Sunday, February 7, 2016

Constructivism and Multiple Intelligence Reflection

Howard Gardner’s work has been an integral part of numerous educational theories since Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences was published in 1983.  I remember my copy in college being full of annotations and highlights because the idea that human knowledge was more than rote memorization appealed to me.  The concept that we have varying levels of ability in each of Gardner’s intelligence classifications explains the need for differentiated instruction perfectly.  In a recent interview with the Huffington Post he stated that “two major educational implications” of Multiple Intelligences are Individuation and Pluralization.  The first suggests we need to address the needs of each specific learner and the second offers a method of accomplishing that goal by presenting the material in a variety of ways. (Lynch, 2012).

It is not surprising that a visionary like Sir Ken Robinson would address the importance of Multiple Intelligences and encourage educators to recognize the child as a whole instead of forcing  the student to conform to a system which typically values Verbal-Linguistic and Logical-Mathematical modalities that can be assessed through standardized testing.  As educators, it is imperative that we encourage, celebrate and accommodate a child’s strengths instead of labeling them as weaknesses when they do not fit the traditional model of learning.

While my current role as a district technology coordinator does not give me daily access to the classroom, the past decade has afforded me a number of opportunities to offer professional development to teachers throughout our district.  I always have music playing as participants arrive.  I have found this strategy can set the tone for a session, activate the senses and heighten linguistic acuity.  I have begun integrating essential questions and discussions into my presentations to provide opportunity for honing both interpersonal and intrapersonal skills.  During a recent half day workshop I used a Google extension called Move It to interrupt the presentation at set intervals with a prompt to perform a certain exercise.   This hopefully triggered a response from the bodily-kinesthetic learner who needed to get up occasionally during a 4 hour workshop!  All of this is done in a subtle way to model different techniques they can use in their classrooms.

When I have the opportunity to work directly with students, I provide a number of resources and let them decide on how to express their knowledge.  One of my favorite projects was co-teaching a 10-week digital storytelling unit with at-risk learners.  As we discussed the various stages of creating a digital story, I shared a number of tools from which to choose, which gave them a great deal of autonomy.  Additionally, the students had to take on roles (e.g., production manager, script supervisor, director of photography, etc) which in retrospect allowed them to utilize, explore and expand on pre-existing intelligences.

While these techniques seem to be effective in a traditional environment, I am uncertain they would work in an online or distance learning scenario.   As the article The Influence of Multiple Intelligence Theory on Web-Based Learning states, “little has been done to study MI in the online classroom.” (Riha, 2009)  It would be feasible to tap a number of Gardner’s intelligences in this scenario; however, even with the advent of media, I imagine it would be challenging to incorporate Spatial-Visual, Bodily-Kinesthetic and Musical intelligences within these environments.  My personal experience with this cohort has made me more aware of my intrapersonal and interpersonal intelligences.  I have become more adroit at self-reflection and collaboration thanks to the inspiring posts, discussions and projects.  

The concept of constructivism appears to be an extension of differentiated instruction.  I have always felt we need to return to the Socratic approach wherein the instructor asks questions aimed at inciting dialogue allowing “students to realize for themselves the weakness in their thinking” and construct new ideas based on this knowledge. ("Constructivism as a Paradigm for Teaching and Learning")  The 21st century educational design needs to focus more on sparking creative thought, rather than creating lock step curriculum designed for an Industrial Age.  As Socrates may have once said, “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel” (“Quote Investigator”)

With this in mind, I have found the blog posts from Ewan McIntosh regarding constructivism to be completely engrossing.  The underlying theme seems roughly based on the concept of design thinking which is structured in a way that provides “enough flexibility with enough specificity to ground its ideas in the lives of their intended beneficiaries.” (McIntosh, 2012)  Throughout the posts we see that dialogue, autonomy and facilitation lead to quality innovative work.  I particularly enjoyed the video Designing the Unknown which focuses on C-K theory and demonstrates how an open and Socrative process can allow for pre-existing knowledge to add attributes within a conceptual space and generate many new and innovative ideas.  It seems that constructivism achieves the desired outcome of differentiated instruction without requiring the instructor to provide  a number of approaches to achieve a specific outcome. Instead, wide scale essential and existential questions are asked that help students “know what they didn’t know”. (McIntosh, 2015) allowing for new ideas to develop and evolve.

