tech-ucation reformation

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Reflections on Method of Loci and First Project October 19, 2014

These past two weeks have been filled with implementing our instructional designs and exploring the potential of a mnemonic technique called Method of Loci or Memory Palaces.  My Instructional Design course mates and I have been asked to reflect on what worked and did not work using the method of loci to learn the process of Wilson’s (1995) Situated Instructional Design as well as how it could be incorporated into our designs.  We have also been asked to reflect upon the implementation and evaluation of our instructional designs including if we incorporated or ignored our client and peer feedback.

First, the method of loci or memory palace is a learning strategy which utilizes the visualization of locations to organize and recall information, especially large amounts of information.  This method typically involves using a familiar place such as one’s home for a sequence of location points with which to pair information to be recalled at another time.  Because the system relies on spatial awareness, some people like myself have a much better advantage over those whose talents lie elsewhere.  You see, I moved around a lot as a child.  My family moved to a new home, and I went to a new school almost every school year.  Sure, it may have been a coping mechanism at the time to be cognizant of the layout of my new schools and homes, but I later figured out that specific memories were also attached to those places.  My husband often compliments me for the quantity and detail of obscure memories I can recall from my childhood, but it makes sense because my memories are organized by places making them much easier to recall.  For example, I can remember that I read the book Helen Keller’s Teacher about Annie Sullivan in the second half of 3rd grade.  All the students had to create a diorama about a book of their choosing, and I can literally visualize all the projects arranged on the window ledges of my reading teacher’s classroom as well as what was in mine.  I actually attended two schools that year, so I also remember making Stone Soup during the first half of the year at the other school I attended.  After reading the book, each student was asked to bring a different ingredient to class one day to make soup.  Carrots were my contribution.  Seriously, this is what my mind is filled with . . . the fact that I brought carrots.  But ask me to remember either of those teachers’ names, and I am at a complete loss.  Funny how the mind works.

As for processing the four components of Wilson’s (1995) view on Situated Instructional Design, I considered and visualized where I usually am when I conduct each of these basic steps in my lesson planning.  As it turns out, the physical places where I think and work are fairly consistent, so it made sense to develop my visualization of the “path” based upon my physical locations.  I usually begin designing a lesson in the comfort of my bedroom relaxing and pondering how I will execute the goals of the lesson (desired outcomes), my own thoughts about what is essential to understanding the topic (values), and how either I or other teachers have taught the lesson before (acceptable conventions and practices).  The next step occurs ideally in the upstairs conference room of my school during a planning day as my department develop our activities together (plans for), brainstorming new ways to teach the same materials (engages in knowledge-generating activities).  The next phase of a lesson would take place in either my classroom or lab as the students conduct the activities we have prepared for them.  I facilitate the lesson (observe and monitor learning) and alter what I am doing when I see the students are not “getting it” or move along to the next activity if they show me they have already grasped it (make needed adjustments).  And then I return to the comfort of my bedroom to prepare for the next day reflecting upon how that day’s lesson went (reexamine goals and activities for improving learning).

So the real question is how this can be applied in the classroom?  I considered how I often I have my students visualize their own personal experiences when we discuss certain topics.  In fact, I pride myself in assigning homework which involves no paper or reading, only visualizing or observing.  So much of the physical sciences I have taught involve basic kitchen activities.  Inevitably, the students who spend time in their family kitchen watching pots of water boil, salt dissolve, and oil float in the water already understand the basics.  Much of our force, motion, and energy concepts are common playground experiences such as gravity pulling students down a slide, balls rolling faster on the wooden gym floor as compared to grass, or how a simple game of tug-of-war relies on unbalanced forces.  My students even get a kick out of taking a mental picture of their dinner plates as we begin our unit on food webs to initiate a discussion about where food comes from.  It makes perfect sense that the concepts with which they have the most difficulty are the ones they cannot truly visualize because they have no experience with them.  The fact that celestial bodies both rotate on an axis and revolve around another celestial body is difficult to “see” and requires a variety of diagrams, models, and observations.  They also struggle with picturing the slow changes of weathering and erosion needed to create canyons and river deltas because such processes take thousands of years and humans do not live for thousands of years.  Again, I support these lessons with photographs, models, and even time-lapsed photography.  It makes sense that as I ponder how to transform the entire 5th grade science scope and sequence into a video game, the location of where the concepts are observed must been considered.  We can begin our journey in a kitchen, then travel to the park, then to various locations on the planet (beach, forest, arctic circle), and eventually into outer space. But the situation is easy with science; reading and math will require more thought.

