That’s a Wrap: CEP 810 Final Learning Reflection

Photo by  Elijah Hiett  on  Unsplash

Photo by Elijah Hiett on Unsplash

At the beginning of CEP 810: Teaching for Understanding with Technology, my first graduate course in matriculating through the Master’s in Educational Technology (MAET) program at Michigan State University, while I anticipated it would include a rigorous workload, I was pleasantly surprised by realizing how much I missed being a student. The course not only provided me with many new insights on how students learn, theories on technology and the importance of collaboration through personal and professional learning networks (PLNs) but, most importantly, it challenged me to re-think how technology should (and can) be integrated in education to provide the most positive learning experience for students.

Given the conventional nature of essay writing, I was slightly perplexed when I learned I’d be writing an expository essay during week one of a technology course. Yet, it was the perfect opportunity to evaluate the answer to a widely-discussed, critically important and foundational question; what is learning? Upon reading and analyzing “How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School,” (Bransford, Brown & Cocking, 2000), I defined learning as a comprehensive process that encompasses the transfer of knowledge and skills, and translates into understanding and the ability to make real-world connections. Additionally, I recognized the importance of collaboration, goal-setting, reflection, autonomy and the utilization of digital productivity tools in supporting an optimal learning environment. If interested, the full essay can be read here.

While working on the initial assignment, my focus was through the lens of a teacher and the impact I could have on my students. Although, I’m intrigued by the parallels I’ve observed to my experience as a learner throughout this course. I’ve come to realize that to best prepare my students, I must consistently maintain a growth-mindset, devote myself to being a lifelong learner and be willing to take risks. CEP 810 provided the opportunity to explore a variety of digital tools (i.e., Google Keep, Evernote, Popplet, online help forums), most of which I deemed useful, yet it was through the experience of play, analyzing, and reflection that I was able to realize that just because something may be useful to me, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be seen as useful by my students. For example, I found David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) workflow system to be helpful in improving my ability to stay on top of the multitude of seemingly never-ending things on my to-do list, however it’s not for everyone. As I learned, although the learning process is unique for everyone, their core competencies as fundamental literacy practices must be strengthened by giving them the ability to make educated decisions for themselves (Hobbs, 2010).

I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity that CEP 810 offered me to positively impact my digital footprint as an educator through blogging and by expanding my personal and professional learning networks, things I look forward to continuing. Furthermore, my networked learning project allowed me to explore online communities of puppy trainers, witnessing the power of curating digital information. I’m proud to say that I’ve continued training my puppy, Lucy, with the help of YouTube videos. Of course it’s not without great effort, but learning to evaluate credible information online is one of the most valuable skills I’ve enhanced and a main focus I’ve adopted for my own students.

A question I look forward to exploring the answer to is, how, in a finite amount of time, and given a subject matter dictated by curriculum and course timelines, in a classroom every day with a diverse set of students, do I ensure I’m leveraging technology appropriately and efficiently in a way that will resonate - in one way or another - with all of my students? In addition to being mindful of differentiated learning when it comes to the content itself, how do I also differentiate effective modes of technology and, further, how do I evaluate their effectiveness?

CEP 810 has provided me with a great deal of inspiration and motivation moving forward in my graduate studies. I look forward to beginning my next course, which focuses on further exploring TPACK (Technological, Pedagogical and Content Knowledge) (Koehler & Mishra, 2006), continuing to enhance my PLNs, and diving into the “maker culture.”

Thank you for coming along for the ride. I’ll be continuing to blog about my experience in the classroom moving forward, so stay tuned!


Bransford, J., Brown, A.L. & Cocking, R. R. (2000). How people learn: brain, mind, experience and school (pp. 3-). Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Retrieved from http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309070368.

Getting Things Done. (n.d.). Retrieved October 18, 2017 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Getting_Things_Done

Hobbs, R. (2010). Digital and media literacy: A plan of action. Washington, DC: The Aspen Institute. Retrieved from http://blogs.uoregon.edu/artinsociety/files/2010/11/Digital_and_Media_Literacy_A_Plan_of_Action.pdf

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054. Retrieved from http://punya.educ.msu.edu/publications/journal_articles/mishra-koehler-tcr2006.pdf download .pdf

So, You Think You Know Technology?

