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Learning and Technology Posts

Dear Mrs. CEO…

November 30, 2015 • mvstoller

This was an assignment for my instructional design class. We were asked to watch a video where a fictional CEO is describing plans to ditch training seminars. We were then asked to pitch why training and the use of instructional designers is important.

My name is Miriam and I am a social constructivist with connectivist tendencies

November 23, 2015 • mvstoller

What images are evoked in most people’s minds upon hearing the word “school”?

Raising one’s hand before answering questions, listening to teachers and taking notes, taking tests, lugging textbooks from class to class, writing book reports, standing in straight lines, seeking permission to visit the restroom. They are images of control, not learning. A new set of images, reflective of new practices, is needed—images that portray the student as a thinker, a creator, and a constructor. (Brooks & Brooks, 1999, p. 126)

My name is Miriam and I am a social constructivist with connectivist tendencies.

I believe that knowledge is not passively received, but actively built within a learner-centered environment, where students draw on their own experiences while collaborating with others and make interpretations to make sense of the world (Bates, 2015). “A core assumption of constructivist theory is that learners actively construct knowledge through activity, and the goal of the learning experiences designed by teachers is to promote a deep understanding rather than superficial (and short lived) memorization” (Hernandez-Ramos & De La Paz, 2009). In my time as a classroom teacher, my goal was always to design instruction not to teach students to give only the correct answers, but to also teach them real world skills and competencies so they have ability to find quality answers when they need them. Along my teaching path, I quickly realized the power that technology integration had, if used effectively and with purpose. I embraced the idea that technology connects students to each other, to experts in their fields of passion and to a knowledge base that can be found in seconds. I agree with Siemens, as cited in Ertmer and Newby (2013), “The ability to access people and information has changed the way people learn….Know-how and know-what is being supplemented with know-where (the understanding of where to find knowledge needed).”

My work focuses on curriculum, innovation and technology integration. 

I have the unique position of teaching young students and planning development for faculty, but my approach tries to mirror one another by having faculty learn in much the same way that we would like our students to learn, in a social constructivist environment with technology integration leading to connectivist  experiences. In my specific workplace, faculty teach across the learning theory continuum, using behavioural, cognitive and constructivist approaches and in all different degrees and proportions. I believe that the best way for teachers to learn, and continue to learn throughout their careers, is via apprenticeships, peer driven professional learning communities, and authentic growth opportunities.


As defined by Bates (2015), apprenticeship is a particular way of empowering students. In this teaching approach, students learn by doing. Learning is achieved through experience and the teacher acts as the facilitator of this learning. For example, I remember when I was a teacher candidate and working with expert teachers. These teachers allowed me to observe their teaching, and then slowly gave me the opportunity to stand in front of 28 wide-eyed students and deliver a lesson that fulfilled the outcomes we set out together. As an observer, teaching appeared easy and effortless. However, doing it myself was neither of these things. It was difficult to think quickly and problem solve when the lesson did not go exactly as planned, and my delivery seemed contrived and laborious. However, with increased exposure, constructive feedback, and personal reflection, I felt more comfortable and began to develop a teaching style that reflected a hybrid of my cooperating teacher’s strengths, my own personality and my beliefs on learning theory.

Peer-Driven Professional Learning Communities (PLC)

Effective professional development must involve the teacher as both the learner and the teacher. A PLC is one of the best ways for teachers to learn because this is a group of people who are motivated by a shared vision and who support one another.  “…the most important mechanism we have for professional growth is to leverage the brainpower in the room. Innovative schools are finding time in their annual schedule for teachers and administrators to do what they do best: share and teach each other” (Lichtman, 2014, pp. 18-19) This is a social constructivist approach because it involves teachers learning from each other and using their personal experiences as leverage and as a starting point for their individual growth. It can be difficult for the instructional designer, but done with purpose and intent can provide engaging and enriching learning opportunities.

Authentic growth opportunities

…we should educate, assess, and reward our teachers on the basis of demonstrated mastery of new competencies, leveraging new resources and peer driven forums. The benefits of this change would be twofold. Teachers would receive superior, more cost effective professional development. And they’d be exposed to a different learning model – a model they could in turn use in their classes (Wagner & Dintersmith, 2015. p. 232).

