Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Universal Design for Learning - What is it? Does it follow other pedagogy?

This week I researched the concept Universal Design for Learning (UDL). It is a framework of principles and guidelines that help create curricula that gives all individuals equal opportunities to learn. UDL breaks down the brain's framework into three primary networks: Recognition, Strategic and Affective thus creating the three main principles: Representation, Action & Expression, and Engagement. Throughout my research, I was able to discover that UDL is fairly similar to Marzano's Nine Essential Strategies and Learning Theories.

As I created the following matrix, it is easy to see how many concepts, classroom practices are similar for all three pedagogy strands:

Pedagogy Strands

In the matrix, I was able to visualize how Marzano's Nine, Learning Theories and UDL all use the same type of classroom practices to meet the needs of each individual student. However, UDL does seem to have more assistive technologies for students with special needs. By creating things such as AIM explorer, mouse camera, or digital dictation devices like those shown in the UDL resources and examples, it is evident that UDL does make sure to include more assistance to students with special needs. However, all three pedagogy strands take into account ALL students' individual needs.

When comparing and contrasting the Learning Theories: Behaviorism, Cognitivism, & Constructivism to UDL, all three learning theories seem to be interrelated with UDL principles and guidelines. Behaviorism seems to be linked to Representation; Cognitivism is interconnected to Actions & Expression, and Constructivism is interrelated to Engagement. As proof of this connection, Behaviorism and Representation both take into account ideas of direct instruction and classroom practices that assist with direct instruction such as Venn Diagrams and Color Contrast. Cognitivism and Action & Expression show similar connections by examining the strategic network by bringing in problem-based learning. Finally, Constructivism and Engagement are definitely interconnected with motivation and cooperative learning. (Please see the matrix above for further visualization).

Along with the three learning theories, UDL is also interconnected with Marzano's Nine Essential Strategies. Some examples of this include:
Representation - Identifying Similarities/Differences (Venn Diagrams)
Action & Expression - Summarizing & Notetaking (IVF statements)
Engagement -Setting Objectives & Providing Feedback (Rubrics/Reflection sheets)
There are many more examples listed in the matrix in the Pedagogy Strands link that is listed above.

When looking at this matrix at a whole, I personally think that Marzano's Nine is the easiest pedagogy to implement into my designed curricula because of the break down of the nine essential strategies. It is easy for me to take an entire unit and design different activities to meet each essential strategy. However, after researching the Universal Design for Learning this week, I now know that it can be just as easy to use when creating curriculum. As I investigated the UDL, it was fairly easy for me to come up with ideas for units and lesson plans by using some of the examples and resources listed in the UDL principles and guidelines. I encourage other educators to do the same.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Quick Think - Standards and 21st Century Skills

As I finish this week's goal on examining standards and 21st century skills, a few things come to mind. One, there are multiple organizations that discuss standards and 21st century skills; however each organizations has the same concept! Despite a few differences in terminology, all the concepts are interconnected. This is definitely proved when the Colorado Department of Education decided to use the same national standards that ISTE created. I also like the idea that ISTE's NETS are designed for students as well as for teachers. Through this research, I definitely gained some knowledge and framework to use as I create curricula for my own classroom.

NETS' teacher standard that discussed: "Engage in Professional Growth & Leadership" really hit a home cord with me. As I transition from being a "younger" teacher to a more "experienced" teacher, I've noticed that I've become lazy in lesson planning. It is easy to use the same lesson plans that I created in previous years, but I shouldn't do this as much as I have in the past. As the digital era becomes fully included into the education world, it is my responsibility to stay current in my lesson plans. So, creating lessons to include more technology such as blogs and iPad apps will help with this. As I discover these new concepts, it is also vital for me to share this information with my colleagues. This way all students are able to receive an effective learning experience!

Along with the technology standards, the 21st century skills are just as important. During my research, I was able to visualize the interconnection between the two. For example, 21st Century Skills uses the term: Inventive Thinking, while the NETS' standards uses the term: Creativity and Innovation. Both concepts mean the same thing! Being a science teacher, I have the opportunity to be creative in my lesson plans on a daily basis. The key to learning science is inquiry!

