Social Media & Learning in the Digital Age

Greenhow, K. (2011) Youth, learning and social media. J. Educational Computing Research. Vol. 45 pp. 139 – 146.

This article discusses how 21st century learners in the digital age are experiencing a paradigm shift in learning acquisition. Prior to the popularity of the internet, computers and mobile devices, students primarily learned in traditional brick and mortar classroom settings. However, many current learners are immersed in digital technology and are much more technologically savvy than their predecessors. Digital learning has provided more robust and flexible learning options that should be leveraged by educators, students and stakeholders to maximize learning in the digital age. Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are becoming prevalent technological mediums to engage students in learning and networking with other learners with similar interests. Educational researchers must address these modes of learning to discover the best pedagogical strategies for implementing them into instruction. Social media can be especially beneficial in the domains of reading and language arts sense it provides students with a platform for discussion forums, analysis of different perspectives and cyclical learning. 21st century learners also have an abundance of visuals and video in social media to assist in reading comprehension.

Social media learning is multifaceted and should be researched accordingly to benefit learners. Greenhow synthesized various social media and learning articles in the following quote. “The articles have linked these practices to cognitive, psychological, and social factors of adolescent development that educational researchers, educators, parents, and administrators presumably care about, such as learners’ development of self-identity, self-confidence, reading, writing, civic engagement, and social capital.” (Greenhow, J., 2011, p. 144) All of these factors should be taken into consideration with new digital paradigm shifts and technological pedagogical techniques.

This article is pertinent to the field of educational technology research. It highlights useful social media learning strategies that should be leveraged in the field of education. It is important for educational researchers to build on these strategies to broaden pedagogical strategies for learners.

As an educator, I believe that it is pertinent to leverage the learning acquisition that can occur through social media. I am interested in researching more best technological pedagogical strategies that can be incorporated into learning to promote engagement and higher levels of cognition for learners.

Related Article: Greenhow, C., Hughes, J. E., & Robelia, B. (2009) Learning, teaching and scholarship in the digital age: Web 2.0 and classroom research: What path should we take now? Educational Researcher Vol. 38 pp. 246 – 259.

Educational Virtual Environments

Mikrapoulous, T. A. & Natsis, A. (2010) Educational learning environments: A ten year review of empirical research. Computers & Education. pp. 769 – 780.

This article synthesizes over fifty research studies regarding virtual reality (VR) in education. In addition, Mikrapoulous and Natsis research over ten years of various VR studies to develop pertinent research and implications regarding the current success and potential of VR in the future. This study primarily discusses the success of math and science domains in the field of VR. Educational Virtual Environments (EVE) provide an innovative environment for students to be immersed in a VE that they would not typically have access to in a traditional brick and mortar setting. The primary pedagogical strategies that are consistent across most of the studies are constructivism, real world scenarios, collaboration and access to a variety of virtual realities. Avatars are popular among video game enthusiasts. This study focuses on allowing instructors and learners to be avatars in Educational Virtual Environments (EVE), and examines the learning acquisition that occurs in VEs.

This study is significant to the field of educational technology since it provides a variety of scholarly research regarding how learners currently optimize VEs, and the potential for even higher levels of implementation in the future. This research is especially pertinent to the fields of math and science since they require scaffolding, abstract cognitive skills and spatial knowledge. According to Mikropoulos and Natsis, (2010) “In Crosier et al. (2000), pupils learn about radioactivity by making experiments in a virtual laboratory, which resembles a real one.” (p. 775) Radioactivity, physics, engineering, technology and abstract mathematical concepts can be more clearly conveyed in a VE compared to traditional brick and mortar settings. The haptic component of EVEs appeals to multimodal learners, which increases learning acquisition for a larger variety of students. Therefore, future research of EVEs and Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPCK) professional development for instructors can optimize and assist in enhancing the body of knowledge regarding educational technology.

