Final Thoughts as I Leave the Land of LET Intro…

We have come to the end of our formal journey in LET and I thought it would be a good idea to finish with some final thoughts about what I have taken from the subject.

The most important thing for me has been the confidence I have gained in using technology, particularly this blog. I have certainly grown up in a digital age, however, at times I feel like I am a bit of a novice with some kinds of technology, so it was nice having the opportunity to explore it in such a scaffolded way here. I have already begun thinking how I could get my students to use a blog in my classes next year. Being an English teacher, I think it could be a great way to document novel studies. Students could set up categories relating to characters, themes and settings; they could incorporate pictures to help describe certain sections of the novel and how they interpret it in their own minds; they could comment on each others’ ideas and help build each others’ understanding of the book… I am quite excited thinking about where I could take it!

I am fortunate in that the school I work at has really embraced the idea of technology in the classroom (all students a required to have their own iPad in class), so there is nothing stopping me from embracing the idea myself and being as creative and innovative as I can with my pedagogy. Lots to look forward to next year!

Finally, I want to finish with a mind map of how I now see learning and educational technology. Again, this is not an exhaustive display, however, it emphasizes the main points that i have taken away from the course.

My reshaped thoughts on learning and educational technology

My reshaped thoughts on learning and educational technology

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Portfolio Assignment 5: Reflecting on Peers’ Blogs

Our last assignment involves us looking at at what our classmates have produced over the last couple of months. I think this is a great idea, and is something that I encourage my students to do in my own classroom. Peer evaluation is a great way to explore what those around you have been doing, and it is often surprising how many different directions students can take with one task. I teach students who are 12-14 years old, so often I will spend some time talking about how to give constructive feedback before they actually begin the process. I’m sure that Masters level students are more than ready to jump straight into it though! I found a nice little clip that introduces people to the idea of giving critical feedback and why it is important:

I had a look at Lara and Andres’ blogs, and here are my thoughts on how they went:

Lara

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog, Lara! You provided an extremely rich discussion of all of the areas that we touched upon in this subject. It was clear that you really engaged with the content and made connections to your own life.

I particularly liked the way you kept building on your initial mind map. It was a very clear and effective way of documenting your growth throughout the course. I also thought you were very adventurous in terms of what features you included on your blog, such as the Google Map and the survey. It is clear that you enjoy exploring new technology and this has resulted in a very interesting piece of work.

The structure of your blog is logical and easy to follow, and I like that you have added in certain categories to document little things like your growing understanding of what self-regulated learning is.

I hope you had fun creating the blog, because it was certainly a pleasure to read. Well done!

Andres

You have some really interesting insights, Andres! You have clearly engaged with the core readings and you have written in a style that is personal and allows the reader to follow you in your growing understanding of what learning and educational technology means to you. I also like the way that you have limited the number of posts; rather than posting about lots of little things you have written very substantial pieces on the main topics, and I think this helps logically and neatly structure your blog.

I think your blog is very interesting visually also. The way you have cleverly integrated pictures, diagrams and images immediately grabs the reader’s attention.

Great work!

Portfolio Assignment 4: Continuing to build on my view of learning and educational technology

I have continued to further develop my understanding of what learning and educational technology actually mean. I was unfortunately unable to make it to the group jigsaw activity and lecture as I was in Russia (see previous post) but I have still been exploring the main ideas in this course.

Part of the individual work was to watch a video about Romanian perspectives on educational technology (http://vimeo.com/75768528), so I have done that and have briefly summarized the key points that I took away from it.

      • Romania have made a concerted effort to introduce technology to classrooms in the last few decades;
      • There are 10 years compulsory education in Romania and education is generalized and free;
      • In 2001 there was a significant push in Romania to introduce ICT to all levels of education;
      • In reality, it has been difficult to introduce technology to all levels of education, however, Valahia University (where the presenters of the video are employed) have made a very conscious effort to train in-service teachers to utilize ICT in their classrooms;
      • They introduced a program to do so in 4 phases lasting between 2001 and 2008, and have combined with international universities to develop and implement projects;
      • The Romanian government have assisted the inclusion of ICT in education by providing financial support to families so that they can buy the necessary hardware;
      • Widespread internet access in increasing (in 2000 3.6% of the Romanian population were using the internet and in 2010 this figure had risen to 35.5%), although this is still an area that needs to be addressed;Another area for further investigation is how ICT can be used in assessment in education; and
      • It is also recognized that although ICT can present wonderful learning opportunities in the classroom, curriculum are not written based on online learning, so traditional learning methods must not be thrown away altogether.