Now for some reflections on my instructional design.  First, because the implementation is still happening – my client and her students are only two weeks into it with four more to go – my evaluations are based only on what my client and I have observed thus far.  The copyright security and protection from child predators that a password-protected learning management system such as Edmodo offers are major advantages.  However, my client and I were bound by what the program can do.  My client would have preferred for the lessons to be more accessible to the students and organized by units or modules for easier access.  The students responded positively to the Facebook-style appearance.  They enjoyed being able to communicate with each other through their comments and having more control over their own learning, but my client and I both observed that some students are not as computer savvy as other and are struggling with the interface . . . something neither of us anticipated with today’s proliferation of technology in schools.  Based upon my client’s needs, I did change the deadlines in the system to meet some issues with student enrollment changes.  I would also prefer an easier way to grade/assess each assignment and monitor who has completed what.  My client is not as concerned about this issue as she was about giving written feedback to students through the comments.  If the system looks like Facebook, it should do a better job of notifying the students of notifications.  As for my peer suggestions, I broke up the physical arrangement of the activities in the job aid and adjusted the times designated for the activities per her suggestions, but I ignored the suggestion about giving more time to the introduction and ended up removing some information to reflect what would really be happening.


Wilson, B. G. (1995). Situated Instructional Design: Blurring the Distinctions Between Theory and Practice, Design and Implementation, Curriculum and Instruction. Retrieved from


What is Learning – My Personal Journey September 9, 2014

Filed under: 5210 — S. Michele Holmes @ 4:58 am
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The focus this week in my Instructional Systems Design course is on models of learning and learning theories.  We have been asked to update our Personal Learning Theories from a previous course describing how it has changed since that course.  Because this was not an assignment for the section I took, I am describing by personal theory for the first time explaining how it has changed over my own lifetime.  My definition of learning and how it takes place has changed over time as I add new research and experience “feathers” to my hat.

So what is learning, and how does it take place?  Had I been asked this question as an elementary or secondary student, I would have said that learning is simply the acquisition of knowledge and skills.  As an undergraduate student, I began to realize this definition was too simplistic as I studied learning from a psychological perspective focusing on Kimble’s (1967) definition which states “learning is a relatively permanent change in behavior potentiality that occurs as a result of reinforced practice” (Houston, 1991, p. 4).  We explored such topics as conditioning, stimuli and response relationships, acquisition and reinforcement methods, and retention issues.  Reflecting back, the psychological perspective most related to behaviorism because of the emphasis on “the stimulus, the response, and the association between the two” (Ertmer & Newby, 1993, p. 55).  But like Winn (1990), I felt limited by no attempt to explain the learner’s structure of knowledge or their mental processes.  What was going on inside the brain when presented with an outside stimulus?

During my childcare days, I was introduced to the Whole Child (Weissman & Hendrick, 2013) perspective which was the prevailing theory and practice for very young children at the time.  This perspective recognized that all children reach predictable milestones at different rates in four major areas:  physically, intellectually, emotionally, and socially (PIES).  Each area represents a different aspect of the child and together they create the whole child.  While still feeling similar to behaviorism due to the emphasis on external stimuli, the model emphasized internal processes and structures as well as the learner being an active participant seeming more like cognitivism (Ertmer & Newby, 1993).  Here is a great chart organizing the PIES milestones by stages of development which also includes language-learning:  Child Development Chart.  As teacher and an adult learner, I identify most with constructivism (Ertmer & Newby, 1993) which emphasizes the importance of authentic experiences to create meaning.  In my teaching, I see my students as individuals each with their own personalities, learning styles, interests, and most importantly, life experiences.  My goal is to make what I teach meaningful to them.  Any reading teacher will argue that her students with more exposure to high-level vocabulary and experience reading will score higher on standardized tests.  Likewise, if she provides rich interactions and experiences to her struggling students, they will progress quickly.  As a student in my adult years, I rely on my prior knowledge and experiences to make connections among ideas, seeking similarities, identifying differences, and essentially seeing the big picture.  Yet my interpretation of the same information is different than my course mates because they bring their own knowledge and experiences to the course.  Consequently, the same information we all receive has different meaning to each of us according to the definitions we have already developed.

