Throughout my time spent in the MAET Summer Cohort, I continually reflected
upon my experiences, the assignments and readings, and how I could bring my
experiences back into my own educational setting. The learning completed through this
three course cohort has mattered to me greatly, particularly because of the strong
emphasis on the psychology of learning. As a teacher that came to education in an
unconventional way, I found the focus on learning theories and the continual theme of
understanding understanding powerful in bringing awareness to how my students learn
and how I present and engage information to my students. The experience of this cohort
will inevitably influence what I do in the future because it has encompassed not only the
fundamental principles of learning, but also incorporated technology into those learning
experiences. As the world continues to move forward in technological advances,
educational technology will remain a growing field. With this in mind, educators such as
myself will benefit students by exploring the uses of technology in the classroom. For
these reasons and many more, the experience of the MAET Summer Cohort has been a
worthwhile and meaningful exploration of learning and technology.
As the Summer Cohort continues to progress, there are continual themes that run
through my mind and will follow me well into the future. The readings in conjunction
with the assignments and classroom discussions provided a base to build my own
knowledge and synthesize the information into my educational setting. There are three
core areas of learning this summer that have been particularly meaningful to me:
Understanding understanding, the TPACK model and motivation and praise.
Beginning first with the idea of understanding understanding, one of the most
pivotal moments I experienced from this cohort was from the Wiggins and McTighe
chapter from Understanding by Design. Wiggins and McTighe write “How well do we
understanding understanding? What is it we are after when we say we want students to
understand this or that?” I use the term “understand” or “understanding” plenty in my
own teaching, but I have never taken the time to contemplate what I mean when I use
such phrases. How do I define understanding? What exactly is it that I want my students
to understand? How will I be able to measure if they meet these goals? Questions such as
these have become common features in my pattern of thought after reading the Wiggins
and McTighe piece and have encouraged me to identify more thoroughly the expectations
for acquisition of knowledge. When I use a phrase like “understand” I must first know
what it is I mean.
Even more significant to understanding understanding is the author’s point that
“we (teachers) may not adequately understand this goal.” As I read this chapter, it
carried great weight for me as an educator because I know there are times in the past in
which I did not fully comprehend what I wanted my students to understand. I needed to
understand my own understanding before asking it of my students.
Solidifying the concepts and pattern of thought Wiggins and McTighe inspired,
was the video project assignment Understanding Understanding. This video project
brought to life the misconceptions we all hold, young and old, and aimed to put in
perspective how these misconceptions become engrained in our beliefs. In further
support of the Understanding Understanding video project is the article Teaching for
Conceptual Change: Confronting Children’s Experience by Watson and Kopnicek. Out
of all the articles explored this summer, this particular piece was the most significant for
me as a learner because it traced one teacher’s step toward breaking misconceptions of
her students. While it is theory based, joining an educator on her path to shatter the
misconceptions of her students brought the concept of understanding understanding into a
practical setting. This article also brought forth my own questioning of the
misconceptions my students might hold and how I will tackle addressing those
Additionally, according to Levstik and Barton, authors of Doing History:
Investigating with Children in Elementary and Middle Schools, “To help students
develop their understanding, teachers must directly address the knowledge students bring
with them to school, and build on it whenever possible” (11). This suggests that students
may (and realistically probably are) walking into the classroom with some
misconceptions. This article, in conjunction with the other articles and video project,
have helped me understand that I need to be more proactive in my classroom in
identifying common misconceptions and working toward teaching for conceptual change.
While understanding understanding and misconceptions were an integral part to
my learning experience this summer, the TPACK model also helped shape my thought
process. The diagram of the circles Pedagogy, Content and Technology all meeting in
the center with a central star is a simple expression of a very complicated goal—a goal I
now understand more thoroughly. According to Mishra and Koehler “The skills,
competencies, and knowledge specified by the TPACK framework require teachers to go
beyond their knowledge of particular disciplines, technologies, and pedagogical
techniques in isolation.” This suggests that teachers must look at all three areas as a
whole, rather than remote and separate entities. I realize now after contemplating the
TPACK framework that there have been times in my teaching where I have stood alone
in the technology circle or stranded myself in the content circle without overlapping into
other areas. The stakes become higher and the challenges more difficult when trying to
reach the center star, but I have come to learn that the central apex is the most powerful
learning experience for students and it is what I will continually aim for when bringing
technology into the classroom. As evidence by the TPACK framework, teaching in
isolation of one circle is not as effective as teaching from the central zone.
