Blog Post #9: Distributed Cognition

“Using Technology to Support Research Groups in the Early Childhood Classroom”

Applying technology in the classroom can truly enrich the quality of education teachers provide their students. Whether it be in preschool or in 12th grade or even in college, technology can be incorporated into teachers’ lessons to augment students’ capacities to learn. The ways in which technology can be integrated in a classroom setting depends on many factors such as the students’ needs and interests, the teacher’s pedagogy, the resources a school provides, etc. 

Distributed Cognition Theory is very helpful for understanding how students interact with the environment and the tools they are provided in the classroom. Gwyn Brickell, Michael Morgan, and Barry Harper discuss how, “distributed cognition is a way to understand how people interact with their environment and how they can be enabled by the environment to undertake highly complex tasks that would usually be beyond the abilities of the unassisted individual.” (Morgan et al. 127).  Essentially, children can be empowered by the environment around them to take on complex tasks that would not otherwise be provided without such interactions. This means that students can enhance their learning and knowledge by using internal and physical tools/resources in the classroom. 

I watched a video from YouTube titled, “Using Technology to Support Research Groups in the Early Childhood Classroom” which specifically focused on the integration of technology into a preschool classroom setting. The video went into greater discussion about using technology to supplement research on topics the students were learning about in class. The teacher provided her students with a variety of topics to work with each week. Since they were only preschoolers, they worked with simple topics such as dogs, cats, or alligators. The students would learn about these topics, using books and information from the teacher as a resource. Then they would work in small research groups using iPads to explore the topics on a deeper level. Students would look at pictures on the iPads or take pictures of their own and create stories from what they saw. This research was guided by the instructor and allowed them to see things from a new perspective. 

This lesson is a great example of translation which Martin says, “refers to the transformation of information from one representation system to another” (93). The teacher emphasized how books are equally as useful as the iPad— one is not better than the other. They work best together to provide students with a well-rounded and enriching experience. A book might provide students with some information that technology cannot and vice versa. The hope is that technology affords the opportunity to enhance the learning process by providing additional learning for the students. This displays how the information she was teaching translated from one tool to another for the representation of ideas. First she had the children learn about their topics from books, and then she had the information translated to the iPads. This is also an example of off-loading. The teacher provided additional resources to help students reach their main goal, which is to research and learn about their topics on a deeper level. Off-loading allowed the students to do so through more than just a book.

Effects of and effects with technology were clearly present in this video. According to Salomon, “effects of technology is how using a technology may leave cognitive residues that enhance performance even without technology” (Salomon 72).  The effects of learning with technology from this lesson allowed students to build on previous knowledge so that they could take it to the outside world. The teacher decided to pick topics that the students were interested in such as dogs, cats, etc. and build on their knowledge through further exploration. To do so, she put her students in different research groups based on interest and gave them days to look up information about their topics in books. The students seemed to enjoy this research, so she decided to enhance their knowledge through technology. She began to introduce the iPads for additional research of their topics. The effects of technology in this case were that students had a variety of ways to research information and gain a deeper understanding about their topics. Students were able to take this information and the skills they learned from this lesson with them.

The effects with technology deals moreso with how technology augments their intellectual performance. Students were provided with a variety of tools such as a pencil, paper, a clipboard, books, and iPads to use as resources for their research. These tools helped enhance what they already knew about the topic. The teacher emphasized how research means using a variety of sources to find information, and that is what the students were doing here— students were able to see how they could use multiple different tools such as a book or an iPad to find information. With technology, students deepened their learning  and developed skills for how to do research.

Throughout the lesson, the teacher was guiding the students’ research and formatively assessing their performance in the research groups to check for understanding. Then at the end of the week, the teacher would have the students share what they learned with the rest of the class as a way to assess what they learned and let them demonstrate their knowledge. This helped the teacher see the clear effects of and with technology from the lesson.

With the integration of technology in this lesson, I believe that it truly made the students smarter. By using technology to supplement their learning, the students were able to go beyond what they would have learned simply through a book. Students had the opportunity to learn about their topics from a different platform, which provided more information than what they would have found just in the book. The iPads overall helped increase the students’ cognitive abilities. It was clear through the video that working with the technology provided the opportunity to enhance the students’ knowledge.

Blog Post #8: Digital Storytelling Assessment

By: Taylor Pentz and tHEA apANIUS

Story (_____/20 points): The overall story must display a clear structure with a beginning, middle, and end. The story must follow a chronological order so that the viewer can see a beginning, middle, and end. The purpose for creating this digital story must also be present throughout the entire video. As the video creator, ask yourself: was this video created to tell a fictional story, inform the audience of a nonfiction topic, etc.? This information must be evident throughout the storytelling.

