Thursday, February 28, 2008

Theory Underlying my Project

Production TASK: Without resorting to jargon (e.g. empowerment, critical thinking, multiple intelligences, reflective practitioner, flow, literacy, etc.) what is an educational theory of technology? And what educational theory of technology underlies your project?

In general terms, an educational theory of technology is one that explains how technologies can assist learning, and why one might choose one technology over another. It looks for the concrete value of a particular technology rather than hyping the giddy excitement felt with glitzy newness. (See "Toolishness is Foolishness". It seeks to clarify the value of a given tech innovation in an intructional context.

When designing my project, I was looking for something that has direct application to my work in the school library resource center (SLRC). While I often use to technology to assist students as they work in the library (i.e. using the OPAC to find books, teaching good Google searches, using a website to collate useful subject-specific links, using computer and digital projector to teach, demonstrate and model) there is one element of the library experience that is devoid of technology: the September Grade 8 Library Orientation. This session is filled with many important facts about the SLRC facilities. But because I run this session in person, if a student is absent or comes to the school late in the year, there is no way for him/her to access the information that I presented in the Fall.

My solution is to create an interactive graphic map of my library. Embedded in this map will be video, audio and text elements that explain to students how they can access the range of resources that are available. A link on the library homepage will take the inquiring student to the map where they can explore (virtually) the features of the SLRC.

I spent some time hunting around for succinct descriptions of the various learning theories that best apply to my project. One site (click here) had very usable definitions, three of which I have quoted below.

Distributed Cognition

The Theory of Distributed Cognition is closely related to Social Constructivism in the argument it makes that cognition is not within the individual but rather it is distributed over other people and tools. The use of telecommunications technologies in education has to rely highly on distributed cognition. Major researchers in the field are Pea, Salomon, Perkins, Cole, G. Hutchins, and Norman.

Dual-Coding Theory

The Dual Coding Theory which serves most to learning via multimedia focuses on the processing of information. It argues that information is processed through two distinct channels - visual and auditory, each indivudual channel is limited in the amount of information it can process at a time, and humans learn actively by integrating mental representations. A major implication of the research based on this theory is that learning occurs best when the information in the two channels are closely related and match, enabling interaction between the two. Two important researchers are Paivio and Mayer.

Situated Cognition

Situated Cognition argues that learning is "situated", that is, learning is associated to high degree to the activity, context and culture in which it occurs. According to the four major theorists, Lave, Brown, Collins, and Duguid, this is not the case with most classroom activities. Novice learners learn through a process of "legitimate peripheral participation" within a "community of practice". This theory also promotes the use of Anchored Instruction.

"Distributed Cognition" refers to the role that my interactive graphic map will play in teaching students where different resources can be found in the library. The "Dual Coding" theory is present in the pairing of audio and video links on the map itself. And the "Situated Cognition" model explains why it is important to convey the information in a format that contextually represents the physical layout of the School Library Resource Center.

Tools to help me:

  • CS3 will help me create a panorama of my library.
  • I plan to use iSight with iMovie to capture some "talking head" clips. (Perhaps with a background slipped in.) Or perhaps QuickTimePro.
  • I might be able to use CubicConverter to create some 360 VR movs
  • Garageband could allow me to develop "fun" audio elements.
  • There is software for converting 2D to 3D.

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