Thursday, March 29, 2012

Using Social Learning Theories in the Classroom

           According to Dr. Orey, the purpose of social learning theories is to “get kids engaged in doing something, very active and student centered. Social constructionism is not only student centered but peered reviewed (Laureate Education, Inc., 2009g). Therefore, to use social learning in your classroom you must use collaboration and cooperative learning techniques. I have mentioned before that I use multiple learning theories in my classroom, as I am sure many of my cohorts do also, I believe in the old adage “whatever works”. However, I do use and believe in the positive outcomes of social learning techniques in my classes, both senior and junior level classes.

            My students work in cooperative groups to complete their study guides at both levels. For this type of work, I set the class up into groups, dividing the study guides among the students. I follow the “jigsaw” strategy (Laureate Education, Inc., 2009g) described in our resources. I have found that the students are under peer pressure to do the work correctly and on time by their group members. I have also discovered that by giving the students class time to begin their study guides they are more likely to finish the homework and perform better on unit assessments. Other projects vary by level and grade.

The seniors in the AP European history class have a performance assessment due in June as their final exam, rather than a written exam. I call the assignment “Regency and Victorian Classics”. Each student gets to choose a novel from the regency or Victorian eras. Each student must describe the story line, the characters, define “what is a classic” and why this novel is a classic, explain how the book depicts the period, and compare the novel to a movie made about that novel. Each student does their research and presents their findings to the class in any manner they wish. I have students who have made movies for their report, students who created power points with photos and movie clips to show the important scenes that are depicted and other creative ways of presenting the novel to the class. One of my favorite presentations, presented last year, was on Pride and Prejudice. The student created a power point with photographs from the three movies made about Pride and Prejudice, including some from the BBC series, and introduced her characters, period and place of the novel. She then went through the different films and explained to the class the differences between the movie endings and the novel ending. She retrieved certain scenes and then played them for her class asking her fellow students what they noticed that was different about the scenes. It was very interactive even though she worked on her project alone constructing the presentation; she included her classmates as part of the total presentation and had them work cooperatively to describe differences between the novel and the movies.

I use cooperative learning with the junior classes as well; they create a video term paper. They are required to research, gather materials, and create a finished 25-minute video on a decade that the group chose. These projects include a lot of collaboration. The students have to edit their segments, record their research, edit in photos and historical footage into a video that covers their decade. Many students film at their parents homes, on the school fields and in the classrooms. Upon project completion, the finished videos are played for the entire class; through the videos, the history of the decade is taught to the entire class.

Through these cooperative and collaborative activities, I have been able to see the excitement students share about completing the projects. They learn more, they enjoy the work as they are learning, and they have clear-cut objectives to meet in each project. With the onset of the Internet and multiple technological advances, students have abundant information readily available along with programs they can use to complete these projects like a professional. After using myself this week, I am adding a lesson on how to use for my senior classes. They should be able to complete their final performance assessment on VoiceThread with ease. The Voice Thread just has to have enough memory to hold video clips from YouTube or other sources about their books. As George Siemens discussed, the major learning theories each have their role in the classroom (Laureate Education, Inc., 2009h). Using cooperative and collaborative lessons is just one part of the learning experience in the classroom today.


Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2009g). Program 7, Social Learning Theories [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from       av=0&bhcp=1

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2009h). Program 8, Connectivism as a Learning Theory [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from       av=0&bhcp=1

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Constructivism in Practice

 According to Dr. Michael Orey, constructionism is a “theory of learning that states people learn best when they build an external artifact or something they can share with others” Laureate Education, Inc. 2009f). Teachers in today’s classrooms, with the advent of technology, can easily find projects that enable students to build and learn from lessons that teachers plan. Examples of building strategies include, but are not exclusive to, “spreadsheet software, data collection tools, and Web resources” (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007). In history classes, teachers can use Web Quests, game simulators, and other problem based learning tools.

In my own history classes, I have successfully used a web quest on the 1920s. In this web quest, students chose a group; each group has the responsibility of reporting one of the following: sports, current news stories, advertisements, political commentary and cartoons, all in the 1920s. Students have to research using web sites I have already found and distributed, they students may use additional web sites they have found. Students then have to write a short newspaper article with photographs. Finally, the group gives their newspaper a name, a price, a date, and prints out a copy that they then orally present to the entire class. Student newspapers have included A Decade in Review, the 1920s, Sports Almanac of the 1920s, the Grand Experiment, and so many more.  My students enjoy the project; they learn from research and from each other about the 1920s. The student assessments are the written newspaper, the oral presentation and an image quiz I give the class with images from each of the newspapers presented.

In the scenario above, teachers will act as facilitators. According to Glazer, teachers as facilitators, “give students control over how they learn and provide support and structure in the direction of their learning” (Glazer, E. 2001). To set up the scenario the teacher must help to create the framework to the project, allow students to read the rubric before they begin the project and teachers should show examples of earlier work (modeling). By following these simple suggestions, a teacher can set up the project so that students and the teacher learn from each other, the internet, brainstorming with group members, creating and presenting.