Within a constructivist approach, learning would be part of the teacher’s daily routine, learning and reflecting through experience. I think that these learning experiences can be highly contextualized, personal and collaborative, which according to Herrington and Herrington (2007), as cited in Ertmer and Newby (2013) is what learning designs for today’s students must include.

So there is it, why I believe that I am a social constructivist with connectivist tendencies and some of the teaching and learning practices that exemplify how I learn, teach and design within this framework.


Bates, A. W. (2015). Teaching in a digital age. BC: Campus.

Brooks, J. G., & Brooks, M. G. (1999). In search of understanding: The case for constructivist classrooms, with a new introduction by the authors. Alexandria, VA, USA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD). Retrieved from

Ertmer, P. A. & Newby, T. J. (Eds.). (2013). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. [Special Issue]. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 26: 43–71. doi: 10.1002/piq.21143

Hernández-Ramos, P., & De La Paz, S. (2009). Learning History in Middle School by Designing Multimedia in a Project-Based Learning Experience. Journal of Research On Technology In Education (International Society For Technology In Education)42(2), 151-173.

Lichman, G. (2014). #EdJourney: A roadmap to the future of education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Wagner, T. & Dintersmith, T. (2015). Most likely to succeed: Preparing our kids for the innovation era. Simon and Shuster: New York.

HI Miriam,

Thank you for your post this week.  You and I have similarities in both jobs and beliefs in education.  I was curious though that you say you have connectivist tendencies.  My question is that do you believe that connectivism is a learning theory and if so, why do you believe that?  I look forward to your response.

Hi Karen,

Interesting question and one that we debated in Residency. Due to needing to finish assignment #3 I am going to refer this question to Tony Bates who wrote a blog post after being a part of out debate audience.

I don’t think Connectivism is a learning theory yet but I don’t think it can be discounted anymore.

TPACK Thoughts

October 8, 2015 • mvstoller

One of my personal challenges to this model is that it places equal emphasis on the three components; technology, pedagogy and content. I think that content is starting to take a backseat to thinking about how we actually use the content and knowing how to search out and find the content that we don’t know. I am reminded of the debate we had in residency and thinking with a connectivist approach would support this notion. I don’t see myself as a connectivist, but I do believe that content is not the large educational factor that it once was. I would argue that the research into 21st century education places less emphasis on content and more emphasis on 21st century competencies including the integration of technology in a comprehensive fashion.”Knowledge of core content is necessary, but no longer sufficient, for success in a competitive world. Even if all students mastered core academic subjects, they still would be woefully underprepared to succeed in postsecondary institutions and workplaces, which increasingly value people who can use their knowledge to communicate, collaborate, analyze, create, innovate and solve problems. Used comprehensively, technology helps students develop 21st century skills” (Maximizing the impact, n.d.).This model lacks the integration of 21st century competencies which I think are necessary when program planning for K-12 learners and therefore makes it difficult to work with in a practical sense. I agree that an experienced program planner would indeed be able to use 21st century competencies in structuring, developing or refining a program using the TPACK framework. Where I think the TPACK model could be more defined is in regards to content knowledge. Kohler and Mishra (2009) explain content knowledge as teacher’s knowledge about the subject matter to be taught or learned. They further state that content knowledge is of critical importance to teachers and do acknowledge that this knowledge includes established practices and approaches towards developing that knowledge. This could then include 21st century competencies but I think that with the push to develop these competencies in today’s learners there could be a specific emphasis on this. I think that when most educations see content as part of the TPACK framework they are more likely to think of specific subject content as opposed to 21st century fluencies. I think that these fluencies are becoming more and more important and influential, especially in the K-12 educational sector. I came across this article by Cox and Grahan (2009) which would help educators see where 21st century learning fits into the TPACK Model. I especially liked this part: “In the elaborated TPACK framework proposed here, the definition of pedagogical knowledge is simplified to focus on a teacher’s knowledge of the general pedagogical activities that she might utilize. General activities are independent of a specific content or topic (meaning they can be used with any content) and may include strategies for motivating students, communicating with students and parents, presenting information to students, and classroom management among many other things. Additionally, this category includes general activities that could be applied across all content domains such as discovery learning, co- operative learning, problem-based learning, etc.” (p. 62).