My career as an educator spans elementary education, adult education and eLearning. This article shares that most of the research regarding EVEs emphasizes application of math and science concepts. EVEs can definitely help students’ cognition of spatial and abstract thinking that are required in many math and science concepts. In addition, various domains of education can benefit from real world experiences and the higher levels of interactivity that are provided in EVEs. Future research can continue to enhance the TPCK of EVEs, which can lead to the facilitation of enhanced learning acquisition of learners.

Related Article:

Chao, J., Chiu, J. Crystal, J. E & Pan, E. (2016) Sensor-Augmented virtual labs: Using physical interactions with science simulations to promote understanding of gas behavior. Journal of Science Education and Technology. Vol. 25 No. 1 pp. 16-33




Peer Feedback Success in Online Learning

Belland, B., Camin, D., Connolly, P., Coulthard, G., Ertmer, P., Kimfong, L., Mong, C., & Richardson, J. (2007) Using peer feedback to enhance the quality of student online postings: An exploratory study. Journal of Computer Mediated Communication. pp. 412- 433.

This article explored whether peer feedback would result in higher level discussion forum postings of students in online higher educational settings. The level of participation in the discussion forums was evaluated based on the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

This study is pertinent to the field of educational technology since peer feedback in online courses has not been as highly researched as peer feedback in traditional brick and mortar settings. The peer feedback evaluated in this study explored how providing peer feedback can result in deeper levels of cognition, since synthesis and evaluation are necessary to provide constructive feedback to peers. Many educational technology researchers came to the consensus that deeper levels of cognition and in depth learning occurs through the implementation of peer feedback. Peer feedback encourages the synthesis of a variety of opinions and perspectives of content knowledge, which leads to higher levels of cognition and evaluation of feedback, which is the highest goal of learning acquisition.

The collaboration of feedback leverages critical thinking skills of the learner and the evaluator. The peer feedback in this research requires students to compare and contrast ideas, which results in further analysis of various perspectives. Peer feedback also allows students to gauge whether their perspectives concur with their peers, or cultivates deeper analysis of content to develop analyses that are similar to their peers. Deep reflection and cognition from analysis must occur for learners to feel confident in defending their initial thoughts, or adjusting their thoughts based on reasonable and valid analysis that are provided from peers. In addition, this study emphasized the importance of prompt, reliable and meaningful feedback to optimize the learning acquisition of students receiving peer feedback. The sharing of multiple perspectives of various peers and instructors helps to place students on similar levels of learning acquisition in higher educational settings and cultivates online learning communities. Prompt and constructive feedback also assists with retention and motivation of students in online settings.

Although peer feedback is considered to be a best practice in educational technology, the comfort level of students providing peer feedback to other students must be taken into consideration. Studies indicate that students must cultivate a trusting online community with peers to receive and be comfortable and flexible with feedback. Online students still consider instructor feedback from a subject matter expert to be more effective than solely relying on peer feedback to gauge their learning acquisition. Learners exhibited concern regarding the fairness and objectivity of peers that are not subject matter experts for evaluation of their postings.

This article is beneficial to the field of educational technology since it provides feedback strategies that can result in higher levels of cognition in online learning acquisition. It emphasizes the advantages of receiving feedback from peers compared to instructors, which can assist in developing effective pedagogical strategies that benefit learners, instructors, as well of the field of educational technology research.

As an educator, I have facilitated peer feedback through instructional strategies, as well as received peer feedback form colleagues. I found that implementing peer feedback is a valuable instructional tool that helps learners to achieve learning goals and gain higher levels of cognition through peer tutoring, peer reading and collaborative discussion. I have also benefitted from peer feedback in online discussion forums by having a platform to discuss issues that are important to me and education. I also learn from various educational technology perspectives from my peers that have expertise in various educational settings. Peer feedback is a viable and successful pedagogical strategy that can enhance learning acquisition for a variety of learners.

Related Article:

Ruegg, R. (2015) Differences in the uptake of peer and teacher feedback. RELC Journal. Vol. 46 pp. 131-145.

