Learning Theories and Technology

There are a number of learning theories applicable in the Instructional Design process.  Two common approaches include: behavioral and cognitive.

While behaviorist theories base their learning on the stimulus-response interaction, cognitivists base their learning on the process of discovery with the aid of an instructor.  Cognitivists place greater interest in knowledge, meaning, intentions, feelings, creativity, expectations, and problem-solving.  Behaviorists place greater emphasis on positive re-enforcement and negative punishment.  Although behaviorists and cognitivists are very different, both have some similarities.  Both believe learning theories should be objective and discuss the environmental impact training has upon the learner.  Cognitivists also believe in reinforcement, but on a different level. They reinforce the learner through a process of retrieving existing knowledge and presentation of new information.

Jerome Burner is the cognitivist that best reflects Higher Power Training‘s view of learning.  We are a firm believer in providing an environment that allows students to explore in a controlled environment allowing students to process, store, and retrieve information for use.  As a trainer it is essential to establish a foundation to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills within students.

Higher Power Training is responsible for designing innovative and interactive training programs that can be implemented into classrooms or online.  In the workplace, the cognitive approach works best because of the ever-changing growth of a company or organization.  With the use of the cognitive approach students have the opportunity to discover their own findings and share their results in a controlled but creative way.  Leadership qualities will be developed by providing a structured program that encourages inquiry-based learning and student creativity by branching through scenario based e-learning modules.

By Higher Power Training: Providing Instructional Design and Training Services since 2000

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M-Learning (Thesis Volume 4.3: Project Evaluation – Discussion)

Although the data analysis is limited at this point, the assumption is that the primitive data collected is a reflection of continued feedback.  Some of the key data identified is the enormous improvement of results from pre-test to post-test.  Although this data is positive and believed to be a true reflection of academic growth through the program; the addition of data collected by standardized testing can potentially confirm the success of students who participate in the program.  The student surveys confirmed the program’s success in providing motivation for students through hands-on activities and exotic animals.  An unforeseen result was the opportunity for students to see the ocean for the first time.  The podcasts produced also accomplished their objective as Ocean Institute visitors welcomed them and found them both educational and critical to the overall experience of the exhibits.  This feedback is a reflection that the students not only understood the information they learned but were capable of producing podcasts that could be appreciated by their peers and adults.  Although the teachers have not been formally surveyed, unofficially, many of the teachers have made comments about both the delivery method as well as instructional design.  The feedback concerning the delivery has been positive; by presenting the information via a website, teachers have encouraged their students to study the program at home as well as in the classroom.  Teachers have also been in favor of the instructional design; many teachers feel that the content allows the teachers to perform as a facilitator rather than an actual teacher, which has placed less pressure on them and has required less prep time.  Other teachers have commented that the program provides enough flexibility for pro-active teachers to modify components where they feel necessary to accommodate their class.  The biggest concern expressed by many of the teachers was how the program addressed state standards.  This concern was confronted throughout the instructional design process and has impacted the classes selected to participate in the program; is should be also noted that by modifying the field trip component, this program can fit any set of state standards desired.

When integrating technology into curriculum, especially when curriculum is presented by the aide of technology, it is important that the technology enhances the program rather than distracts from the lesson plans.  The OIPP website, consisted of online flash videos, graphic animations, downloadable PDF files, and online testing.  To formally evaluate the delivery, the C.R.A.P. method by Williams and Tollet was used to assess the OIPP website:

Contrast:  The blue colors used throughout the site represented the marine theme of the program; the darker blues were used to enhance the lighter blue text.  Fellow Master’s student, Scott Bania understood the concept and had this comment, “The site itself has a great “look and feel” and reflects the theme of oceanography.”  Against the dark background, the links were easily identified with the color red or white; the left navigation bar used red dotted lines to highlight the links while the top navigation bar used a white rollover font; red font was used for links buried in the content of the page.  Large red font was also used to aide in identifying the title of each page.  The header was also very distinguishable with the black background which complemented the blue background within the content area; the black background also allowed the colorful OIPP logo to standout in the header.

