maandag 28 november 2011

Designing a professional development program: a reflection (part two)

As I already stated in my latest post, here I will reflect upon my experiences with working with TPACK and my ideas about how to stimulate teachers to integrate technology in education.

Working with TPACK
In this course it was the first time that I had to work with the TPACK model. Designing a good program to let teachers learn about TPACK was more difficult than I thought it would be. Since we had already a lot of lectures in which we discussed the model, I figured it would not be that difficult. But when we were busy with designing the program, it is hard to think up a good way in which teachers first will learn about TPACK and later on also gain the skills of using TPACK in their lessons. Ensuring that the teachers are able to integrate it in their own education is a real challenge. For the teachers it is a totally new way of designing a lesson, which teachers have not experienced before like in teacher-training for instance. They know how to make a design for a lesson but integrating all aspects of the TPACK model takes some time to learn. That is why it will take a lot of time for them to develop skills to really integrate TPACK in their lessons.
In a program to teach people about TPACK it is important to also measure their TPACK-skills in the beginning and at the end so you know the progress they made. In the program we designed, I think it was quite difficult to choose a good measurement tool. Since our target group is a foundation, the literature we received during the lecture about TPACK measurement did not really fit to our context. We also read that it is better to have a combination of instruments instead of just one instrument. We had already decided to use the questionnaire of Graham et al. (2009) and we could not find a good way to combine this questionnaire with another instrument. The other instruments we found or did not fit with our context or they measured the same as the questionnaire already chosen.
After choosing the questionnaire we had to make the decision for when the teachers would have to fill this in: before they were told about the TPACK model or after? We choose to let them fill in the questionnaire before telling them about TPACK, since the TPACK model might scare them off.

Now at the end of the course, my opinion about the TPACK model is still the same as in the post about the added value: ‘I think the TPACK model can be really useful to help teachers to make meaningful use of technology in education since teachers are forced to look at each individual aspect and how to combine these aspects.’ And I think for me it was a very nice experience to take a look at how the TPACK model could be used in practice by designing a professional development program ourselves. By working with it you can see how many factors you have to take into account if you want to design a useful program.

Stimulating teachers to integrate technology in education 
I think that it is a tough job to ensure teachers will integrate technology in their education. For example there are conservative teachers who have a negative view on technology which is hard to get rid of. Next to that, a lot of teachers do not feel confident when they have to adapt to a new method and it takes a lot of time before they build up sufficient confidence.
There are different ways to stimulate teachers to integrate technology in education. Important activities you have to do, are in my view:

  •      Show the teachers and let them experience it is not that difficult to use technology in their lessons. For example in one of the meetings in our program we invited a teacher who has already a lot of experience with using technology in his lessons and asked him to give a lesson and tell about his experiences. In this way the teachers can see that this person succeeded in using technology and in the lesson they can see that using it is not that difficult.
  •      Show the teachers the benefits of the use of technology in education. If we use the same example of the invited teacher: this teacher can also show how much fun it can be to use technology. In this way you can also show the benefits like learner motivation and creating new opportunities for the lessons. Also according to the five-stage model of Niess (2008) the first step in the process by which a person makes a decision to adopt or reject innovations should be showing that technology can contribute to their education.
  •     Providing guidance. I think it is important that the teachers are provided with clear guidelines so they can very easily try to use technology. A good guidance could be the TPACK model with a good explanation. Next to it is important that there is someone available to ask questions and who gives advice.
  •    Be careful with the pace of introducing new things. I think it is very important to introduce the new method step by step, since rushing can be very de-motivating for teachers. The teachers have to feel each step as a new challenge they can handle, because if they have the feeling it is too difficult their motivation will drop. You should try to avoid to pressurize the teachers and make them feel unconfident.  
 As you can see, in my opinion there are different aspects which are important for stimulating teachers to integrate technology. I think every time it will be a real challenge to ensure teachers are really integrating technology in their lessons. One of the basic ingredients is ‘enthusiasm’. I think this is true for every innovation. At the start there should be someone/a few people (and hopefully the school leader as well!) who is/are very motivated to use technology in the classroom. Like I stated before there also needs to be someone to show the benefits and that using technology is not that difficult.

How do you think about stimulating teachers? Did I leave out something important?

This is already my last post for this course. The way of working was totally new for me. But I can see that I really liked it. It surely is a nice way of working with technology which fits perfectly in a course focused on TPACK!

Graham, C. R., Burgoyne, N., Cantrell, P., Smith, L., St. Clair, L., & Harris, R. (2009). TPACK Development in Science Teaching: Measuring the TPACK Confidence of Inservice Science Teachers, TechTrends, Special Issue on TPACK, 53(5), 70-79.

