I created my first Toondoo – Not Shifting

Obviously, the major point of this blog is to promote the pedagogical shift from a teacher-centered to a student-centered classroom…it says so at the top of the blog ūüôā

As I was reading Web 2.0 how-to for educators¬†by Gwen Solomon and Lynne Schrum I came across a reference to a website called Toondoo¬†which allows users to create cartoons. ¬†I had to go there and check things out and I would say that it took me all of about 10 – 15 minutes for me to create my first cartoon. ¬†I didn’t take a lot of time on it but I think it will give readers a pretty good idea of what can be done with Toondoo. ¬†

Check it out and create a toon – it couldn’t be easier and it is very fun! ¬†Meanwhile, here is my first creation – but I doubt it will be my last.

Cartoon about Not Shifting
It's not about the tools!



The Many Faces of Constructivism, Pt. 4

This is the final post in a four part series discussing an excellent article written by¬†Harvard Project Zero’s¬†David Perkins. ¬†In a¬†previous post, we discussed some of the challenges of using a constructivist approach to teaching and learning. ¬†Today, we will present Perkins’ idea of Pragmatic Constructivism. ¬†The ideas in this post come from the following:

Perkins, D. (1999). The many faces of constructivism. Educational Leadership. 5(3), 6-11.

Pragmatic Constructivism

One of the common pitfalls of any innovative idea or practice in education is to treat it as though it were a “silver bullet”, a panacea for all that ails education. ¬†Perkins warns against this phenomenon and promotes the idea of Pragmatic Constructivism. ¬†Perkins explains one way to overcome the “silver bullet” phenomenon is to recognize four distinct types of knowledge: intert, ritual, conceptually difficult, and foreign.

Inert Knowledge

Inert knowledge is the type of knowledge that just sits in the brain awaiting recall before it is activated.  This is not to say that inert knowledge is not important Рmany times it is.  The problem at times is that the learner has made no connection between it and the world around them.

A constructivist approach to teaching knowledge that is likely to become inert is to connect that knowledge with the student’s world by engaging them in active problem solving or problem-based learning. ¬†Both of these approaches will help the student to connect that inert knowledge with their world.

Ritual Knowledge

How many times have you asked a student involved in a learning task, “Why did you do such and such?” and they respond, “I don’t know, that is what we always do,” or something similar. ¬†The knowledge involved in this scenario would qualify as ritual knowledge. ¬†Students have forgotten, or possibly never knew, the reason that they do a certain task – they just know that it is what is supposed to be done in a certain situation.

In this case, the teacher utilizing a constructivist approach would try to make the knowledge more meaningful.  An example here might be the use of a topic sentence in writing an essay.  Many students know that they are supposed to write a topic sentence but how many can list reasons why this is important?  Getting students to become more mindful is an important aspect of teaching ritual knowledge using constructivism.

Conceptually Difficult Knowledge

This type of knowledge is self-explanatory and I still remember sitting in Algebra II with no clue of what was going on.  I was encountering conceptually difficult knowledge.  If my teacher wanted to use a constructivist approach to teach me Algebra II Рwhat recommendations would David Perkins give her?

One approach could have been to create a process of inquiry where I would have had to confront discrepancies in my initial theories.  Another approach would be to introduce imagistic mental models to me or have me invent my own.

5 Free Web Tools – from Brandon Lutz

Posted by: Brandon Lutz

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I have a passion for web tools that are useful in enhancing classrooms.  Below, I will discuss some of my favorite tools that you can use in your classroom immediately!

1.  Have you ever tried creating a Jeopardy game for your classroom using Power Point or some other software?  Well, once you see this tool you will never go back. Jeopardy Labs  is a web tool that allows you to create your own Jeopardy game or peruse games people have created. The games are easy to create and use, and there is even a way to score the assessment as your students play. The tool is web based, so your students can take the link and replay to study for the tests or you can use it with multiple classes. You can also download the game so you don’t have to depend on the Internet!  So, if you have ever created a Jeopardy game, try Jeopardy Labs. It’s easy to create and use in your classroom!

2.  Another one of my favorite sites is Quizlet. Quizlet is an online flashcard creator and so much more. You can create flash cards for your students to study or access other teacher’s flashcards to use with your students. There are also games you can play to practice, a test mode, and printable cards if you need a more tactile method of studying. You can also use several different apps to see the flash cards on your phone or mobile device.  Check out Quizlet and give your students a virtual outlet to study.

3.  Are you tired of watching student created Power Points?  Why not give students a way to create awesome presentations from any where?  Prezi  allows you to create a three dimensional presentation sharing many different media types. The fact that it’s web based allows for collaboration, online viewing, and fine-tuning anywhere that has Internet. This is great for students who use different computers throughout the day because it saves in the cloud!  Here’s an example of a Prezi from my most recent 60 in 60.  If you want a cool new way to provide presentations, definitely check out Prezi!