Now, that I've become knowledgeable of standards and 21st century sills and their interconnections, I can teach this to other educators.

Matrix to Standards & 21st Century Skills


Aect advanced standards. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Aect initial standards. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Colorado department of education. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Education technology and information literacy. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Kelley, A. (2011, March 23). Involve, prepare, apply, and develop: ipads in the classroom . Retrieved from

Lawson, E. (2011, March 28). ipads, ipod touches, and iphones as assistive technology in education. Retrieved from

NETS ISTE Standards for students. (2007). Retrieved from

NETS ISTE Standards for teachers. (2008). Retrieved from

The three principles of uld . (n.d.). Retrieved from

Udl guidelines - version 2.0: Examples and resources. (n.d.). Retrieved from

What is universal design for learning?. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Presenting Standards in Schools

When it comes to communication at schools, sometimes it is done efficiently; however, most of the time, it is not. At the middle school I teach at, we are all strong users of our email. There are days that I receive over 50 emails and most it is useless information!! Because of the use of email, I have a tendency to skim through them so quickly. By breezing through these emails so quickly, I can sometimes miss great information such as new literacy strategies from our school's literacy coach!

Now, email is not the only way to receive new information. There are multiple scheduled meetings and professional development days to fill any free time. The middle school that I teach at requires us to have a PLC (Professional Learning Committee) each week with our content grade level colleagues, weekly team meetings, weekly meetings with the whole team and administration, , monthly department meetings (which I run for the science department), monthly grade level meetings, monthly staff meetings, and 4 required professional development days. Usually, this is the time we are represented with new instructional strategies and 21st century skills.

Along with the meetings, it is the job of team leaders and department chairs to deliver information to the designated staff. For example, it was my responsibility to let all science teachers know about the revised Colorado State Science Standards and provide them with a copy. Then the entire science department went through the standards to create vertical alignment and each grade level is currently working on horizontal alignment as well.

Since I'm a firm believer on using time as efficiently as possible, I chose a couple of options to present new information to my science department. By providing copies of the standards to each of the teacher and sending an email allowed us to save time when it came to meeting as a department. When we did meet, we were able to discuss the standards in detail, ways we planned to align our curricula with the new revisions and vertically align among grades 6-8.

As a presenter, it is important to get all the information to the staff members, but also realize that their time is precious. I think it is great to give them the information before a meeting, them come together as a group to discuss strategies and 21st century skills. I also like to provide examples to teachers as well. Just like we need to model for our students, it is important to model for teachers as well. So, when presenting new information, standards, or 21st century skills, I provide examples of how I would use it with my students or even go through a quick lesson plan. In my experience, I've found teachers really enjoy it when there is active participation...just like our students! I know when I'm successful in presenting information when other staff members have told me how they are using it in their own classrooms.

This January, as part of our required Professional Development days, I will be working with science teachers and vertical articulation. This is an idea of how to bring in technology standards and 21st Century Skills during these professional development days:

Introduction to Technology Standards and 21st Century Skills for Educators

Standards...Are they important?

In education, there is one question that always seems to come up: "Is the standards really important?" My college professors, colleagues, and administration reinforces the idea of standards being essential when it comes to lesson planning because it makes sure every student is getting the necessary information.  Being an educator in Colorado, the Colorado State Standards are constantly on my mind! It has been drilled into our heads that they are vital to use during lesson planning and teaching our students. So, I've become quite knowledgeable about the Colorado Science Standards. However, since I've gone back to school to study instructional technology, I took this week to research Information Literacy and Technology Standards.

I looked at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), the Association for Educational Communications and Technology, The American Association of School Librarians, the Colorado Department of Education, and 21st Century Skills by NCREL. Each organization had their own set of standards; however, ironically, it was all the same! Some organizations websites were a little easier to navigate and find the necessary information fairly quickly, but once I found the standards, I realized it was all the same.

The most surprising discovery was the Colorado Department of Education uses the National Standards created by ISTE. The Colorado Department of Education (CDE) has always had its own set of standards for Colorado students. However, the CDE has deemed the ISTE's national standards to be acceptable for Colorado as well. This definitely made me feel like Colorado is becoming more in sync with other states and organizations. Of course, I have appreciate the high expectations Colorado State Standards requires of our students, but using the national standards proves that the nation also has high expectations with information literacy and technology.

