Using Questioning as Formative Assessment

Program Standard 6

6. Assessment – The teacher uses multiple data elements (both formative and summative) to plan, inform, and adjust instruction and evaluate student learning.

6.2 Element – Designing Student Assessments with an Emphasis on Formative Assessment

6.2 Example of Proficient – Teacher has a well-developed strategy to use formative assessment and has designed particular approaches to be used.

During the completion of my Teacher Performance Assessment (edTPA), I discovered the impact that questioning can have on student learning and achievement. Throughout my coursework at Seattle Pacific University, I learned about the importance of formative assessments and how they can be used to plan, inform, and adjust instruction to drive student learning and elevate achievement. While I knew that questioning was a valuable tool in this endeavor, it has become clear that it is the best way to truly tell the depth of students’ understanding and to measure their procedural fluency, reasoning, and conceptual development. During the math lesson sequence that I taught for my edTPA, I used small group lessons to probe students’ thinking and monitor their progress. What I discovered was that students who can easily fill out math worksheets often do not fully understand the concepts behind the procedures. While these students were able to produce the right answers to math equations, they were not able to explain their reasoning or revealed that they had formed a misconception. These misconceptions might not have hindered that student’s ability to complete that particular task but left unchecked would cause knowledge gaps that would hinder future success. It is crucial that the information gained during these formative assessments is documented so that it can be used to adjust instruction and provide students with the targeted support that they need. I used a monitoring sheet to record data about students’ comprehension and reasoning. This information was used to provide scaffolding to struggling students and elevations to students who excel, as well as, provide mini-lessons to address misconceptions.

In order to gain valuable insights, I first had to prepare questions that would reveal students’ mathematical reasoning and conceptual development. Worksheets are useful in assessing students’ procedural fluency but often fail to measure much more. Questioning also allows teachers to give immediate feedback on student progress which is critical to success. Smith and Stein (2011) assert, “Good questions certainly help. They can guide students’ attention to previously unnoticed features of a problem or they can loosen up their thinking so that they can gain a new perspective on what is being asked. Good questions also force students to articulate their thinking so that it is understandable to another human being; this articulation, in and of itself, is often a catalyst for learning” (p. 62). During small group instruction at the half circle table pictured to the left, I would assess student progress starting with prompts for students to demonstrate their basic knowledge, comprehension, and application of the skills required to solve a problem. Then students would be asked to analyze their understanding of the problem by explaining their reasoning. Finally, students would be directed to synthesize and evaluate their understanding of the concept by identifying what math strategies and tools they found most helpful in solving equations. Even though the students that I am working with are only in kindergarten, I found that they are easily able to explain their reasoning and evaluate their progress when asked the right questions. This practice has become a daily part of my math instruction throughout my student teaching experience. Moving forward, I would like to begin using questioning to this degree in all subject matter as it has been so effective during mathematics instruction.

Reference
Smith, M.S., & Stein, M.K. (2011). 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions. Reston, VA: The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Inc.

Fostering an Inclusive Classroom

Program Standard 5

5. Learning Environment – The teacher fosters and manages a safe and inclusive learning environment that takes into account: physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being.

5.1 Element – Creating an Environment of Respect and Rapport

5.1 Example of Proficient – Teacher-student interactions are friendly and demonstrate general caring and respect. Such interactions are appropriate to the age and cultures of the students. Students exhibit respect for the teacher.

Inclusivity is a crucial element to consider when fostering a positive learning atmosphere. Students spend a great deal of time in school interacting with their peers and with their teacher and because of this fact it is important that their physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being are considered. Creating a classroom community requires teachers to take into account the unique experiences of each student. Kohn (2008) asserts that a classroom community is “a place in which students feel cared about and are encouraged to care about each other. They experience a sense of being valued and respected; the children matter to one another and to the teacher” (Chapter 7, Section 1, para. 2). During the first few weeks of my student teaching internship, I have taken note of the many ways in which my mentor teacher cultivates a respectful and inclusive environment. A foundational element of creating this type of classroom is respect. My mentor teacher nurtures a climate of caring between her students. This task is accomplished not only through meaningful interactions but also by exposing her students to the cultural heritage of their peers. She has discovered that reading books discussing differing experiences helps to make her students classroom-booksunderstand each other better and imbue them with a sense of community. The picture shows just a few of the books read aloud to students in this classroom which expose them to a reality outside their own. These books often deal with complex issues in a manner accessible to the kindergarteners that she teaches. During read aloud time, these books often serve as a springboard for discussions that open students’ minds to new ideas.