I believe the concept of constructivism could have major impact on the future of education, provided the institution can get out of it’s own way.  These open and innovative  environments allow the teacher to remove themselves as the “sage on the stage” and instead take on the role of “guide on the side”.  This insures that “collaborative learning is a process of peer interaction that is mediated and structured by the teacher” and generates thinkers as opposed to workers. (“Open Educational Resources of UCD Teaching and Learning, University College Dublin”)  Many of these environments are also often student driven by design.  The challenge then becomes how to evaluate and assess the success of these programs in a standards driven world?  I am hoping to find some of the answers to that question in a session I will be hosting at EdCamp: After Dark  that will explore the idea of a “reThink Thinking and Learning Symposium”.  This is a thought I envisioned while reading Ewan McIntosh’s posts and would be designed and promoted as a day that would bring educators, students, parents and community leaders together for a day of candid discussion about what works and what could be improved upon when it comes to learning.  I cannot wait to see what my colleagues think of this concept!

Lynch, Ed.D. Matthew. "Living Legends: An Interview With Howard Gardner, Part I." The Huffington Post., 09 Jan. 2012. Web. 06 Feb. 2016. <>.

Riha, Mark, and Rebecca A. Robles-PiƱa. "The Influence of Multiple Intelligence Theory on Web-Based Learning." Journal of Online Learning and Teaching 5.1 (2009). Web. 3 Feb. 2016. <>.

"Constructivism as a Paradigm for Teaching and Learning." Constructivism as a Paradigm for Teaching and Learning. Web. 06 Feb. 2016. <>.

"Quote Investigator." Quote Investigator. Web. 07 Feb. 2016. <>.

McIntosh, Ewan. "Design Thinking 2: Immersion - Don't Give Students a Problem to Solve.." Ewan McIntosh | Design Thinking, Education & Learning. 16 Jan. 2012. Web. 04 Feb. 2016. <>.

McIntosh, Ewan. "Unknown Unknowns. #ungoogleable Thinking for #28daysofwriting." Ewan McIntosh | Design Thinking, Education & Learning. 8 Feb. 2015. Web. 05 Feb. 2016. <>.

"Constructivism and Social Constructivism in the Classroom." Open Educational Resources of UCD Teaching and Learning, University College Dublin. Web. 06 Feb. 2016. <>.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Clark / Kozma Media Debate: A Reflection

As I read Richard E. Clark’s original article “Reconsidering Research on Learning from Media”, I kept wondering what his thoughts would have been regarding the printing press which enabled the first mass produced media in the form of print, created greater access to knowledge “and has been implicated in the Reformation, the Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution.” (Dewar, 1998)  I couldn’t figure out if Clark was a luddite opposed to media itself or simply fearful that we would become reliant on media as a tool for content delivery without instructional design.  His contention that it is “not media but variables such as instructional methods that foster learning” (Clark, 1983) certainly suggest the latter.  
Quite honestly, in the late 20th century these were legitimate concerns.  Educators were attracted to the shiny new object in the room.  I witnessed it first hand as a college student during some of my earliest practical classroom experiences and watched students become attracted to the novelty of media delivered content.  I can certainly understand how Clark would state “media are mere vehicles that deliver instruction but do not influence student achievement any more than the truck that delivers our groceries causes changes in our nutrition.”  (Clark, 1983) However, with 21st century learning, media allows students to effectively drive the truck and as content creators have more say in the intellectual payload that is delivered.  
This new reality changes the way knowledge can be acquired and promotes the dynamic and adaptive nature of medias three aspects which Robert Kozma outlines as technology, symbol systems and processing capabilities. (Kozma, 1994)  Although the article, “The Influence of Media on Learning: The Debate Continues” was written in 1994, it was obvious that Kozma had a vision of learning as “an active, constructive, cognitive, and social process by which the learner strategically manages available cognitive, physical, and social resources to create new knowledge by interacting with information in the environment and integrating it with information stored in memory.” (Kozma, 1994)  In essence, the concept of multimedia as an educational tool is much more than minor statistical correlations as Clark would have us believe.  Rather, through multimedia, “students are likely to find many ways to connect their new learning to their existing representations.” (Kozma, 1994)  Today’s students are not only able to manipulate the aspects of media, they are able to design the aspects of media which provides ownership of learning.
I believe there are two schools of thought in today’s educational landscape which have people convinced that media improves learning.  There is the political component that blanketly puts multimedia devices in the hands of students under the misperception that just by providing digital natives with the proper resources, will automatically improve student test scores.  This is the kind of logic thought that plays directly into Clark’s argument and is doomed to failure.  The divergent and likely more accurate theory is that by providing a student with the tools necessary to engage with and create knowledge changes the very structure of education and gives students ownership of their learning.  This requires establishing an environment fostered by forward thinking educators who are willing to facilitate learning through innovative and opportunistic instruction which encourages creativity, communication, collaboration and critical thinking.  
Innovation is often met with resistance and it is vital to employ strategies that shift the public mindset.  The best way to demonstrate the impact and success of using media in education is to promote and publicize what great educators are doing with it in the classroom by publishing student work and demonstrating cognitive success.   Media itself allows us to break down the four walls of our schools and interact in ways previously unimaginable with the world around us.  It is truly an amazing time in education and I hope media will continue to play an integral part of our journey through 21st century learning.  