By creating my matrix of information (using webspirationpro), I found that I kept writing the same words such as: Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Digital Responsibility, Innovation, and many others. With this type of visual, I was able to see how twenty-first century skills are interrelated to Information Literacy and Technology Standards. Another realization was that these skills and standards just describe good teaching!

As an educator, I, personally, believe it is important to make your classroom as creative and innovative as possible. It is my job to keep my teaching current and relevant, especially in this new digital era. When I was in middle school, there were overheads and powerpoints, but nothing compared to iPads! I've noticed that many educators are "afraid" of the new technologies; however, they don't realize that it is created to help them! During my research, I found iPad apps that can be used in my class; however there is so much more than just iPads and iPod touches. I also came across many different websites that offered free teacher tools. The key is for teachers to stay educated on the newest technologies, so they may be able to meet all their students' needs.

As a way to share my knowledge, I plan to use my matrix when teaching at professional development classes. As part of my position of science co-department chair, it has been one of my duties to create classes that teachers need to take as part of their professional development. So, when I'm asked during my classes: "Are Standards important?" I can say YES!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

How do People Learn?

Since I spent this week looking into the learning theories: Behaviorism, Cognitivism, and Constructivism, I took the opportunity to really examine adolescents and the way they learn.
I've decided that people learn best when they can apply the information to themselves. This week, I watched as middle school students explored grasshoppers through a hands on dissection and another class watch a movie about periodic elements. The class that was conducting the grasshopper dissections was completely engaged in the assignment. However, the class watching the movie on periodic elements was falling asleep!!! What's wrong with this picture?
I think the problem is in the methods of teaching. The teacher that was conducting the grasshopper dissection (whom happened to be my student teacher) was proving the students with a hands-on experience that is applied to a real-life organisms that students see on a regular basis. The dissection provided information through scientific inquiry. The 8th grade science class that I observed was being provided with a visual of elements, however, the students had no personal connection to the material. Because of this lack of connection, there was no interest, and studentes were falling asleep!!
When it coms to my teaching style, I definitely keep in mind "theories of learning." Throughout my research this week on Behaviorsim, Cognitivisim, and Constructivism, I realized that I take a lot of these components into my own lesson planning. I believe that is important to keep topics current and relevant. By doing this, the students are much more interested and engaged. To my advantage, I get to teach an interesting topic, biology. Because of this, many of my students are able to relate the material to themselves.  Since adolescents are considered egocentric (caring about subjects/topics/things that affect them personally), they only seem interested in school topics that affect them! 
As a great guideline, Marzano's Nine Essential Strategies is a way to incorporate current and relevant teaching styles.Within all three learning theories, each of these strategies can easily be applied. For further detail:
Learning Theories: Jigsaw to Matrix

Thinking back to Week One of my EDTC 600 class, I was asked my definition to Instructional Technology. My definition was as stated:

Instructional Technology is scientific theory to keep objectives current and relevant. It is used by myself, the educator, to facilitate cooperative learning among my students and use 21st century skills.

I still believe this! To expand, I now believe, that I'm a firm believer in the learning theory constructivism as well!!

During my classroom observations, I noticed the use of scientific inquiry (constructivism), positive behavior support (behaviorism), and hands on activity with a grasshopper dissection (cognitivism). Like I mentioned in my definition of instructional technology, it isn't just about use of technology (computers), but it involves cooperative learning as well. During my observations, I was able to see this in one class, but the need of improvement in another science class. Since I do have a student teacher this year, I'm getting the opportunity to work with science teachers and how they can take the standards and ideas and incorporate them into 21st century lesson plans!! If I get the opportunity to work with this teacher, I plan to help this person create some hands on labs to show periodic elements. A great example of this may be: A lab using idodine and sulfer to pull fingerprints for desktops!!

