An Early Adopter
When Marc Prensky coined the term “digital native” he referred to children of the latest generation who have grown up immersed in technology (Prensky 2001). Since I’m too old to be considered a digital native, I guess I’ll have to term myself an early adopter. Technology has always been an important part of my life from building a crystal radio in third grade, to playing a variety of classic handheld games such as Mattel football, Simon and Merlin. I experienced at an early age Csíkszentmihályi’s idea of flow, even though at the time I just thought the games were a whole lot of fun. My love for technology continued to grow in high school. In my junior year my high school received two brand-new Apple IIE computers, even though no one in the school, including the teachers, really knew what to do with them, a group of my friends and I spent many hours developing games and programs in BASIC. It was at this time that I bought my first computer: a Timex Sinclair 1000 with a whopping 8K of memory and a cassette player to store data. Moving to college it was only logical that I would become a computer science major. However, while I loved working with the machines I missed the contact with people. As a result, I left computer science and sort of fell into education. It was one of the most serendipitous things that has ever happened to me; nineteen years later I can’t imagine another profession that would give me as much pleasure as teaching has.
My love for technology is carried through into the classroom. In my first teaching jobs, I incorporated the LOGO programming language into my instruction and also had my students producing videos and crash editing the products using two VCRs daisy-chained together. It was in 1994, teaching in a public school in small- town Wisconsin that I was first exposed to the future of education through the Internet and AT&T learning network. My students participated in a collaborative exchange with students from several different schools throughout the United States comparing their experiences as seventh graders. It was in this project that I realized the power of the Internet for revolutionizing educational pedagogy. In addition it was through the Internet that I quickly began to realize that the world was much smaller and had many more opportunities than ever before. In 1997 my wife and I accepted positions at the Singapore American School and entered the world of international education. In Singapore I developed a broadcast journalism class in which my students delivered the morning announcements via closed-circuit television. Moving to the American Embassy School in New Delhi India in 2003, technology is solidified as a cornerstone of my instruction with blogs and wikis being invaluable assets in my classroom.
Given my love for technology it was almost inevitable that I would discover and enroll in the EDTEC program at San Diego State . This program has not only reinforced many of the ideas that have been fundamental to my pedagogy but also exposed me to others that have become cornerstones.
Learning By Doing
The first idea that was reinforced in the program was constructivist learning. The idea constructivism and how it relates to the field of educational technology was reinforced almost immediately in EDTEC 540 with Dr. Marshall. In my final exam for that class I had this to say about the strengths of constructivism, “Learners are active, individual learning styles are accounted for and students construct learning experiences based on their own realities.” The relationship of constructivism to success in educational technology was driven home during my EDTEC 798 independent study of technology facilitation in K-12 schools with Dr. Kopcha. As part of a lit review for this class I uncovered several pieces that reinforced the strength of this educational philosophy. Robert Kagel in Learning And Leading With Technology summarizes that teachers who profess constructivist pedagogy are not only more likely to use technology in instruction, but also to use it in an exemplary fashion. It seems constructivist teachers are more likely to use their classrooms as laboratories and use technology both as a means to teach content and also as a way for students to create authentic assessments of learning (Kagel 2005). Pamela Moorehead and Barbara LeBeau echo the sentiment stating that a critical first step toward integrating technology into the classroom is having staff study constructivist learning theory and the role technology plays in the learning process. They believe,” Technology can be used as a tool for communication in the inquiry through a constructivist approach fostering student learning through real-life applications (Moorehead & LeBeau 2004).”