Repetition:  The clarity and similarity between pages was very consistent.  The location of navigation buttons remained consistent while content was always located in the center of each page.  The layout of the online curriculum was also similar to the PDF downloadable versions of the curriculum.  Flash tutorials also remained consistent and allowed students to navigate through the site ensuring they did not miss any vital information.

Alignment:  Navigation bars were placed on the left and top of the screen and were clearly identified by rollover images.  The pages that included a video tutorial were well balanced with content text located beneath the video; this avoided distractions for the students at they watched the tutorials.  All content was centered whenever possible; some pages such as the podcast sample page were a bit obscure in alignment due to the unbalanced content to be shared on the page.

Proximity:  The layout provided enough separation between navigation, text, and video tutorials to place an emphasis on all aspects without being overwhelming to the viewer.  Navigation buttons were clearly identifiable and easy to click.  Content, whether video or text, were centered and emphasized by being towards the top of the site.

Aspects not addressed within C.R.A.P. included graphic design, flash animations and other aesthetics that contributed to the site looking very professional.  The flash design used in the introduction helped to build anticipation and set the theme for the technology rich program.  The music selected also maintained a technology feel and was designed for the middle school and high school audience.  The graphic design throughout the site was limited so that it would not conflict with the educational components to the site.  The only true graphic design was represented within the logo design; the design was integration between iPods and the Ocean Institute Podcast Program.  Other aesthetics included rollover images and text as well as appropriately designed video tutorials.

Even more important than the professionalism of the site is the functionality of the site.  To evaluate this site, a formal web usability analysis as described by Jacob Neilson was performed.  The first element addressed was the flash intro; the advantage of using the flash was to present a professionally designed site, however flash intros can take a long time to load and flash players must be downloaded onto your computer.  Ultimately, the target audience for this site all had high powered computers with broadband Internet connection, thus eliminating common disadvantages related to flash intros.  To enter the site, a red label on the top of the screen was easily identifiable.  On the main site, all navigation buttons were easily located and enhanced with the rollover images.  The text of the navigation buttons were also clear and concise and provided specific directions for the viewer.  The content provided throughout the site also aided in navigation through the site as to ensure that all necessary content was provided to the students.  Fellow Master’s student, Jeannine Taylor had this to say about the navigation and layout of the site, “It was very easy to navigate through and it was very clear what was expected of the learner… The bells and whistles are definitely there, but they are not on every page, just where they are needed for introductory and instructional purposes.”  With the aide of C.R.A.P. and Jacob Neilson’s web usability, this site was designed successfully.

M-Learning (Thesis Volume 4.2: Project Evaluation – Data Presentation)

The program was divided into three components: professional development, field trip and podcast production.  As stated earlier, the professional development component is a tangent of the main focus of this report and will not be addressed.  Although the evaluation process is in its early stages, the assessment tools have produced some beneficial results.  Thus far, 100 students from three different high schools and one middle school have participated in the Ocean Institute Program.  Most students have not completed their podcasts at this stage; however a handful of accelerated students have successfully completed their podcasts and submitted the post-test and survey.

The first evaluation was to establish students’ knowledge of the topics addressed on the field trip.  The pre-tests submitted reflected a general knowledge of the topics addressed on the field trip.  The average grade of the pre-test was a 72%.  5% of the students scored a 100% on the test; while 54% scored a 50% or less.    The post-test, although not completed by all students at this point, have shown significant improvement in academic knowledge.  The average increased 24%, while the lowest score was 69%.  Refer to table 1 to compare the results of the pre-tests and post-tests.

