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Personal Learning Beliefs

My personal learning beliefs are represented well in the words and adaptations of Loren Eiseley's story, "The Star Thrower." Within this story is the heart of every educator to continue to support and provide an opportunity for every individual despite the immensity of the task at hand. In the story, a man sees another rescuing sea stars from the shoreline by tossing them back into the surf. When questioned on the action, the thrower finds solace in the notion that his actions are having an impact on the ones that he reaches. It is not futile to strive to save as many as possible. I was touched by this story when I first heard an adaptation delivered at a lecture on the University of Missouri - Columbia campus back in the early 1990's. At the time, teaching was not where I expected to be, but as I have come around over the years and found myself for the last several years as a teacher, I look to the first moment when this story moved me to understand my ability to reach and support others. The skills that we learn are only valuable when coupled with an understanding that each student has potential to achieve and we need to use our abilities as an educator to foster that process. Technology is yet another tool that educators have to diminish the gap between students and learning.

I Believe: Students are more receptive to new ideas and learning when they are empowered in their education process.
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Students will inevitably feel a greater sense of responsibility for a particular project if they have been engaged in the early stages of development. The level of motivation often determines the level of engagement and this is where the complexity begins. Motivation is thought to be an underlying incentive or drive in pursuit of a goal. This definition however does not fully explain the child-education model. Students are motivated; however, the focus of this motivation is the area of concern and debate. Intrinsic motivation drives a student to achieve more in their education because of a self-imposed standard (Lepper, 1998). Conversely, extrinsically motivated students are driven to succeed based on reward or punishment avoidance standards (Lepper, 1998). Typically, the intrinsically motivated student does better and exhibits greater understanding of the material because of a desire to perform well and learn the material.

Early childhood shows a high level of intrinsically motivated students but as students progress to reach high school a transition occurs and they are either motivated intrinsically or extrinsically (Weiner, 1979). Their family, social, and school interactions form this differentiation as they develop (Lumsden, 1994; Lumsden, 1995). The process begins at the family level as children adopt the perspective on education that is modeled by their parents and family members (Lumsden, 1995). The greater the emphasis on education, the more intrinsically motivated a child is to perform well in school. The US Department of Education recognized this issue for some time and has worked to increase the perceived value of education in family settings, but it is still an issue.

The social component of a child’s development of motivation towards education is equally compelling. As children develop and move towards high school, they look for peer interaction to qualify their status and significance (Elliot, 1999; Oettingen, 1994). The impact in Western cultures is to value effort more than productivity as compared with Eastern cultures that value the product more than the effort (Elliot, 1999; Oettingen, 1994). This effort can be tempered however by the influence of peers and the perception in high schools that pursuit of higher intellectual attainment is incongruent with higher social status (Oettingen, 1994). To overcome this dichotomy of social acceptance and educational success, the people around a child need to advocate for the value of education and model the benefits it can afford.

Finally, school interactions impact the degree to which a child feels empowered to control their educational abilities as well. This impact is intertwined with the social aspect; since, one role of the education system is often seen to be to encourage social development. The policies, administrative position, teacher attitudes towards education, a child’s potential, the learning process, and the value of education are all instrumental in formulating a child’s intrinsic or extrinsic perception of motivation (Lumsden, 1995; Elliott, 1999) When a student enters the school system they begin to interact with a greater number of role models and authority figures. The perceptions of ability that these figures impart on the child develop intrinsic or extrinsic motivation patterns (Elliot, 1999; Lumsden, 1995). Educators can influence these patterns by encouraging inclusion in the education process, valuing the children they contact, and affirming the self-worth of the individual. (Thomlinson, 2006) Student’s attitudes towards education are greater where the feeling of leadership, understanding, and concern are present. (Thomlinson, 2006; Elliot, 1999; Black, 1998; Lumsden, 1995) If the educators impart a sense that a child is incapable of succeeding on a particular task or the position of the school is focused on processing students through rather than on achieving higher academic success, then the students will develop more extrinsic motivations that lead to lower academic success.

Ultimately, the role of the educator is not just to teach students, but also to help them develop the skills to be educated. This happens, as the student is encouraged to participate in the development of their learning plan. When lessons are created, it will benefit the child and help them to become more intrinsically motivated if they have choices in the process and outcomes. In today’s diverse classrooms, it essentially is a mechanism of meeting the needs of different learners and encouraging them to maintain an interest in life-long learning.

