tech-ucation reformation

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Peer Reviews of Instructional Designs February 9, 2015

Filed under: 5510 — S. Michele Holmes @ 5:39 am
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My course mates and I are well into creating and reviewing our instructional design documents in my Technology-Based Learning Environments class.  I have decided to go with the cross-curricular, project-based course for gifted and talented students.  I actually created most of the ideas several years ago as a gifted/talented teacher, but I did not write out objectives, lesson plans, or rubrics.  Also, the projects were not required to be completed using computer technologies, so turning the ideas into projects which can be created with online technologies is what I have been concentrating on the most.  What I have struggled with the most is expanding the entire course up to between 40 and 45 hours.  My GT students and I would not have had this much time together, so I know the amount of activities I am developing will not be possible with a GT program which meets only the minimum time required by law.  However, now that I think about it, a course such as this really could have helped my students spend more time on projects outside of regular meetings times because of the online nature of the course.  For this blog, we have been asked to reflect upon the feedback from our peers as well as discuss what we used and did not use and why.

After receiving feedback from my professor on the first draft, I focused on developing the course goals and objectives in addition to the timeline of course activities to a greater extent.  My peer reviewer provided me with even more guidance on the goals and objectives, especially the addition of how to conduct research.  I am so thankful because of the struggles I am having with writing them out.  Because searching for information on the Internet will be a skill used throughout the course to complete assignments, goals and objectives are necessary.  Funny how it sometimes takes the perspective of a professional in another field to stress the importance of some skills – in this case, my peer reviewer is a librarian, so developing searches is within her field of expertise.  As for disagreeing with any feedback and not changing the design according to the peer review, I am afraid to say this will not be happening.  All feedback was valuable resulting in at least minor changes, if only to clarify confusing writing or further explain ideas which are unclear.

I ponder how a peer review will be conducted in the world of professional instructional design.  The need for multiple perspectives or just another set of eyes to find typos is critical to a quality final product.  Perhaps the client or a project manager will serve in this role.


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.


Educational Research or Refreshing Diversion April 20, 2013

Filed under: 5300 — S. Michele Holmes @ 3:35 am
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Our focus this week in Learning & Cognition class has been problem-solving.  This week I have been challenged to play with the following website:, reflect upon problem-solving and creativity, and spend time solving a problem or doing something creative.  This challenge could not have come at a better time because I have been writing a research paper on problem-solving, and it served as a refreshing diversion as well as opportunity to reflect upon the paper from a different perspective.

First, I followed the link to the website and read the directions on how to play the game.  It’s basically a website hyperlink maze taking you from one page to another, but the goal is to make your way from the 1st page to the 45th page and back in 16 moves.  It reminds me a lot of the text-based MUDs from my bachelor degree days having to type every movement you want to make.  Although the directions said to read the story for each room because it could give you clues to the next move, I found this to be of no help to me whatsoever, so I decided this problem needed to be solved in a different way.  It made sense to me that if it’s just 45 websites and they all have links to other sites, what if I just mapped it out to find the best path.  I remember having to take notes and make maps on video games I’d played in the past – particularly the Gabriel Knight games, Frankenstein:  Through the Eyes of the Monster, and Myst.  So I started mapping the rooms and how they link together on a piece of paper.  After quite a while, I found that some rooms can immediately link back to where you had come from, while others did not.  At this point, I felt as though this might be important to finding the most efficient route to room 45 and back, and perhaps the path may not be a perfect round-trip.  So I started my map over again, this time indicating what I had learned.  The result is pictured here.


Well, I must have messed up somewhere or it just became too complicated, because I could never find room 45.  I then realized this was a maze, and as a child, I would often solve mazes backwards – it just seemed faster sometimes.  I noticed the website addresses have the room number in them, so I simply changed the number to 45 and my hypothesis worked!  From there, I tried to map backwards using the same methods as before (you can see this in the upper right corner.  Although I found all the rooms this way, I never could find the connection.  However, I did find what might be an error in the links – I’m not sure if it’s intentional or a mistake:  when in room 44, the player is given two choices room 18 and room 21, and when room 18 is selected, it takes the player to room 11.  At this point, I had to give up and return to the research paper.  My interest in methodically mapping out the maze gave me a break from working on the research paper for at least two days, which gave me personal insight into many of the topics I was researching:  well-defined vs. ill-defined problems, approaches to problem-solving such as methodical strategies and simple trial and error, time constraints, and reflections periods.  I felt the creative activity of writing was enhanced by the activity.  But then again . . . perhaps I just wanted to procrastinate!