Niess, M. L. (2008). Knowledge needed for teaching with technologies – Call it TPACK. AMTE Connections, 17(2), 9-10.

Designing a professional development program: a reflection (part one)

In this post I will reflect upon designing a professional development program. During the last couple of weeks, in a design team of three CIMA-students, we designed a professional development program. The target group for this voluntary program is 4, 5 and 6 grade teachers in Enschede, working at one of the 17 secondary schools belonging to foundation Skoe. The main goals of this program are to learn how to design a TPACK science lesson and experience using TPACK in science teaching. To reach these goals there are 10 meetings in which teachers have to collaborate in teacher teams supported by an instructor so they can share knowledge with each other and build new knowledge together. As educational designers we tried to make a very realistic program.
The reflection consists of three parts:
1.     The process of designing a professional development program;
2.     My experience with TPACK;
3.     My ideas about how to stimulate teachers to integrate technology in education.
In this post only number 1 is included; the other two parts will be placed in the next post. The reflection is divided in small paragraphs by the use of titles.

General view regarding the design process
At first I would like to say, that it is very nice to experience how you can integrate the literature, knowledge gathered during the lectures and some creativity in a design for a professional development program. In the end of the assignment I can tell you we were proud designers! I can also already tell you that it was not an easy job! But hey, then this reflection would not have been so interesting;-)

I experienced the start of the design process as a bit difficult since the assignment was stated very broadly which leaves open a lot of opportunities. This means that as designers you have to make a lot of important choices at the start. These choices are important because in the end there should be a coherent program and everything should be matched with each other, like in the Curricular spiderweb of Van den Akker (2011). The fact that there is no one best way for this design-assignment makes the start difficult, but on the other hand also leaves room for very creative solutions as shown during the presentations of all design teams.
The first step we took was choosing a context for the professional development program. We choose the foundation Skoe as our target group and with this choice the freedom and the boundaries regarding the possibilities of the program were to some amount determined. The fact that we choose a foundation made it possible for us to focus more on ‘knowledge sharing’ between teachers of different schools. On the other hand, it became more difficult to ensure each of the schools would really start using TPACK after finishing the program since you have a lot of schools to take care of. That is why we choose not to focus on ensuring that all teachers at each school would use TPACK after the program, but we focused more on ensuring that each participating teacher would implement TPACK in his/her science lessons.

Guidelines for the design
After deciding upon the context, we established a framework for the total program. We choose to use three models during the design process: the Generic model of Plomp (Verhagen, 2006), the five-stage process of Niess (2008) and the knowledge sharing model of Kessels (1998). I think this was an important step since these models became our guidelines during the rest of the design phase. Then the general structure of the program was decided upon. After the models and the general structure had been decided, the process of designing went faster. 

Meeting in detail
One of the meetings we described in more detail. For me this was quite interesting since I have no teaching experience. It was interesting to see how much time it takes to establish a good design and think about all activities which should be done by the instructor before, during and after the meeting. I think we succeeded in this design since I think it would be possible for a TPACK-expert to carry out the activities needed for this meeting.

The implementation part I have experienced as the most difficult part. The literature we found was more generic, that is why it was hard to focus this literature on our specific context.  
As already stated before, it was difficult to decide upon how the knowledge learned in the meetings could be brought into each individual school and be passed on to the other teachers at these schools.
At a certain moment we tried to adapt our program so that it would be possible that teachers after finishing the program go to their own school and ensure TPACK will be implemented there. But we already had established the general structure with ten meetings and we would like to stick with that. We thought about the idea to let the in the program participating teachers set up teacher design teams at their own school. In this way the teacher who joined the program would get all the work to teach the other teachers how to use TPACK. Because we thought this would be too much to ask from the teachers, we choose not to do this. Instead, in the last meeting the school leaders and other teachers from each school are invited to come so they can get a good idea and if the school leader becomes enthusiastic he/she can decide to start using TPACK at his/her own school. Next to that, in meeting eight, teachers get an explanation and advice about how they can spread the use of TPACK. Also, after the teachers have finished the program, they can share their ideas with other teachers and ask them questions at an online environment (which is also used by the teachers during the program). 

Realistic value of the program
We wanted to adapt the program to the needs of the participating teachers. That is why not all parts of the meetings in the program are already determined. Like for instance, in the first meeting there will be a discussion about what the teachers would like to learn during the program and then goals should be established. Also in a lot of meetings there will be discussions about the experiences of the teachers with using TPACK. We have not filled in how these discussions will look like, since this totally depends on the input of the teachers. I think making a clear program was sometimes difficult since some aspects could not yet be described.
To ensure a program is really coherent is not so easy. The fact that there are a lot of aspects to take into account makes it sometimes difficult since you have to really have in mind all aspects already established. In the end I think that our program is coherent and realistic. Even though not all parts are already determined since they depend upon the input of teachers, I think the program could be used in practice.