The evaluation process continued by analyzing the student surveys submitted; at this point in time, only 22% of the surveys have been completed.  From the surveys it was determined that 80% of the students had never been to the Ocean Institute; there were 2 students who had never seen the ocean.  The survey revealed a number of positive remarks:

  1. “I loved the hands-on activities and all the fish.”
  2. “It was nice to learn outside of the classroom.”
  3. “It was cool to take so many pictures and video of the field trip.”
  4. “It was the first time I have seen the ocean.”
  5. “I wish the field trip was longer.”
  6. “Making a podcast for school was meaningful.”
  7. “I make tons of videos, doing one for school was cool.”
  8. “I hope my podcast gets the most downloads.”
  9. “I learned a lot about podcasting and marine science.”
  10. “I downloaded all of my friends’ podcasts to my iPod.”

The evaluation process also included surveys completed by Ocean Institute visitors who used the podcast while visiting; 90% of the surveys were completed by Ocean Institute members.  The survey revealed that the average visitor listened to 7 podcasts; however, visitors ranged from 1 to 13 podcasts.  85% of the visitors felt the podcasts enhanced the exhibits and made the trip to the Ocean Institute more educational and memorable.  Some of the valuable comments received included:

  1. “I have always enjoyed how the Ocean Institute showcases students’ work; these podcasts were another example of the impact OI has on children.”
  2. “I have been to the Ocean Institute numerous times, however, I learned more on this visit than all the other visits combined.”
  3. “I have used podcasts at other museums, and although they are more professionally produced, I felt having students producing podcasts from their own experiences was very special.”
  4. “Some of the podcasts were outstanding; did not listen to the longer podcasts.
  5. “These students should be proud of what they have developed.”
  6. “I had never been to the Ocean Institute; the podcasts really helped me understand what happens at the facility.”

Although an initial evaluation has been completed by the student tests and surveys, and the Ocean Institute visitor surveys; there has been no formal feedback at this point in time from the teacher surveys.  From what has been observed, many of the uncertainties teachers had were addressed during professional development; there has also been constant support provided during the podcast production process for teachers who felt they needed it.

M-Learning (Thesis Volume 4.1: Project Evaluation)

Being a unique program with few models to follow, the most difficult aspect of the program was to determine how to assess the success of the program.  This assessment was critical to attract participating schools, grant funding, and to measure the overall success of the development of the program.  The foundation of the evaluation was based on measuring the proposed objectives; the objectives were divided into two categories: program objectives and student objectives.  The program objectives included:

  1. Develop a working partnership between Ocean Institute, Orange County high schools, Apple, and Best Buy.
  2. Enhance classroom curriculum by bringing subject matter experts into the classroom via podcasts.
  3. Integrate technology into the established curriculum for students to develop podcasts based on lesson plans.
  4. Design an instructional and motivational platform for students to showcase their conceptual understanding of various subject matters.
  5. Provide professional development for teachers on the advantages of using podcasting and other technology in their classrooms.

The student objectives included:

  1. Research books and field guides to collect the necessary information.
  2. Organize the information they have collected in a way that can be developed into an educational lecture.
  3. Educate their peers on the skates and rays.
  4. Recognize the differences within aquaria.
  5. Use field guides to identify various species.
  6. Complete population counts and assess biodiversity.
  7. Identify keystone species and the importance of the species.
  8. Relate the pollution the biological integrity of the aquaria.
  9. Communicate their findings to their peers.
  10. Efficiently research on the internet to collect required data.
  11. Participate in an open discussion regarding problems and solutions to estuaries.
  12. Collect and organize digital video footage and images depicting their work.
  13. Edit all digital data.
  14. Create an mp4 file with digital data.
  15. Write an instructional script to teach a lesson plan.
  16. Record a voice file and integrate it into mp4 file to match with visual content.
  17. Use their creativity to design and produce an instructional podcast to be used by their peers at the Ocean Institute exhibits.

Measuring many of the student objectives were difficult due to the lack of quantitative results.  Measuring the student objects were completed by monitoring their milestone accomplishments and assessing their final podcast production; to create a unified measuring tool, an assessment guide was created for teachers to evaluate the students’ progress.  Another tool designed to assess the student objectives included a comparison analysis between student pre-tests and post-test results to measure a student’s academic growth.  To continue to improve the motivational and content components, students were also distributed student surveys to complete; the surveys that have been completed have been analyzed.  Once a greater number of surveys are returned, revisions to the program may be deemed necessary.  The final analysis will be to compare state standardized testing results of those students who participated in the program to those who did not; this is a critical assessment in terms of receiving future funding, however due to the time constraints, this analysis has not been completed.