Throughout my coursework at Seattle Pacific University, I have learned the importance of assembling a classroom library that represents the diversity that exists in America. I knew that it would be important to curate this kind of classroom library and select books for read aloud time that expose students to experiences outside of their own. However, I did not anticipate how profound of an effect it would have on students or how impactful it would be in helping students bond with one another. My mentor teacher just finished reading The Year of the Rat by Grace Lin to her class at the suggestion of one of her student’s parents. This book provides insight into the unique experiences faced every day as an immigrant to America. It is told through the eyes of a young girl and details her triumphs and challenges as she navigates school. While this book was being read aloud, the student whose parent suggested it would often interject anecdotes of personal experiences. These narratives often started interesting conversations and allow the rest of the class to connect with this student. These types of interactions have a deep and meaningful impact on the classroom environment and serve to help students relate to one another. As a teacher, it will be important for me to institute this kind of practice into my routine. It will be essential to enable meaningful dialogue which will serve to strengthen the respect between classmates. Establishing a good relationship with students’ parents is an essential first step in accomplishing this goal. Getting to know my students’ parents will help me to understand their unique experiences and how they can be incorporated into the classroom community.

Reference
Kohn, A. (2008). Beyond Discipline: From Compliance to Community. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. [Kindle DX version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com

Creating A Classroom Community With Families

Program Standard 5

5. Learning Environment – The teacher fosters and manages a safe and inclusive learning environment that takes into account: physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being.

5.1 Element – Creating an Environment of Respect and Rapport

5.1 Example of Proficient – Teacher-student interactions are friendly and demonstrate general caring and respect. Such interactions are appropriate to the age and cultures of the students. Students exhibit respect for the teacher.

Part 1 of 3 (Click to Enlarge)

During the completion of my coursework for EDU 6942, I learned the depth and intricacy of how teachers can foster and manage a safe and inclusive learning environment for all students. For students to feel comfortable and fully included in any classroom setting, teachers must create an atmosphere of caring that establishes strong relationships with students and with their families. Teachers must take into account the physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being of each and every student and that cannot happen without the support of those children’s families. The basis of this practice is establishing a good rapport with families through constant outreach. Students are much more likely to have their academic needs met when their physical and emotional needs are addressed first. Students need to know that they have a network of caring adults in their lives and that their teachers and families are working in tandem to provide that to them. Epstein (2010) asserted, “With frequent interactions between schools, families, and communities, more students are more likely to receive common messages from various people about the importance of school, of working hard, of thinking creatively, of helping one another, and of staying in school” (p. 82).  Although these connections are essential to student success, developing strong relationships with families will take effort.

Part 2 of 3 (Click to Enlarge)

While reading articles on the importance of integrating students’ home lives into their school lives, I learned of all the different elements that need to be present to create effective and open communication. Outlined in the three artifacts attached is my synthesis and analysis of the reading on this topic which was posted to a discussion board with my peers. In this unit of study, I learned that the most crucial element in developing communication is respect. This does not just mean respecting the opinions of students’ family members but also recognizing and appreciating all the different ways that they contribute to their child’s education. Henderson and Mapp (2002) stated, “When school staff engage in caring and trusting relationships with parents that recognize parents as partners in the educational development of children, these relationships enhance parents’ desire to be involved and influence how they participate in their children’s educational development” (p. 45). These authors pointed out that sometimes parents and teachers perceive differing levels of family involvement in a child’s education because there is a breakdown in communication (p. 49). If teachers do not directly see families participating in their child’s education, they can mistakenly assume that the involvement is low. However, many families contribute to their child’s education in a variety of ways that should be recognized and celebrated. Once teachers open up productive communication, the relationship between students’ home and school lives can strengthen.