Dewar, JA. "The Information Age and the Printing Press: Looking Backward to See Ahead." The Information Age and the Printing Press: Looking Backward to See Ahead. Rand, 1998. Web. 02 Feb. 2016. <>.

Clark, R. E. "Reconsidering Research on Learning from Media." Review of Educational Research 53.4 (1983): 445-59. Web. 31 Jan. 2016.

Schneider, Daniel K. "The Media Debate." - EduTech Wiki. Web. 01 Feb. 2016. <>.

Kozma, Robert B. "The Influence of Media on Learning: The Debate Continues."SLMQ 22.4 (Summer 1994). Web. 1 Feb. 2016. <>.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

We've Broken Education

I need to climb up on my soapbox for just a moment to vent.  Those of us in the ed-tech world go around touting how great technology is for education.  But guess what?  It's not going to fix a broken system.  The spirit of wonder and learning has been shattered by the need to label, test and standardize.  We celebrate those educators who take risks and step outside the box.  Yet the leaders of education do nothing to explore what makes these individuals unique.  We need a system that is tuned into today's student and their unknown futures.  No Wordle, Animoto or Kahoot is going to fix that.
Say what you want about previous generations, but there was a simpler time when the stakes didn't seem as high.  A time before the digital age, filled with encyclopedias and yes even dioramas, where kids were genuinely curious about what made their world tick.  Now that information is a few clicks and Google searches away.
We need to get back to a time before worksheets.  On one of my kids recent homework assignments, the question was asked "Explain how you divided 12 counters into equal groups" His response was: "I read what the box said" and drew an arrow to the words "Say out loud: 12 divided by 3 is 4" REALLY?! Yet we send these worksheets home every night in the name of Common Core State Standards.  This has got to stop!  We need to cease the practice of providing students with all the answers expecting them to regurgitate knowledge and instead instill that since of wonder that seemingly has disappeared.  We need to stop trying to shoehorn kids into what we think the world needs to be when we have no clue what the world will look like in 10 years?!
So here's my question: How the heck do we do that?  I'll get off my soap box now and wait for your insightful responses.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Blogging for Engagement

Between course work, regular work, conference preparation, family / parental duties and triathlon training, I appear to have completely abandoned the idea of blogging.  This is not a good thing and I intend to change that starting now.

An interesting question arose in a discussion this week on GAFE (Google Apps for Education) ideas for the classroom.  A member of my grad school cohort suggested they would like to try blogging with their junior high school students.  However, they expressed concern for the students ability to stay on task.

I believe this is one of those moments when you need to take a leap of faith.  Students can surprise you! Especially, if they know their work is going to be published and commented on by their peers or "worse" complete strangers! I've seen it time and again where students panic after pushing Publish. Post or Send.  You've seen it too: "Oh no, I made a mistake!", "Can I get it back?", "Does it really stay on the Internet forever?"  Your students do listen to you - even if it doesn't seem that way - provided you have the conversation.

So how would I approach blogging with a class of junior high students?

