Education through Entertainment

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This week we learned about Audio-Visual Technologies in learning, and we had a great presentation  by Michael, Joe, Sam and Kyla M . Thank you! You did an awesome job!

I would like to share a personal experience about my eldest son who was a late reader. I had to find ways to teach him basic concepts in a fun and interactive way. His teacher and I tried different strategies until one day I came across two videos by the Leapfrog company called Letter Sounds Factory and Talking Words Factory. They were a huge success in teaching him letter sounds, and how to connect letters to make words.  Although the videos were a great resource, however, without the teacher’s continuous support and enthusiasm my son’s reading wouldn’t have significantly improved. She arranged book clubs for students and reading competitions to help them catch up, and to encourage him and his classmates to read. She built a completely interactive, rewarding, and motivating experience for the whole class that they will never forget.

Along the same lines,  I remember using many episodes of Sesame Street to teach my kids about meanings of friendship, or even manners such as “sharing what we have.” The episodes gave me a chance to highlight the messages that I wanted my kids to grasp. I found that Sesame Street was a tool like other tools we use in the classroom to keep students engaged and entertained while learning. I felt that their learning experience was colorful, exciting, engaging, and playful.  I have to say the high expectations that programs like Sesame street put in our student’s minds is a big challenge. Nevertheless, when my kids started school they would wake up every day with no complaints that it isn’t as fun as Sesame Street is.

In spite of the above, I sort of agree to some extent with Postman who wrote, “…We now know that “Sesame Street” encourages children to love school only if a school is like “Sesame Street.” Which is to say, we now know that “Sesame Street” undermines what the traditional idea of schooling represents“.

The differences between the two environments can sometimes be big as mentioned by Postman;   

World of School is                                                        World of TV programming:

–Social interaction                                                           – Isolation                       

–Critical thinking                                                             – Unresponsive

–Language                                                                        – Images

–Legal requirement                                                        – An act of choice

–Fun as a means to an end                                            – Fun as an end in itself

Using multimedia in the classroom, without doubt, has a big advantage. It is a way to create a better experience and to reach out to different learners. It helps them to engage and focus. However, educational media will never replace teachers, school, or even family time and storytelling. In fact, they both complement each other. Teachers have to use whatever educational technology tools to challenge their student’s minds, keep them engaged, and to keep up with the speed of evolution in technology. We have to use the type of technology that our kids use in their everyday life.

According to this article:  Importance of AV in schools, “Learning via AV creates a stimulating and interactive environment which is more conducive to learning, We live in an audio-visual age which means that having the skills to use AV equipment is integral to future employment prospects. Therefore exposure to AV technology in education is imperative.”  which is also what Brook found in her experience in the classroom as she mentioned in her blog,“ In my own practice, AV technology enhances learning by showing students content rather than simply having them read about it or listen to me teach about it. AV technology provides another lens and context through which students are able to make meaning of the world around them.”

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There are many teachers who are passionate and willing to find new ways to gain their student’s attention. They are in the contentious hunt to use today’s technology and techniques, and to incorporate them in their class. Within this context, educational multimedia, such as Sesame Street, can be a helpful means. Educational multimedia teaches our kids by stimulating their minds. It is a colorful and joyful experience, which can sometimes be replicated in the classroom.

However, using educational multimedia alone has its disadvantages. We may lose the student’s logical thinking, and it could also be a source of distraction for students.

Kyla also mentioned in her blog post this week “ Our current culture of smartphones has pushed educators to incorporate the technology – the seeming current language of today’s youth – into our classrooms and our schools. BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and the integration of smartphones in classrooms does not just happen automatically without thought to acceptable use. “ which really resonated with me. It is important to integrate the use of this generation’s spoken language of  “Smartphones” and “Apps” into the classroom. Apps are a step ahead of “Sesame Street” as they are more interactive and enables teaching more problem-solving skills. However, “apps and smartphones” are still less than what a student can benefit from a teacher. Yes, speech recognition tools such as Siri can help with language development, but again not to the same level as a human interaction would.

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LOGO: A Maker’s Coding Language

Alec asked us this week to play more with LOGO! In the beginning, I thought I’d try 2 or 3 exercises to get a sense of how it works as I wasn’t familiar with it. Time went by, and I found myself trying many exercises and tweaking some of them. It was so much fun and I found myself hooked to it.

