Learned much you have…

Emerging Theories of Learning and the Role of Technology (Doak), Jenkins 2013; Willms et al 2009

It perhaps comes as no surprise that the Jedi order crumbled. Their insistence on holding onto an archaic educational model where the teacher delivers lessons to a student without an opportunity for questions does not seem as though it would provide a rich learning environment. Instead, it is possibly to the Sith, we should look to for inspiration. Here, students are encouraged to ask questions of their mentor, to form a close bond as teacher and student push each other in order to reach higher achievement, and their one-to-one mentoring program is second to none. Although, the whole rule of two thing has been known to backfire from time to time. Intergalactic space wizards aside,  opportunities for deep learning are being created through New Pedagogies that encourage closer human connections.

time lapse photography of man dancing
Photo by Ahmad Odeh on Unplash


When I joined my current school there was a huge pedagogical shift taking place where the focus was moving towards student-centered learning. Over the past few years, it has been an exciting time to be working as an educator. The difference at a student level of moving away from a traditional model of education has been one of more open collaboration and excitement, particularly where new technologies are involved. I run a design and coding club for students where the emphasis is on students learning from one another and sharing ideas. I found Emerging Theories of Learning and the Role of Technology (Doak) affirmed the approaches I was trying to take. When discussing Distributed Cognition Doak referenced a case study in which students used flow charts to construct robots with LEGO Mindscapes. These flow charts offloaded some of the cognitive work which then allowed them to solve more complex problems. I am currently using SAM Labs which allows students to create and program a variety of different systems. I have found that by using flowcharts the students have been able to apply what they have learned to solve increasingly difficult problems. Last week, for example, the students created a system where a car would move when an RGB LED turned green. The students were then asked to work in teams to create a 4-way intersection where vehicles would stop at a red light and go on a green light. It was exciting to see the students step up to these challenges and even try to take it further by, in the case of one group, by adding an encryption sequence to initialize their system.

Learning Theories in action

Personally, when I think of new pedagogies one of the first educators who really made me reflect on my own teaching was Dan Meyers.

His 3-Act Math tasks have an incredible impact on the classroom and it’s amazing to see a shift in student discourse from simply trying to solve a problem to really considering what the problem is asking. I think his quote, “The math serves the conversation, the conversation doesn’t serve the maths” is profound and it’s something that I’ve tried to carry over across other subject areas. During my maths classes it was apparent how the students had displayed both situated cognition and socially-shared cognition (Emerging Theories of Learning and the Role of Technology Doak) and, in my opinion, this is what it means to have an authentic learning environment where students are taking an active role in their learning communities. Even students who typically struggle with maths were engaged and able to participate, even when they needed additional support in the computation.

(As a brief aside Dan’s blog largely lists 3-Act tasks for middle and high school but there are other educators such as Graham Fletcher who took influence from Dan and created their own lessons. Fletcher’s blog can be found here.)

Could there be issues that arise from new pedagogies?

More than ever, my school have a lot of emerging English speakers joining the upper elementary grade levels and even into middle school. For many of these students, teachers will ask other members of their learning community or paraprofessionals to translate instructions. In some cases, however, this approach to inclusivity is having the adverse effect of some students using their home languages more than English. At recess times we are seeing a split community and so I would ask what other schools have done or if this has been an issue? Our language policy is centered around honoring the home language, but perhaps too much so? I find myself wondering how it is possible to honor the home language while simultaneously ensuring that English becomes our shared language.



Seeking opportunities to go One Step Beyond.

What a difference a week makes

red tulips on yellow tulips field
Photo by Eric Prouzet on Unsplash

Technology integration has always been important to me and it is the reason I joined COETAIL. I incorporate a lot of technology into modifications and accommodations for students to find success in the general education setting.  For example, I have some students who are using Dragon dictation software for speech-to-text. I have other students who use Storyline Online and Epic to access books and have texts read aloud to them. I also have some students using Lexia in order to further develop their reading and phonics skills at home.

One of the reasons I feel that technology integration is vital to the classroom is that “research has suggested that technology-enabled project learning has the greatest benefits as these allow students to be intellectually challenged while providing them with a realistic snapshot of what real-world problems look like.” (Brian Host, Education Technology, May 2019).  I want my students to feel empowered to participate and collaborate so I embrace the opportunities that tech integration, through mediums such as video production or Flip Grid, can offer students. This year, however, I have been faced with the challenge of time. I often feel that I do not have enough contact time with students and so I have been limited in how I integrate technology in my own classroom.


TPACK model diagram
Image by tpack.org

In this video, Jen Lehotsky mentions that the three circles in the Venn diagram will not be of equal size as those pertaining to pedagogical and content knowledge will be larger than technological knowledge. If you were to visit my classroom a week ago, however, you would have seen that all tech integration that was happening was set firmly in the substitution or augmentation brackets of SAMR.

Image from Transformation, Technology, and Education (Ruben R. Puentedura)

I found learning about both the SAMR and TPACK framework really interesting. I knew that there was an element missing from how I was integrating technology into my classes but I couldn’t label it, now I can. Moving students’ work into Modification and Redefinition has been the biggest hurdle for me this year. I feel pressured by a lack of contact time with students and using a dedicated reading program that they are comfortable with. As a homeroom teacher, I had more opportunities for authentic and creative tech integration which has been lacking this year.

Something Changed

This week, however, I had the opportunity to include some video production in one of my classes. I have a student who is struggling to make progress in maths. She is able to solve grade-level maths problems, however, when she is working at home she has a lot of anxiety and doubts herself. In order to help her, I worked with her to create a video detailing the process for a 2-digit division. She talked herself through each step of the process and then edited the video using iMovie. I am excited to hear how this process helped her on Monday and, if it was useful, I will continue to help support her in creating tutorial videos.

I feel as though I am starting to see more opportunities for going (at least) one step beyond substitution with tech integration that will support my students’ progress towards ILP (Individualized learning Plan) goals. Time will always be a challenge, however, I am now feeling more confident in finding times when I can use technology to further support students. I am looking forward to hearing my students’ reflection and now thinking about ways that, if she feels confident, she could share her video tutorials with others.