Monthly Archives: March 2014

Constructionism Approaches Within Canvas LMS

Based on your experience putting your lesson into the Canvas LMS, what do you feel are the benefits of using such a structured space for teaching and learning? How well does the structure of an LMS fit with your theory of online learning?

Creating a professional development spaces within a Canvas LMS supports my approach to online K12 STEM professional development. Canvas is a free LMS system that proves to be user friendly, integrates nicely with third party web tools, and includes excellent multimedia capabilities that are lacking in many other free LMS enviornments. Discussion tools can be used to create a social experience and allow for users to attach video feedback or embed external content and share experiences within a learning community in a very meaningful way. However, the space is only a tool and the content of the instructional activity itself, along with participants, and instructor encouragement must all be present for the lesson to be a productive and meaningful experience. The module component allows for clear organization. Pages offer customization approaches to allow for increased flexibility. The record and upload media feature within Canvas discussion tools will prove to be an effective tool to increase participant engagement. Collaboration tools to include Google Docs and Etherpad provide a layer of collaboration not found in many other LMS environments. Users can use Google Docs, for example, to create reflections or “artifacts”, to share with a larger community within Canvas. It is nice that Canvas works well with other media tools. Media used as a reflection tool provides the learner with the ability to produce a more meaningful perspective in which they can share within the online environment. However, Canvas does lack the embedding of social media tools, which I would find useful. I am embedding links and suggesting a community hashtag to utilize within the course to tap into social media components. The LMS can be utilized within a constructionism approach to online learning as it allows for connectedness. However, teacher presences along with clear directions and organization within the LMS must be present for the lesson within Canvas to be successful. Canvas LMS does have the ability within the learning environment to provide a means for learners to connect, share, and present alternative viewpoints. The ability for media to be incorporated as video to produce such collaboration is an added benefit to employing Canvas LMS. The following websites have assisted me in learning more about features available within Canvas.

Constructionism Research Approaches

How hard is it to develop a research method that both matches your theory and created curriculum? What was simple and what was difficult? It is difficult to consider how to best employ a research method to study a constructionism approach to online learning. The difficulty lies in the ability to provide a flexible or free approach to learning and at the same time foster increased engagement. Ackermann’a (2011) analysis of Papert’s theory of constructionism focuses on the “art of learning.” Improved communication technologies foster an increase in the ability for an audience to feel a sense of connectedness, which provides depth to the overall learning experience. Creating an environment that provokes discourse and produces a variety of perspectives promotes a change in thinking or knowledge transformation, improved cognitive presence. It is necessary that an instructor of facilitator to assist a community in exchanging perspectives or experiences. A mixed methods research approach would best accommodate a study related to my theory of learning. During the last week, I have developed an improved understanding of the differences of constructivism and constructionism. I believe in the importance of community and the role of energy that such a community produces to improve the overall cognitive experience. From a research perspective, measures in frequency of communication within the social learning community, video reflections, and interviews could provide an in depth look into how an online community best serves to meet professional development needs of teachers. Many MOOCS in existence fail a way for learners to express their ideas to a larger community. What are the perspectives of K12 teachers Ackermann (2004) correctly points out that knowledge transformation occurs as learners express or reflect using media to a larger community. Media does matter, and how that media is used within an online course also matters (Ackermann 2004). Papert’s Instructional Software Design Project utilized a mixed methods approach with fourth grade math course. A mixed method approach would best explore how learners create personal meaning through reflections shared within a social environment. The frequency and richness of such artifacts could be explored in greater depth.

Ackermann, E. K. (2004). Constructing knowledge and transforming the world.A learning zone of one’s own: Sharing representations and flow in collaborative learning environments, 1, 15-37.

Ackermann, E. (2001). Piaget’s constructivism, Papert’s constructionism: What’s the difference. Future of learning group publication, 5(3), 438.

Harel, I., & Papert, S. (1990). Software design as a learning environment.Interactive learning environments, 1(1), 1-32.

Stager, G.,S. (2007). Towards the construction of a language for describing the learning potential of computing activities.Informatics in Education, 6(2), 429Image

Digital Fabrication (DigiFab) Technology as an Instructional Tool in K-12 Professional Development

A course was designed for current K-12 teachers and instructional technologists recently as part of our PhD research towards our personal learning theory. With modification, this course could easily translate to instruction for pre-service teachers.

The purpose of the course was to provide professional development (PD) training regarding DigiFab technology and potential instructional uses for quick and efficient implementation.

The following problem was explained by my partner Jared Vanscoder and I. A resurgence of the constructivist approaches to teaching and learning has created a demand for a solution that requires little knowledge of manufacturing processes, aids visualization through tangible representation, and speeds prototyping. Digital fabrication technologies, such as 3D printing, are garnering much attention as they afford users to simply create tangible artifacts from digital model files. This capability is enticing as an tool for teaching and learning in K-12. Given the newness of this technology, very few K-12 instructors (or even instructional technologists) are aware of how these technologies can increase engagement and instructional impact on learners.

The format of our course is designed as stand-alone instruction to be delivered in two separate formats: face to face (F2F) and online. The option of hybrid (components being delivered both F2F and online) should also be considered.

How hard is it to develop a research method that both matches your theory and created curriculum?

The activity allows learners to create order or reorganize information to construct new meaning. Learners construct knowledge, as a builder would begin building a structure. Fabrication technologies facilitate concepts of abstraction, allowing the learner to build or fabricate an actual object or model. It was not hard to match my personallearning theory to fabrication curriculum. After all, fabrication does lend itself to modeling and objects created with such a technology provide for a more meaningful approach to learning. Allowing participants to choose a “real world” scenario or object to reconstruct also fosters an active learning event, which provides further depth and richness in cognitive presence.

What was simple and what was difficult?

Creating an online instructional PD approach via problem based learning instructional design model within an e-learning context proved to be challenging. However, Jared and I are committed to being pioneers in the field of Learning Technologies and Cognitive Systems met challenges head on and worked to overcome. The overall product is very strong, with instructional goals met. However, time spent to accomplish learning goals online proves to be more intensive then a face-to-face environment. The overall learning potential I feel is greater in an online e-learning format as it forces the learner to seek solutions and not rely as heavily on an actual face to face community of learners. We suggested a reflection piece of the assessment component. Motivating teachers to complete a reflection at the end of the assessment piece may prove to be challenging. In addition, not seeing a 3D printer and only sending an STL file to post in a blog or learning management system may not be as effective as actually having access to a 3D printed product. Equitable access may prove to be a limitation within the online learning environment for fabrication PD approaches. I feel this activity challenged both Jared and I to think outside the box. As two educators and online students, we understand difficulties presented within the e-learning environment. However, the benefits of the e-Learning activity far outweigh disadvantages. Teachers are exposed to the very learning theory and instructional design methods proven to provide a rich learning experience using learning technologies that foster abstract thinking or cognitive development. Overall, I am very proud of our product. Hopefully, we can test our approach in a qualitative case study.Image