In summary, learning is complex idea with different definitions based upon the context of the situation, just as learners construct their own meanings based upon their situations.  If asked to choose which idea gels with my current philosophy, I would say that they all do because each applies well to an age range.  I see younger children benefiting from the external stimuli of a behaviorist perspective, older children and adolescents identifying well with the internal processes of cognitivism, and adults utilizing their knowledge and experiences through constructivism.


Ertmer, P. & Newby, T.  (1993).  Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism:  Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective.  Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4), 50-71.

Houston, J. P.  (1991).  Fundamental of Learning and Memory (4th ed.).  Fort Worth, TX:  Harcourt Brace College Publishers.

Kimble, G. A.  (1967).  Foundations of Conditioning and Learning.  New York:  Appleton.

Weissman, P., & Hendrick, J.  (2013).  The Whole Child: Developmental Education for the Early Years (10th ed.).  Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Winn, W.  (1990).  Some implication of cognitive theory for instructional design.  Instructional Science 19, pp. 53-69.



Course Final Reflections August 8, 2014

I cannot believe my Multimedia in Technology Applications class is ending today.  This summer has flown by because of the intensity of the course.  As for what I have learned about designing instruction from a multimedia perspective, two major themes keep emerging.  First, as with design of any kind, less is more.  We are still talking about information being presented to send a message.  Designers strive for the most efficient and effective way to create the message so it will be understood.  However, users often have different needs so everything from learning preferences and disabilities to age and language abilities must be considered.  Designers’ final products must convey the message as simply as possible so as not to create confusion yet account for every possible population all while optimizing learning conditions and eliminating redundancy.

Second, the various forms of media all have their advantages and disadvantages, so the implications of using them separately or in any combination must be taken into consideration.  But more likely than not, the needs of the situation or context of the lesson will determine which forms to use and which will only create more confusion.  Thus far in my journey through graduate school, I have been a science teacher.  Hands-on experience is the best way to learn the science.  Sure, textual information explains the concepts, and visual aids support the text, but audio aids are rarely necessary.  I will be moving back into an ESL position next year which does not rely on laboratory investigations.  Focusing on language will become my primary form of instruction, so text will become more important, and audio aids will take on a larger role.  Visual aids will be just as important although they will be more difficult to relate to language concepts and vocabulary.  More abstract vocabulary like freedom and liberty will require carefully selected or created visuals.  As for designing instruction from a constructivist perspective, I felt as though my subject matter would have translated well to a lesson in which the student simply explores the materials and discovers how to make a circuit.  However, creating a multimedia lesson from this perspective could be tricky, so the digital material would need to be more open-ended and experimental, similar to what is happening with sandbox-style games.


How Many Modes Can You Handle? July 13, 2014

Filed under: 5110 — S. Michele Holmes @ 6:26 pm
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Well I just have to say that I am extremely pleased with my product this week in my Multimedia in Technology Applications class.  The object was to combine text, graphics, and audio in one instruction set.  My goal was to only present a little information at a time resulting in the “big picture” at the end – quite the opposite of how I would approach anything I am learning, but it’s not really about me.  Yet I am still utilizing the dual-coding theory by accessing both the visual and the verbal so my students will likely retain the information at a higher level.  The auditory aspect is still an issue for me.  Could it replace text?  I guess I am still hung up with the needs of the the population I work with.  I feel older students and fast readers will not have the patience to listen to the audio file while following along with the text, yet some of my younger 5th graders and ESL students would be lost without it.  However, I would not want them to be looking at the graphics at the same time they listen to the audio.  To me, the whole point of supplying the audio would be to support the text until such time the students can read independently.  I would want them to follow along with the text to access the verbal in two different ways, but this does not appear consistent with dual coding theory.  So it seems that accessing two modalities at a time is ideal and more than that would be too cognitively demanding and redundant.  I would prefer to make the audio an option, both full readings and selecting words.  I am seeing this more and more in the core-content software I have used such as iStation and StemScopes.  As for how this impacts my teaching, I can actually see my vision of individualized, student-centered education coming true.  It’s all a matter of finding what modalities and methods work best for each child and utilizing them effectively.