  1. Have a conversation about publishing (including copyright and citation) and digital citizenship. Actually have a conversation!  That means not only telling them what you think they should hear but truly listening to your students concerns and addressing them appropriately.
  2. Set expectations.  Explain that you expect them to take their blogging seriously and that they are expected to respond to others post.  Let the golden rule be your guide and do unto others...
  3. Assign topics that are meaningful.  It's great to start off with the "What I did on Summer Vacation / Spring Break" because that's what they know and expect.  But, also give them insightful and important topics to consider.  Have them respond to a news article they read, create a tutorial on one of their hobbies and above all allow them to express themselves!
  4. Facilitate without impediment.  If your students have a tendency to get off task, analyze what is happening.  Are they really off task? Ask why? Are they looking for inspiration? Think about what you do when your mind gets blocked?  I'd guess you back off and do something else for a little while until you feel ready to come back and tackle the problem.  While we may go for a walk, students like to surf.  Blogging should be about personal engagement, self discovery and sharing.  Try not to impede the process.  If a student gets so off task or it becomes inappropriate, treat it for what it is - a classroom management issue and deal with it accordingly.
  5. Let the students own their work.  Once they have a handle on where their passion lies, you'll probably find they want to keep writing on that topic.  Let them! If they are writing about Minecraft or Taylor Swift, it may not be your "thing"; but, it is something they are particularly interested in and they are writing and meeting ISTE Standards for Students as well as a plethora of Common Core State Standards which should please you and your administration!
  6. Share their work! Create a classroom hashtag and let the world know your students have a voice. Post some of their work to your PLN each week and encourage positive feedback from your global colleagues.  This doesn't just apply to blogging but any published work on the web.  When students see "strangers" giving them praise, it boosts moral, self-esteem and encourages further engagement.  It also "keeps it real."  When it's not from someone they see everyday, it can have even more impact.
If you'd like to get started blogging with students I would highly recommend using BloggerEduBlogs or KidBlog.  They all have their special features and pros / cons that you should evaluate before choosing a platform.

As always, if this advice has been meaningful to you, please share it with your PLN on the social networks or leave a response below.

Cross-posted from the JMGubbins96 Reflection Blog

Friday, November 6, 2015

Plan B

A funny thing happened on the way to IETC 2015.  Actually, it wasn't very funny at all.

Wednesday night I went to review my presentation for Thursday morning and realized I had left my power adapter for my primary presentation laptop at the office (which is 3 hours away from Springfield). Fortunately, I had a backup laptop with the proper power adapters ready to go as well as my trusty Chromebook.

Thursday morning I loaded up my presentation on both devices so I could monitor my back channel on my Chromebook.  Halfway though the presentation, the Internet died!  This is a common occurrence at conferences and I had already taken Google slides presentation offline and wasn't at a point where I even needed to switch to screenshots (yup, I had those too).  I continued to move along with the discussion until the laptop decided to BSOD (Blue Screen of Death)! Whoops! Wasn't expecting that.  Quick switch of the laptop from the VGA connection to the projector to the projector's HDMI cable connected to the Chromebook and we are back in business. Eventually, I got to a point in my presentation where I would need Internet and contemplated turning on a hotspot (had one of those too) but it came back just in time and I was able to finish what I hope was a successful presentation.

Day 2 - has to be better than Day 1, right?!  One would think.  But no, the gremlins returned in my presentation about presentations.  First, the projector provided would not mirror my laptop display.  Tech support got it to work; but, then Google Slides wouldn't go full screen properly because of the resolution adjustment to get it working.  Great, that's the way to demonstrate good presentations.   Alright, laptop, let's just avoid a blue screen and we'll be fine.  Right? Right! Wrong.  I'm not sure how it happened because I had run through the presentation many times but a link got misdirected and my browser got hijacked! Beep! Beep! Beep! Quick close that pop-up window! Pop up comes right back.  Disconnect speaker from laptop so it doesn't drive everyone crazy.  Still beeping - shut down laptop and switch to Chromebook which is set to extend instead of mirror.  Of course, I lost my timer on my laptop when all that happened; so, now I've lost track of when the session ends.  Thankfully, I think I had enough resources  to keep interest and the attendees were extremely patient with me as I scrambled to cover as much as I could.  I'm sure the reviews won't be stellar; but, I'm pretty sure everyone left with something new to explore.  You know the saying "never let them see you sweat", don't know how successful I was with that - but I was able to finish.
Moral of this story?! Have a Plan B and in some cases a Plan C or even a Plan D! Just please don't let the Gremlins follow me home!

 I plan on reviewing IETC 2015 once I have a day or two to digest the whirlwind!