My love for constructivist pedagogy was developed very early in my teaching career. I drifted away from the sage on the stage to become the guide on the side. Dealing with middle school students it quickly became obvious that they would learn more by being producers rather than consumers of information in the classroom. I’ve employed constructivist principles to a variety of learning experiences for my students which both integrate technology and don’t. In the early 90’s when I was teaching world geography in a rural Wisconsin public school I was trying to develop a way for my students to experience and appreciate cultural differences in a homogenous student population. Constructivism provided the solution. Each student selected a country of interest to them and researched what it was like to live there for the average person. Then armed with their research they created a booth that highlighted the main elements of the culture they researched. Over the course of five years the culture fair grew into one of the staples of a seventh graders educational experience. Another example is the population project that all eighth-grade students at the American Embassy School participate in. Students develop an inquiry-based question that revolves around the topic of population in India and one of five guiding areas: gender, geography, economics, education or health. Students then research their topics using a variety of data sources and experts in the field. Their original research is then published out in either a high tech or low tech method and shared with the AES community as a whole. This culminating assessment of the students’ middle school experience is another excellent example of constructivism in action. The EDTEC program in SDSU has also provided opportunities through EDTEC 570 with Wendy Parcell and EDTEC 670 with Dr. Dodge to allow me to apply constructivist principles to technology via WebQuest’s, simulations, and other tech rich learning experiences appropriate for middle school students.
Time Flies When You’re Having Fun
I’ve always felt that it was important for students to be motivated in order to do their best, but I didn’t necessarily understand the theories regarding improving motivation. Two ideas that have become very important to me as a result of the SDSU EDTEC master’s program have been Keller’s ARCS model and Csíkszentmihályi’s idea of flow.
It was in EDTEC 670 with Dr. Dodge that I was first introduced to John Keller’s ARCS (attention relevance confidence and satisfaction) model which serves as a solid framework for understanding and analyzing motivational issues. The first and most important factor in the ARCS model is getting and holding the learner’s attention. Our attention is aroused by things that are interesting or surprising (Kruse). By introducing a unique situation educators can often rapidly engage learners (Keller & Suzuki, 1998). Keller describes relevance in terms of experience, present worth, future usefulness, needs matching, modeling and choice (Robles, 1998). In order for students to remain motivated the teacher or game needs to address the issue of, “How will this benefit me?”(Keller & Suzuki, 1998) Keller suggests that perceived control is one of the components of confidence. When learners have choices that have direct influence on their actions they gain confidence. Moreover Keller suggests that in order to build confidence learners need the freedom to be able to make mistakes without being embarrassed (Keller & Suzuki, 1998). In terms of satisfaction Keller states, “If the outcomes of the learner’s efforts are consistent with their expectations and if they feel good about the outcomes then they are likely to remain motivated (Keller & Suzuki, 1998).” In a nutshell learners must realize some sort of a payoff for their effort. This could be something tangible like posting a high score or seeing a special animated sequence. It can also be less tangible like simply being entertained (Kruse).
My love for Keller’s ARCS model is demonstrated regularly. When I went through my teacher preparation program 20 years ago Madeline Hunter and Hunter Lesson Design was a cornerstone. Although I didn’t realize it at the time this model addressed many of the same issues as Keller’s ARCS model of motivation does. In Hunter Lesson Design getting attention is referred to as anticipatory set. Stating the objectives of the lesson attempts to create relevance. Checking for understanding and re-teaching helps build student confidence, while closure may lead to satisfaction (Hunter 1994). While this is not a perfect correlation using the Hunter model and keeping in mind Keller’s ARCS model allows me to hopefully engage and motivate my students on a daily basis.
A second idea related to motivation is the idea of flow. Flow is becoming so engaged with an activity that one is concentrating and focusing so intensely that they lose track of time. They become absorbed in the activity so that there is a merging of the person’s actions and their awareness of the activity. Csíkszentmihályi also mentions that in flow experiences the participants may have a sense of control over the activity and walk a fine line between frustration and boredom. In addition the activity is intrinsically rewarding so the action of performing the activity doesn’t seem like work (Csíkszentmihályi 1990).