When educators visualize the utilization of technology in the classroom, they often focus on digital tools to enhance instruction or replace traditional tools (i.e., notebooks, pencils, etc.). Some even believe in technocentrism, seeing technology as the ultimate solution; a shadow cast upon everything else. But aren’t there more factors to positive learning experiences, such as pedagogy and content knowledge? Doesn’t technology encompass more than a computer?

Reproduced by permission of the publisher, © 2012 by tpack.org

Contrary to popular belief, technology is not the be-all, end-all and it doesn’t only include what’s digital. According to Merriam-Webster, technology can be defined as the practical application of knowledge, especially in a particular area. Technology includes tools to further understanding, dependent on two things: pedagogy and content knowledge. Dr. Matthew Koehler, professor of educational psychology and educational technology at Michigan State University, and Dr. Punya Mishra, Co-Director of the Master's in Educational Technology program at Michigan State University, have developed a widely-used theory — TPACK (Technological, Pedagogical and Content Knowledge) — which clarifies the confusion and it’s much simpler than we might have imagined.

We’ve all heard educational technology buzz terms, such as 1:1 institutions (one device for each student) or flipped classrooms (students learning at home and then participating in activities in school), yet they don’t give us the full picture on optimally integrating digital technology in education. According to Dr. Mishra in his keynote address at the 21st Century Learning Conference, “There is no such thing as an educational technology. What we have is a variety of technologies and our job as educators is to repurpose [and] customize them for our needs” (2012). Providing students access to a laptop over a pencil and notebook isn’t the answer. Not only must we find innovative ways to use technology paired with understanding our audience and content, but we must share our tactics with one another, furthering the participatory culture outlined in Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century (Jenkins, Purushotma, Clinton, Weigel, & Robison, 2006).

What learning experiences will you create with the use of technology?

Jenkins, H., Purushotma, R., Clinton, K., Weigel, M., Robison, A. (2006). Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. Retrieved from http://www.newmedialiteracies.org/wp-content/uploads/pdfs/NMLWhitePaper.pdf

Mishra, P. (2012). Keynote speaker @ 21st century learning conference - hong kong 2012. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/9bwXYa91fvQ

Technology (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster online. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/technology

Wolf, L., G., (2009). Quickfires explained. Retrieved from http://www.leighgraveswolf.com/2009/08/19/quickfires-explained/

Seeing is Believing: Puppy Training Part Three

What did the internet do to my puppy?! Is it possible that in less than one month Lucy has transformed from being unruly to well-behaved? For those just learning of my endeavor, as part of my CEP 810 graduate course, I recently began training Lucy to sit, stay and stop mouthing. I’m pleased to report that, not only did I reach my goal, but I exceeded it and moved on to more advanced training exercises due to committing ample time, practicing patience and maintaining a growth-mindset. Through this process I learned that puppy training takes dedication and repetition and, while it doesn’t come without setbacks and unpredictability, consistency and the implementation of positive rewards ultimately gives way to regularity in performance. I’d be lying if I said the experience was stress-free, but my efforts still paid off. Have a look for yourself!

Per my second update, after evaluating a multitude of online forums dedicated to all things dog-related, I found YouTube to be the most thorough and effective resource. It was incredibly helpful to watch trainers conduct exercises I could emulate with Lucy. Additionally, it motivated me to see puppies as energetic and disobedient as Lucy quickly learn when the appropriate training methods were implemented. Although at times I found myself falling into the YouTube rabbit hole, going from one video to the next without knowing what I would find, I always wound up back on Zak George’s channel. His friendly demeanor and informative and digestible step-by-step tutorials were the most helpful as I learned to properly train Lucy. As noted, I wasn’t originally planning on training Lucy to leash walk as part of this project, but after reaching my goal, this video inspired me to take on the challenge.