How Do You Pronounce This Word? June 26, 2014

I am quite skeptical of this week’s focus in my Multimedia in Technology Applications class.  We are focusing on reworking our instruction sets into audio-only instructions.  I just do not feel that audio without any text or visual scaffolding will be effective.  Too many issues and misunderstandings could come up; for example, as with accents and dialects.  Although I have lived in Texas for more than 15 years, the Deep South influence can still be heard in my speech.  And a recent trip to New York City proved I can pick up a New Jersey accent within a few days, much to the surprise of my students when I returned.  I’m talking here . . . forget about it!  I have a few videos I show my students with Australian and Eastern Indian narrators; they complain about not being able to understand the narrators even though English is being spoken.  The cognitive demand is just too high . . . the reason I bombed Calculus in college was because I didn’t have enough experience listening to a Pakistani speak English to understand what he was explaining.  Because I am switching back to an ESL position at my campus, I have been reflecting personally on all the second language acquisition concepts I will need to cover this next school year, and it seems there is just too much room for error in the English language for students to be presented with only audio instructions.  Just consider basic homophones and homographs; homonyms could be included but to a lesser extent since understanding the meaning relies more on context rather than seeing or hearing the word.  Regardless, these are just one example of how confusing English can be to even native speakers resulting in years of study even though college.  I mean seriously, my husband and I have been arguing over the correct pronunciation of the word bury for years . . . and we are both correct!  And let’s not even get into figurative language . . . that’s another blog post entirely!  Sure, my students get used to my voice and speech after a while, but what about the push to break down the classroom walls and share knowledge around the world.  I want students in India to access my website and learn about constructing circuits, but will they struggle with understanding my Southern draw?  I need them to see the text and the graphics too!  However, it works in reverse too.  I see the benefit of providing audio along with text as a way to support my future ESL students.  They NEED to hear how new and unfamiliar words are pronounced.  I cannot tell you how many times I have heard my son mispronounce words he has read in books because he had never heard the words before.  Until someone corrects him, he will continue to pronounce the word incorrectly and may not even recognize the correct pronunciation if it were only presented audibly.


Will They Understand? June 9, 2014

Filed under: 5110 — S. Michele Holmes @ 4:54 am
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This week my Multimedia in Technology Applications class is in the initial stages of our Instructional Design Project. We have been asked to select a simple “how to” activity and explain it step-by-step with only text then reflect upon what we have learned about designing instruction that employs only text. Quite frankly, as I was typing out the instructions, I was taken aback by how specific my words had to be. In my experience as a teacher, I have noticed my lectures can be quite elaborate, and the process of explaining something I usually demonstrate visually with only words really eliminated all the “extra fluff.” It was almost liberating to think that my students could work independently following my written instructions leaving me to observe their progress from afar. However, as for my chosen “how to” activity, not using images or video is extremely limiting, and this was another reason I knew my text instructions needed to be clear, concise, and inclusive. The lack of pictoral examples also requires the instructions to be organized neatly with font size and formatting varied to create a sense of organization and structure. Then I began to think about how my students would benefit from having a copy of the detailed, step-by-step instructions to refer back to in case they are distracted, confused, or just had a question. As for me, my ideas about varying the formatting were only confirmed, and I will strive to consider this essential element of instruction in my lessons.


Problem-Solving & Creativity in Gaming January 12, 2014

Filed under: 5300 — S. Michele Holmes @ 5:30 am
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The following is the abstract for my CECS 5300 final project – a research paper.  The full title is “Developing Effective Problem-Solving Strategies and Enhancing Creativity in Elementary School Students through Gaming.”  If you are interested in reading my final product, please contact me.

The proliferation of computer and video games in our society led to their study for educational merit. Problem-solving and creativity are two important goals of education that can be honed through gaming. The goal of this paper is to explore the research on problem-solving and creativity in gaming and present three arguments about how they help elementary students develop problem-solving skills and enhance creativity. Play is a child’s natural interaction with the world and a powerful learning tool; games are just another way for children to interact with their world, learning while playing. Games can be programmed to reflect what students will experience in the real-world allowing students to produce a plethora of products using problem-solving and creativity as they will in their professions after school. Standardized testing is not a true reflection of students’ abilities and does not allow students to express themselves creatively. Games can indicate problem-solving and creativity more accurately than standardized testing.



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