In Ed Tech 670 with Dr. Dodge one interesting tangent we took was to examine the idea of flow by introducing someone to a video game called Snood. Without any prior knowledge or instruction the subject was instructed to play the game. Then we as the observer marked their reactions at one minute intervals. It was interesting to see my subject over the course of 24 minutes move from a state of high frustration to a state of flow: thoroughly immersed and enjoying the new experience. During the process of designing my electronic simulation for the same class I replicated the process with a group of three eighth grade students who formed my cohort of usability testers. Based on the observations and feedback I was able to restructure the game to make it much more motivational and rewarding.
My love of the idea of flow continues to carry on into my instruction. While designing units and projects for my students I think about what will attract them and immerse them so that they approximate a state of flow. A recent example of a success with flow was using a revised version of The Scramble for Africa simulation that I developed in EDTEC 670. In this game students assume the roles of European countries and compete for control of Africa during the period of rapid colonization. Over the course of three class periods my students often became so absorbed that they lost track of time while experiencing colonization firsthand.
When beginning to develop integrated technology pieces into my humanities classes I have discovered that my students will be more will more motivated for these tasks when the task grabs their attention, is relevant to them, is designed to build their confidence and provides satisfaction for them upon completion. In addition, I am cognizant of developing learning opportunities that are at that fine point between being frustrating and being boring. In the classroom I strive to be a reflective practitioner who follows constructivist pedagogy and also addresses student motivation when designing learning experiences that are both technology rich and low-tech.
Becoming Part of the Bigger Picture
Through the EDTEC masters program at San Diego State University I’ve begun to move outside of the classroom and take a more active role in the technology leadership in the middle school. One valuable idea that has eased this transition is performance analysis. This systematic way of approaching instructional systems has been incredibly valuable to me in several situations.
Performance analysis is working with clients to help them define and achieve their goals. It involves finding out as many perspectives on a problem as you can, determining all drivers and barriers affecting the issue, and then creating a solution set based on what you discovered (Rossett 1998).
When I was first introduced to performance analysis as part of the ADDIE model in EDTEC 540 with Dr. Marshall I thought it was interesting, but didn’t realize its importance until I started applying it to situations that were relevant to me. While I applied elements of performance analysis to a number of situations in a variety of courses during the program, it was in ED 795A with Dr. Rossett that I saw its true value when applied within an actual educational system.
The purpose of my ED795A practicum was to conduct a performance analysis which would cultivate sufficient data through interviews, surveys, and a literature review to make clear statements concerning the use of data at the American Embassy School – New Delhi (AES) to improve student learning, and to specify a series of recommendations for future improvement. By determining the efficacy of data use currently and providing a solution set based on the findings from this analysis, the AES Leadership Team could both make recommended changes and use the data provided as a base for further research.
This practicum was valuable for me in several ways which solidified my love for performance analysis. While Dr. Rossett’s book First Things Fastserved a cornerstone for my work, what looked good on paper sometimes worked much differently in the field. For example the performance problem I was examining continued to become more complex at each turn. Initial conversations indicated that this was an organizational issue involving the tools that were used to warehouse the data. However, the software that the previous Technology Director had purchased was not compatible with the student information system and was losing or corrupting the data that was being entered. The system was shelved. After further discussion about the process of using data to improve student learning at AES, it became clear that the issue was much bigger than just a faulty data warehouse. At this point it was determined that a performance analysis on data use for improving student learning at AES was in order. Often times a high degree of flexibility is key to success.
Another valuable take-away from my practicum was realizing that during the development of the solution system it became clear that a one size fits all approach would not work. Keller’s ARCS model for motivation was an important piece for addressing the barriers at the high school in particular where relevance and confidence were especially important. In addition since the process of analyzing data at AES is inherently constructivist, it made sense that the training interventions should mirror the process. Not being married to one approach and being flexible proved to be an important skill in creating the solution system.