For those in my presentation session, the correct link to the site that was Hi-jacked is  My link was somehow missing a character but has been corrected. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

New Beginnings

As I sit here in Springfield, preparing for an early morning session at the Illinois Education and Technology Conference, I realized it has been months since my last blog post.  In fact my last post was in February following the ICE Conference.   I've been trying to figure out why that is and the only excuse I have is that over the last few years I have been shifting my focus from tools, which are easy to write a quick post about, to how to assess and analyze the use of those tools to achieve learning targets and engage students.  This is a welcome trend; but, has required a lot of introspection and self-reflection.  I have also taken on a number of new challenges both personally and professionally that have limited my available time for writing carefully considered reflective posts.  I am hoping that my edtech batteries will be recharged and my focus renewed during IETC 2015.  This conference holds a special place in my heart as it is the first conference I had the pleasure of presenting at many years ago! I'm looking forward to connecting and learning with many amazing educators in the next 48 hours and continuing this amazing journey through education and technology with all of you! 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Already Thinking About #ICE16

Wow! Just woke up from a power nap after coming home and "crashing" the couch following one of my favorite conference of the year: ICE (Illinois Computing Educators) at the Pheasant Run in St. Charles Illinois.  This years theme was "Make the Difference" in honor of the maker movement.  Not surprisingly the culture of making and creating was front and center! The poster sessions were moved to an area previously reserved for the PLN Plaza in favor of a "mini-Maker" Faire where we got hands on experience with Squishy Circuits, the 3Doodler, the Makey Makey and a whole bunch of other tools that allow you to create and invent.  Many of the presentations were themed around the concept including "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" from the truly Super Awesome Sylvia Todd.  I even got in on the act with my latest experiment "Gubbins Glass" (an action cam attached to a baseball cap).  More on that in a future post perhaps.

But here's the thing, educators have always been makers.  Students have always been curious.  This is nothing new!  Sure technology has allowed us to change the landscape a bit by allowing us to make flashier things - but who remembers Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys and LEGOS.  Of course, today, we can build LEGOs that we can program to do some pretty amazing things! My point is this all these fun and innovative tools that let us create and demonstrate conceptual knowledge are just that - they are tools. No different than the plethora of online resources apps and extensions that bloomed with the dawning of a new millennium.

Here's the deal - the "Difference Makers" are the amazing educators who inspire and innovate by allowing these tools to enter the classroom.  Here are just a few that made my conference experience just that much better.

Tara Linney who connected coding to CCSS with "Coding in the Curriculum".  Her 7 habits of effective coding take the fear out of trying something new in your classroom.

Speaking of coding Jen Gilbert's poster session "Kids Can Code: Computer Programming for Kindergarten and Up" attracted a lot of attention.  But beyond that, in speaking with Jen at breakfast both Wednesday and Thursday, it became obvious that she has a genuine passion for being innovative and is willing to take risks to make her learning environment a better place!

Josh Stumpenhorst who is leading the "Teacher Revolution" gave an empowering, inciteful and much needed talk that shared heartfelt stories and offered sage advice which resonated with truth.  After spending time with Josh, it's difficult not to feel inspired to do great things!

David Tchozewski and David Fischer once again packed the Zanies Comedy club with The Return of “Hi, I’m David and I’m an APPoholic!” sharing tons of valuable resources.  It's so good to see "resource sessions" are still being well attended and when "the David's" share a room it's easy to see why.  I'm looking forward to going back and reviewing what they shared!

It was great to finally meet Nicholas Provenzano after his Digital Tools to Support Reading and Writing session.   He demonstrated how tried and true tools like Tagxedo, Storybird and KidBlog can still be used with purpose.  We don't always have to jump to the latest flashy reource.

And these were only a few of the many sessions I jumped in and out of throughout the week without even mentioning amazing keynotes from Slyvia Martinez and Jim Sill! You can find the resources and shared notes at visit to access my liveblog of the event.

Of course, my favorite part of any conference is getting to hang out with amazing educators and to get swept up in the culture of learning.  It will take me days to process and reflect on everything I discovered about education, technology and myself over the past few days.  I am absolutely blessed to be a part of an amazing community of educators who lead, inspire, innovate and make every single day! Thank you for giving me an opportunity to learn from you.  You are all amazing and truly Make the Difference!
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