CECS 5300 Paper Proposal February 15, 2013

Filed under: 5300 — S. Michele Holmes @ 9:10 pm
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Working Title:  Developing Effective Problem-Solving Strategies and Enhancing Creativity Through Video-Gaming

Main Topic:  The goal of this paper is to review the existing research on how using Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs) and other collaborative video-gaming platforms could be utilized as a means to develop problem-solving strategies and enhance creativity in the elementary classroom setting.  Another goal is to provide examples of currently available software and applications that promote creativity and problem solving.


As the amount information available to humans increases exponentially, students will not only be required to learn more at younger ages but also understand how to access and manipulate information rather than just memorize facts.  Because of this, students will need to develop creative solutions to complete the task at hand while they absorb the required content.

An education system which requires children to meet the minimum qualifications on an objective-based assessment is producing children who cannot develop solutions on their own because the answers are given to them and their job is to pick the correct one out of the available options.  What if the best solution is not any of the answers provided?  Children are being evaluated and judged based upon the results of these assessments when this is not at all what they will experience in the real world after they have finished school.

Elementary education must transform to reflect what people will experience as adults:  creation of products and collaboration with peers.  Some growing trends in education are product-based learning and small-group learning, and these can both be enhanced with technology, especially through video-gaming.

Taking ownership of learning processes which requires critical thinking and the creation of final products can result in a deeper understanding of the content.  Combining these ideas with a high-level of collaboration and motivation can result in the learning process seeming more like playing and having fun rather than just learning.

Accessibility to a multitude of non-technology-based creative outlets is not always possible fiscally, so technology can allow the impossible due to lack of resources to transform into a world of creative experimentation on a global scale.

Audience:  My intended audience is educators and instructional designers interested in developing product-based-learning software and applications requiring a combination of problem-solving skills and creative processes while learning content.

Point of View:  Teachers have an unwillingness to move away from the tried and true teaching methods they have been using for years, but technology is changing at such a rapid pace that it will inundate our lives so much in the future we must be willing to allow technology to teach critical thinking and creativity more and more.  We must become facilitators rather than instructors.  I often say that I am preparing my students for jobs that don’t even exist yet but I do know they will involve technology.  Why not use technology now to create graduates who will know how to develop creative solutions because that is exactly what they have been doing in school.  My goal is to find research to support that teaching problem-solving and creativity through video-gaming is not only possible but necessary.  I also want to show educators and instructional designers practical examples of video games as well as both empirical and anecdotal evidence to support them.

Problems:  I fear my vision of “playing to learn” will be too difficult or costly to program, which could be why so few programs are available, so I may have difficulty finding examples much less research to support my thesis.  Aside from preschool and kindergarten, adults appear to be unwilling to allow children to “play,” which is exactly what is necessary to develop problem-solving abilities and creativity.  I also fear the research I do find may be too critical and unsupportive to substantiate my thesis.

Addressing the Problems:  While I’m sure I can find research on developing problem solving skills and separate research on using gaming in the educational setting, I may not be able to find research that combines these ideas, so I may have to make some major leaps in the available research.  I will also need to spend some time seeking examples of technology already in use that teaches problem-solving and allows for creativity.  I must also take any criticism of using video-gaming in the classroom in stride as well as address those criticisms.

Questions:  Can any of my classmates offer examples of games or research on this topic? Do any of my classmates have children in elementary school?


Shut Up Already! I Can’t Think! February 13, 2013

Filed under: 5300 — S. Michele Holmes @ 4:20 pm
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My “Learning and Cognition” class is discussing attention, including what cognitive psychologists say about it, what strategies we ourselves use to stay focused on our school work, and what happens when there are just too many distractions.  The dangers of distracted driving are common knowledge, yet we still have constant reminders not to drive under the influence or text while driving via public service announcements.  What is not common knowledge is how distractions effect the learning process and recall of information; these are topics are saved for the world of academia.  This week we have been challenged, should we choose this option, with finding a location with as many distractions as possible (radio, TV, music, people talking) and trying to recite our multiplication tables through 12 in the chaos.  I felt I had somewhat of an advantage over my classmates with this task because I teach 5th graders and we constantly review our multiplication facts any chance we can get.  Also, saying the facts in order allows me to use the patterns rather than the actual recall of multiplication products.  Therefore, the twist I set for myself was to use a program my students use called “FastMath.”  When a student first uses the program, it gives him a diagnostic test of all the facts in random order.  The program accounts for the commutative property of multiplication as well, so 2 x 11 and 11 x 2 are treated as separate facts although they result in the same product.  The program also considers the student’s response time, so even if he eventually enters the correct answer, the diagnostic test will not count the problem if he takes too long.  My experiment was to take the diagnostic test without any distractions and again with multiple distractions in a classroom setting to experience what students may be experiencing.  My hypothesis was that I would score more correct facts during the “no distractions” trial than during the “multiple distractions” trial.