The time in which the professional development program should be developed was quite short in my opinion. But I think this can be seen as a challenge and next to that I think it is a good experience since I think that real educational designers also do not have a very long time to design a program and also should stick to tight deadlines.
If we would have had some more time, I think some aspects of the program could have been worked out a little bit better. Next to that it would be a good idea to let the report check by someone outside the design team. In the end I had the experience that when I was reading the report that some things could still be vague and questionable for someone outside our team.

I think we succeeded in designing a realistic program, but that there is still some room left for improvement. Like already stated above, ensuring that teachers will involve teachers of their own school and let them implement TPACK in their lessons as well, is not carried out in this program. We choose as a main goal that participating teachers learn about TPACK and how to use it in their science lessons and not how to get each of the 17 schools to implement it. It would be a challenge to adapt or expand the program so that it also focuses more on the implementation at each school. Next to that, some parts are not totally established yet, since it depends on the input of the teachers.
Designing the program was more difficult than I had expected. I think it was a very nice and interesting experience to establish such a program. 

If you would like to have more information about our designed development program, just let me know!

In my next post I will write more about my experiences with working with TPACK and my ideas about how to stimulate teachers to integrate technology in education.


Akker, J. van den (2011). The Role of Curriculum in the Development of Education; Views from the Netherlands (and beyond). [PowerPoint-presentatie]. Retrieved on the 21st of September 2011 from

Kessels, J.W.M. (1998). Interne en externe consistentie van het opleidingsontwerp. In J.W.M. Kessels, & C.A. Smit, (Eds.), Opleiden in Organisaties. Capita Selecta. Studenteneditie (1989-1997), 90-102. Deventer: Kluwer Bedrijfsinformatie.

Niess, M. L. (2008). Knowledge needed for teaching with technologies – Call it TPACK. AMTE Connections, 17(2), 9-10.

Verhagen, P. (2006). Introductie onderwijskundig ontwerpen in relatie tot het onderwijsprogramma
van Educational Design, Management and Media.

maandag 24 oktober 2011

The TPACK model and its values

In my posts you could have read already about technology, pedagogy and content, but not yet about the combination of these aspects. In this blog post I will write about combining these aspects by using the TPACK model. In short this model states that ‘any use of technology in education needs to fit with the pedagogical style and the content’.
Figure 1. TPACK model (Koehler & Mishra, 2009).

The TPACK model like it is shown in figure 1 is established in 2009 and originated in the ideas of Shulman (1986). Shulman assumed that a good teacher knows how to integrate pedagogies with content. Based on this idea the model called Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) was established in which the focus is on integrating pedagogical and content knowledge. As a teacher you should have sufficient Content knowledge: knowledge about the subject matter you want to teach your students. Next to that you need to have sufficient Pedagogical knowledge: knowledge about the way of teaching: what methods and educational processes to use to address the subject matter, how to manage the classroom and the way you want to assess the students in the end.
The model has been extended with the component Technology (T), from then the model was called TPACK (Koehler & Mishra, 2005). The K is for knowledge and the A is for ‘and’.
This framework is an aid for teachers to combine all three components and create a consistent whole when they are designing a lesson. The model makes you aware that you should think about all the aspects, but even more important to think about the overlapping areas. The model focuses mainly on the interactions and integration of content, pedagogy and technology knowledge. It is important to think thoroughly not only about each type of knowledge but even more important about the overlapping area’s: Technological Pedagogical Knowledge (TPK), Technological Content Knowledge (TCK), Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) and Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK).
What do all these overlapping area’s mean?
Technological Pedagogical Knowledge is about how to adapt the pedagogy when using technology. When using technology you should look for a pedagogy which fits with the chosen technology. The teacher should know the advantages and disadvantaged a certain type of technology brings with it regarding the choice of pedagogies.
Technological Content Knowledge is about the way in which content and technology influence each other. Teachers have to understand how a certain subject can best be supported by technology. And they should also know that when they want to use a particular type of technology that they need to look for a subject with fits with this technology, so that not just every subject can be taught using that form of technology.  
Pedagogical Content Knowledge is about combining pedagogies with subject matter, like in Shulman’s PCK model. The teacher should take the next questions into account: In what way should I address my subject matter so that each individual student progresses? What assessment fits with this way of teaching and with the subject matter?  
Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge means that all three just described overlapping areas have been integrated. It emphasizes that you cannot just ignore a part of this model since everything is intertwined like the Spider web model of Jan van den Akker (2003). If you change one aspect you should also regard the other aspects and possibly you will also have to change some parts of that. To realize a lesson according to the TPACK model the teacher should have an understanding of how to integrate all domains.
In the latest form of the model, the component ‘contexts’ is also included, which is made clear by the blue dotted line surrounding the model (Koehler & Mishra, 2009). It shows that it is necessary for the teacher to know the target group, school, infrastructure and surroundings as well (Voogt, Fisser & Tondeur, 2010). A lesson could be brilliantly designed, but if it does not fit with its contexts there is a big chance it will not have the desired effect.