A great deal of this week’s learning in CEP 810 focused on Renee Hobbs’ five core competencies as fundamental literacy practices, which can be explored further in her white paper, Digital and Media Literacy: A Plan of Action (2010). Hobbs explains, “These five competencies [access, analyze, create, reflect and act] work together in a spiral of empowerment, supporting people’s active participation in lifelong learning through the processes of both consuming and creating messages” (p. 18). This project helped me encompass all of these practices, as I actively sought and analyzed helpful information on puppy training, took part in meaningful activities by implementing methods that resonated, assessed my progress (and Lucy’s for that matter), and shared my experience. I hope that my journey will inspire others to take on new endeavors grounded in a plan of action.

Similar to the competencies outlined by Hobbs, Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century (Jenkins, Purushotma, Clinton, Weigel, & Robison, 2006) discusses new media literacies, which “include the traditional literacy that evolved with print culture as well as the newer forms of literacy within mass and digital media” (p.19), and participatory culture, where individuals possess these necessary literacy skills, accessibility, support, and willingness to share learning experiences. This project helped me become part of this culture and expand my personal learning network.

I will continue using online forums and YouTube to form new learning experiences for myself and my students, as the skills I learned from this project are invaluable and reach far beyond the evident (i.e., I also learned multimedia skills, including video editing and screen-recording). I believe that by providing students the opportunity to choose their own projects/topics, it will further contribute to the iterative process of learning and sharing, benefiting us all. For now, it looks like I need to research separation-anxiety remedies!

George, Z. (2017). How to train your dog not to pull on the leash. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/jBN2_YuTclU

Hobbs, R. (2010). Digital and media literacy: A plan of action. Washington, DC: The Aspen Institute. Retrieved from http://blogs.uoregon.edu/artinsociety/files/2010/11/Digital_and_Media_Literacy_A_Plan_of_Action.pdf

Jenkins, H., Purushotma, R., Clinton, K., Weigel, M., Robison, A. (2006). Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. Retrieved from http://www.newmedialiteracies.org/wp-content/uploads/pdfs/NMLWhitePaper.pdf

Puppy Training: Update

I’d have a difficult time believing someone who told me Lucy, my hyperactive, mouthy puppy, would sit, stay and stop biting in under two weeks. I have seen celebrity trainers and been convinced their work was sorcery. However, after scouring the online world of puppy training, I have begun the journey of turning my monster into an exemplary student. Check it out!

Click on image to enlarge

Given I had no prior dog training experience, it was challenging to determine whether positive reinforcement or a discipline-based approach would be more effective. I do not find it appropriate to inflict physical harm or implement fear tactics when training; nevertheless, there are many people who disagree, using methods like electric shock collars and/or scruff-shakes (pulling on loose skin around a dog’s neck). Despite Lucy’s tendency to be overly mouthy, I did not want to utilize the aforementioned training so explored positive reinforcement methods.

I researched on YouTube and ironically, after pages of sifting, I wound up back to the first video I found, by Zak George, a well-known dog trainer (see my first blog post regarding this endeavor here). While, there were informative perspectives on help forums, such as Reddit’s “puppy101” subreddit, it was invaluable to have step-by-step visual tutorials that I could follow.

Two videos by Zak were particularly helpful: How to Teach your Puppy to Sit and Stay and How to Stop Puppy Biting. Both are thorough but not overwhelming, and contain easy-to-follow instructions. It didn’t take long for Lucy to grasp the concepts and I was pleasantly surprised by how receptive she was to the methods.

While exploring the aforementioned online sources, I couldn’t help but ponder the fact that, as a technology educator, I help my students learn digital literacy skills to effectively navigate the online world, and my experience is a prime example of its importance. We have access to a surplus of information, but must be able to form opinions and determine credible sources. As stated in Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century, “A focus on expanding access to new technologies carries us only so far if we do not also foster the skills and cultural knowledge necessary to deploy those tools toward our own ends” (Jenkins H., Purushotma, R., Clinton, K., Weigel, M., Robison, A., 2006). While there are many certified dog trainers, it doesn’t mean their training methods align with my own beliefs and it’s important I found an approach that resonates with me.