The discussion that is happening in Romania seemed very relevant to the discussion that have been brought up in our classes over the last few weeks. The fact that they have so highly emphasized the need for proper teacher training in the use of ICT is an issue that we have commonly identified in today’s society. Some of us in class can remember teachers in school who were completely dumbfounded by technology, and the students in their class were much more proficient in using it than the teacher themselves. Furthermore, Romania have addressed the need for professional development to continue to happen after teachers have graduated from their in-service training. Technology is developing at such a rapid rate that it makes sense to constantly educate teachers about how it can best be utilized in the classroom.

The other really important point made in the video and one that has again been brought up in our class discussions is finding the balance between incorporating too much or not enough technology into the classroom. ICT can certainly be used to enhance creative and innovative learning experiences, however, it can not be used as the sole method of delivering content.

I am also interested to see what will happen in the future where assessment and ICT are concerned. The possibilities certainly seem exciting. For example, simple quizzes set up online that give students immediate feedback are much more time efficient than when the teacher has to correct individual papers. This can then free up time for that can be spent focusing on areas that students need assistance with (area identified in these online assessments). I think that certain subjects are more conducive to this kind of assessment though. Studying literature, for example, would generally include assessments in the form of essays; it is hard to see how ICT could ever replace a teacher sitting down and reading through a students work to provide constructive feedback. Being an English teacher myself, at times there is nothing more fearful than sitting down with a pile of essays, knowing that the next 3 hours are going to be consumed by reading through pages and pages of writing. On the other hand, I can not imagine providing my students with meaningful feedback in any other way; although it is time consuming, I think it is an extremely valuable process.

I definitely took a lot away from the video, and it has made me reflect on what happens in my own teaching environment.

A trip to Russia

I have managed to strike a nice balance between uni and traveling while I have been in Oulu, and last weekend I was able to add Russia to the list of places I have been to! It was a 5 day trip organised by the Erasmus Student Network, and I will give a brief overview of what our trip entailed:

Day 1: We left on Thursday 3 October and the first part of our journey consisted of a bus ride to Helsinki. I was initially excited about the drive (despite it taking 9 hours with breaks); that excitement quickly dissipated though, as the countryside was beautiful but very monotonous after a while, and it’s always annoying having to sit in the one spot for too long. After finally arriving in Helsinki, we were quickly rushed onto the ship that was to take us to St Petersburg overnight. Much to my horror, the ship was perhaps worse than the bus. The cabins were tiny, so luckily we were asleep for most of the journey.

Day 2: After over 24 hours of travel we finally arrived in St Petersburg and I loved it from the minute I arrived. The city is just breathtaking- the colours and magnitude of the buildings are spectacular, and I was really not expecting this despite hearing how lovely St Petersburg is. We began with a bus tour of the city, which was great in that we got our bearings and could start to work out areas that we wanted to come back to. By the time we finished the tour and got to our hotel it was well into the afternoon, so we spent the rest of the day wandering the main street and just getting a feel for the place. We had dinner in this excellent little restaurant that seemed to be reasonably priced for the quality of food they were serving. I wanted to try traditional Russian food, so I had pickled herring and little lamb dumplings, which were absolutely delicious. We called it a night after that; we needed to be on our A-game for a busy day of sightseeing the next day!

Day 3: We began the day with a trip to Catherine Palace, which was about a 45 minute drive from the city centre. I was surprised to hear it was one of FIVE summer residences that the Russian royal family owned and used. It was a most beautiful palace, as the pictures below can attest to. We had a guided tour of the palace and then had the chance to wander around the gardens, which were equally as impressive. We returned to the city in the afternoon and grabbed an early dinner before heading to a performance of Swan Lake at the Hermitage Theatre. I don’t normally go to the ballet but I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to see a Russian ballet in the Hermitage, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Day 4: Our last day in St Petersburg began with a visit to the Winter Palace, which is also now the Hermitage Museum. The building is most impressive, which appropriately complements the astonishing collection that is housed in the museum. The collection is enormous and I felt like I barely covered it in the 2 hours that I spent there. It was extremely impressive. Once I was finished with the museum I went to another impressive building- the Church of Spilled Blood. It is so visually striking that I will not describe it in any more detail but simply let the photos below do the talking. We finished our excellent weekend with coffee and cake in the most divine food store on the main street. It was pointed out to us by our guide on the first day and I’m glad she did because it was just lovely. Definitely my idea of a nice afternoon! Unfortunately we had to return to the ship and begin the long journey home though…

Day 5: We arrived in Helsinki by ship at 8 am and then spent the whole day on the bus back to Oulu. I actually found it quite productive as I managed to squeeze in a bit of Finnish homework (well more than a bit, actually- 9 hours is a long time!). Although we spent the whole day on the bus, I was still very sleepy when I got back home and was definitely pleased to see my own bed again!