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Seymour Papert, the pioneer of LOGO, supported the concept of story-telling in learning as it’s a much more effective communication tool than conveying theoretical definitions. LOGO’s history is rooted in computer-science research, especially in artificial intelligence, and in Jean Piaget’s research. It’s an effective tool for learning how to think; this takes LOGO from being just another programming language into being a philosophy of education.

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Papert’s ideas can have an impact on the way children learn. In my last blog post, I briefly discussed how we can use different theories of learning according to types/ needs of learners and the affordance of technology.  LOGO has its own affordances that caters to children’s needs, and consequently can have a great impact on a child’s learning. Coding in itself has teaches children many cognitive skills; but typical coding is difficult for children to grasp and understand.   The affordance of LOGO is that it provides a visual and maker-type of programming that is easy for children to tinker with.  Within an effective learning environment, this increases the skills learned.

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Kids today are curious and competent, and if presented with the opportunity they would take an active role in their own learning. This is an affordance provided by LOGO/ Scratch. Computer programming is a method that students use to make their ideas and design come to life using technology. It encourages and teaches problem solving skills. Papert sometimes called this skill “procedural thinking.”  Papert is quoted to have said, “I am convinced that the best learning takes place when the learner takes charge, as the young Piaget did.”  For example, a main tool of LOGO is the digital turtle which is  programmed by students. As learners manipulate the turtle in creative ways, they construct objects and worlds of their own. This is directly derived from the constructionism learning theory. This is learning-by-making.

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As a parent of four kids, I work hard to find the best learning experiences, resources, and activities for my kids. I have to say two of the major things they were interested in are the Montessori learning style and University of Regina EYES programming camp. Now that I know more about learning theories and different learning methods, I understand that they got hooked to these two learning styles because they evoke the idea of learning by making.  Asking them “why did you like it?” they say “it is fun”, “you get to use your own creativity and imagination”, “you can make your own games.”  They felt comfortable with the tool after a few hours of tinkering with it, that they were so happy they were able to make a Happy Mother’s Day card for me. It was an interactive card that included my favorite songs and family photos. They had the passion, worked harder and tried different coding skills. They learned how to turn an initial idea into a meaningful project that can be shared with me.

Learning theories in the eyes of an Instructional Designer

Although I have limited experience in teaching, one year almost 15 years ago, however, the readings helped me reflect on my own experience as an Assistant Instructional Designer for four years.

Teachers and IDs are both in a perpetual quest to create a successful learning experience for students, and to meet their learning needs. They both use different technologies to achieve their objectives, and they must have a clear understanding of learning theories as it would help them in selecting the best teaching strategies and techniques.

Learners and their demands have changed over time.  Here is a table that provides a quick comparison.

Criteria Boomers Generation X Millennials
Age range 42-60 years old 26-41 years old Up to 26 years old
Learning style Traditional, group effort, expert-driven, self-driven

“lead me to information”

Team driven, collaborative, peer-to-peer

“connect me to people”

Give context and meaning, make it fun, search and explore, entertain me

“connect me to everything”

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Beside each generation’s learning style, there are basic needs which I assume every student will like and appreciate. For example, increasing student motivation in learning and the material they are about to study, making abstract learning more interactive and concrete, and allowing students to become a part of the learning experience.

The table below also provides a quick, certainly not comprehensive, comparison of technology tools usage over the years.

pre-computers Tech affordance during the digital age Affordances with the internet
Papers Portable computers Wiki
Printing press Interactive whiteboard Ipads
Blackboard LMS Google classrooms
CreditCC BY-SA 3.0

Education technology has evolved over time to cope with changes in learning needs. The affordance of technologies captures this change, especially that using web 2 applications in the internet era made a significant progress and expanded the options in the concept of affordances.

We can think of many examples of the affordances of social software:

  1. Collaborative information and sharing, such as a group blog.
  2. Connectivity, like Facebook, Myspace or Instagram.
  3. Content creation: Like using Wiki

These affordances will help design and create suitable content that is genuine and encourage engagements.

In spite of technological advancements, the theories of learning remain constant;

Criteria Behaviorism Cognitivism Constructivism
knowledge The repertoire of behavioral responses to environmental stimuli Knowledge systems of cognitive structures are actively constructed be learners based on existing structures Human create meanings as opposed to acquiring it
Learning Passive absorption of a predefined body of knowledge be learner. Promoted be repetition and positive reinforcement Active assimilation accommodating of new information to existing cognitive structures. Discovery be learners. Integration of students into knowledge community. Collaborative assimilation and accommodation of new information.
Instruction Correct behavioral responses are transmitted by the teacher and absorbed by the students The teacher facilitates learning by providing an environment that promotes discovery and assimilation/accommodation Collaborative learning is facilitated and guided by the teacher. Group work.