Project planning (____/20 points): Students engaging in this digital storytelling project must create a storyboard that shows clear evidence of project planning. To show evidence of planning, the digital storyteller will create a storyboard that must outline key details about the background audio, script voiceover, and images/videos that they plan to include in their digital story. Provide as much detail as possible about these features (volume level of the voiceover and background audio, names of songs, etc.) The more information, the better. Students in the learning community must also submit a script for their digital stories. The script must be written in the order that it plays out in the digital story. All members of the learning community are required to work on both the storyboard and the script.

Presentation and performance (_____/30 points): In terms of presentation, a completed version of the digital story will be posted to YouTube and to each member of the video’s blog so classmates and Dr. Shutkin can view it.  The digital story needs to have visuals and audio that help convey the story and as a result, the standards targeted. The educational aspects of the video must be promoted by the audio, video, and pictures.  The videos/pictures and audio will be used to reflect the ideas of the script and are not a distraction or take away from voiceover audio. The students must perform a script that will overlay the images/videos within the digital story.  The script will provide the educational aspect of the digital story and must be told in a way that is developmentally appropriate for the intended audience. 

Flow, organization, and pacing (_____/15 points): The images/videos, background audio, and voiceover script of the digital story is well organized in advance and put together with clear intention.  The voiceover is at a pace that is easy for the audience to digest, without being too fast or too slow. The story within the script flows in a way that is not awkward, hard to follow, or distracting from the information within the standard.  Every aspect of the digital story is evident that it was placed with intention and for the benefit of the intended audience. This means that the images/videos and audio are placed not in a way that is distracting or to be humorous, but supports the information of the standard in the voiceover.   

Research (_____/15 points): There is clear evidence that the students took time to research their topic: shown through the addition of research relating to the overall standard.  The addition of research is meaningful so that research added is helpful for learning the standard associated with the video. The students are not simply adding random facts for the sake of adding facts because they will take away from the focus of the digital story.  The research used within the digital story is cited in the credits. There are at least 2-3 sources within the work to show that the students reach beyond their own prior knowledge of the subject to gain a deeper, multifaceted understanding of the content.

Field Observation: Access To Technology

At my field placement this semester, I have been overwhelmingly surprise by the how well Center Elementary School integrates the use of technology in their curriculum.

Everyday lessons are supported by the use of technology. Each student has access to their own personal Chromebook in the classroom. This allows them to engage in technological explorations both individually and in groups. The teachers in my classroom encouraged the use of technology and supported their students throughout these explorations with their own knowledge of technology.

At a higher level, the district has a media specialist who sets the overall standards for the guidelines of their technology usage and programs. At the building level at Center Elementary, the teachers obtain certification for a variety of different technological platforms. Specifically in the classroom I was in, my teachers were trained for many different things related to technology– one of the biggest platforms was Lexia Learning. Lexia Learning is an educational program that my teachers used frequently with their students for reading practice. With their training, the teachers were clearly knowledgeable about Lexia and their capabilities with the application.

The students in the classroom use their Chromebooks for other purposes too. Students have access to a multitude of educational applications to help enhance their learning for mathematics, reading, science, etc. The teachers have been trained on how to guide their students through these applications.

Along with Chromebooks, the teachers have access to their own personal laptops that they use to project information onto the classroom Smart Board. This is helpful for the students and the teachers so they can view information as a whole class.

The students at Center Elementary are very lucky to have everyday access to this technology provided by Mayfield public schools. Each child gets their own Chromebook, and all of it is stored in the back of their classroom. They are all in perfect, working order for the students.

My teachers did not know much about the specific firewall within their systems, so they directed me to a technology specialist who knew more information. The school has a firewall set up through the district that blocks students’ access from certain websites/games. I was informed that the firewall blocks access to anything that is deemed inappropriate to access whether that be for the students’ protection or for the school’s protection. I noticed that educational sites are usually accessible, however it seemed to be common for noneducational websites to be blocked. Typically anytime a website is blocked, the teachers simply do not use the website and instead find another source.

As a whole, technology is ever-present at Center Elementary and it is exciting to see how my cooperating teachers integrated it into their curriculum with all the access they have to these tools from their school district.

Blog Post Five: Digital Storytelling Voice-Over Narration

Taylor Pentz AND thEA aPANIUS

Storyboard: The Sun

-Every morning the sun rises. The sun brings lots of light and warmth.

-Throughout the day, the sun moves across the sky until it sets in the evening.

-The sun is 27 million degrees fahrenheit! That is really hot!  The sun’s heat is called thermal energy.