Part 3 of 3 (Click to Enlarge)

Establishing a strong connection with families is fundamental for a teacher’s success. During my classroom observation, I witnessed the importance of developing open communication with parents. There was one student in this classroom that was going through significant turmoil at home and it was impacting his ability to focus on academics. Ellerbrock, Abbas, Dicicco, Denmon, Sabella, and Hart (2015) stressed, “When students face challenges outside of school that interfere with their ability to focus on academics, a caring classroom community can provide emotional support and help students focus in the classroom” (p. 49). This student was experiencing high levels of stress which was impacting his physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being. The teacher I volunteered with, explained to me that she was working with this student’s parents to help him succeed and deal with his stress. She was only able to collaborate with these parents because of the rapport that was established early on in the school year. She frequently called home throughout the year not only to report on difficult situations but also to inform his parents of everyday achievements. This teacher informed me that it is essential for teachers to take the time to celebrate students’ accomplishments, no matter how small, with their parents or family members. Without this level of dedication and cooperation, this student would not have received the same level of multilayered, coordinated support in both his home and school life.

Witnessing this intersection of school and home and the impact it had on this student demonstrated to me the importance of developing strong relationships with families. The articles that I read during my coursework provided me with strategies going forward but ultimately I will have to learn through experiences with actual families. This practice will take hard work and determination but will always start from a place of respect and recognition. I will strive to open up communication with families so that I will be able to understand all of the diverse and unique ways in which they support their child’s education. Once a good rapport is established, I can constantly work to cooperate with families to ensure their child’s success and well-being.

References
Ellerbrock, C. R., Abbas, B., Dicicco, M., Denmon, J. M., Sabella, L., & Hart, J. (2015). Relationships: The fundamental R in education. Phi Delta Kappan96(8), 48-51. doi:10.1177/0031721715583963
Epstein, J. L. (2010). School/Family/Community Partnerships: Caring for The Children We Share. Kappan, 92(3), 65-96. doi: 10.1177/003172171009200326
Henderson, A. T., & Mapp, K. L. (2002). A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family, and Community Connections on Student Achievement. National Center for Family & Community Connections with Schools. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED536946.pdf

Becoming An Advocate For Exceptional Students

Program Standard 3

3. Differentiation – The teacher acquires and uses specific knowledge about students’ cultural, individual intellectual and social development and uses that knowledge to adjust their practice by employing strategies that advance student learning.

3.3 Element – Demonstrating flexibility and responsiveness in persisting to support students.

3.3 Example of Proficient – Teacher persists in seeking approaches for students who have difficulty learning, drawing on a broad repertoire of strategies.

advocate

For EDSP 6644 (Educating Exceptional Students) I researched the increasingly popular Response to Intervention (RtI) model and how it relates to twice-exceptional students (see linked paper below). Twice-exceptional students are distinctive because of their combination of high intelligence and specific learning disabilities. These combined traits can often make it difficult for standardized measures to detect these learners. Oftentimes their intelligence can offset their specific learning disability resulting in average achievement even though they are capable of so much more. According to Crepeau-Hobson and Bianco (2011) “This masking can make the twice-exceptional students appear to have average abilities and achievement. Because of these issues, gifted students with [learning disabilities] are less likely to be identified for either exceptionality” (p. 103). If these students are not detected within systems like the RtI model, they will not get the supports and enrichments needed.

Although it is not a perfect screening process, the RtI model can be adjusted to provide a first step in detecting twice-exceptional students. McCallum, Mee Bell, Coles, Miller, Hopkins, and Hilton-Prillhart (2013) suggest, “Scrutiny of more than one academic area for screening purposes will decrease the potentially negative effects of masking” (p. 219). The researchers believe that if students’ scores are vastly different between subjects, those discrepancies might indicate that they are suffering from learning disabilities despite testing within the normal range. The students who have large inconsistencies in their test scores across subjects would then qualify for further screening. While this is not a perfect solution, it does help to fill a gap in the RtI model that would otherwise leave twice-exceptional students undetected. It is important for administrators to take suggestions like this one under consideration so that students can get the interventions that they need.