Advanced Environmental Science Course: Student driven course that was developed as a direct response to student request and inquiry. Syllabus, Drifter Image, Sand Image, Phytoplankton Image, GIS Map
Biomes Lesson: This lesson encourages students to develop greater understanding of the different biomes that exist in the world through an integration of research, creativity, and technology. Lesson, Biome Movie (abridged 12mb .m4v)
Virtual Science Fair: This lesson encourages students to investigate a topic of interest to them to build their understanding while also developing their communication, scientific inquiry, and critical thinking skills. Virtual Science Fair Lesson, Natural Selection Example, Saponification Example


I Believe: Formative assessment is a critical component of developing the ability of students to succeed in learning.
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Assessment in education is the art of identifying the strengths and weaknesses within a student without imparting judgment on the outcomes: while evaluation is the quantitative measure of a particular point in the learning process. (Wiggins, 2005) Assessment has been broken into two major types: formative and summative. Formative assessment is designed as Grant Wiggins states to encourage the development of learning without imparting a particular judgment on the learner. The learner instead becomes a part of the process and develops skills to monitor progress, evaluate and reflect on accomplishments, and identify strategies to improve (McMillan, 2008). In contrast, summative assessment acts as a means to evaluate the student, system, or other component of the process without providing evidence for improvement. This type of assessment is a part of the education setting for anyone who has to enter grades and meet standardized testing requirements. It does not have to be the model for the classroom. Formative assessments are capable of guiding instruction and this will assist the process of increasing academic achievement (Black, 1988; Borich, 2004).

Formative assessments are closely related to constructivist teaching because they integrate the learner into the development of the learning process (Black, 1988, Thomlinson, 2006). Students who have learned the skills to be successful with constructivist teachings prefer to it to traditional methods and show increased academic performance (Kim, 2005) The overlapping ideas in these two mechanisms are the inclusion of the student in the process, the development of the skills necessary to succeed, the recognition of specific goals and achievements, and reflection on the products for ways to improve (Black, 1988; McMillan, 2008; Borich, 2004).

Three major components for successful implementation of formative assessments in the classroom include feedback, expression of understanding, and reflection. The inclusion of feedback needs to be framed in a manner that avoids comparison to peers and provides mechanisms to improve (Strom, 2002; Strom, 1998; Black 1998). This potential for improvement helps to build their self-esteem and reduces the tendency to withdrawal from the work because of historical poor performance. The understanding needs to be presented in ways that encourage dialogue and continued learning (Black, 1998). The reflection needs to be centered around the goals with an opportunity for all students to think and express themselves (Black, 1998).

When these three things come together in an education system, the students are empowered to succeed. Black and Wiliam cite evidence on the positive impacts from their review of 250 sources on formative assessment. The evidence highlights even higher gains for the low achieving students and students with disabilities. It is reasonable to attribute this to the increase in intrinsic motivation that develops when a student in included in the education process and they feel a sense of empowerment (McMillan, 2008).

This process is not a simple switch that can be undertaken without development. Teachers and students need to develop the skills to succeed in each component of the process. The teacher’s role changes from a leader to a facilitator. The strategies necessitate developing patience for allowing the students time to develop the answers and inject their learning process into the lessons. The students on the other hand need to develop the skills to adequately assess expectations, develop evidence, and reflect on the products. Each of these is facilitated by proper feedback from peers and teachers. And again, the type of feedback is important to encourage development and foster intrinsic motivation for raising achievement. Ultimately, the inclusion of formative assessments is a way for educators to engage their students and increase the ability to meet the needs of diverse learners.

Technology and Assessment Course: These products highlight the major assignments completed in the UMC course Technology and Assessment. Online Assessment Review, Electronic Portfolio Review, Public Service Announcement Project
Laboratory Rubric: This is a rubric, available to students through the course website, that was developed to assist my students in completing evaluations of their work prior to submission to encourage reflection and revision. Lab Report Rubric
Moodle: This is a tool that offers students a mechanism to collaborate with peers and instructors to build understanding, receive constructive feedback, and reflect on material. Oceanography Class Moodle Screenshot, Chemistry Class Moodle Screenshot


I Believe: Technology is a tool that offers the ability to elevate the level of learning in education through differentiation.
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Computers are tools unlike any other because of how they change the way we interact, organize and produce (Provenzo, 2005). These devices are a technology that offers a plethora of opportunity that changes with our ability to think up new things. Educators are freed from the rote memorization and four walls of a classroom because of these tools. The challenge is in the acceptance of the technology and that is closely tied to the availability of resources (Provenzo, 2005). If the technology is readily available, the acceptance of its integration is higher.

