Editor’s Note: This paper capitalizes on student’s experience with Web 2.0 tools to enhance learning through reflection. It needs to be replicated with different teacher-student populations and subject matter. However, the results are significant and the underlying rationale is convincing.
Connecting the Dots: Integrating Technology
Photo Story 3
Windows Movie Maker
At the end of the spring semester, students in all three courses completed an eight-item survey on www.surveymonkey.com about their reflection assignments.
Forty-seven of fifty-nine students in the three courses taught by the two instructors completed the survey. More than two-thirds of the respondents rated themselves as having intermediate technology proficiency. All students with the exception of two valued the incorporation of technology in the course(s). By far, the most popular tool to do the reflection was Photo Story 3, for over one-third of the respondents. Approximately two-thirds of the respondents took less than two hours in the preparation stage of the assignment. Almost half of the respondents took between one and two hours working with the technology to develop the product. In total, between two and four hours of the students’ time was spent preparing to do the assignment and developing the finished product.
Clearly, with 43 out of 47 respondents rating the experience on reflecting on their learning using technology as either positive or very positive, incorporating technology into the reflection assignment was an engaging activity for almost 92% of the respondents.
Yes, I recommend that this be a required assignment.
Yes, but I recommend that it be offered as an optional assignment for extra credit
No, I don’t recommend doing this kind of assignment
I have no opinion on this questions
Almost 94% of the respondents would recommend that this kind of assignment be either required or offered as an optional assignment for extra credit. Two-thirds of the respondents recommended that the assignment be required.
The following are student comments on their experience of reflecting on their learning using technology.
“I really enjoyed this last assignment because it was nice to reflect on everything I have learned. I especially liked it because my favorite thing we learned to do was to make a slide show.”
“It was really helpful to reflect on everything I had learned.”
“I’ve decided to use the diary entry method (loggel) because I currently keep a journal and feel it’s the easiest way to explain myself and get my point across.”
In general, the student reflections were descriptive in nature. Hatton and Smith (1995) differentiate descriptive writing from descriptive reflection. In descriptive writing, one just reports events or literature while in descriptive reflection, one provides reasons or justification for events or actions. Hatton and Smith go on to distinguish descriptive reflection from critical reflection. The critical reflector “demonstrates an awareness that actions and events are not only located in, and explicable by, reference to multiple perspectives but are located in, and influenced by, multiple historical, and socio-political contexts” (p. 18). Critical reflection leads to deeper understanding encouraging the reflector to question and challenge his underlying assumptions. (Yang, 2009).
This paper has briefly examined combining reflection and learning while using new technology tools. This has positive implications for instructors of online and hybrid courses. When learners are given the freedom to choose how to reframe, remix, relearn, and reflect on course content, more meaningful and engaging learning can occur. Just as reflection tends to be a personal process specific to the learner and the context, so too is the personal perspective with which the learner approaches the task of incorporating technology into the reflection process.
Appropriate incorporation of technology can make a valuable contribution to the learning of course content. “Technology affords possibilities and opportunities to play and explore” (Yelland, 1999, p. 41). As learners explore ways to transform content into meaningful learning, they build new understandings through these explorations. And as they build these new understandings through the production of their reflective pieces, instructors begin to look at learning through the eyes of their students. For the instructor doing the reflection assignment midway through the course, this affords opportunities to look at the remaining weeks of the course, polish what seems to be working, and revise or throw out what students express is not working for them. An end-of-semester reflection assignment provides useful data for the instructor when planning future course content.
The students in both instructors’ classes were not provided training in critical reflection; moreover, the series of questions provided in both instructors’ reflection assignments did not specify that learners should articulate in depth, for example, on the learning outcomes. In future reflection/technology assignments, the instructors plan to use Ash and Clayton’s (2004) three-phase reflection framework which incorporates description, analysis, and articulation of learning outcomes (p. 140). In the Articulating Learning (AL) model, the learner is asked to reflect on the what, the so what, and the now what by answering four guiding questions: (1) What did I learn? (2) How specifically did I learn it? (3) What does this learning matter or why is it significant? (4) In what ways will I use this learning, or what goals shall I set in accordance with what I have learned in order to improve myself, the quality of my learning, or the quality of my future experiences? (p. 142). In addition, a rubric for assessing the amount and depth of reflection will be used similar to that developed by Ray and Coulter (2008, p. 24).
As digital native 21st century learners and their immigrant instructors explore new ways to connect technology with meaningful learning in the reflection process, online educational experiences should be ones that are engaging, critical, creative, memorable, and transformative.
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Mark W. Simpson Ed.D. is an Assistant Professor in the College of Education at Florida Gulf Coast University in Ft. Myers, FL. He can be reached at 10501 FGCU Blvd. South, Ft. Myers, FL 33965-6565, 239 590 7757, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sheila Bolduc-Simpson MA is an Instructor in the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University in Ft. Myers, FL. She can be reached at 10501 FGCU Blvd. South, Ft. Myers, FL 33965-6565, 239 590 7810, email@example.com.