The Learning Theory: Behaviorism

This week, I took the opportunity to research the three types of learning theories: Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism.  Although I believe all three are equally important, I chose to examine Behaviorism. Since I became an educator, I have had the chance to evaluate cognitivism and constructivism through professional development and continuing education. So, I asked myself, does behaviorism really play as important of a role in learning as the other two theories. To answer this question, I took that time to really reseach behaviorism.
To summarize, behaviorism analyzes behavior and role it plays in the classroom environments. It is broken down into two concepts: Classical Conditioning and Operant Conditioning. As I discovered, both of these types of conditioning are vital to creating a classroom designed for learning. So, yes, Behaviorism is just as important as Cognitivism and Constructivism in education!

As a way to visualize, here is what I discovered:
Concept Web: Behaviorism

Jigsaw to Matrix

For further detail: Paper: Learning Theory: Behaviorism


Friday, November 11, 2011

Technology Available for Instruction

Through my research, I've discovered some new technology resources. Click on the link and discover some things that may be useful for you!

Technology Available for Instruction

Hopefully these are just as useful to you as they have been to me!

What kind of Technology do Schools have?

This week, I took the opportunity to observe two different middle schools in two different districts in Colorado Springs, Colorado. These schools (which will be known as Middle School #1 and Middle School #2) have a great deal of technology available for students and teachers. Because of this, instructional technology was evident and abundant throughout each school. One school, Middle School #2, seem to be on the rising use of the newest technology resource, iPads.  Middle School #1 did not have iPads, however, it did have an abundant amount of resources and technology tools that were not available at Middle School #2. This is what I found:

H:\Masters Program\EDTC Technology Comparison.mht

Since I've recently become an iPad2 owner, it has become my obsession. So, as part of my focus during my school observations, I went with one question in mind: Are iPads in classrooms more effective than other technological tools?

In my opinion, iPads are the key to the educational future! Although Middle School #1 had an abundant amount of technological resources, which I saw used regularly and effectively, Middle School #2's iPads just seem to make the learning environment current and easier. The students were able to research a topic such as invertebrates. I watched as one student found a picture of a Mollusk while another student found the characteristics of Mollusks. Then they "bumped" each other's iPads and both iPads contained each student's research. This was done in a matter of minutes! I was completely amazed!
Middle School #1 seems to be on the iPad wavelength as well. The technology specialist at Middle School #1, recently wrote a grant to get eight iPads. These eight iPads will be distributed among a test group of teachers to use in their classrooms. This way, the school will be able to test iPad effectiveness in classroom instruction. It is decided that iPads are effective, then the school has a wish list for a mobile lab of 32 iPads to be used in classrooms. It makes sense that Middle School #1 plans to create mobile labs of iPads versus giving each student a device because Middle School #1 is three times the size of Middle School #2.

During my observations, I wasn't surprised by the technology resources used in classrooms because both these schools come from more affluent school districts. However, I was surprised by the amount of technology. Middle School #1 seemed to have a great deal more technical resources at hand than Middle School #2. Middle School #2 seems to have devoted most of its funds to iPads while Middle School #1 seems to have devoted its funds to everything else. Because of this Middle School #1 seems more well-rounded with a variety of technological tools; however Middle School #2 seems to more current with the newest type of technology to use classroom instruction. Since I saw two schools that seem to have an endless amount of technological resources, so I would like to look at school that has little to no technology available.

In my opinion, there are many pros and cons to technology. Pros include keeping classroom instruction current and relevant. It allows students to use the newest tools to learn as well as creates the ability to meet all students' special needs. Technology also allows communication among parents, teachers, and students to be faster. However, I think that Technology is decreasing students' social skills. Because of technology, many students don't know how to physically go talk to a teacher face to face. I've noticed that interpersonal skills seem to be decreasing among all students as well as parents and educators. The question is: "How do we balance technology without taking other things such as interpersonal/social skills away?"

What is TPACK? Is it useful?

