Education ∪ Math ∪ Technology

Month: October 2009 (page 3 of 3)

Personal Learning theory

I personally think people learn through an unconscious process very much like the scientific method.  They hypothesize about how the world should work, collect data, compare the data they have collected to see if it fits in their theory, and then revise their theory if they feel enough evidence has been found.  In this way, people construct an understanding of the world around them using what they know as a basis.

Each piece of knowledge people gain has to be fit into their personal hypothesis.  At first, people will "bend" their hypothesis to make facts fit which seem inconsistent, but eventually if enough contradictory data is collected, people are forced to revise their ideas.  This is part of the reason why students have so much difficulty learning topics for which they do not have any background; they are constantly required to create and revisit their hypothesis, and to build theories about the information they are receiving "from scratch".

It is crucial during this process that the learner feels comfortable to make mistakes.  Instead of feeling pressure to have exactly the right answer each time, learners must be willing to work through the entire process of learning.  Although it is possible that an individual learner will have a theory which fits all the facts as they are collected, it is much more likely that conflicts exist between their theory and the data. 

In the classroom, this is when we normally say that a student has "made a mistake", which is unfortunate language.  Rather than criticizing students who have a cognitive discord occurring, we should encourage more reflection of the learning process, and provide opportunities to establish a new theory which fits the given facts and can be worked into the learner’s personal theory of how the world works.          

Philosophy of Educational Technology

In my teaching, I infuse technology through-out my lessons.  Although I have a deep interest in technology going back as far as I can remember, I hope I am using technology purposefully and appropriately.  It is important to me that technology not just be a fancy add-on, but that it should be a tool with which to help students understand the world.

The purpose of using educational technology is to enhance pedagogy and enable students to learn.  We have many tools we use as educators, and different types of technology are included in this toolset.   The major benefit of using technology is that it can greatly expand the variety of types of lessons students can participate in.

In my experience students learn best by doing, rather than by watching.  As much as possible, I try to have students work as participants in a collaborative guided investigation, rather than relying on direct instruction.  William Glasser once famously said "We learn, …50% of what we see and hear, …80% of what we discuss and 95% of what we teach," modifying Edgar Dale "Cone of Learning." (Dale, 1969)  Hence, in my classroom I try and have the students do, discuss, or teach the material they are learning.  This style of instruction is aided by the powerful technological tools of today.

My strongest values in education are compassion for students, open-mindedness about what they are capable, and recognizing their differences.  Educational technology allows me to be more compassionate, in that I can differentiate a lesson better, understand my students through their work, and provide more opportunities for student voice.  One of the ways I provide this voice is using multimedia presentations and integrated technologies as summative of the students’ understanding.   These types of activities assist students in remembering what we have learned.

I have recently begun to move away from lecturing to students and have this experimented much more with student led research.  For example in my science 8 class each pair of students is researching one of the body’s systems, and presenting their work in the form of a website.  Other students will be responsible for reading this material, then summarizing it in a short audio podcast.  This way I will be attempting to improve the retention of the material, and moving ownership of the learning process to the students.

My personal theory is based a lot on Ausubel’s assimilation learning theory (Novak, 2007)which suggests that knowledge is retained and more useful when it comes from meaningful learning experiences rather than rote learning.  I try very hard not to rely on rote learning in my teaching for I know how quickly students forget the material once they no longer need it.  I also know that if you excite students about a subject, they will put tremendous effort into learning it, which greatly improves their retention.  One of the areas I have made the most change is recognizing that teaching specific content is less important than teaching the skills necessary to learn and retrieve that content.


Novak, J.D. (2007). Ausubel’s assimilation learning theory. In Custom course materials ETEC 512. Vancouver, BC: University of British Columbia, Bookstore. (Reprinted from Learning, Creating, and Using Knowledge: Concept Maps as Facilitative Tools in Schools and Corporations, pp. 49-78, 1998, Mahwah, NJ: Earlbaum).

Dale, E. (1969) Audiovisual Methods in Teaching – Third Edition, Published by Holt, Rinehart and Winston, record retrieved from Eric database on October 18th, 2009


Definition of Cyber-culture

Cyber culture is the set of social expectations, etiquette, history and language used by the collection of people active on the World Wide Web.  Just as the non-cyber world is separated into cliques and countries, the cyber world is separated into taxonomies and web spheres.   The countries of the world are partially represented in cyberspace by the country domains, but more than ever people are less connected by language and locale and more by common interest.  The importance of this cyber-culture to educational technology is that it is the ground upon which we should build our e-learning frameworks as it is rapidly becoming common ground for every connected person in the world.

Electronic mannerisms and customs have developed over the years the WWW has been around and now using the WWW carries with its own language, and its own cultural references.  If you have ever chatted online about having your site ‘Dugg’ or sent a tweet to a friend, you have participated in the subculture of the web.

Every culture has its own language, and cyber-culture is not the exception to this rule.  Not only does a rich vocabulary exist, parts of the cyber-language used on the web have their own syntax and grammatical structure.  In fact the number of words is so great, an online dictionary,, has sprung up to keep track of them.

Cyber-culture has its own areas of social interaction, and its structure is very much like that of the old market towns of Medieval Europe.  The markets are represented by and and other analogous sites.  The money lenders do business in the online banking world; social connections between people are represented by popular websites such as and 

Cyber society is divided into social status groups, where one’s ability to communicate online elevates your status,   however these social status groups by and large follow the same groups which exist outside of cyber-space.  An additional division in this online society is by topic, with a lot of the discussion forums mimicking (or in some cases replacing) real life discussions about what are often very important issues.

Over the years cyber culture has been changing rapidly.  This is partially because the browsers and website are capable of so much more rich media than in the past, and partially because the internet is becoming ubiquitous in mainstream offline society.    Everyone in the real world has to have a connection to the cyber-world we have constructed.  Businesses can mark their success by the strength of their online brand.  Some trends in use of the internet show that internet users have been decreasing in age, and that the ways these younger use the internet are much different than their parents.

It is not entirely clear where cyber-culture is headed, although it is clear it is here to stay.  Will it under-go another upheaval when some new form of rich media becomes available online?  Only time will tell; but the evolution will be determined by us.

Really interesting conversation on #edchat on Twitter

I participated for the first time a couple of days ago in this #edchat phenomena happening on Twitter.  Basically the idea is, everyone heads to the search page on Twitter and starts having a conversation through Twitter using the hashtag #edchat.  The resulting conversation is recorded and has many people who can listen in on the conversation, and everyone is free to jump in if they want.

The Wordle (created on below is the result of our conversation topic – motivating students.  


The reason why we used Twitter for our conversation is less obvious I suppose.  We could have had a similar conversation using forum software or one giant chat, but both of these have drawbacks.  First, a forum is an asynchronous form of communication with significant delay between comments.  Twitter is a much faster mode of communication, and the ability to refresh to see more results in the search engine makes using Twitter closer to a real conversation speed.  Twitter beats a chat application largely because you can follow the participants of the Twitter chat after the conversation, and a permanent(ish) record of the conversation continues to exist on Twitter for other people to find (and possible join!).

This conversation was fun and engaging and involved over 110 participants and over 800 comments made.  That’s pretty impressive, and definitely shows me that Twitter is a very useful tool for personal professional development and collaboration.  When was the last time you had such an organized conversation with so many people?