The instructional setting I chose to observe was an English 180 composition course, here at Western Illinois University.
Description of Learners
There were approximately 20 student learners in this class. All students were freshman, as this is a required freshman course. Most students were between the ages of 18-20, with one older non traditional student. The gender of the students was evenly divided between males and females. There was also a mixture of ethnicities ranging from African American and White/Caucasian to Asian American.
Description of Medium/Media
The instructor used the computer and overhead screen.
Description of Instructors Use of Medium/Media
For this class the instructor mixed traditional writing practices with more modern ones rooted in technology. Through out the semester the students had scheduled days in the class computer lab as well as scheduled days in the regular classroom. For the days they were in the computer lab, the class activities were centered on using the computers to help facilitate the writing process.
During my observations, I observed the teacher conducting a lesson on summarizing sources. By using the computer and overhead screen she showed students examples of quoted passages that needed summarized for inclusion in a paper. Then she instructed the students on the different ways to summarize from the quoted passage. She was able to show the students the changes she was making by using technology to translate her work from the computer onto the overhead screen, so the students could observe the original and see the changes she made to it at the same time. Once she had given the lesson, the students were instructed to use their own computers to practice re-writing the passages on their own.
I believe the instructor was using the media/medium correctly and appropriately to help facilitate student learning. She did a good job utilizing the computer to help the students see the changes visually in “real time” as she did them. By combining a typical instructional lecture with technology in this way, the students could better understand and visualize what was being taught. This method reduced students’ questions and misunderstandings. The students grasped and understood the art of summation quicker than if they were simply being presented the information in a traditional lecture format. They also seemed to enjoy this method of integrated instruction. Since writing is something students typically associate with traditional lecture methods, by integrating using the computer this instructor helped connect historical writing practices into more modern methods helping relate the material better and more successfully to the students.
Rationale for Correct/Incorrect Use
I believe the instructor was using the media/medium correctly because she gave the students the opportunity to see her using it to do the activity and then allowed time for them to practice doing it themselves. In the table “When to Use Computers” on p. 103 of the Smaldino text, it gives examples of situations in which to use computers to enhance student learning. One example stated is in practicing what they have just learned in class, thus resulting in reinforcement of their understanding. In the lesson I observed, it was helpful for the students to practice changing passages on their own. This example of seeing it done and then applying it themselves helped them connect the lesson to its actual application in a composed paper. Building such connections between lesson and application to the “real” assignments is extremely important and in this case the instructor used technology appropriately to help build this learning connection.
Smaldino, S.E. (2012). Instructional Technology and Media for Learning. Pearson Education, Inc.: Boston, MA.
Oppenheimer, T. (1997). The Computer Delusion. Atlantic Monthly, 280 (1). 45-62.
While the instructor I observed used the computer appropriately to help students practice what they had learned in the class lesson, the computer can help enhance and facilitate student learning in other composition lessons as well. One example is to help students in revisions of their papers. Todd Oppenheimer (1997) discusses that the computer can encourage practice in writing, as well as make changes to the paper easier. By using computers to write or type their papers, students can see their thoughts on the screen and easily and immediately make revisions if necessary. They can do revisions faster than with a pencil and eraser. Another example is using the computer to facilitate writing discussions. By using programs such as Western Online’s discussion board, students can share their responses, opinions and thoughts on a variety of topics. Smaldino (2012) states, “The ultimate value of computers in education depends on how fully and seamlessly computers are integrated into the curriculum” (p.102) Constructing a lesson or discussion through Western Online’s discussion board is an example of a way to integrate the computer in traditional class discussions. This mode of technology lets the lesson be continued outside of class for additional student learning. To help specify the discussion, the instructor can assign a certain topic and require a certain number of posts each student has to do. The posts can be original thoughts from the student, responses to other students’ posts, or a combination of both. The instructor can monitor the discussion and step in to offer further insights or guide the discussion in the right direction. Students can carry on the conversation over multiple days. They also have the benefit of seeing the conversation as a whole. This aspect helps the students be able to remember what was said and if they forget, providing a mode of constant reference. Furthermore, for more visual learners it allows for them to see the discussion as well as reading it or hearing it. In conclusion, there are multiple ways that writing instructors can integrate computers into their instruction. Whether it be in promoting extra practice of a lesson or helping facilitate and further class discussion computers and technology can aid students in writing classes.
As an instructional designer my focus is the design and development of effective online instruction, interactive learning objects, instructional alignment and the visual aspects of instructional materials. Specifically, how the inclusion of visuals within instruction can help facilitate learning.