New Literacies & Implications for Education

Knobel, M. & Lankshear, C. (2014) Studying New Literacies. ResearchGate.

This article explores new literacies and implications for education. New Literacies refer to the new way that literacy and communication are transmitted in the digital age that started in the 1990’s. New literacies are now prevalent because of the innovations in digital technology including the internet, blogs, social media, online research and digital literature. In the past, literacy primarily involved print media on paper, and had a limited scope to its exposure and collaborative options. According to Knobel and Lankshear (2014), “Social practices characterized by a new “ethos,” new literacies are more participatory, collaborative, and distributed, and less “published,” less “author- centric,” and less “individual” than conventional literacies. New literacies have also created new social outlets for people of similar interests around the world. Fan fiction, which involves people who are fans of similar genres or authors of literature, helps to connect people outside of the same geographical locations via social media. This assists in cultivating a much larger social network for people in this digital age.

New literacies are having a substantial impact on traditional literacy courses that are taught in conventional classrooms. New literacies offer a platform for a variety of opinions and perspectives that can be synthesized to create new knowledge, which is a paradigm shift from previous literacy. New literacies involve a new digital language and culture that thrives on flexibility of modes of communication. Therefore, abbreviated written communication with new jargon is continuously evolving with new literacies. As a result, the implication for traditional educators is that explicit, standard literacy instruction must be emphasized to ensure that students have substantial reading and writing capabilities. Educators must also be well versed in the new literacies, especially in the area of conducting reliable and valid research to be able to teach learners how to effectively utilize new literacies in academia.

This article is insightful because it acknowledges that there is a paradigm shift occurring in literature and communication. It discusses the attributes of new literacies as well as the implications for educators in a digital world. Educators need to be aware and proficient in new literacies to develop the best pedagogical strategies to incorporate educational technology into classrooms. New literacies can be used for entertainment engaging instruction. However, educators must also be able to guide learners in how to leverage new literacies effectively in traditional literacy.

As an educator, I believe that new literacies offer a wide range of educational opportunities for students. The interactivity of digital electronics can enhance pedagogical strategies in the classroom. However, students must also be taught the limitations of some new literacies regarding their reading and writing development for their grade level or age. It is pertinent that teachers continue to teach traditional grammar, mechanics, spelling, reading comprehension and writing skills explicitly, so that K-12 students are aware of the differences that may occur in new literacies. Students should still be expected to perform on or above grade level in literacy courses using standard linguistic skills in a traditional classroom setting.

Related Article:

Everett-Cacopardo, H., Leu, D., McVerry, G., O’Byrne, I., & Zawilinski, L. Comments on greenhow, robelia, and hughes: Expanding the new literacies conversation. Educational Researcher.

Motivating Online Learners Via Motivational & Encouraging E-Mails

Huett, J., Huett, K., & Kalinowski, K. & Moller, L. (2008) Improving the motivation and retention of online students through the use of ARCS-Based e-Mails. The American Journal of Distance Education. pp. 159-176.

This article explored how providing motivational and encouraging emails to undergraduate students in an online computer course can improve the motivational levels and retention of students. The study revealed that instructional designers may assume that technology based courses will automatically motivate students because technology usually captures people’s interests. However, computer assisted instruction must also be designed with the best online pedagogical strategies and have additional motivational techniques to motivate students consistently. The motivational emails used in this study were structured around Keller’s ARCS Model. J. Huett, K. Huett, K. Kalinowski and L. Moller (2008) describe the ARCS model in the following excerpt: “To stimulate and manage student motivation to learn, Keller (1987a, 1987b, 1987c) created the ARCS model of motivation. ARCS is short for (A)ttention, (R)elevance, (C)onfidence, and (S)atisfaction and serves as the overall framework for the motivational mass e-mail messages used in this study.” (p. 160) This study was designed to determine if ARCS based emails would improve motivation, retention and ARCS of online students. Course interest surveys and course completion data were used to determine the results. The results revealed that students’ attention, confidence, satisfaction and motivation were significantly higher after receiving the motivational emails. However, the relevance factor of ARCS was not higher since the emails were not designed to tell whether the course benefitted students’ professionally or had substantial relevance in their everyday lives. In addition, the students that received motivational emails had higher retention rates, and less withdrawal and failure rates. This study concluded that implementing motivational and encouraging emails with instructional reminders and supportive resources are viable options that can promote higher levels of motivation and retention of online students.