To successfully evaluate the first two objectives, they will need to be redefined with quantitative elements; these original program objectives were broad as a result of an experimental program with no model to follow.  As the pilot program comes to an end, the results of the teacher surveys and visitor surveys will assist in providing a foundation to better redefine the objectives.  Objectives that will require redefining include grant funding needs; this can be better determined once an accurate assessment of cost per class has been completed.  Another objective that requires redefining is the desired number of participating schools both in short term and long term; there are a number of components that will influence this objective including the Ocean Institute’s ability to accommodate schools throughout the program, professional development needs, and budget needs for both schools and the Ocean Institute.  Finally, the professional development seminars contain their own set of objectives, but will not be addressed within this report to prevent tangents.

It should be noted that the each of the evaluations noted above will be an ongoing and continuing process to ensure the program is of the highest quality.  Continuing assessments are also critical due to the frequent updates and changes in technology which will need to be addressed when it becomes an identified issue; the hope is that the surveys will address such issues.

M-Learning (Thesis Volume 2.8: Review of the Literature)

Student-produced multimedia provides students with the opportunity to learn about technology, express themselves through creativity, and showcase their work to a larger audience.  Student-produced multimedia provides teachers with an efficient way to integrate technology into an established curriculum, design inquiry-based lesson plans, and assess student learning without having to use traditional tests.  One type of student-produced multimedia is digital storytelling, which incorporates images, audio, video, text, and image effects.  When creating a digital story, students develop the skills necessary to research, playwright, design, produce, and educate (Chung, 2007).  Digital storytelling integrates the arts, education, local communities, technology, and storytelling.  According to Chung (2007), students develop and apply multi-literacy skills, aesthetic sensitivities, and critical faculties to address greater issues of importance to a larger audience.  Digital storytelling is applicable for all school subjects, but as Chung (2007) points out, many schools in America have ample funds for maintaining a computer lab while funds for art supplies are either minimal or non-existent.  The implementation of digital storytelling offers art educators another avenue to implement an innovative and relevant art program for the technology-savvy digital generation (Chung, 2007).

One sample of podcasting in elementary schools comes from Jamestown Elementary: To align the podcasts with the curriculum, the teachers created handouts to help students produce their individual segments about a historical person or event from the Jamestown settlement.  The students could create their segments in different ways – as ‘am interview, a report, a poem, a word play, a skit, a Did you Know segment, or any other creative way to of communicating what you know and have learned’ (Long, 2007).  Producing podcasts can help students identify their strengths and help them to showcase their talents while working together in groups to produce a product that can be viewed worldwide.  By producing podcasts in groups, the creative writers record poetry, stories, or skits; the artists provide drawings or photography; musicians produce songs; and the technicians piece it all together (Long, 2007).

Digital storytelling is an example of a constructivist approach, which puts interactive technologies in the hands of student producers.  According to Brown (2007) when students are given creative freedom to construct with multimedia tools in an activity that is personally meaningful, they exhibit high levels of motivation and task engagement, develop skills through directed and needs driven episodes, exhibit higher order thinking, and individual differences are valued, accentuated, and expressed through interface design.  One approach to designing student produced multimedia for web based classrooms is to use competency-based learning (CBL), which is self-directed, individual, and a mastery learning method allowing students to achieve predetermined competency standards with the master knowledge and skills that they have learned (Chang, 2007).  According to Chang, since web learning has recently gained much attention in college, CBL on the Web has a certain level of demand and feasibility.