Even with adjustments to screening systems, it is essential that teachers always advocate for their students. After doing research, I have learned that perceptive teachers are crucial to the success of their students. This is especially true for students with special needs. In inclusive classrooms, these students often fail to receive proper supports. McKenzie (2010) asserts, “Insightful teachers have always been, and must remain, the conduits of advocacy on behalf of students with exceptionalities” (p. 166). This knowledge will drive my teaching and make me a more thoughtful and dedicated educator. It will push me to learn more about the needs of exceptional learners so I can create a truly inclusive classroom. It is important for teachers to not exclusively rely on standardized testing to detect the needs of all students. All teachers must be informed about special education issues so that they can differentiate their teaching and provide students with the support needed. Vigilant teachers must ensure that these students are receiving proper interventions, are building strong social relationships, and are developing a sense of self-efficacy. It is crucial for all students, but especially those with disabilities, to develop a sense of agency so that they can advocate for themselves and understand their own learning needs. Teachers are such an important part of their students’ lives so it is imperative for them to champion for the needs of each and every learner in their classroom.

Click To Read My Paper On Twice-Exceptional Students And The RtI Model

References
Crepeau-Hobson, F., & Bianco, M. (2011). Identification of Gifted Students with Learning Disabilities in a Response-to-Intervention era. Psychology In The Schools48(2), 102-109. doi:10.1002/pits.20528
McCallum, S.R., Mee Bell, S., Coles, J.T., Miller, K.C., Hopkins, M.B., & Hilton-Prillhart, A. (2013). A Model for Screening Twice-Exceptional Students (Gifted With Learning Disabilities) Within a Response to Intervention Paradigm. Gifted Child Quarterly, 57(4), 209-222. doi:10.1177/0016986213500070
McKenzie, R. G. (2010). The Insufficiency of Response to Intervention in Identifying Gifted Students with Learning Disabilities. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice (Wiley-Blackwell)25(3), 161-168. doi:10.1111/j.1540-5826.2010.00312.x

Using Backward Design to Create Dynamic Lessons

Program Standard 4

4. Content Knowledge – The teacher uses content area knowledge, learning standards, appropriate pedagogy and resources to design and deliver curricula and instruction to impact student learning.

4.4 Element – Designing Coherent Instruction in the area of Lesson and Unit Structure

4.4 Example of Proficient – The lesson or unit has a clearly defined structure around which activities are organized. Progression of activities is even, with reasonable time allocations.

Effective teaching requires a dedication to thoughtful planning to ensure that lessons are dynamic and relevant. According to Marzano (2007), “The decisions teachers make about the focus of units of instruction, the lessons within those units, and the segments within each lesson provide the infrastructure for effective or ineffective teaching” (Chapter 10, Section 2, para. 4). He also argues that flexibility is a key factor for student success as it is necessary to amend lessons based on student comprehension. It is important for all students to receive the individual scaffolding they need in order to thrive academically. It is also essential for teachers to anticipate difficulties or misconceptions that students may face when learning a subject so that they can create contingencies. The more prepared that an educator is when teaching a lesson the better the outcomes stand to be. Marzano (2007) argues, “Experienced teachers were better able to anticipate situations that were likely to be encountered and were able to generate contingency plans based on those possibilities” (Chapter 10, Section 2, para. 5). Although veteran educators have past experiences to help inform their practice, new teachers can also take the time to consciously prepare for multiple scenarios. Thoughtful planning also helps teachers ensure that lessons progress in a logical manner and that all learning outcomes are meaningfully addressed.

backward-design

In order to achieve a cohesive lesson, Wiggins and McTighe (2005) suggest starting with the desired results based on standards and work backward to then create materials and activities around that end goal (p. 8). They argue that when teachers do this they are able to see assessments as part of the learning process and use them formatively throughout the unit instead of just as a summative check of knowledge at the end (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005, p. 8). This style allows teachers to use informal comprehension checks to adapt lessons and provide students with the proper support to succeed. When teachers plan lessons in this manner it becomes easier to center them around standards and learning targets instead of having to try to integrate them as an afterthought. Many new teachers often first think of fun activities or rely heavily on textbooks to create lessons without thinking about how standards will fit into them. It becomes easy to get attached to an idea about how fun or exciting an activity could be without looking at the importance of how it will fit into the learning goals. This approach pushes teachers to use backward design to ensure that each lesson is impactful and situated within the larger context of a unit. It also enables teachers to focus on the information that needs to be taught and the manner which is most conducive to the subject matter. Once the standards have been identified and the learning target is established, it becomes easier to break down the learning into manageable segments and create formative assessments to check and see if students are progressing through the material. Ultimately effective lessons are well sequenced and thoughtfully planned and successful teachers are able to adapt as circumstances arise.

