Category Archives: Weekly Blog Posts

A Look into Learning Theories

Learning is something that sustains our society and drives our world. It is integrated into every facet of our lives. Are you curious how to bake bread? Are you interested in becoming a skilled guitar player? Do you want to know how to solve an intricate math problem? You can learn it! You can learn through storytelling, reading books, researching online, or through experience.

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The list is endless.

If you’re like me, however, you are probably unaware of the theories that are behind this driving force of learning. Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism… these are all learning theories that have been established over time. Little did I know, these theories (and more) have been interwoven in my teaching practices throughout the past seven years. Paul Stevens-Fulbrook does a great job of breaking down the meaning of each theory in regards to education.

Behaviorism:

“Behaviourism is based on the idea that knowledge is independent and on the exterior of the learner. In a behaviourist’s mind, the learner is a blank slate that should be provided with the information to be learnt.”

This theory is about repeating certain actions and then receiving a reward or consequence based on that action.

Cognitivism:

“Cognitivism focuses on the idea that students process information they receive rather than just responding to a stimulus.”

This theory allows the student to reorganize information with their past knowledge, process it, and then apply it to their own world. In the article, “Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing Critical Features From an Instructional Design Perspective”, Peggy A. Ertmer and Timothy J. Newby state that “when a learner understands how to apply knowledge in different contexts, then transfer has occurred.”

Constructivism

“Constructivism is based on the premise that we construct learning new ideas based on our own prior knowledge and experiences. Learning, therefore, is unique to the individual learner. “

The theory of constructivism is not about facts or memorization, but instead, it allows the learner to gain knowledge based on interactions and experiences.

Theories in my Teaching

All three of these theories have showed up in my classroom in various ways. They have even played a part in my pedagogy, and some currently still do.

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I am intentional about cultivating deep discussions with my students, using real-world examples in my lessons, and encouraging problem solving in learning… which all resonate with cognitivism. I have facilitated inquiry based learning, group collaboration, and research projects in my grade 3 classroom… which all fall under the theory of constructivism. However, the theory that I connect with the least is behaviorism.

When I first started teaching, I didn’t understand the negative connotations that this “action and reward” theory can have in education. I am guilty of using it in the past for different activities in my classroom, such as classroom incentives, student behaviour charts, and positive feedback or reward for good behaviour. I now realize that when the theory of behaviorism is used in this way, it has the potential to cause shame and guilt within our students. Like I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post, specifically about Class Dojo, it “can create a negative label for students at a young age and wrongfully gives teachers the opportunity to present their own biases towards certain children.”

My Connection to Connectivism

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As I evolve and grow as an educator, especially as an educator who uses EdTech, so do my theories and educational practices. I have never been able to put a name to my current educational pedagogy, but through our readings this week, connectivism resonated with me. This theory has been established within the internet era, unlike the three other theories mentioned above. I appreciate the modern take on learning that connectivism brings. In an article called “Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age”, George Siemens reminds us that “over the last twenty years, technology has reorganized how we live, how we communicate, and how we learn”, and “learning now occurs in a variety of ways – through communities of practice, personal networks, and through completion of work-related tasks.” The theory of connectivism gives freedom to the individual to learn in their own way and to seek knowledge through different avenues. Learning doesn’t necessarily have a start and an end.

As I look forward in my teaching career, my desire is to give ownership to the students in their learning process so that they learn the skills necessary to “flourish in a digital era”. My pedagogy and practice may continue to change over time, but my desire to instill a love for learning in my students will stay the same. At the end of the day, isn’t that what it’s all about?

-Amanda Brace

The Deeper Definition of EdTech

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Technology has been a part of my classroom ever since I started teaching. Over the years, I’ve developed a passion for using technology in education, but my definition of Educational Technology, otherwise known as EdTech, has evolved and changed over time. There are many ways to describe EdTech, but according to Wikipedia, it’s “the combined use of computer hardware, software, and educational theory and practice to facilitate learning” and “improve user academic performance.” If I were to critically examine this definition of EdTech, I would say it’s lacking some substance. If I looked at this definition when I first became familiar with EdTech seven years ago, I would have simply agreed with it.