When institutions of higher education take the initiative to provide an extra layer of support to students via motivational emails, students feel a better sense of connection to their schools and higher levels of confidence because the emails show that someone cares about their success. Students who are extrinsically and intrinsically motivated to achieve can both benefit from the emails because they offer helpful reminders of assignments and due dates, as well as points of contacts that can help students with various concerns. This keeps students well-informed of how to navigate through online courses with success and organization, which leads to high levels of motivation and retention. These are important factors to consider when facilitating online education.

As a current doctoral student, I receive motivational emails from Central Michigan University’s online administration and from my professors. The emails help to keep me motivated by offering course announcements, assignment updates, encouraging messages and pulse checks to ensure my success. This extra layer of support helps me to feel like a member of an online learning community, which is encouraging and enhances my learning acquisition.

Related Article:

Bawa, P. (2016) Retention in online courses. Exploring issues and solutions – A literature review. Sage Publishing.

Learner Active Participation & Online Learning Success

Hrastinski, S. (2009) A theory of online learning as online participation. Computers & Education. pp. 78-82.

This article emphasizes the importance of online learners taking ownership for their success in online courses by exhibiting active participation. Active participation is a pertinent aspect of online learning because group discussions, inquiry based learning, problem solving and collaboration are significant components that are required to make online learning a success. These teaching strategies require active participation for high levels of cognition to occur. Online learning best practices include the implementation of interesting and engaging assignments and also require collaboration. Therefore, learners should prioritize cultivating supportive and successful relationships with peers and instructors to maximize active participation and the online learning experience. Hrastinski (2009) explains the importance of collaboration for learner achievement and cognition in the following quote:

“Based on three studies conducted over 5 years of 26 online courses at the     New Jersey Institute of Technology, it was concluded that learners who participated in collaborative or group learning were related with as high or higher learning outcomes as those in traditional settings. However, when “simply receiving posted material and sending back individual work, the results are poorer than in traditional classrooms.” (Hiltz, Coppola, Rotter, Turrof & Benbunan-Fich, 2000 p. 120) (Hrastinski, 2009, p. 79)

This reveals the pertinence of collaboration as opposed to an individualistic approach for ensuring that achievement outcomes are equal to or higher than traditional brick and mortar classrooms. The online learning experience involves a complex learning ecosystem that leverages synthesis and critical thinking skills that will thrive when learners demonstrate high levels of active participation. When learners are passive and cavalier regarding online learning, then their potential for success is limited.

Hrastinki’s (2009) theory of online participation provides pertinent data that is needed to advance educational technology research and online learning. This research emphasizes the importance of leaners’ active participation and how critical it is to ensuring that high levels of cognition, learning achievement and success occur. This information is important for learners who are considering online learning as an option for them, so that they can be prepared for the kinds of high level participation that will be required of them. In addition, Hrastinski’s Theory can assist learners with determining if online learning fits their needs and styles of learning to make the best decision regarding online and traditional learning options.

As an online learner and online learning developer, I recognize the importance of active participation in maximizing online learning. Therefore, I enjoy active participation as a learner, since it enhances higher cognition and learning acquisition. As an online learning designer, I implement engaging learning and content that includes prior knowledge activation, real world scenarios and critical thinking that results in learner active participation. Active participation is paramount to online success and must be prioritized by learners to optimize learning.

