2) Discuss how you integrated your studies and experiences in the MS program in Educational Technology to enhance your skills in designing and developing digital-age learning experiences and assessments.
I integrated my studies and experiences in the MS program in Educational Technology to enhance my skills in designing and developing digital-age learning experiences and assessments in many ways.
One way was during my research project, in which I made use of the Five in a Row tool on Khan Academy to assess students learning and progress in mastering the material. It served as an assessment for both the student and myself- do I understand the content? Is the student getting the questions right or wrong? Let’s look at your work and compare it to the notes you took during the video – how is it similar? Different? One of the outcomes of using this digital practice tool was the students developed grit and persistence to keep practicing problems, to study what they did wrong and work to get it right. The students who used this practice tool were the ones who at the greatest amount of retention at the end of the study. Although these students are arguably digital natives, they did not at the beginning of the project have the tenacity that they had at the end. They wanted to do quick work to get quick answers – as many of them were used to seeing digital tools as something that made life easier and quicker. Digital tools do make life easier for sure, but they can also be used to hold students accountable and to set a higher standard for learning – as such was with the Five in a Row tool and the Khan Academy Coach program.
Through my research I was able to challenge the student to look beyond the obvious answers (i.e. the numbers are different) and look more deeply at the mathematics. These formative assessments helped me assess how much the student benefitted from the videos and what skills needed work. Throughout the research process there was developed a release of responsibility, at first, me modeling and offering a lot of support then us doing it together, then they would either work with a partner or on Khan Academy, then they would complete the work with no assistance at all, guaranteeing that they knew what they were doing, thus leading to higher levels of retention. Through this process they had “access to high-quality core instruction that enable[d the students] to marshal previously learned concepts to reach new understandings” (Fisher and Frey, 2010, p.30).
Also as a part of my research project, I integrated the use of instructional videos into my teaching. I began by studying how others had used instructional videos and the Khan Academy Coach program in their own classrooms. Such research found that comparing traditional instruction with direct instruction “the two instructional materials were pedagogically equivalent in terms of theoretical knowledge acquired” and “practical skills acquired…were significantly higher among users of video-based instructional materials, [and]… users of video-based instructional materials displayed significantly superior craftsmanship” (Donker, 2010, p. 96). Bolstered by backing research, I completed my study and also found positive correlations between growth in leaning and retention of material presented via instructional videos. During the study, the practice program allowed me to assess how comfortable students feel completing specific skills with assistance and independently.
Depending on how much students struggled (or how many questions they answered correctly and incorrectly) I was able to see how well students have understood the video and garnered from our post-video discussion. Then I could intervene as needed providing the appropriate level of support for each individual student, meeting them at their Zone of Proximal Development to ensure “excellent students [do not] feel that the exercises are too easy to teach them anything, while below-average students…feel that the exercises are too hard to allow them to learn” (Li and Chen, 2009, p. 205). In addition, Thorndike’s theories relating to Behaviorism tied into the Cat in the Box Puzzle, as in Thorndike’s example, behaviors that led to a desired response (opening of the door) were repeated and therefore “stamped in” while behaviors that did not lead to the wanted response died out (Omrod, 2012, p. 63). These behaviors were mainly in the practice section of the Khan Academy Coach program. Student’s initial reaction was to use the hints and to rush through their work to get an answer. But when they didn’t get credit for their work because they did the problem wrong or they used hints, they learned over time to take their time trying the problem on their own and checking their work because that resulted in a desired result of getting the answer correct and being able to move on in their learning.
After the completion of my study, I continued to use Khan Academy instructional videos as well as other parts of the Coach program with some, but not all, of my students. Looking at my data not all students benefitted as strongly as others or they had the same outcomes comparing traditional instruction with instructional videos. I had a few students who expressed disinterest in the program after it was done stating they preferred the teacher interaction and were more tactile and less visual learners. Other students really enjoyed the instructional videos as it gave them autonomy over their leaning and they continued to use and enjoy the program. The decision to continue or not continue the students in the program was based on their personal preferences and their learning styles – the students who were more visual and auditory appreciated the videos while students who were more tactile and kinestric preferred using actual manipulatives and the more constant interaction with the teacher..
Additionally, as a part of one of my first educational technology classes, I developed a fraction intervention unit plan in EDU 621 which incorporated National Library of Virtual Manipulatives fraction manipulative for students to use to practice multiplying fractions. Students benefited from the presentation of what multiplying fractions means visually and being able to “kinesthetically” move the pieces around (thereby drawing in both the kinesthetic and visual learners) to expand their conceptual understanding by following the “progression from physical objects (or mathematical tools) to representational forms and abstract thought”, a level that middle school students are expected to become more comfortable having (Burns and Hamm, 2011, p. 256). The use of multiple forms of presentation and methods led to a deeper understanding by tapping into all three means of learning to best reach the learner.
I also created several fraction activities as part summer as a part of my mathematics technology course, which included NLVM items as well as apps on the iPad for student practice. I continued to use these lessons and activities with my intervention students as they served as a strong technology based resource that engaged student learning. Through these projects I was able to learn the scholarly view on topics such as classroom calculator use, virtual manipulatives, and best use of spreadsheets, NCTMs view, as well as create a project based around the topic for student use and learned how “technology can provide powerful visual models, can promote conjecturing, and can encourage ownership of mathematical ideas” (Johnson, et. al., 2012, p. 202).