The final areas of study that influenced my learning significantly this summer are
the ideas of motivation in learners and praise. In Student Motivation to Learn, Lumsden
states “When intrinsically motivated, students tend to employ strategies that demand
more effort and that enable them to process information more deeply.” Based on
Lumsden’s reading, dissecting intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation helped me to clarify
my pedagogy as a teacher and reflect on how I motivate students to learn. In many ways,
I began to think more deeply about the pedagogy circle in the TPACK framework and
what motivated students when technology entered the classroom.
In addition to Lumsden’s article authenticating approaches to motivating learning,
Dweck’s Caution—Praise Can Be Dangerous illuminated new ideas to consider, reflect
upon and act upon. I have always accepted that all praise is good praise, even with my
college students. As many of my students are first generation college students, they often
feel they don’t belong in the college classroom or don’t deserve a higher education.
Praise has been one tool to build their self-confidence and allow them to believe in
themselves and their abilities as students. Dweck’s article, however, introduced an
opportunity to analyze the praise I have been giving students and deliberate on the best
method of praise. Particularly engaging in Dweck’s article is the mention of labels
associated with praise and how these labels can often end up damaging a student’s
motivation rather than increasing it. This has left me with a great deal to mediate on in
my classroom as I continue to balance empowering praise versus empty praise.
While there are many ideas to reflect on during the summer cohort, there is also
the opportunity to look ahead toward the future. The central ideas that are important to
my professional development over the course of the next five years are the topics of
computers and composition. Within the large framework of computers and composition,
there are several significant subtopics that I will continue to investigate, reflect upon, and
follow as part of a personal learning program. These subtopics include Web 2.0 tools,
twenty-first and digital literacy, and composition pedagogy. Presented below is a brief
explanation of each subtopic and its relevancy to my professional development
complimented by print and web resources that will aid in the process of development.
Topic 1: Web 2.0 and Technology Tools
As the world becomes more digital each day, technology tools continue to
emerge. Understanding technology tools and their redesigned purposes for educational
use is an important topic in my professional development because part of my goal as an
educator is to prepare students to write and contribute in a multimodal world. This means
that we as educators are preparing students to function in jobs that may not exist right
now but will exist in the future. Adequately arming students with knowledge and
comfort in using technology will be a critical component to their entrance into the 21st
century job market. Outlined below are both print and web resources I find to be
valuable in further developing my knowledge of Web 2.0 and other technology tools. By
reading, exploring and experimenting based on some of these resources, I can begin to
work toward achieving rich technology integration as outlined in the TPACK framework.
• Wikis, Blogs and Podcasts and Other Powerful Tools for Classrooms by Will
Richardson. This book examines many powerful technology tools that can be
repurposed for educational uses.
• Weblogg-ed: Will Richardson’s blog that explores weblogs, wikis, RSS, audio
casts and other technologies in K-12.
• Techno-News Blog. A news feed offering technology news from around the
world. Topics may include cell phones, internet and technology reviews among
many other topics.
• Bud the Teacher Blog. I have been a regular follower of Bud the Teacher Blog
for the past year and find his posts particularly relevant in all three categories
outlined in my personal learning plan. His posts cover many important writing
and technology issues.
Topic 2: Twenty-first Century and Digital Literacy
Based on all of the resources provided above in the technology tools section, it is
evident that literacy expectations for the present and the future will also continue to
evolve. With this in mind, researching, reflecting and understanding digital literacy will
be a critical component in my professional development. The resources below are just a
sampling of more I intend to collect, but they do provide a beginning point to look deeper
into what 21st century literacy means and how we can help students achieve that.
• The Flickering Mind: The False Promise of Technolology in the Classroom and
How Learning Can be Saved by Todd Oppenheimer. This article looks at the
anti-technology perspective and would be an interesting read to look at all angles
of technology in the classroom.
• Literate Lives in the Information Age by Cynthia Selfe and Gail Hawisher. This
particular book has been on my list of books to reread as I find the collection of
literacy narratives a unique representation of what it means to be literate in the
• NCTE Literacy Education Updates Blog. Regular news updates from the National
Council of Teachers of English.