Some sites a teacher can use to help with constructivist learning tools are:

A site that will allow students to create their own flipbooks you can use:

Finally, for students to develop their own comic books or graphic novels you can use:


Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2009f). Program 6, Constructionist & constructivist learning theories [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from       av=0&bhcp=1

Glazer, E. (2001). Problem Based Instruction. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved March 18, 2012, from

           Pitler, H., Hubbell, E. R., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Denver, Colorado, USA: McRel.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Cognitive Learning Tools

            Cognitive learning tools consist of methods to immerse the student in the subject. When Dr. Michael Orey surveyed his students on what was their most memorable course; the answers were their study abroad program and their student teaching program (Laureate Education, Inc. 2009e ), both of these programs immerse the student in the learning process.  The question teachers must ask themselves is how we immerse our students in our classrooms without the travel. Cognitive learning tools can help us with this mission.    Technologies offer many different tools that used, can immerse the students in their studies. There are search engines like Google, graphic organizers, concept maps, spreadsheets, power points, video conferences, virtual field trips and many more.
As teachers, we can learn how to teach our students to use these many different technologies to help immerse them in your subject matter. As an example, I was teaching a lesson on the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East. As part of the unit, I set up a video conference with a representative of the Israeli government. My students were able to get a full lesson on the history and current events in Israel. The students learned a little Hebrew and given a tour through video and photos of Israel. The students were shocked that so many Arabs still live in Israel, they were surprised to learn that almost all Israeli citizens are required to serve a minimum of two years in the military, and they were stunned to see Israel come to a stand-still during Memorial Day. Our Israeli host was born and raised in North Jersey, he understood that the South Jersey kids hit the beaches on Memorial Day; therefore, he explained why the day is so solemn in Israel. My students still talk what they learned from this conference. Using video conferences or video field trips can help a teacher make the subject come alive for their students and expand the students understanding of the topic (Laureate Education, Inc. 2009e.).
In addition to virtual field experiences, the students can also reinforce ideas from lecture into a concept map, sometimes called mind mapping (Laureate Education, Inc. 2009e.). The teacher sets up a leading question or a topic with sub-topics the students need to fill in to reinforce the materials. In my classroom, I had three students help build a mind map on Napoleon III. I set the map up with a photo of the Emperor Napoleon III and then set up the sub-topics of foreign policy, domestic policy, nationalism, unification of Germany, unification of Italy. From these sub-topics, the students each volunteered to complete a specific part of the map and for homework. In class the next day we went over the map and the students were given time to correct any mistakes that may have been made. Once the map was completed correctly, the students presented to the rest of the class what they did and gave more in depth information with their sub-topics. A review was held the following day and the students who worked on the mind map did very well in the review, demonstrating that cognitive tools like mind mapping can work to help the student be immersed in the subject matter.

If you would like to view the mind map you can go on to at the following address:
The mind map was saved as "Napoleon III".

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2009e). Program five: Cognitive learning theories                                         [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from     

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Behaviorism in Practice

Behaviorism in schools today has been widely used as a behavioral modification tool. A major part of behavioral modification is giving good students positive reinforcement while giving students who need to learn the appropriate behavior for class, negative reinforcement (Standridge, M., 2002).  Another part of behaviorism used in classrooms today is the practice of frequent repetition, generalization and discrimination (Smith, M. K., 1999). Many teachers use homework and rote memorization as ways to repeat concepts. With the advent of technology in schools and at home, students and teachers can practice frequent repetition in new and exciting ways.
Teachers can use technology to track students’ effort against student grades  (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007, p. 155). Among the different computer programs that will enable teachers and students to track effort are, spreadsheet software like Microsoft Excel and data collection tools like Survey Monkey (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007, pp. 156-164). The educational behaviorist belief is that students will be able to correlate the amount of effort they have put into their homework and classwork, compare that effort to the outcome in their quiz and test grades. Once students see the outcomes, they will continue to put more effort into their work to achieve those higher assessment grades. In addition to effort, technology also allows students to complete homework and practice assessments using collaborative and creative methods.
Many teachers assign homework for students to practice what they learned in class at home. “Technology facilitates homework and practice by providing a wealth of resources for learning outside of the classroom, making it easy for students to work on collaborative homework assignments and providing ‘drill and practice’ resources that help students refine their skills (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007, p. 189). Among the technology programs that help with homework for the elementary school student as well as the high school student are, word processing applications, spreadsheet software, multimedia applications, web resources, and communication software (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007, pp. 189-201). In my classes, I hold a review session before each unit test set up similar to a game of Jeopardy. My students set up a Facebook page where they quiz each other at night in preparation for the test the next day.  They took the initiative to set up that page on their own and to peer review the materials I went over during the day in class. All of the participants on the Facebook page have seen their test grades improve and students not already part of that page; have put in requests to join the group for nighttime reviews. My students review page is an excellent example of student effort at work improving grades while working collaboratively with peer-reviewed materials. This is a wonderful mesh of learning theories, behaviorism and constructivism, in one classroom.

  Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Denver, Colorado: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL).

 Smith, M. K. (1999). “The behaviourist orientation to learning”. The encyclopedia of informal education. Retrieved March 6, 2012, from

Standridge, M. (2002). Behaviorism. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching and technology. Retrieved March 6, 2012, from