This week, I took the time to research TPACK, formerly known as TPCK. For those of you that don't know what this is, TPACK stands for: Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge. TPACK allows educators to really look at the effects of integrating instructional technology into the curriculum. In order to really visualize such effects, TPACK also looks into nature of teacher knowledge. The following model is a demonstrates a graphic organizer displaying the framework of TPACK and teacher knowledge:

TPACK Image (rights free)
This Venn Diagram examines how each of these, Technological Knowledge, Pedagogical Knowledge, and Content Knowledge, are equally important and interconnected. In order to comprehend the value of this diagram, it is important to understand each of these concepts.
Technology Knowledge (TK) describes the educators' knowledge of basic technologies such as textbooks, overheads, and blackboards. It also looks into educators' knowledge of more advance technologies such as internet and digital videos. In this digital era, there is a great deal more of technology to use in classrooms. It is important for educators to stay on top of these new advances as a way to keep the curriculum current and relevant. Not only should educators be able to utilize standard software such as microsoft word and internet browsers, they also need to be educated on how to install and remove software programs. Because of this increasing expectation, school districts are requiring teachers to participate in continue education classes and professional development days that focus on increasing technological knowledge.
Pedagogical Knowledge (PK) examines the methods of teaching. It looks, in depth, at the overall purpose of education and its values. By looking into educational purposes, we are able to determine techniques and methods that are effective in the classroom. These methods are constantly evaluated and changed to meet the needs of each targeted audience. It is vital that educators understand the biological, cognitive, social developments of the age groups they are teaching. By comprehending these developmental theories aides teachers when designing teaching methods for his or her classroom.
Content Knowledge examines educators' actual knowledge of the topic or subject matter. In the state of Colorado, teachers are expected to be "highly qualified" in their field. As proof, passing the Place or Praxis test demonstrates the teachers' knowledge. If teachers do not know the content, it can be detrimental to students' education.
Technological Knowledge, Pedagogical Knowledge, and Content Knowledge are equally important, but it is just as vital to understand they work together as well. TPK, otherwise known as Technological Pedagogical Knowledge, looks into the ability to use effective technological strategies in the classroom. These can include wikis, blogs, WebQuests, teaching resources through websites, digital gradebooks, and many others.
Technological Content Knowledge, TCK, really examines the knowledge of current and relevant technologies used in the classroom. By using some of these newer resource tools such as iPads, Smartboards, and others can expand and enhance the students' content knowledge as well as the learning experience.
Pedagogical Content Knowledge, PCK, proves that both teaching methods and teacher knowledge of content definitely are interrelated and equally important! PCK connects the teacher's knowledge of content as well as "how" to teach it. It educators don't understand both content and methods, then students may not receive an effective learning experience. Lack of content causes misrepresentations of the subject matter. Lack of pedagogy skills causes even more misrepresentations of the learning experience. If you have both working together and working together effectively, then we call that good teaching!
Once PCK and TPK are combined together and design TPACK, this creates the tools and framework to an effective and GREAT LEARNING ENVIRONMENT!!!

Koehler, M. (2011, May 13). TPACK - Technological Pedagogical and Content Knowledge. Retrieved from:

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Research Model Breakdown

In my EDTC 600, I was able to take the opportunity to analyze a few research models. I looked at Big 6 and Marzano's Nine. This is what I discovered:

Model Breakdown

Marzano's Nine Essential Strategies...are they a good thing?