Since the completion of this practicum I’ve used performance analysis in a number of ways both in and out of the classroom. For example after taking a common writing assessment my students had scored lower on the section regarding citing sources than I had hoped. A quick analysis of the problem, which included meeting with other Grade 8 humanities teachers, checking the school’s research rubric, and reflecting back on the way I taught citation skills gave me insights which helped create appropriate re-teaching interventions. Upon completion of the second assessment student scores had risen to a level I was satisfied with. Outside of the classroom in conjunction with my EDTEC 798 independent study with Dr. Kopcha I’ve been using performance analysis to try to understand the disparity in technology integration between our middle school teachers. A thorough literature review, a survey of incumbent staff, and interviews with administration will arm me with enough data to create a blended solution set that will begin to be implemented in school year 2008-09 to hopefully raise the amount and efficacy of technology integration at the AES middle school.
Onward and Outward
With one foot firmly in the classroom and one tentatively venturing outside, the future is rife with possibility. I love being in the classroom and the ideas of constructivist pedagogy, motivational theories, and performance analysis will only enhance the product I provide to my students. However these ideas also give me the flexibility that if I choose to transition out of this classroom I have a terrific set of skills that will allow me to have opportunities both in and out of K-12 education.
Due to the rapid pace of change, I also realize that further developments in technology will impact the ideas that are currently meaningful to me. As a pragmatist I realize I will need to move with these changes also or run the risk of being left behind. As a result my challenge is to never stop learning and experimenting.
In my application to the EDTEC I stated,
“ Because I view myself as both a life-long learner and a citizen of the flat world, I realize pursing a Masters Degree with an emphasis in Educational Technology from San Diego State is a valuable opportunity. Since educational technology is a primary force of flattening, this program will allow me to enhance my professional skills in using instructional technology and ultimately create even better classroom experiences for my students. I look forward to the challenge .”
The Masters Degree program in Educational Technology from San Diego State University has been every bit the valuable opportunity I’d hoped it would be. However because I view myself as a lifelong learner this is not an endpoint but rather an opportunity to not only reflect on my practice at this point, but also to serve as a springboard for future learning and professional growth opportunities. We are truly in the information age and by harnessing the power of the internet via RSS feeds and my online professional learning network I will continue to flatten the world not only for myself but my students also.
Csíkszentmihályi , M. (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience . New York : Harper and Row.
Hunter, M. (1994). Mastery Teaching: Increasing Instructional Effectiveness in Elementary and Secondary Schools, Colleges, and Universities (Madeline Hunter Collection Series) . Thousand Oaks , CA : Corwin Press.
Kagel, R. (2005). How teacher attitudes affect technology integration. Learning & Leading with Technology , 32 ( 5 ), P. 34-47. Retrieved March 8, 2008, from the ERIC database.
Keller, J. M. and K. Suzuki (1998). Use of the ARCS motivation model incourseware design. in Instructional designs for microcomputercourseware . D. H. Jonassen. Hillsdale , NJ , Lawrence Erlbaum : 401-434.
Kruse, Kevin (2000) John Keller’s ARCS Model for Learner Motivation. RetrievedDecember 1, 2006, from The Magic of Learner Motivation: The ARCSModel Web site: http://www.e-learningguru.com/articles/art3_5.htm
Moorehead, P., & Labeau, B. (2004). Successful curricular mapping: Fostering smooth technology integration. Learning & Leading with Technology , 32 ( 4 ), P. 12-17. Retrieved March 3, 2008, from the ERIC database.
Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon , 9 ( 5 ). Retrieved March 15, 2007, from http://pre2005.flexiblelearning.net.au/projects/resources/Digital_Natives_Digital_Immigrants.pdf.
Robles, Rudy (1998). EET Templates. Retrieved December 1, 2006, from
Keller’s ARCS Model-Relevance Web site:http://coe.sdsu.edu/eet/Articles/relevance/start.htm
Rossett, A. (1998). First Things Fast: A Handbook for Performance Analysis . Washington D.C. : Pfeiffer.