Cox, S., & Graham, C. R. (2009). Diagramming TPACK in Practice: Using an Elaborated Model of the TPACK Framework to Analyze and Depict Teacher Knowledge. Techtrends: Linking Research & Practice To Improve Learning53(5), 60-69. doi:10.1007/s11528-009-0327-1

Maximizing the Impact: The pivotal role of technology in a 21st century education system (n.d.). Retrieved from:

Kohler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge? Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1), 60-70.

Got TPACK???

October 4, 2015 • mvstoller

Every Kid Needs a Champion

September 9, 2015 • mvstoller

A great reminded that it is all about relationships. Every student DOES need a champion.

New Day, New Course, Same Anxieties

September 4, 2015 • mvstoller

So after a two week break, we are back at it! New course, new classmates, new teams. And all those beginning thoughts and anxieties creep back in.  All the readings and all the assignments with their looming due dates increase my heart rate and the unfamiliar material brings back imposter feelings and the now familiar ‘what was I thinking?’ feelings. But then the waters begin to calm a little and confidence starts to whisper in my ear telling me that this is totally doable, and that I just need to get started. So here we go.

This course focuses on the fundamentals of program planning within the context of technology-mediated learning (TML) initiatives.

The first reading I did was in Managing technology in higher education (Bates & Sangra, 2011). I was struck by the opening couple pages which talked about how universities are failing in technology. The authors suggested that universities don’t really get it as far as technology is concerned and that radical change in needed in the design and delivery of teaching  if they are going to survive in the 21st century (p. 4). This reminded me of a conversation we had at a recent staff meeting. As a faculty we were talking about how we teach K-12 students and how we still need to move forward with technology mediated learning and innovative teaching methods such as more blended learning and project based learning. One faculty member, whose son is currently in university countered that universities are not changing as rapidly as K-12 schools seem to be and he wondered if these students will end up being unprepared for the current university environment of large face to face lectures and individual assignments if we are teaching students more collaboratively and using technology in innovative ways. It seems like a very good question and one for further thought and contemplation. Bates and Sangra (2011) list a number of skills and competencies that knowledge-based companies have identified including communication skills, social skills, teamwork, thinking skills and knowledge identification and state that knowledge-based companies depend on innovation. They also list typical characteristics of millennials which includes being digitally literate, connected and experiential. If we are not teaching and incorporating these skills  and characteristics into higher education, how are these students going to be prepared for the workplace? Based on the case studies that Bates and Sangra (2011) discuss it is evident that some universities are working hard to change and innovate with varied success while others are slow to recognize the importance of technology and how to best integrate it into their institutions. This also makes me realize how lucky I am to be a student in an institution that is so progressive in its use of technology.

It was not surprising to me that the authors concluded that leadership and strategic planning are important to the effective implementation of technology integration. I am moving into a leadership role this year as a curriculum, innovation and technology specialist. I am cognizant of the need to facilitate and and guide teachers as opposed to telling and managing. The same way that as a constructivist teacher I try to act as a guide and facilitator, so too should this be true when working with colleagues.

Our next reading, in Planning programs for adult learners: A practical guide, offered the interactive model of program planning (Caffarella & Daffron, 2013). It was interesting to think of my own experiences when looking at the five primary purposes for education and training programs. I noticed that much of my experience was towards “encouraging continuous growth and development of individuals [and] assisting organizations in achieving desired results and adapting to change (p. 5)”. I have planned and delivered workshops in the areas of documentation and implementing technology in elementary school classrooms within my own organization and at international conferences all with the goal of teachers gaining confidence and capacity to implement these initiatives into their teaching. My current role as curriculum, innovation and technology specialist allows me to assist teachers in implementing our schools current priorities which include using the Reggio Emilia philosophy to deepen teachers understanding of the documentation process, expanding the character education program and introducing students to global education issues, perspectives and initiatives (Jr. School Faculty binder, 2015, p. 67-70). I also thought of my current graduate program, whose purpose would be to prepare me for my current and future work opportunities. I agree with Caffarella & Daffron (2013), from experience and reflection that the expectation in all of these is some sort of change. Whether that is change in the individual, the faculty, or the organization.