This week, as part of my Master's Program, I was responsible for researching Robert Marzano and his Nine Essential Strategies for Classroom Instruction that works. Marzano's strategies are nothing new, but he has taken scientific research to prove the strategies' effectiveness. Because of Marzano, teachers are now able to use the same terminology to describe great instructional strategies. So, to answer the question, "Are Marzano's nine strategies a good thing?" Yes, in my opinion, they are a good thing.
When I was a first year teacher, Marzano's strategies had become quite popular. Book studies were conducted to really analzye each of the nine strategies and how to apply them in our own classes. Since I was a first year teacher, these book studies were quite useful as a way to guide me in developing my teaching style as well as lesson plans.
Some examples of things I have used in my class are the following:
1. Identifying Similiarities & Differences - Venn Diagrams
2. Summarizing & Notetaking - IVF statements after a movie or lab to summarize main points/topic in one sentence. I also provide my students with 3 column notes of science vocab terms with definitions. The student highlight main ideas while we discuss the terms as a class.
3. Reinforcing Effort & Providing Recognition - I like to provide my students with lots of positve recognition (part of our PBS- Positive Behavior Support plan used throughout the school).
4. Homework & Practice - The phrase "practice makes perfect" doesn't apply to science as much as math classes, but it is still very important. If and when homework is given in class it is used to reinforce learning and skills, not for busy work!
5. Nonlinguistic Representations - pictures always help in science. I like to show video clips for many of the vocabulary terms. Also the students draw pictures in the third column of their notes as a way to nonliguistically represent the vocabulary.
6. Setting objectives: Everyday, I put an Essential Question on the board. This way the students know what to expect to answer before the end of class. This provides a purpose for the students and keeps me focused with the standards.
7. Providing Feedback - Rubrics are useful for both the students as well as me!! This way, I'm able to give students explanations for their achievements as well as a guideline for me to follow and stay consistent and fair with each student.
8. Generating & Testing Hypotheses: This happens in science on a regular basis. At the beginning of each unit/topic, we start with a question (problem). We use the scientific method to create scientific inquiry as well as design our labs.
9. Questions, Cues, and Advance Organizers: All three of these are used on a daily basis to my "Question of the Day/Essential Question" on the board, to my cue of "Stop and Listen" (all the students know these three words mean to stop everything and look in my direction), and a variety of different ways to organize all the information given in class.
As we enter a new "digital era," it is important to utilize technology with Marzano's nine. This can happen fairly easily. Venn Diagrams can be created in presentation apps on iPads, wikis and blogs can provide immediate feedback, games, simulations, and picturesr can be downloaded as nonliguistic representation, labs can now be conducted virtually, and notetaking can be done on iPads and bumped to others iPads. There are endless possibilities. The question is, how come we are not using as much as we possibly can? There are so many teachers that prefer the old way of teaching. How can we change this and open their eyes to the endless possibilities that technology offers. I know that lack of funds is a typical excuse. I know I have personally used this. So, what are some ways we can bypass this excuse?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Personal Research Style

This week is all about Research. Why is it Important? How is it useful? For my career in science, research is extremely important! Science is always changing and new discoveries or theories are found or accepted on a regular basis. Since it is my job to teach science to blossoming students, it is vital that I stay current.
My students like to affectionately call me a "science geek." So, it is obvious, science is my passion, particularly wildlife biology. Naturally, I spend most of my "research" time looking up ecological topics as well as anything that may be useful in my classroom. When it comes to research, I definitely take the scientific method approach: Always start with a question! Once I have a question, I will take it to the next level, by researching facts to answer that question. Recently, I heard about the Javan Rhino was officially extinct in Vietnam. The radio didn't give a lot of information, so it became a question I was eager to find out about.
Once I've determined to research something like the Javan Rhino extinction, I immediately go to the Internet. I, personally find the Internet a very useful tool when it is used the right way. If I'm using the Internet, I usually look at sites that contain a .org or .edu. This way I know there is some educational relevance to the material versus someone's personal opinion. In this case, I found the Telegraph an useful online newspaper that gives facts versus opinions.
Recently I purchased an iPad2, so research has become even faster and easier. One of my many apps is Wikinodes (a great research tool!!). When it came to the Javan Rhino, I just typed in "Javan Rhino" to my Wikinode app, and I was given tons of information!! This app not only gave me a lot of information, but it does so in a visually appealing concept map (perfect for visual learners like myself).
Once I found information, many times, I come up with new questions, this may require more extensive research. In this case, I will re-evaluate my research topic, and may change it. In the case of the Javan Rhino, I changed my question to "What steps are being done to conserve this species?" Due to this animal's extinction, it has sparked a passion in Rhino conservation. Along with finding legitimate research sites with .org/.edu, I have recently started to read blogs. Reading other people's thoughts and opinions is definitely a useful education tool as well. Because of this, I even accepted the International Rhino Foundation as a friend on Facebook. Because of this, I am showing support as well as possibly sparking the interest of others.
So in answer to the two questions from the beginning: Why is research important? and How is it useful? Research gives us relevant information that may help us learn about things outside of our daily lives as well as how we can make a difference in this world. In this digital era, research is definitely more useful because it gives us information with just a few clicks of mouse or an app. The real question is: Why not use research?