EdTech 542 Reflection

I’m not certain exactly what I expected to learn in this course, after recently starting the program again after 8 years. The last 3 courses I took in Spring 2016, focused on What EdTech is about and using technology, ie: using various software and Weebly to create lessons & pages, etc. I guess I expected this class to be similar to those, but after completing this course, I now know much more than I thought I did about lesson building and how important it is to allow students choice and voice.

In addition, I believe that I have learned why it is so important to teach students about higher thinking skills, rather than memorization. Deep down, I have always known that, but I haven’t gotten the chance to apply it yet, being that I just retired from the Army last year, after a long 18 years of rucksack fun. I hope that within a year or two, I will be able to put my knowledge to work and reach out to those students who need extra help or those looking for a challenge, and honestly, everyone in between.


From Teacher to Facilitator

Within a project based lesson, roles for the teacher and learner differ than a typical one-hour lesson in Mathematics, for example.  I believe that my role as a teacher would change from teacher to facilitator, which would imply that the student’s role would also change, from passive learner to a student taking responsibility of what he or she wants to learn and how they learn it.

Effective facilitation provides the best benefit for implementing a project based lesson, because the facilitator must ensure that students have the skills they need to complete their tasks, understand the instructions and timeline, stay on task and understand what their final project and formative assessments are graded upon, etc.  An effective facilitator understands what is expected of him or her and constantly checks in with the student groups, observing, asking questions and offering assistance.

I believe that if the facilitator and the students both take responsibility for their roles, the students will develop the skills and competencies needed to become a successful individual, and the teacher will develop his or her skills as a facilitator, providing effective project based lessons to students and advice to his or her peers.

What is Project Based Learning?

Group 1: What is Project Based Learning?

(1) Define Project Based Learning. Describe the difference between Project Based Learning and Problem Based Learning.

According to Edutopia, “Project-based learning is a dynamic approach to teaching in which students explore real-world problems and challenges. With this type of active and engaged learning, students are inspired to obtain a deeper knowledge of the subjects they’re studying” (2016).  Essentially, PBL provides students the opportunity to discover or explore real world issues and work with their peers to solve them. Students are more motivated, confident and earn deeper knowledge; more than they would by just recieving information to memorize and a final exam.

Project Based Learning occurs when a teacher provides a topic for the students to research, resulting in a product, whereas Problem Based Learning, a forerunner of PBL, applies when students discover a problem that they want to solve, such as: How can we promote recycling to reduce the amount of refuse in landfills, oceans and in our drinking water? Students could then discuss this problem as a class, with the teacher, within their groups, among groups from other classes or schools, etc. to solve this problem. The final result: Problem solving strategies applied, deeper knowledge understood, confident communication and effective collaboration with peers, and finally, a thorough and professional final presentation (BIE, 2010 & Johnson and Lamb, 2007).

Problem-based learning originated among medical school interns, but has been applied to mathematics and science instruction among school-aged students.  According to Thomas, “Much of this research has emanated from the Center for Problem Based Learning at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA) in Aurora, Illinois where the faculty have developed a one-semester problem-based course entitled Science, Society, and the Future focused on “unresolved science-related social issues” (2000).

(2) Why should teachers consider incorporating PBL in their classroom?

Project Based Learning is an upgrade to the traditional teaching style, where students would receive information about a particular topic, complete pen & paper assignments and finally, complete an exam. Unfortunately, this doesn’t necessarily mean that a student who receives 100% on their exam will remember this information the next day, nor will they understand the ins and outs of the topic and be able to apply it within the real world. PBL provides students the benefit of actively solving problems that are engaging and complex.  Students communicate more effectively with each other, collaborate to find common ground and engage their critical thinking skills (BIE, 2010).

Using PBL in the classroom puts students on a path that leads to deeper thought processes, ultimately leading to retention of knowledge and success in their futures.  Teachers should apply this model into their classroom curriculum, for example:

  • Divide students into 3-4 student groups, depending on class size, time available and topic
  • Provide a project idea, problem or range of ideas for the students to research and present
  • Students will discuss the project or problem as a class, with the teacher, and among their peer groups
  • Students will strategize how they will conduct research, when to collaborate with peer groups and what their final presentation or problem solving ideas will look like
  • After an appropriate amount of time, depending on the problem or project, students will receive feedback from their teacher and peers
  • Last, students would present their work, professionally to their class, school or parents… (Vega, 2015).

(3) What are the essential components of a PBL approach to instruction?

The Buck Institute for Education (BIE) provides a PBL checklist for teachers, which includes 8 essential elements. Applying these elements to the curriculum, along with core standards and collaboration with fellow educators, provides students with a learning platform that is not only meaningful, but also motivating for the students to do their best, while acting as an investigator on an engaging topic (2010).