When looking at the interactive model of program planning (Caffarella & Daffron, 2013), I saw familiar vocabulary and could relate to much of the components. I have taught at an International Baccalaureate (IB) world school, and although the planning is for younger students, many of the components are the same. I could relate more readily to the inside components of content, evaluation, instruction, goals and objectives, needs assessment and support. The outside components of details, marketing and budgets are less familiar to me in a program planning sense. Very different from my current experiences was that this model has no clear beginning or ending. I am used to planning programs with a definite beginning and ending and the planners that I have used are more linear because of this. I began to think about how I might use this model in my own practice and how using the model might change my thinking about program planning. I liked the flexibility of this model  and could envision using it in future planning. This model seems to use a constructivist approach which I can relate to and appreciate. There are lots of thoughts and ideas swirling around as I dive into this new course. Again, I am enthused and inspired.


What If…

August 16, 2015 • mvstoller

My response to Sarah’s blog. The original post can be found here:

I have been having so much fun reading all of my classmates blogs, identifying with them, responding to them and gaining insight from them. I have also gained a wealth of knowledge from the articles and professional blogs they are referencing. In many of the articles I have read recently through social media, I get this feeling of ‘get on the bus or be left in the dust’ when it comes to using and implementing technology in using innovative programming.

As referenced in Mark’s blog from Steve Wheeler:

“Technology won’t replace teachers, but teachers who use technology will probably replace teachers who don’t”

And as Superintendent Lisa Brady said in the Modern Learners white paper:

“I expect your classrooms to be places of innovation and experimentation, and I trust you to fail well and learn from those failures.” She knows, as do many other modern leaders, that classroom practice and curriculum can no longer be about getting incrementally better. Now, classrooms have to look and act and feel different.

There is a growing amount of research on the barriers to teachers implementing technology, using social media and using innovative teaching methods to inspire and motivate students.

In a paper by Hew and Bush (2006) they state in the abstract, “In this paper, we first identify the general barriers typically faced by K-12 schools, both in the United States as well as other countries, when integrating technology into the curriculum for instructional purposes, namely: (a) resources, (b) institution, (c) subject culture, (d) attitudes and beliefs, (e) knowledge and skills, and (f) assessment. We then describe the strategies to overcome such barriers: (a) having a shared vision and technology integration plan, (b) overcoming the scarcity of resources, (c) changing attitudes and beliefs, (d) conducting professional development, and (e) reconsidering assessments”.

And in a paper by Burke (2014) she saw that “major findings indicate that not all teachers felt prepared and confident to integrate technology in the classroom. Qualitative data indicate that teachers were willing to integrate technology, but many felt ill prepared or unsupported to change their practice”.

Which made me think about myself and the colleagues I have worked with over the years and what some of our personal barriers are to implementing technology and innovative programming. I have worked with amazing teachers who put their students first and strive to excel each day. They work hard, are motivated, and are open to change and innovation. I know that I am open to new technologies, feel confident in my abilities and knowledge and see the benefits of integrating technology and using innovative programming that is more indicative of 21st century competencies but I am no where near where I would like to be in changing how my classroom looks, feels and operates. Why is this?

I thought about how technology has changed the communication of teachers, students and parents. Yes, this makes it easier to communicate, but it also takes up a lot of a teachers valuable time responding to each email that comes in. Parents expect a response to each email they send, and each response takes time. Every colleague expects a response to the email they send, and each response takes time. This takes away from a teacher being able to update a blog, send out a tweet or make changes to how they deliver a lesson.

I agree that professional development is important and gives teachers great ideas and resources, but after a day of professional development teachers need to be prepared to teach a full day of lessons and deal with social issues that arose the day before and get the field trip permission form ready to send out to parents. There is little time for reflection or implementation and what is learnt can quickly become a bookmarked website or saved power point presentation that is never looked at again.

In many schools teaching is still a very isolating profession. For the majority of the day you are teaching alone. There is very little opportunity to see how others teach and to learn from others through first hand experience. Teachers do so many great things but they rarely have time to share or see colleagues in action. I think it would be so valuable to spend a day in another teachers classroom, just watching and listening. We have so much we could learn from each other if the time was there to discuss and reflect.

And then there is all the other stuff. The marking, the meetings, the duty, the cleaning, the planning, the  coaching, the report writing, the photocopying, the prepping, and the list goes on and on. All this other stuff is important, but it is amazing how it just sucks up time.