Related Article:

Carr, R., Hagel, P. & Palmer, S. (2015) Active learning: The importance of developing a comprehensive measure. Active Learning in Higher Education. pp. 173 – 186.

Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPCK)

Gillow-Wiles, H., Niess, M. & van Zee, E. (2010) Knowledge growth in teaching mathematics/ science with spreadsheets: Moving PCK to TPACK through online professional development. Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education. Vol. 27

Gillow-Wise, Neiss and van Zee researched a framework to assist in the educational technology professional development of teachers in this article. Teacher education has always focused on Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK). However, this article explores expanding PCK to Technological Pedagogical and Content Knowledge (TPACK.) TPACK was developed as a result of a need to place more emphasis of educational technology and how it must be effectively interwoven into content and pedagogical knowledge to optimize student achievement in the 21st century. Some educators may feel more comfortable instructing students in the they were taught, which may include instructionism, with minimal to no technology integration. Gillow-Wise, Neiss and van Zee recognized that this is evident in some instructional practices and needs to be addressed in order to differentiate TPACK according to educators’ educational technology experience. Therefore, Gillow-Wise, Neiss and van Zee discussed the following spectrum to classify teachers: “With the lens of four TPACK components (Niess, 2005), the analysis describes teachers’ development from recognizing to accepting, adapting, and exploring TPACK levels.” (Gillow-Wise, Neiss & van Zee, 2010, p. 42). These are pertinent classifications, which provide a baseline for educators’ educational technology integration skills and assist in scaffolding educational technology professional development accordingly. The goal is to assist educators with evolving on this spectrum, which will lead to higher level cognition, student centered technology instruction and optimize student achievement. In addition, this article focuses on using technological spreadsheets as a method to facilitate algebraic thinking, inferencing and inquiry based learning in math and science instruction. It explores teachers’ integration of spreadsheets and analyzed student learning outcomes from spreadsheet instruction.

This article provides valuable information in the field of educational technology because it addresses that educators are on various levels of the spectrum of TPACK. There are some educators that prefer PCK as opposed to TPACK, which is demonstrated in how they instruct learners. Therefore, educators can benefit from explicit TPACK professional development that is specific to their domain of education. I also believe that showing the application of successful TPACK, instead of telling educators that it is needed, would provide more progress in the field of educational technology. This article focuses on the use of spreadsheets as an effective technology tool. However, there are many other educational technologies that students can benefit from, such as digital storytelling, Digital Game Based Learning (DGBL) and an assortment of other educational technologies that should also be emphasized in effective instruction.

As an educator, TPACK provides me with a better understanding of the complexity and interwoven nature of educational technology integration into instruction. It explains how traditional PCK becomes more robust when TPACK is implemented, since teachers must consider technological content knowledge as well as technological pedagogical knowledge, and how to best integrate it into their domain of instruction. Therefore, thoughtful and meaningful planning must occur to achieve the best results of TPACK in instruction.

Related Article:

Howrey, S. (2016) Preparing pre-service teachers for TPCK in the reading content area: Insights from an action research study. Literacy Practice & Research.

Digital Storytelling Success in College Humanities Course

Benmayor, R. (2008) Digital storytelling as a signature pedagogy for the new humanities. Arts and Humanities in Higher Education. Vol. 7. No. 2 (pp. 108 – 204)