I feel inspired and committed to continue to train Lucy after my initial experience. I’m appreciative of my recent studies focusing on workflow, as they’ve pushed me to become more organized and focused on accomplishing my goals, including training Lucy. I suggest checking out David Allen’s Tedx Talk, The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, where he provides a reality check to procrastinators and scatterbrains who have too many things to do and use time constraints as their excuse for lack of productivity. He states, “If you’re trying to use your psyche to manage that mess [...] you get the result of two things that are the critical elements of self and organizational productivity. You’ll lose perspective [...] and/or you may be experiencing the results of what happens when you lose control” (2012). I can certainly relate to this sentiment, especially with adopting Lucy, and refining my own workflow will only benefit my continued efforts. For more information on David Allen’s workflow system, check out my previous post here.

I look forward to undertaking more advanced training exercises (i.e., proper leash walking, drop it) in the coming week. In the meantime, enjoy this video of Lucy showing off her one of her new skills.

Allen, D. (2012). The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/CHxhjDPKfbY

George, Z. (2014). How to stop puppy biting and don’t do these 5 things when training your puppy. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/1H1JGfzaW9A

George, Z. (2017). How to teach your puppy to sit and stay. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/DPNz6reMVXY

George, Z. (2014). How to train a puppy not to bite. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/m9KQegi4r8k

Jenkins, H., Purushotma, R., Clinton, K., Weigel, M., Robison, A. (2006). Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. Retrieved from http://www.newmedialiteracies.org/wp-content/uploads/pdfs/NMLWhitePaper.pdf

It's All About Who You Know

Since I was a child, I recall my father often telling me, “Success in life is all about who you know.” At first, I wasn’t exactly sure what he meant. It was a vague expression, yet I figured it had something to do with the fact that he was a salesman. Little did I know, his favorite phrase couldn’t have been more accurate, as it didn’t solely relate to sales but rather a much wider-scope of attainable success. That said, as I reflect on the path that has led me to this present moment, any success I’ve had would not have been possible without support from others.

Considering the responsibility of preparing individuals for success in an ever-changing world and unpredictable future, education is a daring career. Since I studied marketing as an undergraduate, only later deciding to follow a career path in teaching, my experience in the classroom had been extremely limited. As many new teachers do, I relied heavily on the support of my colleagues and am greatly appreciative of their willingness to help me. Still, what many of us undervalue is the world of support that lies within our technological devices, including, but not limited to, globally-connected social media platforms, professional organizations and thought-leading bloggers.

Developing a Personal/Professional Learning Network (PLN), as Trust defines as a “system of interpersonal connections and resources that support informal learning,” (p. 133) is a crucial feat that allows oneself to become an independent and lifelong learner. My PLN (as seen in the mind map displayed), includes many groups of individuals whom I learn from in a reciprocating manner. Beyond my interactions with colleagues, graduate school classmates and social media connections, I try to immerse myself as often as possible in the flow of content via blogs, journals and other online publications.

I recently began using Feedly, a news aggregator application, and highly recommend it to others as I’ve found it to be incredibly helpful in curating information. Feedly allows users to create categories of feeds and organizes it in an easy-to-navigate manner. Moreover, the mobile app is great for accessing your feed on the go.

One more thing worth checking out is Mozilla’s Web Literacy Wheel. If we are going to teach students how to successfully navigate the digital world, we must lead by example. In turn, the effectiveness of one’s PLN and curated ideas is contingent on how efficiently we can evaluate the information we come across. As is always the concern, not everything suggested is worth reading or implementing. Nevertheless, the more often we explore, the better chance we have of finding those hidden gems.

 

Trust, T. (2012). Professional learning networks designed for teacher learning. Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 28(4), 133-138.

Who Said I Could Only Teach Technology?

A couple of months ago, my fiancé, Samantha, and I had the bright idea - OK, it was mostly my idea - of adopting a puppy. You know, so it could give us some practice for when we are ready to have children. Taking matters into my own hands, I filed the adoption papers unbeknownst to her and before we knew it, we were holding Lucy, our soon-to-be daughter. Fun fact: Truth be told, her shelter name was “Rihanna Lonestar” and was part of a litter, all given pop star names. Let’s be real, how could Samantha say no? Look at that face! It was love at first sight and so the story goes, the rest was history.