All in all I had a fabulous time in St Petersburg. I never really thought about traveling to Russia but when this opportunity came up  was very excited to take it, and very pleased that I did on reflection.


Portfolio Assignment 3: Collaborative Learners, Self-regulated Learners and Experts

We began the week with a lecture on theoretical approaches to learning. It was divided into three sections: collaborative learning, self-regulated learning, and the learning of expertise. Below are some of the main points I took from each section:

  1. Collaborative learning:
  • This describes the process when a group of people have a joint task and are required to construct a joint understanding through social understanding and interaction- it is by working with others that our own thoughts develop;
  • It describes a space where group members build knowledge together;
  • It is not, however, one specific theory, pedagogical method or psychological process;
  • It is related to social constructivism;
  • It is NOT the same as co-operative learning, as there is more interaction with peers in collaborative learning- co-operative learning is more about individuals completing sections of a task then bringing it together at the end;
  • It is an important area of research at the moment, given the importance our current society places on problem solving based on networks of knowledge; and finally
  • Not all interactions lead to high levels of collaborative learning- the group are more likely to be successful if their discussions are based around group rather than task issues, as this leads to stronger social-emotional connections in the group.

2. Self-regulated learning:

  • This describes a process in which learners personally activate and sustain cognition, affects and behaviors to evaluate and regulate learning, motivation and behavior.;
  • It is a lifelong process and can be taught and learned;
  • It is usually a cyclical process;
  • It is also affected by the environment;
  • Zimmerman presents one of the most commonly used models in which three phases are described: forethought phase, where task analysis and self-motivational beliefs occur; performance phase, where self-control and observation take place; self-reflection phase, where self-judgement and self-reaction occur.
  • It is believed that those who self-regulate learn and achieve at higher levels, they are motivated to engage in deep understandings and can adopt strategies given certain learning situations; and finally
  • Motivation regulation increases students’ persistence and they may be likely to choose more challenging tasks because of this.
Here is a visual representation of Zimmerman's three phase model

Here is a visual representation of Zimmerman’s three phase model

3. Learning of expertise:

  • Expertise simply means learning;
  • They are experts in expressing themselves;
  • Many people have lots of experience but are not necessarily experts; and finally
  • There are three overlapping dimensions: knowledge construction, expert-like performance and self-regulation.

We were asked to think about what out ‘islands’ of expertise were, and below I have set up a PowerPoint slide in an attempt to illustrate mine.

Islands of expertise

The focus of this week’s workshop was to investigate the three concepts discussed in the lecture: collaborative learning, self-regulated learning and expertise. The article I read (see bottom of post) focused on self-regulated learning, and in particular, how goal orientation affects self-regulated learning. I really enjoyed reading the article and it seemed to make a lot of sense. The conclusion that was made at the end of the article was that setting specific kinds of goals before undertaking a learning activity can profoundly influence the cognition, motivation, learning and performance that occur. The preferred type of goal was labeled as an approach-mastery goal. Basically this type of goal is one in which the learner seeks to make specific targets or outcomes with a focus on increasing their competence in the given area. The learner is concerned with their own progress, rather than consumed by what others around them are doing. If they engage in tasks with this mindset, greater self-regulated and therefore more productive learning is expected to occur.

After consultation with the other members in my group, we decided three key things to take out of the readings about self-regulated learning were:

  1. Self-regulated learning can be learned and taught, and goal setting is important if self-regulated leaning is to occur.
  2. Strategies such as time management and recognizing good cognitive strategies are essential in developing self-regulated learning.
  3. Motivation and self-efficacy is integral to good practices of self-regulated learning.

Our final task in this workshop was to try and capture the three key concepts in pictures. We had to be a bit creative in how we did this, but hopefully the meaning is clear in each of our images!

This image depicts an expert learner assisting a learner who is on the way to becoming one.

This image depicts an expert learner assisting a learner who is on the way to becoming one.

This image shows students working together with a joint goal and physical interaction. Students assist each other in developing thier own understandings in collaborative learning.

This image shows students working together with a joint goal and physical interaction. Students assist each other in developing their own understandings in collaborative learning.

The idea here was to capture a motivated, confident, successful self-regulated learner. Arianne looks strong and successful!

The idea here was to capture a motivated, confident, successful self-regulated learner. Arianne looks strong and successful!

Article: Pintrich, R. P. (2000). The Role of Goal Orientation in Self-Regulated Learning. In M. Boekaerts, P.R. Pintrich, & M. Zeidner (Eds.), Handbook of Self-Regulation (Chap 14). San Diego, CA: Academic Press

Portfolio Assignment 2: An updated view on learning and educational technology

After attending the first lecture and workshop session, I can now reflect on how my ideas about learning and education technology may be starting to change.