4. Is You Tube blocked by your District? Is streaming video slowing down your network?  Why not download the video you want to show, then add it to presentations and not have to worry about the link changing or the video disappearing? Download your video using Zamzar.  All you do is copy the URL of the video, tell Zamzar the video type you would like, provide your e-mail and press send. Zamzar will e-mail you a link with a download of the video!

5.  The last web tool I want to share is a computational knowledge engine called Wolfram Alpha.  This site allows you to look at anything data. You can literally put anything into this search engine to find informational data about the topic. You can put in equations, dates, money, people and history, and it will give you the data behind the topic.  Check it out, search your first or last name and it will give you all the stats on how popular your name is or was and how many people have your name currently in the world!

Those are my top 5. What Web 2.0 tools do you find especially useful in your classroom?

Brandon Lutz is a Techology Integration Specialist in the School District of Philadelphia and the founder of the 60 in 60: 60 Web Tools in 60 Minutes presentation.

The Many Faces of Constructivism, Pt. 3

This post is part three in a four part series discussing an excellent article written by¬†Harvard Project Zero’s¬†David Perkins. ¬†In a previous post, we discussed some of the advantages of using a constructivist approach to teaching and learning. ¬†Today, we will present some of the challenges in implementing a constructivist approach. ¬†The ideas in this post come from the following:

Perkins, D. (1999). The many faces of constructivism. Educational Leadership. 5(3), 6-11.

Challenges in Using a Constructivist Approach

One hurdle to overcome is that constructivist approaches to teaching and learning often take more time than traditional methods.  Perkins has also written a book, Making Learning Whole: How Seven Principles of Teaching Can Transform Education that deals with this issue of teaching for understanding in great detail.

Another struggle for educators is designing instruction where learners discover the correct principles or concepts. ¬†This second challenge added to the time pressure that teachers’ are under and it is now wonder why teachers may feel uneasy with shifting their pedagogical approach from the more traditional, didactic methods to instruction grounded in constructivism.

Finally, not all learners respond well to the high cognitive demand that constructivist approaches place on learners.  Perkins goes on to recommend how teachers can create appropriate, targeted constructivist responses to learner difficulties.  We will discuss that topic on the next post which will be the fourth and final post in this series.

The Many Faces of Contructivsm, Pt. 2

This post is part two in a four part series discussing an excellent article written by Harvard Project Zero’s David Perkins. ¬†In a previous post, we discussed Perkins’ idea of three distinct roles in a contructivist approach to learning: (1) the active learner, (2) the social learner, and (3) the creative learner. ¬†Today, we will present some of the advantages inherent in implementing a constructivist approach. ¬†The ideas in this post come from the following:

Perkins, D. (1999). The many faces of constructivism. Educational Leadership. 5(3), 6-11.

Advantages to using a constructivist approach

Perkins presents three good reasons to use constructivism in teaching today’s students. ¬†First, traditional methods use a passive approach which has led to a lack of student understanding of the content being “presented” at all levels of schooling including, and maybe most prevalent in, higher education. ¬†Constructivism seems to meet a need to get the learner more actively involved in the educational process.

Second, in order for us to make meaning out of the stimuli that we encounter, we must construct or reconstruct what these things mean. ¬†So even in a more passive setting where information (stimuli) is being “presented”, the learner is using past knowledge and experience to construct the meaning of the current stimuli.

Third, according to Perkins, “Considerable research shows that active engagement in learning may lead to better retention, understanding and active use of knowledge (1999).”

Presented above are three reasons why teachers might consider adopting a constructivist approach to teaching.  The next post will present three challenges in utilizing this type of approach in education.

The Many Faces of Constructivism, Pt I

This will be the first in a short series of posts about an article that David Perkins wrote titled The Many Faces of Constructivism.  If you are interested in teaching with a constructivist approach then I suggest that you read the article.  If you can’t find the time, this series on Flip the Classroomcan serve as the Cliff Notes version.This first post in the four post series discusses Perkins’ view of the three distinct roles of the learner in a constructivist approach.  He attributes these roles to philosopher D.C. Phillips. The three distinct roles are:  (1) the active learner, (2) the social learner, and (3) the creative learner.Teaching with a constructivist approach means designing instruction where learners are in an active role constructing meaning socially while creating, or recreating, new knowledge.

Keeping these three distinct roles in mind while designing instruction will help teachers in integrating a constructivist approach in the classroom.

In the next post we will discuss some of the pro’s and con’s that Perkins gives for using constructivism.