References
Marzano, R. (2007). The Art and Science of Teaching a Comprehensive Framework for Effective Instruction. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. [Kindle DX version] Retrieved from Amazon
Wiggins, G.P., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Media
The photo in this post has been unedited and was found on the website Educational Technology.

Providing Equitable Education To All Students

Program Standard 5

5. Learning Environment – The teacher fosters and manages a safe and inclusive learning environment that takes into account: physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being.

5.1 Element – Creating an Environment of Respect and Rapport

5.1 Example of Proficient – Teacher-student interactions are friendly and demonstrate general caring and respect. Such interactions are appropriate to the age and cultures of the students. Students exhibit respect for the teacher.

equity

There is a debate in this country about whether or not to provide certain students on a 504 plan or Individualized Education Program (IEP) with special accommodations. Those who argue against it say that it leaves students ill-prepared for independent living, that it allows students to graduate without doing much work, and that it is unfair to other students who are required to complete their assignments (Evans, 2008, pp. 324-325). However, an appropriate accommodation does not do anything more than create an equitable environment for all students. According to Byrnes, “An accommodation is an adjustment to an activity or setting that removes a barrier presented by a disability so a person can have access equal to that of a person without a disability. An accommodation does not guarantee success or a specific level of performance. Appropriate accommodations provide the opportunity for a person with a disability to participate equitably in a situation or activity” (Evans, 2008, p. 317).

An accommodation does not allow students to go through school without any effort but merely removes obstacles that would leave certain students far behind their peers academically. Providing accommodations to students also does not make them less prepared for the real world because in this country it is illegal to discriminate against someone based on their disability. 504 plans ensure that future employers cannot overlook a candidate based on their disability and also requires them to provide accommodations for that employee. However, it is important that students needing accommodations be given the proper support so that the right measures are taken in each case. Far too often the same accommodations are made for several students with a wide range of abilities. Byrnes states, “Disabilities differ in individuals. Accommodations must be considered for each individual, not by disability category. The point is to understand the disability and the learning situation and then determine if these interact to pose a barrier to equal access” (Evans, 2008, p. 319). It is important that teachers and other professionals treat each student individually so that the best solution can be found.

References
Evans, D. L. (2008). Taking sides: Clashing views in teaching and educational practice. Dubuque, IA: McGraw-Hill/Dushkin.
Media
The photo in this post has been unedited and was found on Flickr following creative commons licensing.

Character Education In The Hidden Curriculum Of Schools

Program Standard 5

5. Learning Environment – The teacher fosters and manages a safe and inclusive learning environment that takes into account: physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being.

5.1 Element – Creating an Environment of Respect and Rapport

5.1 Example of Proficient – Teacher-student interactions are friendly and demonstrate general caring and respect. Such interactions are appropriate to the age and cultures of the students. Students exhibit respect for the teacher.

school

Character education in schools is a matter of contention for a number of reasons. Some believe that it leads to the indoctrination of a narrow set of values while others simply object to it because they contend that it takes away from valuable classroom instruction on subject matter. However, Elkind and Sweet point out that it is deeply ingrained in schools without even being a part of explicit instruction:

Let’s get one thing perfectly clear—you are a character educator. Whether you are a teacher, administrator, custodian, or school bus driver, you are helping shape the character of the kids you come in contact with. It’s in the way you talk, the behaviors you model, the conduct you tolerate, the deeds you encourage, the expectations you transmit. Yes, for better or worse, you are already doing character education. (Evans, 2008, p. 336)

All of the aspects of character development that Elkind and Sweet speak of are a part of the hidden curriculum within schools. There is no way to avoid influencing the character of students and teachers should be cognizant of their effect on students so that they send the right messages.