The lecture was split into two parts. Sanna Järveläs began by giving a brief overview of learning sciences and what it means to engage in deep learning. This is a concept that is not new to me, however, by no means does this make me an expert in how to engage students in this practice! I understand deep learning as the ability to understand and use knowledge in complex and abstract ways, as oppose to surface learning which involves mere transfer of facts. Deep learning is related to problem solving and applying existing knowledge in abstract circumstances. The aim to promote deep learning is an integral part of most teacher training I suspect, and it was certainly true of my own training.

Sanna’s lecture not only reintroduced this idea of deep learning, but also sought to communicate how technology can assist us as teachers in fostering deep learning in our students. Computers encourage such learning as they are able to represent abstract knowledge in complex forms: graphs, images and videos are examples of this. Furthermore, computers allow students to effectively articulate their developing knowledge as it is happening, which is important for reflection and individual progress.

Sanna went on to describe the importance of collaborative learning and how it can also contribute to deep learning. Importantly, collaboration is not to be confused with cooperation. Collaboration is about interacting with peers and constructing meanings together, whereas cooperation does not necessarily mean that peer integration is occurring; individual students may work on separate parts of a project which come together at the end, however, the individual contributions have largely been created in isolation. Sanna’s blog can be accessed here.

The students here are working on the same project together. The are interacting with one another to achieve a common goal.

The students here are working on the same project together. The are interacting with one another to achieve a common goal.

The second part of the lecture was presented by Paul Kirschner. He provided an interesting analogy that made reference to a passion of his that I also love: cooking! We can think about learning and educational technology as being elements you would find in a recipe: ingredients, utensils and method. When we follow the recipe carefully, we can get some delicious results, however, if we fail to adhere to certain rules in the world of cooking, the results can be disastrous! Paul stated that we need to have a deep understanding of how these elements work in isolation as well as in conjunction with one another if we are to produce successful learning with education technology. I think it is an interesting idea and I was certainly engaged by his presentation! More information about Paul can be found here.

We concluded the week with our first workshop. During the week we had each read a specific article, and the workshop was our chance to share what we had learnt with our peers. At the conclusion of the workshop, our group put down some thought about learning and educational technology, and the product is presented in the list below:

  • Learning is adding and building knowledge to existing background knowledge and experiences (these are individual for each student);
  • Active learning needs to take place- students need to recognise what they already know and how they can use this to build on their understanding of certain concepts;
  • The teacher needs to encourage deep learning so that students can understand whole concepts and how they can apply this knowledge in real world situations;
  • Learning is a lifelong process and is not confined to happening only within the classroom;
  • Technology enhances learning by bringing real world problems to the classroom and it activates more complex thinking and cognitive processes;
  • The interactivity of technology motivates students and makes feedback more consistent and efficient, encouraging constant reflection;
  • Technology can be used to offer more opportunities for active and collaborative learning, encouraging deeper learning;
  • More advanced activities and engagement in more complex problem solving is more available with the use of technology;
  • Technology highlights the reasoning processes used to solve problems.
To be a good cook you need to know your ingredients, equipment and recipe, and how they best work with each other.

To be a good cook you need to know your ingredients, equipment and recipe, and how they best work with each other.

In summary it was a busy and productive week. There is lots of food for thought here (thanks Paul) and I can only imagine where we will venture with our investigation of learning and educational technology in the weeks to come!

A trip to Helsinki

A couple of weekends ago I ventured to Helsinki with a couple of other exchange students. It was the first time for all of us and we were very excited to check out the capital of Finland.

We caught an overnight train on Friday and arrived bright eyed and bushy tailed (I wish) on Saturday morning at 9 AM. After locating our hostel and dumping our bags, we then caught a ferry to Suomenlinna, a maritime fortress just off the coast of Helsinki. We spent the whole afternoon there and finally caught the ferry back to Helsinki when it was time for dinner. After devouring a lovely Indian meal, we hit the town and experienced Helsinki nightlife. It was a bit busier than Oulu, that’s for sure!

A beautiful shot of the maritime fortress

A beautiful shot of the maritime fortress

We had a pretty slow start on Sunday but finally made our way from our hostel into the centre of the city where we participated in a 3 hour walking tour. I thought it was excellent; although our guide was not a native Finn, he told us a great deal about the history and culture of Finland. We stopped at the big open market near the harbor, and I had one of the best pieces of salmon I have ever eaten (I had to experience some traditional Finnish food in the capital). After the tour, we made our own way around the city before collecting our bags from the hostel and making our way to the station, ready to make our return trip to Oulu.

A group shot in Helsinki

A group shot in Helsinki

It was a short stay, but I had a fabulous time. One thing I know is that I will be back in Helsinki again before my time in Finland is up!