M-Learning (Thesis Volume 1.5: Delimitations/Definitions)

Delimitations

Working with the resources of a nationally recognized educational facility aided in implementing such a systemic informal educational program into classrooms.  Obvious limitations were addressed and minimized to allow the program to reach is fullest potential; limitations included the willingness of participating schools and teachers, financial support to operate a technology savvy program, and time necessary to complete the program successfully.  The Ocean Institute has a well established reputation in the local educational community; however convincing schools and teachers to participate in an experimental program was very difficult.  This issue was addressed by contacting and working with the Orange County Stellar Technology High Schools; these schools are funded to participate or develop such experimental programs. The participation of these schools provided enough students, teachers, and feedback to move forward with a pilot program.  In this era of restricted budgets, finances must also be address.  Although these schools receive funds to cover many of the elements required by a program like this one, including computers and the software; there were many other elements that required financial support including the field trip costs such as buses and substitute teachers, professional development, iPods, and Ocean Institute staffing.  To reconcile this problem, a small grant was rewarded to the Ocean Institute allowing the program to move forward; this grant provided the support to rent buses, pay substitute teachers, purchase a limited quantity of iPods, pay Ocean Institute staff, and provide professional develop for participating teachers.  In recognizing constant need for financial support in such a program, a strong relationship must be developed between the grant funder and the Ocean Institute.  The third critical limitation was designating the necessary time required for such a program.  Time constraints occurred with professional development training, program feed back from all participants, and the classroom time necessary to complete the podcasts.  Field trips have become limited in schools not only due to budget constraints but also the high demand on standardized testing; to ask teachers to spend approximately 32 hours of classroom time to participate in a pilot program was difficult.  Fortunately, enough teachers stepped forward in eagerness to participate.  Although limitations for this program had little hindrance on the overall design and outcome of the program, the data analysis and proven success is of the essence if this program is to continue beyond this pilot program.

Definitions

For purposes of this project, the following words are defined:

  • IPods:  Portable media players produced by Apple that play specific digital media formats including mp3 and mp4.
  • Mp3:  One digital media format used by digitally created audio files.  These files are recognized by iTunes and QuickTime player.  They can be downloaded played on iPods.
  • Mp4:  One digital media format used by digitally created video files.  These files are recognized by iTunes and QuickTime player.  They can be downloaded played on iPods.
  • Podcasts:  Media files, most commonly found in mp3 or mp4 formats that are distributed over the Internet for playback on personal computers and portable media players.  Podcasting refers to the distribution of media files by syndication feeds through which new files are automatically downloaded to subscribers, but media files downloaded manually from the Internet are also generally referred to as podcasts (Copley, 2007).
  • Informal Learning:  Generally refers to learning that occurs outside the traditional, formal school realm.  These sites range from museums and science centers to casual areas that some might not even notice for their potential as educational venues (McComas, 2006).
  • Ocean Institute Visitors:  The Ocean Institute is a closed campus informal education center serving more than 90,000 students a year.  On the weekends the Ocean Institute opens its doors to the general public much like an open house, providing exhibits, instructional programs, and marine animals to visitors.

M-Learning (Thesis Volume 1.3: Statement of the Instructional/Training Problem)

Technology fluency, mentoring skills, and leadership qualities are important traits for students to develop to be successful in high school, college and the workplace.  However, with so much focus on standards-based education across the country, few educators successfully aid students in developing these traits.  Classes are very slow in providing technology training in the established curriculum, however as technology advances and becomes more accessible, it is vital schools integrate it into education.

Each year, being digitally connected becomes ever more critical to economic and educational advancement and community participation. Now that a large number of Americans regularly use the Internet to conduct daily activities, people who lack access to these tools are at a growing disadvantage. Therefore, raising the level of digital inclusion by increasing the number of Americans using the technology tools of the digital age is a vitally important national goal. (U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, & National Telecommunications and Information Administration. (2000, p. xv)

Technology opens the classroom to more communication opportunities, encourages more teacher-student and student-student discussions, and gives students multiple ways of discovering, creating, and communicating information in various formats.  Technology being infused into the schools is ongoing, unstoppable, and necessary. Thus, school use and access to new and current technologies is on the rise and more and more states have established technology standards for students, teachers, and administrators (Fox, 2005).
Written by Higher Power Training (HPT)