Technology offers greater communication, assessment and achievement prospects for educational settings. In doing so, it enables educators to increase the differentiation within a classroom to meet the individual needs of students more fully. By connecting classroom activities to a global network of opportunities and discussions, instructors for each student no longer need to be located in the front of the classroom. Technology offers educators a pathway to embrace the constructivist-teaching model. This model encourages engagement, connectivity and facilitation.

By incorporating technology into the dynamic of a classroom, instructors may facilitate discussions on a network. Virtual learning opportunities such as a Moodle environment allows students to safely collaborate with each other for support outside of the regular classroom (Leese, 2009). The instructor is able to monitor progress and offer suggestions as necessary to ensure the required concepts are fully developed. When the logic curve is broken the instructor is able to facilitate with alternative questions or simply by laying out additional information. Students then pick up from this information and progress to the endpoint.

As with all learning, this process requires modeling and support especially when first introduced because it is a dramatic switch from rote memorization. Students who have not developed the self-discipline or communication skills to evaluate and resolve issues independently combined with the technology skills will struggle (Leese, 2009, Strom, 2002). Students need to be encouraged to seek understanding beyond what is obvious. To accomplish this, they must develop greater self-confidence, which is only achieved through modeling and practice (Black, 1988).

An example of this thinking is that of an incoming freshman and an outgoing senior. When in a classroom, the senior will openly discuss and debate issues with the instructor while the freshman sits in awe of what is unfolding before them. Students need to be given greater sense of self when considering their education to enable this transition to a self-directed learner to happen earlier. Technology is a tool that will enhance this transition by offering students a less confrontational mechanism to engage.

Digital discussion boards are able to provide venues for open communication and discussion to enhance achievement (Leese, 2009). Speech to text programs offer opportunities for students with communication difficulties to participate in this process more comfortably (Provenzo, 2005). They are able to develop their responses before offering them to the discussion for consideration. Teachers and students are able to monitor and reflect on the discussions before responding as well, so the answers can be more informed and better developed unlike traditional classroom settings, which require instant responses.

Furthermore, technology enables alternative methods of assessment and evaluation to consider different learning styles and points of entry into the material (Provenzo, 2005). Students are free to progress at different rates according to their levels and goals. The organization of the learning environment is able to be more transparent because of the ability to differentiate instruction and utilize alternative assessments more freely.

eMINTS: This program provided and excellent foundation to begin studies in educational technology that encourages the sharing of information and ideas. The Role of Technology in the Classroom PPPresentation, Student PPPresentation on Famous Scientist (incorporates demonstrations)
Moodle: The use of digital discussion boards enables students to interact with the material for longer periods of time, reflect and respond to information, and present logical thinking processes in a collaborative fashion. Oceanography Class Moodle Screenshot, Chemistry Class Moodle Screenshot
Foundations of Educational Technology: This course provides the foundation of expressions in educational technology, as the name states, by encouraging a broad look at how technology, students, and teachers interact. David Consalvi's Technology and Education Integration Concept Map (Inspiration File) (JPG File)
Classroom Examples of Technology Integration: These are various lessons or activities that encourage students to integrate technology to produce high quality products that demonstrate higher-order thinking skills and communication. Video Jigsaw Guide, Virtual Science Fair Lesson, Class Collaboration Using Fingerprint Data (Excel), Cycles of Matter Collaborative Concept Map Example, Environmental Science Video (4mb .mov)


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Arter, Judith A, et al., and Greensboro ERIC Clearinghouse on Counseling and Student Services, NC.. "Portfolios for Assessment and Instruction, ERIC Digest." (1995). ERIC. EBSCO. [MINERVA], [ME]. 8 Mar. 2009 <http://libraries.maine.edu/mainedatabases/authmaine.asp?url=http://search.ebscohost.com.prxy2.ursus.maine.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=ED388890&site=ehost-live>.

Black, Paul, and Dylan Wilian. "Inside the Black Box: Raising Standards Through Classroom Assessment." Phi Delta Kappa International 80.2 (Oct.1988) 1-6. 8 Mar 2009 <http://www.pdkintl.org/kappan/kbla9810.htm>.

Borich, Gary D., and Martin Tombari. Educational Assessment for the Elementary and Middle School Classroom. 2. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2004.