How a teacher structures and manages the classroom will set the tone for how students interact with one another. If the classroom is an inclusive space where all opinions are valued then those students will understand that differing points of view in the classroom, as well as larger society, are not only acceptable but also beneficial. Those same students can be taught to disagree with respect which will inevitably influence how they interact with divergent viewpoints for the rest of their life. How teachers interact with students and the underlying lessons that are obtained from the discourse between peers will stay with them into adulthood. As such, teachers need to take the time to explore and understand their own unconscious biases so that those ideas will not unintentionally permeate the classroom. It is crucial that teachers hold students to the same high standard so that all students have the chance to rise to that challenge.

While character education is an inevitable part of schools because of the culture and the interactions that take place, it can also be intentionally integrated into the curriculum without taking away from instructional time. There are so many opportunities during English, social studies, history, science, and even math lessons where teachers can seamlessly work discussions of character into the discourse. Instead of explicitly instructing students on one set of values, educators can encourage them to explore their own viewpoints and develop their own opinions. Teachers can encourage differing perspectives while fostering and encouraging mutual respect between students. It is never the teacher’s job to impose ideologies on students but instead to allow them to explore their own beliefs in a safe, inclusive environment where each voice has merit. Students will benefit long after graduation if they have the skills to meet opposition with regard and dignity.

References
Evans, D. L. (2008). Taking sides: Clashing views in teaching and educational practice. Dubuque, IA: McGraw-Hill/Dushkin.
Media
The photo in this post has been unedited and was found on Flickr following creative commons licensing.

Student Centered Learning Through Technology

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standard 5

5. Engage in professional growth and leadership – Teachers continuously improve their professional practice, model lifelong learning, and exhibit leadership in their school and professional community by promoting and demonstrating the effective use of digital tools and resources.

a. Participate in local and global learning communities to explore creative applications of technology to improve student learning.

Program Standard 1

1. Expectations – The teacher communicates high expectations for student learning.

1.1 Element – Demonstrating Knowledge of Content and Pedagogy

1.1 Example of Proficient – Teacher recognizes the value of understanding students’ interest and cultural heritage and displays this knowledge for groups of students.

The use of technology in education has always been a hotly debated subject. Some believed that children should worry more about gaining prescribed knowledge and that the use of technology is unnecessary in that pursuit. Certainly, students can learn literacy, math, science, social studies, and history without it but does that mean that they should have to? Opponents to the implementations of technology in schools argue that it distracts students from their studies because they are used to using it for entertainment (Evans, 2008, 308). If that is the case, then shouldn’t educators take it upon themselves to help students understand what a powerful learning tool it can be? Others argue that young students cannot handle the rigors of digital citizenship and should be taught a strong moral conduct before being allowed to go online at school (Evans, 2008, 307). However, students will be exposed the internet regardless and if it is done in school from an early age teachers can help students understand their role as a responsible member of a digital community. Finally, those who oppose early exposure to technology indicate that students should be exposed at a much older age so that they do not have to learn soon-to-be obsolete technology at a young age (Evans, 2008, 311). Contrarily, it would benefit students to be well equipped to adapt to new technologies, as they are quick and ever changing.

With the prevalence of technology in everyday life, it seems that a more pertinent question should be how should educators integrate it into the classroom. One objection to the use of technology that actually holds some credence is that it can be distracting for students. However, when introduced and used in a meaningful way it can transform learning. One tool that teachers can use when deciding when to integrate technology into the classroom is the SAMR Model for Technology Integration. At the bottom of this taxonomy is substitution where the use of technology would not result in any functional change. Next is augmentation where it would act as a substitution but would also provide functional improvement. One step up on the taxonomy is modification where the task at hand can be significantly redesigned. At the top is redefinition where the teacher is able to use technology to create a new meaningful experience for children that would have been inconceivable without it (Puentedura, 2014). Sometimes the use of technology can be justified even if it just provides a substitution but teachers need to be aware in those cases that it might not be the best option and could lead to distractions. If the technology can redefine learning then there is no question that it should be implemented into the classroom. Another benefit is that it has the potential to ignite student-centered learning and provide them with a stronger connection to the content. There are so many different ways that technology can be seamlessly integrated into a child’s education to transform and redefine his or her learning experience.