I agree that teachers can be intimidated by technology and that attitudes and beliefs sometimes need to be changed and that resources can be barriers to implementation. But from my own personal experience, I think the biggest barrier is time. I think that in today’s classrooms and schools time is a very real problem. Teachers are being pulled in so many directions and have so many things to do that there is little time left for technology integration and innovative curriculum planning.

In a reflective activity done at one of our staff meetings, teachers were all asked to write down on a sticky note the ending to the phrase “What if?” in relation to themselves as teachers and the school environment. One of the most frequent answers: Time.

“What if we could have more time to develop our vision of 21st century learning?”
“What if we could spend more time teaching and less time on the ‘red tape’?”
“What if we could really give kids freedom to learn what they want…”
“What if I could take something off my plate to create a more vibrant learning community?”
“What if I could dedicate the time to fully explore the changes desired?”
(R Powell, Personal Communication, August 17, 2015)

“Schools that truly challenge their use of time find that it holds the key to liberating innovation” (Litchtman, 2014)

Yes, What if we had more time….


Burke, L. F. (2014). Teachers’ perceived self-efficacy in integrating technology into pedagogical practice and barriers to technology integration (Order No. 3624471). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (1553436093). Retrieved from

Hew, K., & Brush, T. (2006). Integrating technology into K-12 teaching and learning: current knowledge gaps and recommendations for future research. San Francisco, CA Education Tech Research Dev, 55(3), 223-252. doi:10.1007/s11423-006-9022-5

Litchman, G. (2014). EdJourney: a roadmap to the future of education. San Francisco, CA: Josey-Bass.

501 Course Reflection

August 16, 2015 • mvstoller

Reflecting on Blogging

August 14, 2015 • mvstoller

I have been doing some reading and pondering around the subject of  blogging and it has been interesting to read another’s view on the subject.


Estes (2012) says that when she writes for her blog, she writes in a different context, a different style, with a different audience. She further states that “as a blogger, I’m not quite the same person as I am as a scholarly writer or as a teacher, and carving these distinctions is an on-going process (Estes, 2012)” I can identify with that, and the freedom that goes with being able to write in a way that feels comfortable and in a way that helps your personality to come through. Academic writing does not come easily to me, and takes a lot of work can care to adhere to the guidelines and parameters. For myself, blog writing is like academic writing but without all the strict rules. I am someone who constructs meaning using analogies and I do that a lot in my blog writing. It helps me make sense of the world, using my prior experiences and knowledge. I hope that it helps others make sense of me and what I am trying to say. I would hope that it helps others to identify with me and maybe connect to their own past experiences.

I found it interesting that Estes (2012) acknowledges that while she primarily writes for two diverse subjects, she also writes differently in terms of her purpose. For one subject she tends to write introspectively while for the other one she encouraging readers to think about their habits and, ideally, to make change. I have used my blog primarily for myself and getting my thoughts and ideas down and almost as a way to ‘think out-loud’. By putting my thoughts out into the blogging universe I am forced to write coherently and try to make my writing interesting and relatable. But at this point, the blog is for myself and if others benefit  from it, that is an added bonus. I don’t use my blog to try and encourage others to something or to try and change others point of view. In reflecting on this, I think that it is because I  don’t yet feel that I have the experience or education to be asking others to think or change in some way. I guess it is also the nature of this particular blog which is to reflect and respond to learning in an academic environment. If I set up a blog about teaching in elementary school, I would likely dole out advice and make recommendations because I have a lot of experience that others would find useful and would feel confident giving out advice and suggestions.

I am really enjoying this academic blogging experience. Like Estes, “blogging allows me a space to think about things I do in my academic work, but in an atmosphere that is more personal and more casual”. Very soon, the pressure to write in this forum will be gone since it will no longer be a course requirement. But I do hope that I have the fortitude to continue because I am enjoying where this reflecting is taking me and wonder where else it could go.


Estes, H. (2012). Blogging and academic identityLiterature Compass9(12), 974-982. DOI: 10.1111/lic3.12017

Image By RICHARD OUTRAM from Wales (Serene Snowdon  Uploaded by PDTillman) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


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