• NCTE Two-Year College English Association Blog. A branch of the NCTE
Literacy Education Blog that focuses primary on Community College news.
Topic 3: Composition Pedagogy
As a writing teacher, despite the rise of technology it is still critical to have a solid
foundation in effective writing pedagogy. When technology is introduced in the
classroom, it can be quite easy to teach in isolation rather than to integrate technology,
pedagogy and writing. Therefore, I have placed composition pedagogy on my personal
learning plan as a fixed feature because no matter how drastically available technology
changes, continual understanding of pedagogy will remain an important part of my
• Errors and Expectations by Mina Shaughnessy. A classic book in the field of
composition and a building block in fundamental pedagogy.
• A Writer Teaches Writing by Donald Murray. A how-to composition book for
teachers that focuses heavily on process oriented instruction.
• Kairos. A journal of rhetoric, technology and pedagogy.
• Computers and Composition Journal & Online. A print version and online
version is available of this journal that focuses on technology pedagogy in the
• College Composition and Communication Online. A print and web resource,
CCC provides articles on various composition research.
The three topics presented above with resources and explanations provide only a
surface level exploration into areas I am interested in pursuing further in my professional
development. I chose these resources to begin with because they are reputable and many
are important staples in my field of teaching. For this reason, the resources listed above
will likely lead me to other resources as I continue explore professional development
In addition to the resources outlined above, I envision facebook playing an
important role in providing an opportunity to connect with other educators and
colleagues. Before entering the MAET program, I was adamant about not signing up for
facebook. From the outside, it seemed a bit too voyeuristic and personal and I struggled
with where and how to draw the line with my students. However, having been forced to
sign up for facebook, I am beginning to see how powerful of a social networking tool it
can be and that you can choose to use facebook in as personal or impersonal way as you
see fit for your context. The article Thanks for the Add. Now Help Me with My
Homework by Blanding helped me to get past my facebook fears and enter into the social
One point that particularly sold me on the use of facebook according to Blanding
is that “students are always diving in and out of these social networks” and that they are
building literacy skills through such networks. Rather than viewing facebook as
voyeuristic, I tried to look at the positives of how I could connect with my students,
understand what technologies they use, and potentially generate a greater connection with
them in the classroom by maintaining a connection outside of the classroom. I began to
see that this also could transfer to professional relationships and potentially provide an
opportunity to stay connected with colleagues. Between the print, web, and social
networking resources that have begun to build into my daily practices through the course
of the Summer Cohort, I have great expectations that they will remain helpful over the
future years in professional development.
As the summer winds down to a close and it is time to “unpack” all that we have
learned and step into a new semester of teaching, a common theme runs the course of this
paper and my experiences in the MAET Summer Cohort and that is of questioning. The
articles, the assignments, the classroom discussions—they have all made me question my
own practices and beliefs in positive ways. They have helped me challenge myself,
recognize my strengths and weaknesses as an educator, and think deeply about the first of
many baby steps I will take in my classroom. The Summer Cohort has been an
enlightening and challenging experience and I know that I will continue to hold the
TPACK framework in the back of my mind as I begin a new set of classes this fall.
Aiming to incorporate technology, pedagogy and content is the essence of why I wanted
to participate in the Summer Cohort and certainly a ringing idea that will remain with me
as I take what I have learned and apply it to the classroom.
Blanding, Michael. "Thanks for the Add. Now Help Me with My Homework."
Dweck, Carol S. "Caution--Praise Can Be Dangerous." American Educator (1999): 1-5.
Levstik, Linda S., and Keith C. Barton. Doing History: Investigating With Children in
Elementary and Middle Schools. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1997.
Lumsden, Linda S. "Student Motivation to Learn." ERIC Clearinghouse.
Mishra, Punya, and Matthew J. Koehler. "Tool Cool for School?" Learning and Leading
with Technolog (2009).
Watson, Bruce, and Richard Kopnicek. "Teaching for Conceptual Change: Confronting
Children's Experience." Phi Delta Kappan (1990): 680-84.
Wiggins, Grant, and Jay McTighe. "Understanding Understanding." Understanding by