Although Lucy seems quite intelligent, she is a bit spiteful. It’s not that she doesn’t understand, it’s that she may or may not want to actually listen when being told to sit, stop jumping, or stop nipping us. We love her dearly, but the time has come to start her training regimen. What better way to learn proven techniques then to dive into the online world of puppy training? Luckily, for my latest assignment in CEP 810, the graduate course I’m taking, I was tasked with choosing something to learn, solely utilizing help forums and YouTube. Therefore, over the next few weeks I’ll be tapping into videos and discussions on how we can get Lucy to finally mind her manners. More specifically, my goal is to teach Lucy bite inhibition, sitting and staying.

To provide some context, adopting a dog as opposed to purchasing one from a breeder can pose certain challenges. Puppies are oftentimes removed from their litter too soon, before they have the opportunity to learn bite inhibition. As Debra Horwitz, DVM, states, “Puppies start to learn bite inhibition with their littermates. If Puppy A bites on Puppy B too hard, Puppy B will yelp. If that doesn’t work, Puppy B will leave. This sends the message to Puppy A that its bites were too hard and if wishes to continue to play, it needs to be gentle” (p. 4). As Lucy was only eight weeks old when we adopted her, it leads us to believe that her mouthiness is a result of being removed from her litter too soon paired with our lack of knowledge and initial training.

Besides the fact that I’m eager to attain the necessary skill-set to train Lucy effectively, I’m also looking forward to sharing my experience, becoming part of the participatory culture mentioned in “Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century” (Jenkins H., Purushotma, R., Clinton, K., Weigel, M., Robison, A., 2006), which was part of my weekly readings for CEP 810. The text states, “Students should discover what it is like to contribute their own expertise to a process that involves many intelligences, a process they encounter readily in their participation in fan discussion lists or blogging” (p. 21). For many years, I have been a consumer of content via help forums, however I’ve rarely contributed. Don’t get me wrong, as a singer songwriter and organ donation advocate, I’ve produced and published creative works in hopes to inspire others, but when it comes to providing advice, I can’t say that I’ve been part of this so-called culture. As learning is an iterative process where we all must give back to keep it ongoing, I must do my part. In James Paul Gee’s essay, “Digital Media and Learning: A Prospective Retrospective,” another insightful read from my graduate class this week, he mentions, “As newcomers advance, they are encouraged to contribute back to the group (family, community, social group, institution, or culture), based on their learning” (2013, p. 6). My puppy training endeavor will challenge me to be a consumer and creator, hopefully serving as inspiration for others to share their own experiences.

Certainly, this will be challenging, but by taking on a growth-mindset and with the help of online communities of dog trainers, I’m confident I’ll reach my goals. Wish me luck!

Gee, J. P. (2013). Digital Media and Learning: A Prospective Retrospective. Retrieved from http://jamespaulgee.com/pdfs/Digital%20Media%20and%20Learning.pdf

George, Z. (2014). How to train a puppy not to bite. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/m9KQegi4r8k

Horwitz, D. (1999). Counseling pet owners on puppy socialization and establishing leadership. Veterinary Medicine, 94, 149-156.

Jenkins, H., Purushotma, R., Clinton, K., Weigel, M., Robison, A. (2006). Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. Retrieved from http://www.newmedialiteracies.org/wp-content/uploads/pdfs/NMLWhitePaper.pdf

The Nature of Learning in the 21st Century

Photo by Štefan Štefančík -  source

Photo by Štefan Štefančík - source

In my CEP 810 (Teaching for Understanding with Technology) course, the initial assignment tasked students with writing an expository essay that responds to two key questions regarding learning. The essay (full version here) contains my analysis of what learning is defined as and what teaching methods support learning and its related concepts -- understanding and conceptual change. Upon reading the first three chapters of “How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School,” I have gathered specific evidence to support my response to the given prompt, exploring how learning is a comprehensive process that encompasses the transfer of knowledge and skills, and translates into understanding and the ability to make real-world connections. Moreover, I stress that collaboration, goal-setting, reflection, autonomy and digital productivity tools support an optimal learning environment.

I appreciate you taking the time to explore my insights. Please feel free to share your comments below!