  • Key Knowledge, Understanding & Success Skills: The project is focused on teaching students key knowledge and understanding derived from standards, and success skills including critical thinking/problem solving, collaboration, and self-management.
  • Challenging Problem or Question: The project is based on a meaningful problem to solve or a question to answer, at the appropriate level of challenge for students, which is operationalized by an open-ended, engaging driving question.
  • Sustained Inquiry: The project involves an active, in-depth process over time, in which students generate questions, find and use resources, ask further questions, and develop their own answers.
  • Authenticity: The project has a real-world context, uses real-world processes, tools, and quality standards, makes a real impact, and/or is connected to students’ own concerns, interests, and identities.
  • Student Voice & Choice: The project allows students to make some choices about the products they create, how they work, and how they use their time, guided by the teacher and depending on their age and PBL experience.
  • Reflection: The project provides opportunities for students to reflect on what and how they are learning, and on the project’s design and implementation.
  • Critique & Revision: The project includes processes for students to give and receive feedback on their work, in order to revise their ideas and products or conduct further inquiry.
  • Public Product: The project requires students to demonstrate what they learn by creating a product that is presented or offered to people beyond the classroom.


Buck Institute for Education. (2010). Introduction to Project Based Learning. Novato, CA: Buck Institute for Education.

Buck Institute for Education. (2010). Project Based Learning: Explained.Novato, CA: Buck Institute for Education.

Edutopia. (2016). STEAM + project-based learning: Real solutions from driving questions. Atlanta, GA: George Lucas Educational Foundation.

Johnson, L. and Lamb, A. (2007). Project, problem, and inquiry-based learning. Teacher Tap.

Thomas, J.W. (2000). A review of research on project-based learning. San Rafael, CA: The Autodesk Foundation.

Vega, Vanessa. (2015). Project-based learning research review. San Rafael, CA: Edutopia.

EdTech 513: Course Reflection

When I started the course, I was a bit nervous. Retiring from the Army 1 year ago, I have had little experience as a classroom teacher, and a lot of experience as an Intelligence Officer. However, when I look back to the beginning of EdTech 513, 16 weeks ago, I feel that I have learned a ton of valuable information!

Multimedia Principles were most useful to me and I wish I would have been provided these many years ago. I have sat through many long powerpoint briefings with hard to read text, large pictures that had little to do with the information on the slide, along with written out and verbally read, word-for-word explanations, just because that’s the way it was always done. I am so very glad that I received this material and took this course, so I do not make the same mistakes and can help provide worthwhile presentations to coworkers of mine in the future.

I believe my best artifact would be my lesson plan, including RSS feed and earthquakes. This is a topic that is interesting, provokes deep thought and is a concern to everyone living near a fault line or who have friends or relatives that live nearby fault lines. Additionally, this is something that can provide students with knowledge of effective online research, how to use RSS feed, how to analyze data and professionally present information to others.


Tech Trends: BYOD or BYOT

Image: ajleon/Flickr

Bring Your Own Device or Technology (BYOD or BYOT), provides students the option to bring their own devices to school, for use in the classroom.  This allows students to work with devices they are already familiar with, saving them, “from the effort and time needed to get accustomed to new devices” (NMC Horizon Report, 2015).  This trend also saves schools from the expense of newer technology and software products, by providing a 1:1 ratio of students to their own technology and allowing them to test new software on their devices.  Students will take ownership of their learning and remain more organized, providing them a sense of responsibility (Wainwright, 2016).  According to Saponaro, students prefer using their own devices in class, and a BYOD policy affords the following benefits, “Student participation increases, learning becomes student driven, student collaboration and communication increases, cost savings, personalized instruction and a new way of learning” (2014).  However, the most influential aspect supporting this trend is that it, “reflects the contemporary lifestyle and way of working”, preparing students for successful futures and careers, while conforming to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for technology (NMC Horizon Report, 2015).

In addition to reflecting life in the 21st century, this trend supports project-based learning and collaborative assignments, such as screencasting, content-sharing, expression, presentations, and digital note-taking, to name a few.  Therefore, it also changes the role that teachers play in the classroom, from lecturer to facilitators, as they learn to incorporate student-centered learning within their curriculum (NMC Horizon Report, 2015).

Integrating BYOD and the redefinition level of the SAMR model into a small group history assignment for 6-8th grade students, could include researching the history of horses within the United States and completing a final presentation, for example.  After discussing the assignment rubric, expectations, examples of a completed presentation and due dates with the class, which could integrate students from different schools, the teacher would periodically check in with each group by asynchronous or synchronous means.  The student groups would also share their working documents or artifacts with the teacher, where she would be provided access to view and edit their products, providing constructive comments.  The activity itself would include collaboration among group members through synchronous means, such as Skype or Facetime, face-to-face meetings, or by asynchronous means, through a shared Prezi, Voicethread or Google Doc.  Additionally, the assignment can be completed by group members outside of class, which would provide a thorough, more deliberate presentation, that family members could assist with or help by encouraging their child.  Last, the presentation itself could be presented to the class via their individual devices through a smart board, computer lab, other student devices and even posted to the class website, which would provide parents and community members access to their student’s work.  This type of project-based learning would display the pros of integrating the BYOD trend into the classroom curriculum, which would provide parents proof of its effectiveness and support from the community.  