Note Retrieved from: here

Behaviorism, generally results in a learning experience that is characterized by an effective presentation, tutorials, and structured assessment. Activities should include reading, writing, and assignment that is directly linked to the subject, learning objectives and outcomes, which has to be connected with immediate changes in behavior.

On the other hand, the constructivist learning experience is characterized by constructing a learning environment and trying to direct students to explore topics by designing their own experience. Students should be encouraged to collaborate. Activities should be in a form of presentations, group project or interaction among the learners.

From a bird’s eye, it’s easy to assume and make direct linkages between the type of learner’s and the different theoretical approaches; Behaviorism seems to be the prominent theory with the baby boomer’s generation because of their main characteristic feature of “Lead me to information”. We could also assume the same with Constructivism, with the chosen learner type as the millennia generation.

However, as mentioned in the Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing Critical Features From an Instructional Design Perspective reading article, the critical question instructional designers must ask is not “which is the best theory?” but “which theory is the most effective in fostering mastery of specific tasks by specific learners?”. From my point of view, this is much true.

Knowledge and learning theories are to help instructional designers identify the most efficacious methods for any given situation. Instructional design methods are situational not universal, which means that one theory may work best for a specific group of learners considering their level of knowledge, the nature of learning tasks, and every other criteria, while a different theory may work best in another situation for a different group of learners.

A journey through Educational Technology

I am officially writing my first blog!! EC&I is my first grade class towards my journey to get a “Master certificate in Educational Technology”.  Dr. Couros asked us to write our definition of Educational Technology and what does it mean to us.

What is Educational Technology?


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Educational technologies often change how we access educational content– making it easier, cheaper, or faster to get our hands on information. But it can also change the procedure of learning, often enabling us to do things we couldn’t otherwise, or changing the way we practice and learn new skills. This very much gets along with Wikipedia definition of Educational technology is “ facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources“.

Historically, there are three stages that shaped  Educational Technology in my understanding.

Stage 1: before computers

What was the educational technology looks like before Computers? It was depending on “Paper”.


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Papers were one of the first education technologies. In fact, it really changed the way we teach and learn. It allowed people to group their ideas in books. Books were easily duplicated into a few copies which allowed ideas to spread.
In the 1700 ’s photocopying machines were invented. It was a huge educational technology advancement.  Before it came along, classes often involved one person reading a book aloud, and everyone else writing it down.  Educational Technology back then did not allow for much group collaboration in learning.


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Then Chalkboard was introduced and was a big hit that made teachers change their thinking from individualized instruction to group instruction.

Stage 2: Computer age


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When computers were introduced, educational and other programs such as MS Office made number crunching and educational writing  and other things easier. As we moved into the late  ’90s, processing power and graphics made more sophisticated games. During this time, there were also a lot of educational CD-ROMs.


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Then, in the mid 90s- 2000, smaller computers became more affordable. Wi-Fi started spreading, and everything got shaken up all over again. The idea of one laptop per child started to spread, with some school districts providing laptops to all their students.

Stage 3: Internet
CC0 Creative Commons

The Internet is one of the most used forms of educational technology used todays.  It provided access to very large amounts of educational content very easily. Being able to search such vast information was a game changer.

Bringing technology into education has always been a bit controversial because it does change the way we learn in two big ways. Content and procedure.

I grew up in Egypt.   In the 1980s a company produced an Arabic-language version of MSX computers and that was the first computer I ever used. First time I saw a real computer in my life was in 1990, very late I know. This is the time computer labs started to find its way to schools in Egypt. Computers were only intended to teach students a certain content area, they were an object of study nothing more. We didn’t see the full benefits of computers until the birth of the Internet.  In the 1990’s, Microsoft was kind enough to give free licenses to using their Office product for free all across Egypt schools. As soon as yesterday, the government has theoretically approved the introduction of iPads and tablets for high school education. However,  Believe it or not, blackboards are still the main educational technology being used in Egypt’s public school classroom today.   Books are relatively very expensive and not widespread; let along access to personal computers and a good-quality Internet Connection.