One way to redefine education through technology is through epistemic learning programs. David Williamson Shaffer, Kurt Squire, Richard Halverson, and James Gee argue that computer simulations can be a great learning tool and that they are “the most powerful when they are personally meaningful, experiential, social, and epistemological all at the same time” (Evans, 2008, p. 296). Although programs like these are not used in school yet, the authors believe that some video games can act as a framework for future developers. These researchers believe that if developers make learning programs that require the same level of higher reasoning and practical knowledge as certain epistemic video games do that it can help students develop important skills. They maintain that education should integrate learning not only through a mere transmission of facts to be memorized but also through the development of skills. They assert, “We learn by doing—not just by doing any old thing, but by doing something as part of a larger community of people who share common goals and ways of achieving those goals” (Evans, 2008, p. 299). Having students participate in communities within virtual realities can expose them to experience that they otherwise would not be able to achieve in school. For example, students can actually participate in societal issues like politics by participating in the process. Instead of passively learning about how different political systems function they can actively partake of a reality where they are exposed to it and can influence it. This kind of learning has the potential to transform learning and provide children with a more dynamic and student-centered education. This does not mean that technology should replace standard models of teaching but that it should be a meaningful part of the curriculum.

References
Evans, D. L. (Eds.).  (2008). Taking sides: Clashing views in teaching and educational practice. Dubuque, IA: McGraw-Hill/Dushkin.
Puentedura, R. (2014). SAMR and Bloom’s Taxonomy: Assembling the Puzzle. Common Sense Graphite. Retrieved from https://www.graphite.org/blog/samr-and-blooms-taxonomy-assembling-the-puzzle

Participation In An Online Educational Community

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standard 5

5. Engage in professional growth and leadership – Teachers continuously improve their professional practice, model lifelong learning, and exhibit leadership in their school and professional community by promoting and demonstrating the effective use of digital tools and resources.

a. Participate in local and global learning communities to explore creative applications of technology to improve student learning.

Program Standard 8

8. Professional Practice – The teacher participates collaboratively in the educational community to improve instruction, advance the knowledge and practice of teaching as a profession, and ultimately impact student learning.

8.1 Element – Participating in a Professional Community

8.1 Example of Proficient – Relationships with colleagues are characterized by mutual support and cooperation.

Constant development is an essential part of effective teaching practice and the best way for educators to maintain that kind of consistent growth is by connecting with their peers. However, that can be difficult for teachers to do because of the nature of their job. Donnelly and Boniface (2013) argued, “One of the most salient issues for practicing teachers is isolation” (p. 9). Instead of regularly being surrounded by their colleagues like most workers, they are separated from them for most of their workday. As such, it is important for them to find other ways to connect with like-minded individuals and discuss their trade. Online communities are a great way to do that. They not only allow teachers to connect with each other to share ideas, gain insights, and learn from one another but they also allow them to feel more connected to their craft. Being a part of such a demanding job makes it crucial for teachers to have a support system.

In my teaching practice, online communities will be an important part of my routine allowing me to stay current on instructional strategies. One website that has fostered a dynamic educational community is Edutopia. It offers a wide range of subjects to explore, as well as, a vast collection of articles and message boards for individuals to read and participate in. It brings together educational professionals from all kinds of backgrounds and allows them to share their knowledge gained from years of experience. Recently, I decided to sign up for an account so that I can participate in discussions. Today I read a well-researched and informative article on project-based learning and how that method benefits students. I was so inspired by this article that I decided to become a part of the conversation and post a comment so that I could share my opinions and observations. This was the first step towards becoming a fully contributing member of this community. I plan on continuing my participation on Edutopia by posting questions and offering information. This website will be just the first of many that I will explore to elevate my teaching practice.

Edutopia Screen Shot
References
Donnelly, D.F. & Boniface, S. (2013). Consuming and creating: Early-adopting science teachers’ perceptions and use of a wiki to support professional development. Computers & Education, 68, 9-20. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2013.04.023
Holland, Beth. (2015). Design Thinking and PBL. Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/design-thinking-and-pbl-beth-holland?page=1#comment-240556