Saturday, April 30, 2011

Reaction Paper

EDT 630 has been a fantastic learning experience through online discussion. Based on my experience of taking two online classes through UAB, online discussion groups have become my most succesful learning tool. I have experienced very few obstacles in participating in online discussion. I do recognize that there is a learning curve associated with becoming familiar with Blackboard's functions and capabalities. The most difficult part of participating in this type of learning forum is familiarizing one's self with the technology associated with the online class.

Online discussion has many advantages over face to face discussions. Face to face discussions are limited by time constraints. Online discussions can take place anytime during a day, multiple times a day, to several times a week. In addition, everyone has a chance to participate in online discussions. In fact, students are usually required to participate several times throughout the course. Students attending lecture based classrooms may never participate in a discussion and are limited in the amount of input they can achieve.

Students truly learn from one another in online discussions. I learned much more from my online classmates than I expected. We shared all kinds of learning activities that have met with success in our actual classrooms. For the classroom teacher, this sharing of knowledge, techniques, and teaching strategies is invaluable. In addition, we helped each other throughout this course to create more significant projects, conquer technical problems, and offer critical advice.

I felt completely at ease when critiquing the work of my peers.  I believe that all members of the class understood the value of peer review and welcomed any suggestions made by their classmates. Our critiques sparked creativity, cleaned up minor errors, and prompted us to try a little harder. I learned to think outside of my box and to see things from different perspectives. I think that we were able to critique and discuss without offending each other because we were respectful and appreciative of comments and suggestions. I found that it was easy to critique someone else's work by pointing out the good qualities of the work, as well as those that might be improved upon.

In conclusion, this class was successful because I learned a great deal both from my instructor, as well as my peers. I will look forward to taking what I have learned and using it frequently in my classroom. In the end, I believe that if my students benefit from what I learn in continuing my education, I am succeeding both as a teacher and as a student. I would not hesitate to take another online class, based on my experiences with this class.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Reflections on Constructivism

I believe that the Constructivism Learning Theory is by far the most challenging and effective approach to teaching and learning. This approach requires a great deal of preparation by the teacher, as well as extensive participation by the student. Although it requires a lot of work, the benefits of this learning approach are worth the effort. Constructivism and social constructivism offer student-centered activities and lessons that go far beyond the memorization and drill of behaviorism. The exploration, discussion and creativity required of students engaged in a constructivist activity allows for true authentic learning to take place. Students who participate in these types of activities are engaging in the world around them. The social nature of this approach to learning requires that they also engage with other students, working in pairs or groups, learning and sharing with each other. They are allowed to take ownership of their learning, exploring ideas that are truly interesting to the individual student. By tapping into their own prior knowledge, as well as the prior knowledge of their peers, they build upon that knowledge, adding additional information to their long term memory.

Working with peers is a key component to this learning theory. Students, who able to work productively within a group are learning how to collaborate, engage, discuss, and argue their point of view constructively. These skills will be essential for students as they enter the work force. As students work independently and with peers, the teacher’s main task is to provide relevant learning experiences and to guide students in their learning process. This differs drastically from the behaviorist approach, which requires that the teacher lead all activities.

Technology seems to be a particularly valuable asset for teachers using the social constructivist approach. Although the WebQuest and newsletter were by far the most difficult assignments to complete, I believe they were also the most useful and engaging assignments I have created thus far. Through our online discussions, also a social constructivist activity, I learned of several intriguing uses of technology that support this teaching approach. As a student myself, I have found that our discussion forums have been by far the most useful part of this class. Through our discussions, I have learned many new techniques that will be useful in the classroom. We have all learned so much from each other, as we all have common interests.

After studying all three learning theories, I still believe that balance between the three is the basis of a good educational program. Each approach, behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism has a place in our educational system. However, constructivism allows our students to reach their full potential and achieve the higher order learning that we all strive to give our students.