Archive for April, 2006

How to use technology to scaffold student learning?

Jamie McKenzie’s writing on scaffolding

made me realize that there are two types of scaffolding: 1) to successfully learn a concept and 2) to climb up levels to more complex learning about a concept.


We can have students go to website in which they practice a certain math formula through breaking the formula into its subparts. The website scaffolds the process so that they can correctly use the math formula. The students have succeeded in learning the formula.


We can have students go to another website where they have to figure out which math formula to use and apply it to real life situations. If students want help (scaffolded learning), they can go to a section which asks them questions about each formula and its use. The students have succeeded in learning information at a higher level through the scaffolding.


Another image is between a web scavenger hunt for facts and a higher level thinking webquest in which students compare and contrast information.


How do we use technology to scaffold student learning? To learn the lower level of a concept or to explore the higher more complex level of the concept?




Videoconferencing’s Purpose and Place in a Learning Unit

The educators’ academic purpose for videconference determines where the videconference fits into the learning unit:

an introduction to the unit
an activity during the unit
several activities during the unit
the main activity during the unit
the only activity in the unit
an end of the lesson summary
a follow up activity to the unit
and a special motivation.

So where do you place your videconference in your learning unit? Why is that an effective location? How does your assessment reflect that learning purpose?


Wiggins, Assessment/Feedback, and Technology Use

Grant Wiggins stresses that teachers spend too much teaching and covering content and not enough time in assessing.

He asserts that good feedback systems

are quick and ongoing,

are contextual,

address individuals,

model desired behaviors,

are specific,

break tasks intosubparts,

provide multiple opportunities for retrying,

are descriptive,

include what learners did and did not do,

and have a shared vocabulary.

(Wilcox, John. “Less Teaching, More Assessing” Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development Education Udate Feb 2006 Vol 48-2, 1-8)


So how do we build these features in when technology is used? For example, how do we include these feedback features when our class videconferences with another class or with an expert? Is the videconferencing about teaching content or about assessing students’ learning? One way to answer that question is through a series of feedback questions:
How often is everyone assessed?
What type feedback is each person given?
If the answer is often and formative, then student learning is the focus.

Learning, Videoconferencing, and Assessment: Part 2

Several people emailed me about my previous blog. They disagreed with my views:

Their points and my response:


1) Videoconference learning does not need to be assessed since it is simply one activity in a bigger unit. My response: How can you proceed in the students’ learning if you do not know what they have or have not learned? Madeline Hunter was famous for her “monitor and adjust” as critical part of the learning process before students could move on in their learning. Frequent embedded assessment is a major issue in education now.


2) The students’ discussion during the videoconference shows that they understand the topic. My response: How did you assess the students’ individual comments and questions during the discussion? Did everyone participate? At what higher level of thinking? Or did you get “a general feeling” about the understanding of the topic from those students that volunteered?


3) When students enjoy something such as the videoconference, they learn better. My response: I do not disagree that students enjoy videoconferencing. I want to see tangible learning results rather than just smiles. I have no problem with affective learning is that is the stated primary purpose of videoconferencing. How will you measure their emotional responses?


4) They learned so much about other students’ culture through the videoconference. My response: Wonderful. Was that a major goal of the project or did it just happen? If it was a major goal, than how did you structure the videoconference to increase global awareness? What cultural attitudinal changes did you want to happen?


5) They learned so much factual information. My response: Couldn’t they have learned the same amount through a good encyclopedia entry or an educational “movie”? I would hope that when we bring experts into the classroom, they can help our students to use higher level thinking skills in that topic.



Videoconferencing and Learning: Candy or Carrots

Candy or Carrots

Sweets or nutrition

Melting in mouth or crunching and chewing

Instant pleasure or body nurturing over time

Sugar high or slowly building up

Do educators see videoconferencing as candy or carrots?

I’m been researching articles and websites for some chapters I’m writing on videoconferencing. I found tons of candy: “My students really enjoyed it”, “They liked seeing the elephants”, and “My students learned a lot about videoconferencing.”

Only a few of the articles and websites even mention the carrots of learning. Occasionally, there are questions like “Did this videoconference meet your educational goals?” There are many general statements like “My student learned so much!” The detail or proof is very sketchy. “We predicted what would happen.” Did someone check each student’s prediction or did some students volunteer? Was a whole group assessment done?

Do educators in your educational institution use videoconferencing as candy or carrots?

How can you decide? Assessment is the key.

Do your educators assess the learning from the videoconference immediately or the next few days?

Do your educators have students do follow up performance tasks based on the videoconferencing? Do they assess those tasks?

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