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Technology Enhanced Supports for Unpacking Standards

for Differentiated Student Learning

By Cindy Burfield

Introduction


The visions of leaders, such as Abraham Fishler, President Emeritus of Nova Southeastern University, set the stage for a transformation in learning environments, where the “Student is the class” and where teachers, through technology, are empowered to facilitate learning and maximize the potential of each and every student (personal communication). According to Fischler, the goal is to create self-sufficient, life-long learners.
From a system perspective, the top-down infusion of standards does not predicate a pedagogical alignment with the intended outcomes (Loveless, 2012). The transformation involves a combination of technological advances as well as a shift in the responsibility for learning from teacher to the students (Fischler; Abdu, De-Groot, & Drachman, 2012). From technological and pedagogical perspectives, the development of such novel learning environments presents challenges to developers and researchers as they iteratively seek a point of convergence between theoretical ideas and actual interaction among teacher, students, and the system (Abdu, De-Groot, & Drachman, 2012). Time is an important variable (Fischler, personal communication) in this transformation.
At this stage, little exists in the literature about how to tackle this transformative process (Archambault, Wetzel, Foulger, & Williams 2010). Mishra and Koehler (2006) have recognized the need to integrate technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge to build teacher capacity and have developed a professional development framework called TPACK that addresses the complexities of technological pedagogical content knowledge. The framework goes beyond learning about technology and emphasizes a situated view of technology that helps to understand the complex interplay between technology, content, and pedagogy (Koehler & Mishra, 2005).
 

Statement of the Problem


Current professional development practices in the United States emphasize a “what works” approach (Biesta, 2007) characterized by generic, one-size-fits-all, managerial influences that impact the modes and content of teacher professional development (Hardy & Ronnerman, 2012). United States teachers report spending little time collaborating professionally to design curriculum and share practices (Darling-Hammond, Wei, Andree, & Richardson, 2009). They are often not exposed to ongoing opportunities that facilitate their knowledge-based professional learning and align with twenty-first century learner-centered outcomes (Hannay & Earl, 2012). Research indicates the need to transform professional development efforts from building teachers’ isolated skills to preparing them to implement technology-enhanced, learner-centered instruction (An & Reigeluth, 2012).
Narrowing the lens to one southeast Florida elementary school, one can feel the effects of top-down pressures to transform teaching and learning. Teachers are held more accountable than ever (Pay for Performance) and data (FLDOE.org) reflects failure of Economically Disadvantaged and Students with Disabilities subgroups to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) during the 2009-2010 school year as well as the 2010-2011 school year. This “failure” proliferates top-down pressures, as increased demands are required by the state and district. Demands, including lengthy quarterly narrative and data reports, require the reallocation of precious human resources to keep up with top-down demands.
Further, the haste to “cover” the standards, with a narrow focus of high-stakes testing, shifts the focus from student learning to accountability, often impeding the needs of various learners (Powell & Kusuma-Powell, 2012). Add to that, the decrease in time for teacher planning, as budget cuts equate to cuts in planning time (master schedule). In the end, the diverse needs of learners are overlooked as teachers scramble to present topics, sacrificing the rigor and value-added learning experiences that come from meaningful and rich interaction with the curriculum (Powell & Kusuma-Powell, 2012).
 

Background and Significance of the Problem
 

Most instructional situations involve the teacher as a dominant role in arranging learning environments and trajectories of their students (Ross, 2008). Learner-centered instruction (LCI) focused on developing twenty-first century skills such as collaboration, problem-solving skills, and higher-order thinking involve a transformation of pedagogy at classroom level that will transform the types of learning among students (An & Reigeluth, 2012). This transformation involves building instructional capacity through the development of technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK) (Koehler & Mishra, 2005). It involves teachers’ situated experience (Singer, Lotter, Feller, & Gates, 2011) with twenty-first century skills as they frame and reframe problems of practice with a goal of improved student learning while actively constructing knowledge (Hannay & Earl, 2012).
Yet, the inputs at the micro (classroom) level of this southeast Florida elementary school consist primarily of printed documents such as standards and curriculum. These abstract inputs result in processes such as the writing of weekly lessons that serve as a blueprint for teaching and learning activities. Lesson writing often occurs in isolation and without much thought of how twenty-first century skills and tools will be integrated. Neither do the provided standards and curriculum account for the varying needs and abilities within a given classroom. Lacking, are the micro level processes of situated, social, and distributed experiences, among professionals that add to the explicit and tacit knowledge of twenty-first century pedagogy.
 

Applications

 Using Nimble Learners

Interactive Teaching Method

 By Cindy Burfield

 

 

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