During my “no distractions” trial, I was in the classroom with my daughter who quietly watched a video on her iPad.  We had gone home to have dinner and rest some then returned to my campus, so I felt quite confident about my abilities to do well.  I had headphones on to listen to the directions from the computer program who did not speak during the testing portion of the program (only gave directions) as well as to minimize any other sounds.  I scored 132 of the 169 facts as “fast facts” – correct and within a time limit.  Here is a screenshot of my results.  I found it odd that I achieved some facts but not the commutative fact (ie. 3 x 9 was achieved but not 9 x 3, and 8 x 4 was achieved but not 4 x 8).


For my “multiple distractions” trial, I waited two days and did no rehearsal or practice between the two trials.  The trial was conducted after school, so I was tired and somewhat hungry.  I turned on a very loud video for my children, played Pandora radio through my iPhone which I listened to through an earbud only in my left ear (my “stronger ear”), and asked my two children to distract me by making as much noise as possible.  I was also quite distracted emotionally by a conversation I had with my boss about a student approximately half an hour before the trial and had been texting back and forth with my co-teachers about the situation while setting up the trial.  I felt these distractions would significantly impact my performance, so I was surprised when I scored 146 out of the 169 facts as “fast facts.”  As I was completing the “multiple distractions” trial run, I felt very stressed out by all the noise and fuss.  The music in my ear was drawing my interest away from the task because it was my favorite station.  My children did a great job trying to ask me questions or arguing with each other, and I found myself answering their questions or redirecting them away from each other several times during the trial.  I found it unusual that “easier” facts correctly retrieved and entered in the prior trial were not scored correct in this trial (ie. 5 x 5 and 2 x 10) but some of the more difficult facts were (ie. 9 x 7 and 8 x 9).


It would seem that I performed better with the distractions than without, which is completely the opposite of my hypothesis.  Sure, some of the increased performance could be from the practice of the first round without distractions, but I felt sure my lack of rehearsal for two days between trials would minimize the impact.  Perhaps I have become accustomed to multiple distractions; I am a teacher and a mother, and both roles require master multi-tasking, so I’ve been honing these skills for years and I consider myself a master multi-tasker not by choice but by necessity.  Perhaps I attended to the trial to a greater extent because I knew there would be more distractions.  Perhaps the stress of trial increased my performance (but this is more of my husband’s realm).

What does the research say?  David Meyer and colleagues (2007; as cited in Sternberg & Sternberg, 2009, p. 157) determined that people perform more slowly and make more mistakes when working on more than one task.  However, some research has shown that the modalities of the tasks may contribute to a person’s ability to divide attention; if the tasks are different modalities (ie. visual and verbal), people will divide their attention much better than if the tasks fall within the same modality (Sternberg & Sternberg, 2012, p. 156).  I believe that because my task at hand was mathematics-related, and all the other stimuli were verbal, I was able to divide my attention accordingly.  However, had my task been something language-related, such as writing this blog, typing a copy of some other text, or even the recitation of the facts in order, my performance on the “multiple distractions” trial would be been compromised by the language of the video, music lyrics, and my children.

How does this apply to the school setting?  I have much more experience multi-tasking than my students do and I spent several years in “divided attention” environments.  My students would not be as successful multi-tasking as me which explains why new drivers have higher insurance rates than more experienced drivers; they have less experience with driving, much less driving with multiple distractors.  However, I do believe this trend will change as more and more children practice multi-tasking at younger ages.  My own son at only 10 years of age can concentrate on a video game while chatting with the other players of the game while texting back and forth with friends all while being distracted by his younger sister.  My future students are already training their brains to handle higher cognitive loads and divide their attention on multiple tasks.  My job is to make sure the modalities of the learning stimuli do not compete for their attention.

Sternberg, R. J., & Sternberg, K.  (2009).  Cognitive Psychology (6th ed.).  Belmont, CA:  Wadsworth.



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