Final Reflection


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Final Reflection

  1. 1. Final Reflection Lisa Mulka 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.
  2. 2. 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
  3. 3. 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 misconceptions. 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
  4. 4. 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
  5. 5. 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
  6. 6. 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. Print Resources: • 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. Web Resources: • 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. Print Resources: • 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 information age.
  7. 7. Web Resources • 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 professional development. Print Resources • 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. Web Resources • 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 composition classroom. • 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
  8. 8. will likely lead me to other resources as I continue explore professional development opportunities. 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 networking world. 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.
  9. 9. 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.
  10. 10. Works Cited 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 Design.