According to Wainwright, the BYOD trend raises concerns for network security, cheating, theft, platform neutrality and the technology gap, overloading the wireless network, affordability, charging devices or forgetting them at home and students may become more easily distracted (2016).  In addition, parents are concerned about their children using their own devices in school, due to, “Distractions of games and videos, unmonitored social networking leading to bullying or predation, consumption (and creation) of inappropriate content, social status and stigma of devices” (Panagos, 2016).  

These concerns could be lessened by incorporating a collaborative and effective BYOD policy, AUP and its enforcement by school staff and parents, while ensuring a thorough understanding by students.  Additionally, one way to lessen the technology gap, platform neutrality, bullying, affordability or students forgetting devices at home, would be to apply funding saved by the BYOD 1:1 ratio, and purchase devices for students to check out for use in school or at home, just as they would a library book, with more strict requirements and fines, of course (Sessom, 2016).

The BYOD trend is progressing within the United States education system and is a reflection of life in the 21st century, where the majority communicates, works and completes educational courses, through individual or publicly shared devices.  Fortunately, as technology and network infrastructure improves, and devices, such as tablets or smartphones are sought out for use by more students, school districts or organizations, access will become more universal and ethical standards and policies will become more clear.  Implementing a BYOD or BYOT policy within the education system will improve our student’s futures by providing them with the tools they need to compete in a global market. 

BYOD Application: QR Code Generator 

QR CodeQR-Code generators like Kaywa QR-Code, provides links to educational content that students can access on their own device. This would allow teachers to “hand out” numerous project-based lessons in the form of a QR code, that would allow students to immediately access, upload and share assignment expectations among their peers. Additionally, parents could also scan and obtain lesson plan information through the same means, allowing them to assist and monitor their children’s progress. This app would include a lesson plan incorporating the redefinition level of the SAMR model as I mentioned earlier. 


Common Core State Standards (CCSS)

NMC Horizon Report. (2015).  2015 k-12 education. Austin, TX: NMC.

Panagos, Tim. (2016). Wired: The future of education in the classroom. Wired.

Saponaro, Tiziana. (2014). Elearning Industry: 6 benefits of BYOD in the classroom. Elearning Industry.

Sessoms, Darryl. (2016). SecureEdge Networks: How to plan a security policy for schools. SecureEdge Networks.

Wainwright, Allison. (2016). SecureEdge Networks: 20 pros and cons of implementing BYOD in schools. SecureEdge Networks.

For further information:


Digital Divide

The Digital Divide is a term used to describe the difference between people who use technology, including the Internet and computers, and those who do not or cannot.  People who do not use technology may not have experience with it or see a good use for it, therefore choosing not to use it.  Those people are a small minority, and would get along great with my Father in northern Minnesota.  Unfortunately, a large amount of us do not have access, but require it for either distance learning, access to online job applications, government services, news, completing homework or even using the Internet to operate a small business on Ebay, for example.  I didn’t realize that with so many policies and standards in place involving technology, that there are still so many who do not have access to it.

For my Digital Divide Small Group Project for EdTech 501, I had 3 other students in my group (the 5th didn’t participate) and we were able to first decide on the ranking order for 6 separate school board recommendations and adding additional suggestions of our own, while acting as a technology task force, attempting to close the gap that the Digital Divide presents. I completed, in ranking order: (1) Provide information literacy courses to enhance computer skills and enable knowledgeable use of digital technologies, (7) Install computers in all public libraries in the state and expand the hours when the computers are available, and (8) Expand staffing and other resources so that public schools can be open to the public after normal school hours, on weekends, and during the summer months. Then, I provided that information to one member of my group on a Google Doc and added short comments and pics to our Prezi, which was created for and provided to that same group member for editing and finalization.  Luckily, I am currently taking EdTech 513: Multimedia, so I suggested to my group that we apply correct multimedia principles to our Prezi.

We did have issues with sharing the Prezi among the group, as the site suggested an upgrade and paying for a subscription to do so.  Next time, I recommend either using Chat or Skype to link up prior to beginning this project, because with us all in separate areas online at separate times, it made it a little confusing to read the latest forum post and to not avoid reading the most current information one member had submitted. Perhaps afterwards, there could be an every other day live chat to move things along.

Overall, the small group project was a great way to research applicable technology, involving real-world issues that I may soon face, myself.  I can apply this information to my curriculum, realizing that I need to ensure that my students and their parents have access to technology and if not, be creative and come up with ways that they can have access and understand how to use it and why it is a useful tool for all of us.

View our Prezi.