Let your students create!-Project Based Learning and Technology

Let your students create!

The constructivist/constructionist theory explains how important it is for the learner to explore and create for themselves (Laureate, 2011). Project based learning derives itself from this theory and explains that “Because [it] is filled with active and engaged learning, it inspires students to obtain a deeper knowledge of the subjects they’re studying” (Nichol, 2011).

When coming up with a project for your students, it is important to create a situation where they will be forced into a point of dis-equilibration. When students are in a place where they do not know all of the answers they are forced to work through a situation or problem in order to solve it. The answers are not given to them. Students learn when they have to solve something on their own.

Students need to be able to work through a problem successfully as well as sometimes, unsuccessfully.

Creating and testing hypotheses is a great way for students to work through problems and different concepts.

“When students generate and test hypotheses, they are engaging in complex mental processes, applying content knowledge like facts and vocabulary, and enhancing their overall understanding of the content” (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, Malenoski, 2007).

Technology tools help enhance the testing of hypotheses. Students are able to manipulate figures and work with the content in ways that would take too long to work through on paper. Microsoft Excel is a convenient tool that many students have access to at school and at home. There are also many online spreadsheet tools such as Google Docs (Spreadsheets) and wikiCalc (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, Malenoski, 2007).

Online gaming systems, oddly enough, provide simulations where students “use background knowledge, make decisions and see the outcome of their hypotheses, often in virtual situations that would be impossible or financially unreasonable in real life” (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, Malenoski, 2007).

As many people would consider Farmville on Facebook a waste of time, it may have a place in the classroom. Players are able to make decisions about what would work best for their farm, try it out and see the consequences. Where SimCity and the Sims are seen as programs that waste too much time, and maybe they do, they could also have a place in the classroom. Students are able to try all kinds of different situations without any harm to their real lives. They are constantly testing hypotheses without even knowing or trying.

Presentation tools such as SlideRocket and Prezi are great ways for students to document what they have researched or what they are working on. Both sites allow the user to easily upload or embed presentations into websites. They also have a link that can easily be shared.

No matter the content area, there is a technology tool out there that can enhance your curriculum.


Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program five: Cognitive learning theory [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from http://laureate.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=5700267&CPURL=laureate.ecollege.com&Survey=1&47=2594577&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=0&bhcp=1

Nichol, M. (2011) What Works in Education. Why Teach with Project-Based Learning?: Providing Students With a Well-Rounded Classroom Experience. Retrieved fromhttp://www.edutopia.org/project-learning-introduction

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.


Applying How Students Learn to How We Teach-Utilizing technology

When preparing a lesson to teach to your students, what are you thinking about? Do you think about meeting the standards? Do you think about the different levels of your students and how you are going to reach them?

Do you think about what you are teaching or how you are teaching?

When we look at cognitive theories such as Paivio’s Dual Coding Hypothesis, we learn that students can remember images better than remembering text and if there is an image associated with the text, they have a better chance of remembering that (Laureate, 2011). That does not mean that we throw out all of our books and workbooks because their are words in it, that means we have to understand that our students need visual aids when we are teaching the content.

Straight lecture is not going to work most of the time.

Students need to feel the content. Students need videos, pictures and models to fully grasp what you want them to learn. We need to use their senses to get that information from short term memory to long term memory.

It is no secret that funding for schools is not where it should be. We want our students to experience the topics we are talking about in class, but we cannot afford to make that happen.

Does that mean we just give up and hope that the pictures we are showing our students will do the content justice?

There are many ways we can bring the content to life and one great way to do that is through Virtual Field Trips. Here are some great sites that will guide you to finding the perfect Virtual Field Trip for your students.




These experiences allow the students to use visual stimuli to put that information into their long term memory. These are also great ways to allow the students to explore a topic on their own. They are able to interact with the content they are learning which will encourage them to dive into their episodic memory and use schema when trying to learn new concepts.

Once your students have explored the different VFE’s, they can put what they have learned into a concept map. There are many great sites that allow the students to create many different types of concept maps. Here are just a few:




When the students are able to organize their thoughts, they again, will be able to take the information from short-term memory to long-term memory. Students need to chunk and piece together the information. They cannot just learn an entire concept and be expected to remember it when it comes time for an assessment.

Our focus has to be on the learner first, content second.


Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Cognitive Learning Theories [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from http://laureate.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=5700267&CPURL=laureate.ecollege.com&Survey=1&47=2594577&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=0&bhcp=1

Drill and Kill-Does it have a place in the classroom?

The idea of “drill and kill” has been a hot-button issue for many years. Can the innovation of educational technology programs bring this idea back to the classroom? Does the Behaviorist Learning Theory have a place in classrooms today?

The Behaviorist Learning Theory states that positive behavior should be reinforced and undesirable behavior should be punished (Orey, 2011).

How does that theory relate to drilling students on facts, you might ask? There are many websites and computer programs that drill the students on their facts and instantly reward them with a positive saying, a silly song or a fun animation. When they get a wrong answer, they either hear a loud, harsh sound, see a negative phrase or mainly lose points. This can be seen as very negative. I can speak for my students when I say, the majority love playing these kinds of games. They love trying to beat their previous score. They do not really see it as a negative reinforcement.

Not all sights are aesthetically pleasing and do not grab the attention of the students. Those that do, effectively aide in student learning.

Here are some great sights that utilize the video gaming age to create fun, interactive games while drilling the students on their basic facts.

Sheppard Software

Arcademic SkillBuilders

Online Basic Skill Games-This site is a hub for many skill games!

The idea of drilling facts into the brains of our students can seem pointless, but when you think about it, those skills are the basis of most story problems, reading comprehension questions and many other various skills students will use.

Activity is important. Learning is better when the learner is active rather than passive. (‘Learning by doing’ is to be applauded) (Smith, 1999).

Technology has given what was once a boring “drill and kill” method and made learning facts active and engaging.


Smith, K. (1999). The behaviourist orientation to learning. In The encyclopedia of informal education. Retrieved from http://www.infed.org/biblio/learning-behavourist.htm

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program four: Behaviorist learning theory [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from http://laureate.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=5700267&CPURL=laureate.ecollege.com&Survey=1&47=2594577&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=0&bhcp=1