-The heat or thermal energy warms everything on Earth.  The sun makes the land, air, and water warmer when it is out. 

-In the summer everything is warm and sunny.  This is because the sun is out longer during summer days.

-The sun is able to give us more thermal energy or heat when the sun is out for a longer time.  During the summer the light does not spread out as much so there is more energy at any one spot.  This gives us more heat.

-In the winter, everything is colder than in the summer.  This is because the sun is out less during winter days.

-The sun does not give us as much thermal energy or heat when the sun is not out for a long time.  During the winter, the light spreads out more so there is less energy at any one spot. This gives us less heat.

-The sun is very bright! The sun is so bright that you cannot look at it for too long or it hurts your eyes.

-The sun is so bright that it lights up the Earth when it is out.  The sun’s light is called light energy. 

-The sun gives the Earth thermal energy, or heat and light energy, or sunshine.

-The sun gives the Earth more energy than anything else.  

-When the sun goes down, the sky gets darker and the air gets a little colder.

-It is then night time until the sun rises again in the morning.

Blog Post #4: Reflection About My Students

Each week, I observe at Center Elementary school in Mayfield, Ohio. The experience is unlike any other classroom I have ever observed at. The 3rd grade class has a total of 43 students; two teachers decided to combine their classes and their spaces to co-teach with one another. The room is very open and flows nicely so that all 43 students can move freely between each classroom. 43 children is a lot; it is incredible how they are able to handle their students’ behavior and maintain classroom management.

Since there are so many students, the teachers provide ample opportunities for students to work with one another on a variety of projects and assignments ranging in difficulty level. Often times, students can work individually or have the choice to work with their classmates and collaborate on work in small groups. Since each student is at a different place in their learning, there is also some individual work. However, the teachers often assign work during their reading lesson where students must work with a partner to gather information from a text and record that information. Students also collaborate on math assignment sheets.

This classroom in particular places a heavy emphasis on the use of technology in the classroom. Each child in the classroom has their own Chromebook that they use for a variety of things. The teachers use a program called Lexia Learning, which is a supplemental program used for reading practice. Each day, the students are required to complete a certain amount of Lexia minutes that they then must log on a sheet and turn in at the end of the week. Aside from Lexia, the students use a variety of other programs on their computers to aid in their learning. This includes using the computers to do research on topics, practicing math programs, watching videos on topics they are learning about in class, and even playing educational games. Their computers have a variety of games that support what the students are learning about in class. The students seem to really enjoy them and are fully engaged in the learning process. Most of this work is done individually, however, when students are doing research, watching videos, and playing some games, students are expected to collaborate and share ideas with one another.

During their free time and at indoor recess, students also enjoy working on their Chromebooks. Many students enjoy playing video games, however I have also seen quite a few students who use their Chromebooks to make PowerPoints. A group of girls I observed have been spending their indoor recess time creating a PowerPoint for an exercise club they want to start for their school. They are making a PowerPoint from scratch about the club to propose to their vice principal. Other students are creating PowerPoints about topics that they find interesting to present to the class during morning meeting. One girl created a PowerPoint about how technology screens can hurt your eyes if you stare at them too long and another person created a PowerPoint about their trip to Pompeii, Italy. It is fun to see how students engage with the technology around them and explore the possibilities that are in front of them with little guidance from their teachers.

Since there are so many students in the classroom, the teachers have created pre-tests for higher learners in the class to take on their Chromebooks before they start a new lesson. The pre-tests allow the teachers to see where these higher learners are at and how much they already know. Students have the opportunity to test out of certain lessons if they already know the material and do well on the test. If that is the case, during whole group lessons, those students are given more difficult work to do on their own on their Chromebooks so that they can work ahead and feel challenged. I believe that this is a great way to differentiate in the classroom and meet students’ needs through the use of technology.

Students have learned how to be very technologically savvy with practice in the classroom. Whenever there are technological difficulties, the children typically know how to fix it. They rarely get frustrated with technology and normally seem very engaged and excited to learn when it involves using their Chrombooks.

Aside from the use of Chromebooks, the teachers also use their overhead projectors to show information to their students. Every morning when the students walk in, the teachers have the morning agenda projected on the board so that the students can read it and know what to expect for the beginning of the day. Throughout the day, they will use the projector to show information to their students and make things bigger for all 43 students to see. Anytime they read something as a whole class or want to show an example of something they are about to work on as a whole class, the teachers will project it, which seems to be very helpful for the students. The projector keeps the students informed and reminds them of what to expect for the day. This use of technology is a great way to provide structure in the classroom.

