Introduction

Overview

The Active Learning with Technology (ALT) portfolio is a set of materials and activities designed especially for educators who provide professional development to K-12 teachers. The materials in the portfolio were developed using research from current learning theory and have been field tested and carried out in a variety of settings by over 350 teachers. The goal of the portfolio is to assist teachers in developing and implementing learner-centered environments supported by technology.

Constructivist learning theory informed the development and provided the framework for the several pieces of the Active Learning with Technology (ALT) portfolio. A synthesis of the current literature on constructivism resulted in the following six principles that serve as the foundation for the ALT portfolio.

Learners bring unique prior knowledge, experience, and beliefs to a learning situation.
Knowledge is constructed uniquely and individually, in multiple ways, through a variety of authentic tools, resources, experiences, and contexts.
Learning is both an active and reflective process.
Learning is a developmental process of accommodation, assimilation, or rejection to construct new conceptual structures, meaningful representations, or new mental models.
Social interaction introduces multiple perspectives through reflection, collaboration, negotiation, and shared meaning.
Learning is internally controlled and mediated by the learner.

The components of the ALT portfolio include sixteen professional development modules, a series of print publications and videos, a CD-ROM, and a Web site http://www.sedl.org/tap.

Professional Development Modules

The sixteen professional development modules put constructivist learning theory into practice and increase teachers’ understanding and beliefs about how students learn. These modules provide links to computers primarily through hands-on experiences with various types of commonly used software that support student-centered learning and model ways to manage a limited computer classroom.

The modules are designed primarily for professional development providers and have been field tested with both teachers and other professional development providers. The developers have attempted to build in flexibility based upon variances in instructional environments. The modules are designed around commonly available resources and the software most often found in classroom settings.

Each module contains activity guidelines, a step-by-step facilitator guide, templates for participant materials, and a CD-ROM with supporting resources. Modules and materials are also downloadable in PDF format from http://www.sedl.org/tap/profdev.html.

Activities in the professional development modules:

Promote inquiry, project-based teaching, authentic learning and problem-based learning;
Model instructional strategies that engage the participants in activities that reflect the classroom setting of a constructivist learning environment supported by technology;
Promote sharing of ideas for applications of constructivist approaches in the classroom.
Encourage collaboration among participants;
Model a management strategy for organizing a classroom with technology;
Provide time for reflection in small groups and/or the whole group;
Elicit teachers’ ideas for additional ways of using software applications;
Provide opportunities to analyze and develop lesson plans and curriculum units in light of the characteristics of constructivist learning environments supported by technology.

Recommendations for using the professional development modules

To provide an introduction to developing learner-centered environments supported by technology, it is recommended that facilitators follow the first six professional development modules as a two-day professional development experience. More details about this are provided in the Foundations Introduction. The remainder of the modules may be implemented at any time thereafter and in any order. The role of the facilitator throughout the modules is that of a guide, not necessarily an expert. Most of the modules work best in a space that provides use of networked computers and tables and chairs for group discussions, although some of the modules can be presented in a computer laboratory setting.

Foundations of Constructivist Learning Environments Supported by Technology

The first six modules serve as an introduction to the Active Learning with Technology portfolio.

1. Active Learning Environments

Participants work in small groups at learning centers, using a variety of technical tools including a digital camera, an Internet database, a spreadsheet, and Internet web sites. The theme of the learning centers is the local community. In addition, print resources provide rich information about the community. (3 hours)

2. Draw Learning

Participants discuss their ideas and experiences with learning. In small groups, participants use chart paper and markers to create visual representations of their ideas about learning. (1 hour and 20 minutes)

3. Applications for Learning

In pairs, participants work through a problem as a framework for comparing two different types of instructional software: tutorial and exploratory. (1 hour and 30 minutes)

4. Creating Electronic Presentations

Participants work in pairs to design an electronic presentation, using selected resources gathered during the Active Learning Environments module. (3 hours)

5. Building a Vision

Participants view and discuss the SEDL- created video, Engaged Discoverers: Kids Constructing Knowledge with Technology. The videotape depicts K–12 classrooms in 16 schools throughout the Southwest where a variety of technologies support student-centered approaches in the classroom. (50 minutes)

6. Analyzing Lesson Plans

Participants analyze lessons created by other teachers, focusing on the use of technology and student-centered practices to enhance student learning. (60 minutes)

II. Enhancing Constructivist Learning Environments Supported by Technology

Modules seven through sixteen introduce various computer applications and build on the constructivist concepts that were introduced in the Foundations modules.

7. Getting the Word Out

In collaborative groups, participants use word-processing software to create text products such as a newsletter or brochure that includes their choice of design elements. (3 hours and 30 minutes)

8. Deconstructing Constructivism

Participants work in small groups, using concept-mapping software to explore how constructivist learning theory informs teaching practice. The longer version allows time for viewing videotapes of classroom practice and analyzing their content. (3 - 4 hours)

9. Analyzing Our Practice

Participants work in small groups to define elements of technology-assisted constructivist learning environments and map these elements in a rubric format. Each participant plots his or her practice on the rubric and sets goals for the future. (3 hours)

10. Developing a Multimedia Presentation

In small groups, participants use various technologies to plan a vacation and create a multimedia presentation about their trip. (2 - 3 hours)

11. Technology Seminars

Participants work in small groups to review software applications introduced in previous modules, and to refine and advance their personal technology skills. (4 hours)

12. Creating Databases

In small groups, participants collect and analyze data, create a database, and discuss the applicability of databases as a learning tool. (4 hours and 30 minutes)

13. Using Web-Based Resources

The real-life problem of selling and buying a car is used as a model for how Internet resources, office software, and a digital camera can be used in problem-based learning. Participants create a web page of their car advertisement. (4 - 6 hours)

14. Managing Growth

A manual and conceptual overview of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in which participants calculate population growth and available land supply in their community to determine how and where new population growth will occur. (6 hours)

15. Connections

Builds upon the Managing Growth module. Participants use a variety of technologies (tape recorders, digital cameras, water quality–testing kits, and graphing calculators) to determine effects of growth on the community’s water quality, traffic, culture and heritage, and built environment. All information is compiled into a web site. (5 - 6 hours)

16. Sharing Lessons

As a concluding event, teachers share part of a lesson they have created with the whole group or in breakout sessions. The lesson should reflect participants’ ideas of how technology supports learner-centered instruction. (6 hours)

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Copyright 2000, Southwest Educational Development Laboratory.