When I first started teaching, I was eager to use technology in my new grade 3 classroom. I didn’t have a lot of experience with it, but I was creative, ambitious, and willing to experiment through trial and error. However, when I first began, I used EdTech for the sole purpose of using EdTech. It was for the image and the anticipation of the “cool” tricks I could perform in my classroom. I didn’t think about the purpose, the repercussions, and most importantly, the privacy or protection of my students. I was unaware that with the use of EdTech comes responsibility to do my research.

Neil Postman, an American author, educator, and critic of media and culture, wrote an article that analyzes and critiques modern advancements and change in technology. He reminds us that “we need to proceed with our
eyes wide open so that we may use technology rather than be used by it.” This is something I didn’t consider when I first started my journey with EdTech as a first year teacher. Postman lists “5 Things We Need To Know About Technological Change.” The ideas can be summed up like this:

  1. “For every advantage a new technology offers, there is always a corresponding disadvantage.” Lisa talks more about this idea in her recent post, “The Price of Technology.”

  2. “The advantages and disadvantages of new technologies are never distributed evenly among the population.” He suggests that we ask ourselves important questions when we use technology and media, such as:

    Why do you do this?
    What interests do you represent?
    To whom are you hoping to give power?
    From whom will you be withholding power?

    As educators, it’s absolutely critical that we ask these questions.

  3. “Every technology has a prejudice.” Postman goes on to say that technology and media have biases. He reminds us that “it predisposes us to favor and value certain perspectives and accomplishments.”

  4. “We must be cautious about technological innovation” because “the consequences of technological change are always vast, often unpredictable and largely irreversible.”

  5. “When a technology becomes mythic, it is always dangerous because it is then accepted as it is, and is therefore not easily susceptible to modification or control.” Postman means that when we think of technology as the “be-all and end-all”, then there is no room to be critical and conscious of what we are using or promoting. He encourages us to ” view technology as a strange intruder.”
Fractus Learning (Mike Ribble’s 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship)

I still have a long way to go, but with the knowledge and insight I’ve gained through my teaching experience and my Master’s classes, I have come to realize that EdTech has multiple layers. These layers include digital access, security and privacy, equality and diversity, digital citizenship… a lot of which are included in Mike Ribble’s “9 Elements of Digital Citizenship.” It is not just about the “cool” tricks I can do in my classroom. EdTech needs to have deeper meaning and purpose, because at the end of the day, EdTech is not the teacher. So what does a deeper definition of EdTech look like? Here is what I would include in my definition today:

Educational Technology: “Using technology purposefully in education to enhance learning, empower students, provide access, establish protection and security, critically analyze media and news, and give equal opportunity.”

What does your deeper definition of EdTech look like?

-Amanda Brace

Back to the Blogging World

After a whole summer off, I am back to the blogging world. It’s hard to believe that 2 months have come and gone, but here we are… ready for another semester. I accomplished a lot this summer, but more importantly, I rested and took a break. After rupturing my Achilles tendon, navigating the world of online teaching, and isolating for months due to COVID-19, I was ready for a summer of relaxation.

Instead of travelling to Europe like I had originally planned, I spent the summer at my cabin enjoying time with family. I read books, slept in, and worked on a building project with my dad. I tried things this summer that I have never had the time for in the past (did I mention that I dyed my hair pink?) I could finally slow down and enjoy what was in front of me.

Now that I had my time of rest and rehab, I am ready for another Master’s class and year of teaching. I am looking forward to learning more about the foundations of EdTech so that I have a better understanding of the online tools and platforms that I use in my own life and with my students.

Even though I am excited to learn about the content in this class, it’s really the people that make it worthwhile. I don’t know about you, but my favourite part about these online classes is the community that we build. I can’t wait to connect with each of you on Twitter, through blogging, and in our weekly night classes. So here’s to another semester… let’s do this!

-Amanda