Outside of the classroom, students also seem to have exposure to technology. I talked with some students who said they have their own cellphones at home, and I also talked to many others who do not. A lot of children discussed with me how they especially enjoy playing video games at home. The majority of the students in this classroom have been granted the access to technology outside and inside of the classroom. However, this is a resource that not all children are granted. The resources given to the students at Center truly support their learning in the classroom and provide them with an addition avenue to learn. Additionally, the excitement about technology that they develop at home seems to transfer to the classroom and so do the technology skills that they learn through the repeated use and exploration of technology at home.

As Dalton stated in his article, “Multimodal Composition and the Common Core Standards” all students are designers, and teachers should encourage this. Throughout my time at Center, I have witnessed this. With the help and guidance of their teachers, the students create their own content through multimodal composition and digital storytelling. The teachers encourage their students through the use of technology and provide them with the freedom to explore the capabilities of their tools. The teachers communicate their expectations of how the students should be using their technology, while still providing them with the freedom to make their own choices on their Chromebooks. They also incorporate small group assignments with the technology to encourage collaboration and communication in the classroom. Unlike any other classroom I have seen, the teachers allow their students time to create content from scratch on applications such as PowerPoint. The teachers even encourage their students to share the content they created with the class and with others. Through digital storytelling, students can practice their roles as designers and use creativity. When they are able to make their own choices and express themselves through a variety of media, they can can connect their personal lives to what they are learning in class.

While observing, I saw how well these teachers were able to connect their own knowledge of technology to their teaching practices and the content they wanted to teach. As proposed in Dalton’s article, “effective technology integration occurs at the intersections of teachers’ knowledge about technology, pedagogy, and content, or TPAC” (Dalton 334). This is where the teachers at Center truly excel. They are able to make that connection between technology and content, using their own skills and knowledge about technology to help guide their instruction and make strong connections to the content they are teaching. Since they have the resources at Center, and the students are engaged in learning through technology, the teachers are able to make these ties with technology.

A Few Criticisms about Electrocardiogram

Although I believe that Electrocardiogram is a great video game for the classroom, like most video games, I do believe that it has some flaws. One of the first things I noticed is that it provides very little information about what an electrocardiogram is and what the different types of electric wave results are showing/what they actually mean. With that being said, I felt like the game was lacking because I did not fully understand the results I was trying to interpret. I know that I would have gotten more out of the game if I had first received some background information about what I was looking at.

So this leaves me to wonder: should it be up to the game to provide this information for me, or is it up to me to seek out this information? I do not personally have an answer to this question, however I do think that this game has a lot of potential, and with a little bit of extra knowledge provided for the players, it could go a long way.

I also would have liked to see the game have sound. I feel as if sound would have really enhanced the experience. I would have even liked to see sound used to provide instruction “in time” and “on demand” as I played the video game. This would have been a great opportunity to provide background knowledge and instruction for the players as they participate in the game.

Aside from these flaws, I still found the game to be very beneficial for the classroom. However, if improvements could be made in the areas I discussed, I believe the game could be taken to a whole other level.

A Second Look at Electrocardiogram: Would I Use It in My Classroom?

Prior to this video game exploration, my experience with video games in a classroom setting have been quite limited. Growing up, I rarely got the chance to play video games at school. If I ever did, it was most likely during indoor recess and the games had almost nothing to do with subjects I was learning about in class. Because of that, I always looked at video games as “fun” and almost never related them to academics. I never actually considered how much they could help enhance a teacher’s curriculum.

Now, after a few weeks of exploring my own video game and the video games of my team members, my eyes have been opened to all of the ways that a teacher can integrate video games into their lesson plans.

Now that I have gained this new perspective, I can see the potential that Electrocardiogram could have in an educational setting and would personally use it in my own classroom. From a more broad perspective, the game itself teaches students basic skills such as how to be curious about new topics and how to use this curiosity as a drive for exploration and learning new things. The game allows students the opportunity to practice exploring new topics and teaches them how to use what they learn through observation to make a prediction. As students take on the role of a doctor in this game, they are expected to explore their surroundings and use what they learn through observation to make a prediction about the patient’s disease. The more they take on the identity of the doctor, the more their interests and curiosity grows.

I can even see how this game would be great for a much higher grade level, such as in high school, when students are learning about the functions of the heart. The game could be used as a lab activity and could be introduced as an exploration prior to learning anything about the topic. It could also be used after a lesson as visual support to what the students have already learned.

After considering all of this information through more exploration, I would most definitely support the use of this game in my own classroom. It has many great qualities and allows students to build on their previous knowledge and use what they already know to make predictions and develop new skills.