First, I have to say, Happy Friday to all! We have seven more school days here in Mansfield, MA, but who is counting? Oh, that’s right, I am! Summer is right around the corner!
After reading the two articles and viewing the Ted Talk, several thoughts come to mind.
First, the article by Larry Cuban, “Teacher and Machines” and the Ted Talk reinforced each other. In fact the video quotes the Cuban article. What struck me from these is that the struggle to introduce technology into schools is not new. Each generation or time period has had something that was going to revolutionize education. Each has had an impact, but no one thing has completely changed the face of education. Although, I think that every classroom in America at one point had a chalkboard, it is not the chalkboard that changed education, but what teachers and students did with the chalkboard to push forward education.
I found the long list of technology interesting ( I don’t think that I even really thought of some of these as technology in the classroom until the article and video pointed them out.): paper, slate & chalk, textbooks, ballpoint pens, radio. television, computers. There are still others, such as calculators. I still remember when my sister (who is nine years older) came home from college (I was in fourth grade) & spoke about the student in her physics class that had a calculator (he spent hundreds of dollars on it)! She was still using her trusty slide rule. Fast forward about eight or nine years to when I was in high school, our physics teacher showed us how to use a slide rule, but we all used calculators!
I am a big believer in using technology in the classroom, whatever it is, but we must keep in mind it is a tool to help our students learn. Technology is a means to an end (student learning), rather than the end.
Another thing that I found interesting was how much time some schools spent watching the TV programs designed for school. I know that when I show a movie or video in my classroom, many students think that is break time. I like to use videos, but only if I know the students will pay attention. As the Tedtalk said, dark room is disaster in high school.
The article by Ertmer and Newby was a good primer for me, as I am not that well versed in Educational Theories. I see the three theories as building upon each other (although the ideas behind them are quite different). I can see the validity of how the constructivist approach is for more advanced learning. Although I can also see it in play in some of the really simple things that we do, but we develop a deeper understanding as we use and apply ideas. For example, teaching, I know my topics, but every time I teach a unit, I develop a richer understanding based on interactions with students and content.
Currently, in my teaching I see a lot of cognitivist in terms the learner is an active participant, the emphasis on promoting mental processes (p 58) makes me think of problem solving in physics. I tell the students all the time, “I would rather see the process w/ a math error, rather than the correct answer w/o the process!” I can also see bits of constructivism as students apply the knowledge to solve new or different problems. One area that I find difficult is finding authentic activities. For example, today we calculated how much work and power we generated walking and running up the stairs (a very common high school physics lab). It is not necessarily “real world”, but it definitely is a hands on way to demonstrate & help students construct their understanding of the topics. Another interesting point was that in the constructivist model “objectives are not pre-specified” (p 166). The reality in a high school class is that there are pre-set objectives and a variety of tools and strategies (some may fit into more than one theory) will help the student master the content.
One last thought I had as I was reading the the Ertmer/Newby article is that the basis for behaviorist theory “ learning is accomplished when a proper response is demonstrated following a stimulus” (p. 55) reminded me of the high stakes standardized tests. Of course some of the questions require higher order thinking, but just the response to stimulus just made me think of tests (in general, all tests!).