Elliot, Julian, et al. “Factors Influencing Educational Motivation: A Study of Attitude, Expectations and Behaviour of Children in Sunderland, Kentucky and St. Petersburg.” British Educational Research Journal 25.1 (01 Feb. 1999): 75-94. ERIC. EBSCO. [MINERVA], [ME]. 8 Mar. 2009 <http://libraries.maine.edu/mainedatabases/authmaine.asp?url=http://search.ebscohost.com.prxy2.ursus.maine.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ607312&site=ehost-live>.

Kim, Jong Suk. "The Effects of a Constructivist Teaching Approach on Student Academic Acheivement, Self-concept, and Learning Strategies." Asia Pacific Education Review 6.1(2005): 7-19.

Leese, Maggie. “Out of Class--Out of Mint? The Use of a Virtual Learning Environment to Encourage Student Engagement in Out of Class Activities.” British Journal of Educational Technology 40.1 (01 Jan. 2009): 70-77.ERIC. EBSCO. [MINERVA], [ME]. 8 Mar. 2009 <http://libraries.maine.edu/mainedatabases/authmaine.asp?url=http://search.ebscohost.com.prxy2.ursus.maine.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ822888&site=ehost-live>.

Lepper, Mark R. “Motivational Considerations in the Study of Instruction.” Cognition and Instruction 5. 4 (1988): 289-209. As cited by Lumsden, Linda S..

Lumsden, Linda S., and Eugene ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management, OR.. "Student Motivation To Learn. ERIC Digest, Number 92.", (1994). ERIC. EBSCO. [MINERVA], [ME]. 8 Mar. 2009 <http://libraries.maine.edu/mainedatabases/authmaine.asp?url=http://search.ebscohost.com.prxy2.ursus.maine.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=ED370200&site=ehost-live>.

Lumsden, Linda S., and Eugene. Oregon School Study Council. "To Learn or Not To Learn: Understanding Student Motivation." OSSC Report, (1995). ERIC. EBSCO. [MINERVA], [ME]. 8 Mar. 2009 <http://libraries.maine.edu/mainedatabases/authmaine.asp?url=http://search.ebscohost.com.prxy2.ursus.maine.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=ED380883&site=ehost-live>.

McMillan, James H., and Jessica Hearn. "Student Self-Assessment: The Key to Stronger Student Motivation and Higher Achievement." Pi Lambda Theta International Honor Society and Professional Association in Education 87.1(2008) 40-49. 8 Mar 2009 <http://www.pilambda.org/horizons/v87-1/mcmillan.pdf>.

Oettingen, Gabriele, Todd Little, Ulman Lindenberger, and Paul Baltes. "Causality, Agency, and Control Beliefs in East Vreus West Berlin Children: A Natural Experiment on the Role of Context." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 66.3(1994) 579-595. 8 Mar 2009 <http://www.psych.nyu.edu/oettingen/OETTINGEN1994CAUSALITY.PDF>.

Provenzo, Eugene F. Jr., Arlene Brett, Gary McCloskey. Computers, Curriculum, and Cultural Change An Introduction for Teachers. 2. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005.

Strom, Paris S., and Robert D. Strom. “Overcoming Limitations of Cooperative Learning Among Community College Students.” Community College Journal of Research and Practice 26.4 (01 May 2002): 315-331. ERIC EBSCO. [MINERVA], [ME]. 8 Mar. 2009 <http://libraries.maine.edu/mainedatabases/authmaine.asp?url=http://search.ebscohost.com.prxy2.ursus.maine.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ645751&site=ehost-live>.

Strom, Robert D., and Paris S. Strom. “Student Participation in the Evaluation of Cooperative Learning.” Community College Journal of Research and Practice 22.3 (01 Apr. 1998): 265-278. ERIC EBSCO. [MINERVA], [ME]. 8 Mar. 2009 <http://libraries.maine.edu/mainedatabases/authmaine.asp?url=http://search.ebscohost.com.prxy2.ursus.maine.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ575943&site=ehost-live>.

Tomlinson, Carol Ann, and Jay McTighe. Integrating Differentiated Instruction and Understanding by Design. 1. Alexandria: ASCD, 2006.

Weiner, B. “A Theory of motivation for some classroom experiences.” Journal of Educational Psychology. 71 (1979): 3-25. As cited by Elliot, Julian.

Wiggins, Grant P., and Jay McTighe. Understanding by Design. 2. Alexandria: ASCD, 2005.

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