta, called Reimagining Learning. In this talk, Culatta suggests that there needs to be a shift towards more personalized learning and use technology not just to digitize current teaching practices, but to create learning environments that otherwise would not be possible. Culatta’s interpretation of the digital divide is what I have been struggling with since I began playing with my Makey Makey. I discovered ways to “digitize” my current teaching practices, but I had a more difficult time creating a lesson in which I used my Makey Makey to create an activity that I without it I would not be able to do. After researching several learning theories, I found that I could improve my current lesson by adding elements from the theory of constructivism or, more specifically, social constructivism. Richard Millwood states that with constructivism, “the learner is not a passive recipient of knowledge but that knowledge is constructed by the learner” (2013), where social constructivism focuses on working with groups and sharing knowledge with others.
Looking back on my original lesson, I found that it did already have components of constructivism. In the study Understanding the effects of constructivist learning environments: introducing a multi-directional approach, authors Sofie M. M. Loyens and David Gijbels state that “most constructivists agree that learning situations preferably have to resenble real-life or authentic situations” (2008, p. 352). My goal when creating my original map lesson was to create an authentic lesson where students use a real map in ways they might in their everyday lives. Although I found a constructivist element to my lesson, there are ways I could improve my lesson to align it further to the theory.
One change I made to my lesson was to make the students a more active participant in their learning. Loyens states that “constructivism is a view of learning that considers the learner as a responsible, active agent in his/her knowledge acquisition process” (2008, p. 352).To do this, I modified my lesson to have students be the ones creating the questions for the Scratch activity. Students would work in small groups to create a series of questions based on key words I provide and the set of buttons provided on the map. This supports how “social negotiation and interaction are crucial elements in acquiring knowledge” (Loyens et al., 2008, p. 352). Students will be working together collaboratively. They will use their knowledge of maps and of the key words to create scenarios and questions. In a situation like this, students are taking their current knowledge and applying it, making the lesson more meaningful. Once the group has created their Scratch program, the other students will take turns answering their questions. This benefits those answering the questions because they are answering questions created by their peers, who view the information more similarly to them than the teacher does (Loyens et al., 2008).
This approach to the lesson also relates to the ideas in the book How People Learn (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000). One chapter outlines the differences between how experts and novices learn. It explains how experts do not see knowledge as a mere set of facts, but they are able to retrieve information as they need it and apply that knowledge to various situations (2000). In my original lesson, students simply had to answer questions. By creating the questions themselves, students will have to think deeply about each map concept and how it applies to the particular map they are using. My modifications to my lesson push students towards thinking like experts.
In a study performed by Kim Beswick, she cited the Constructivist Learning Environment Survey (CLES). This survey consists of 28 items revolving around four ideas of constructivism: autonomy, prior-knowledge, negotiation, and student-centeredness (2007, p. 99-100). My modified lesson touches on each of these four ideas:
Autonomy: Students are pushed to think more autonomously when they are being asked to create the questions to the activity themselves, instead of being provided the questions.
Prior-Knowledge: Students must integrate their prior knowledge into the lesson in order to create meaningful questions.
Negotiation: Students in a group must work together collaboratively and negotiate and come to a consensus when creating their series of questions.
Student Centeredness: Students experience and must overcome problems throughout the learning process.
After watching Richard Culatta’s TEDx talk on closing the technology gap, I have a more concrete understanding of what it means to incorporate technology into the classroom. It is not about “digitizing my current teaching, but reimagining it and using technology to achieve something that otherwise could not be achieved. Reading studies about the theory of constructivism allowed me to further construct a classroom environment where students are interacting with their peers in an authentic environment to actively build their knowledge. By combining these ideas, I believe I can better create 21st-century learners.
Beswick, K. (May 2007). Teachers’ beliefs that matter in secondary mathematics classrooms. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 65
(1), 95-120. Retrieved from http://jstor.org/stable/27822672.
Bransford, J., Brown, A.L., & Cocking, R.R. (Eds.). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school (pp. 3-78). Washington,
D.C.:NationalAcademy Press. Retrieved from http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309070368.
Culatta, R. (n.d.). Reinagining Learning: Richard Culatta at TEDxBeasconStreet. Retrieved from
Loyens, S.M.M., & Gijbels, D. (September 2008). Understanding the effects of constructivist learning environments: introducing a multi-
directional approach. Instructional Science, 36 (5/6), 351-357. Retrieved from http://jstor.org/stable/23372644.
Millwood, R. (May 10, 2013). Learning Theory. [photo]. Retrieved from http://blog.richardmillwood.net/2013/05/10/learning-theory/