Rina Benmayor explores and researches the significant contribution of digital storytelling in the humanities and how it is an extremely beneficial pedagogical strategy for students. This study specifically explores how digital storytelling can greatly enhance college students’ abilities to think creatively and apply critical thinking skills in autobiographical digital storytelling. According to Benmayor, “As an assets-based social pedagogy, digital storytelling constructs a safe and empowering space for cross-cultural collaboration and learning.” (p. 188). Benmayor observed that digital storytelling created a voice for students who would not typically share deep and meaningful autobiographical discourse in a traditional classroom setting. However, digital storytelling is an engaging tool that allows students to dig deep and resulted in transformative writings and understandings of other students’ history, cultures and plights. Digital storytelling encouraged students to analyze other stories, which facilitated the knowledge of cross-cutting themes across various students’ lives. This resulted in higher level cognition, self-reflection and connections among the instructor and students. Benmayor summarizes the digital storytelling steps as follows, “Making a digital story involves the skills of conceptualizing, writing, performing, selecting, imaging, integrating, and signifying.” (p. 195.) She also encouraged students to incorporate music and make the digital stories aesthetically pleasing to increase motivation and engagement. Benmayor highlights digital storytelling as a best practice in pedagogy that can definitely have a great impact on humanities’ instruction.

Benmayor’s students have created over 200 digital stories, which were used as data for this research. Therefore, Benmayor was able to determine the instructional validity of digital storytelling across various types of students in different settings. She discovered consistency in the creative and analytical processes that were incorporated into digital storytelling, as well as the meaningful discourse that it created. Benmayor realized the potential for digital storytelling approximately twelve years before she conducted this research. Therefore, her enthusiasm for elaborating on this pedagogy led her to have an excellent instructional tool that promotes transformative and enlightening experiences for her students. This can lead to success in other domains of learning as well.

Digital storytelling is an excellent instructional strategy in the humanities. I also reflected on how it can be used to promote success of elementary students in the area of math problem solving. Math problem solving requires high level thinking and possibly abstract thinking for students to complete the process. Digital storytelling can be incorporated to increase student engagement, technology incorporation and cognition of mathematical concepts.

The Success of Project Based Learning with Digital Storytelling

Huang, I., Hung, C. & Hwang, G. (2012) A project-based digital storytelling approach for improving students’ learning motivation, problem-solving competence and learning achievement. Educational Technology & Society. (pp. 368 – 379.)

This article examines the effectiveness of project based learning and digital storytelling in a science course for elementary school students. It was designed to determine if there would be an increase in students’ motivation, problem solving and achievement by incorporating digital storytelling into project based learning. Project based learning is encouraged in educational settings. However, project based learning has limitations regarding organization, student engagement, efficient time management and its practicality in large classroom settings. This research conducted by C. Hung, G. Hwang and I. Huang sought to enhance the practicality and students’ interests of project based learning by incorporating digital storytelling into a science lesson regarding energy efficiency. Two software applications were used in this study. Meta-Analyzer was used, which is designed to help students understand the instructional task, collect data and to conduct internet research. Microsoft Photo Story was used to incorporate photos and editing into the project. According to Hung, Hwang and Huang, “In this study, digital storytelling has been employed to develop the learning tasks as a project-based learning activity, including taking pictures with digital cameras, developing the story based on the pictures taken, producing a film based on the pictures by adding subtitles and a background, and presenting the story.” (p. 371) The process of this project maximized students’ abilities to activate prior knowledge, cooperate, collaborate, problem solve, integrate technology, apply higher level cognitive thinking and real world application. The results of this study show that students who participated in problem based learning and digital storytelling were more interested and motivated in learning. Their achievement and problem solving capabilities were also greatly improved by this instructional tool. Therefore, project based learning can be greatly improved by incorporating digital storytelling into lessons. Further research should be conducted to determine this effectiveness in other domains of learning as well.

This research produced valuable and substantial conclusions based on how incorporating digital storytelling into project based learning can improve student achievement, motivation and problem solving capabilities. Objectives were established and pretests and posttests were administered to validate the results. Also, student interviews provided valuable qualitative data that emphasized the positive effects regarding motivation and interests of digital storytelling incorporation. This instructional strategy can be utilized to enhance the learning of elementary students.

Integrating educational technology in a meaningful way for elementary school students has to be planned out effectively with consideration for meeting learning objectives. Utilizing digital storytelling in project based learning can help to ensure that more students are engaged, meet objectives and use the best practices of activating prior knowledge, problem solving, cognition and collaboration to maximize learning.