A Blended Approach

March 16, 2020

When I think about my teaching practice and the different learning theories: Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy, Constructivism, and Connectivism, I believe my approach to learning is a blend of all three theories. Reading through the resources this week, I made many connections to what I had been doing in the classroom and to what I have been doing through online learning because of COVID-19. The topic this week also made me think of my students during this time and how they are learning. 

Social-Emotional Learning Online

One of the biggest challenges to online learning is the missing social-emotional aspect of being in school. I believe students need safe environments and they need to feel supported in order to thrive; especially during a time where they may be out of school for a long time. Without feeling safe and supported, it is difficult for any child to learn. How can we provide this for our students when they are not physically with us at school? There are ways. 

Through Zoom meetings, dropping off materials to students’ homes, and conferring with individuals through FaceTime, I have been able to provide some support to my students. Although it will never match the amount of support I can give them inside the classroom, it is enough for the students to feel supported and loved. 

Zoom meeting with my second-grade students.

It has also been important for my second-grade students to connect with each other. We are able to do this by holding Morning Meetings through Zoom. This activity gives my students something to look forward to each day. They love sharing and talking, so finding ways for them to collaborate and share is crucial.

Relationships matter deeply, learning happens when the brain feels safe and supported, and no child is a lost cause.

Bringing the Science of Learning Into Classrooms (Edutopia)

As I continue to refine the ways in which I am able to provide a safe distant learning environment that all my students feel supported in, I realize that their social-emotional well-being comes first. 

Learning Theories in Practice

After reflecting on the different learning theories and how I approach teaching in my classroom, I can see examples of the Constructivism Learning Theory in my teaching. I recognize the importance of self-directed learning and giving students opportunities to seek and use resources that will help them construct knowledge. 

Recently, when introducing a unit on Poetry (through distant learning), I began by asking students the question, “What is poetry?” I was assessing what knowledge they already had. They recorded their thoughts and shared them through Seesaw. 

Then students were asked to read poems. They were given a collection of poems that were read aloud to them through a recording and they were asked to find some of their own poems. Students were asked, “What do you notice?” Then they commented on the document and were able to see other classmates’ thoughts and respond to them. Lastly, they created a video on Seesaw answering the question from Day 1, “What is poetry?” This time they were asked to add on to their ideas from Day 1.

By doing this activity before I started the unit, students were able to construct their own knowledge of what poetry is based on their research and prior knowledge. I did not tell them what poetry was or what it looks like, the students constructed the knowledge on their own. In Constructivism: A Theory of Knowledge, Bodner depicts the difference between a traditional method of learning and a constructivist method. He states, The difference is in the time I spend telling students what they should think versus the time I spend asking them what they think.” This is student agency-giving students’ choice and a voice in their learning. Giving my students a choice and a voice in their learning is important to me as an educator.

Connectivism

As I found connections to the Constructivism Learning theory and my teaching practices, I also found many connections to the Connectivism Learning Theory. This theory was the one that I also found myself feeling the most connected to. For example, I came across a news story about a murder at the University of Illinois a few years back. I love true crime and I wanted to know more about this story, so I started doing some of my own research. I looked on YouTube and came across an ABC 20/20 Documentary. I watched all of the episodes and after I was done, I still wanted to do some more research. I continued researching the trial and watching videos of the suspect being interrogated. In the end, I spent some time talking to my husband about this story and telling him what I had learned through my research. By connecting myself to online resources, I was able to learn about the topic and communicate my learning with my husband. Finding a topic I am interested in and then researching the topic is one of my favorite ways to learn! This is also why I love to travel. I learn through social and cultural contact with the people I meet, but at the same time, I want to know more so I use technology or outside sources to learn more about a particular place.

My understanding of how I learn has pushed me to give my students the opportunities to learn through social and cultural contact along with technology to enhance their learning. Ultimately, people learn through contact. If I can connect my students with outside sources, they are more likely to learn and enjoy learning while doing so. The learning becomes more personal to them. 

“We want to take all of our existence and wrap it around that new knowledge and make all of these connections and it becomes more meaningful.”

How Your Working Memory Makes Sense of the World (TedX)-Peter Doolittle

Reading and researching the different learning theories this week has been an important reminder of the type of educator I want to be. The different theories also reinforce my idea that learning can come from a blended approach to these theories. There is no one right way to teaching or learning. 

What are some of your approaches? Do you agree that learning comes from a blended approach?

Author: Andrea Goodrich

I am an international educator working in Hanoi, Vietnam. I have been working overseas for the past 13 years. I started my career in a bilingual school in Guayama, Puerto Rico as a fifth and sixth-grade reading teacher. Then I moved to Guayaquil, Ecuador, and taught fourth grade for two years. While living in Ecuador, I met my husband and we moved to Seoul, South Korea together. In Seoul, I taught fifth grade for two years and then moved into a literacy specialist role. We are now teaching in Hanoi, Vietnam with our two Korean rescue dogs.

One thought on “A Blended Approach”

  1. Andrea!
    Your thinking and wanting to create a safe place for the students as a teacher corresponds to the same ideals that I share. I always had a struggle when it came to using IT resources. I am still learning every day. Online learning provides an excellent opportunity to do so. I do find it challenging when I need to find new activities and make sure that I take into consideration their interests, language ability, and style of learning as well nowadays circumstances. I love the usage of the quote that you chose to describe your relationship between you and your students. The quote reminds me of the general view on how learning is an essential aspect of daily life, that education should be distributed in a calm and safe way that allows the students to be able to comprehend and expand their horizons in knowledge. It is also interesting how different schools are using various online programs to educate their students.

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