To give an example of a lesson designed by the TPACK model I will use an example from last lecture. In groups we had to design a lesson and think about all TPACK components and how to combine them. I can tell you: it was not an easy job! We designed a lesson with the content knowledge about the occurrence of thunderstorms. We used inquiry based learning as our pedagogical knowledge and for the technological knowledge we chose to use a simulation. Regarding the TPK the choice of pedagogy was almost determined when we chose to use a simulation since for every simulation inquiry based learning fits best. So you see that the choice of technology in this case limits the choice of pedagogy. When we look at the TCK: I think that content and technology fit very well together since with a simulation you can show very clearly the reactions during a thunderstorm. And lastly PCK, I think the combination of inquiry based learning with the subject matter of the occurrence of thunderstorms can be very effective since the students can put in some input and look at the output of the simulation and draw conclusions.   

What makes this model so valuable?
I think there are some different reasons for this.
1.    Firstly, the model makes teachers realize that you cannot just put content, pedagogy and technology together, but that it is really necessary to consider how to combine these three and think about the consequences of the choices you make. Most trainings regarding technology nowadays are focused on only technology: put on the computer, open this program etc. In this way technology is taught like it is ‘one size fits all’ and they do not tell about the integration of T, P and C. For some teachers the integration of the components can be really new since they are not used to think about it.
·         With the TPACK model you are forced to think really critically about each individual component;
·         With the TPACK model you realize that it always depends on the context and the choice of the other components you made, what is the best pedagogy/technology and content.

2.    The TPACK model can give teachers handhold when designing a lesson; for the TPACK novice but also for the TPACK expert! For teachers who do not have experience with the model, they can design a lesson step by step: first looking at P, C and T separately and then looking at TPK, TCK and PCK and if necessary make changes in the chosen components. In this way the model can give some peace for the teacher.
·         For teacher who are new to the model: the model can be like an roadmap.
Especially for the teachers who have experience with the model, the model can serve as a kind of checklist: Did I think about all aspects and mainly at how to combine these aspects?
·         For experienced teachers the model can be like a checklist.

3.    Teachers might become less frightened with regard to the use of technology when they see technology as an integrated part of teaching. For a lot of teachers, and not even only the old ones!, using technology in the classroom is a little bit scary. They are not used to do this and they also do not have had sufficient training for this. For a lot of teachers there is a gap between technology and education. When they learn to use technology as an integrated aspect of their lesson this fear might decrease.

4.    The TPACK model can provide a systematic way to approach the environment of the student. Nowadays students spend a lot of their time using different kind of technologies like a laptop, social media or an Iphone. As a teacher you would like to have motivated students and you can possibly motivate your students by using the technology they like. In this case the TPACK model can be really useful since I think for most teachers it is hard to find a way to use this new technology. Knowing what aspects to take into account makes the gap between technology and education a lot smaller.     

I think the TPACK model can be really useful to help teachers to make meaningful use of technology in education since teachers are forced to look at each individual aspect and how to combine these aspects. The model does not prescribe how teachers should use technology in their own practice, since there is no one best way of working. Instead it provides teachers with tools how to design a lesson and the aspects they need to think about. This makes the model very flexible and applicable in different situationsI think the model is very useful for both: novices and experts with the TPACK model. It would be good to teach teachers how to use this model since they can have great benefits from it. Perhaps the model could be integrated into teacher education so that they can already learn to use the model before their teaching career starts and after finishing teacher education they are able to make flexible use of the model.    


Akker, J. van den (2003). Curriculum perspectives: An introduction. In J. van den Akker, W. Kuiper & U. Hameyer   
     (Eds.), Curriculum landscapes and trends (1-10). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Koehler, M. J. & Mishra, P. (2005). What happens when teachers design educational technology? The development of Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge. Journal of Educational Computing Research,32(2), 131-152.

Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge? Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1), 60-70. Retrieved from

Shulman, L. S. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher, 15(2), 4-14.

Voogt, J., Fisser, P., & Tondeur, J. (2010). Maak kennis met TPACK. Hoe kan een leraar ict integreren in het onderwijs? Zoetermeer: Stichting Kennisnet. 

donderdag 20 oktober 2011

Technology rules!

Yesterday I had an interesting hands-on experience with technology in education, which I would like to share. I was engaged in a lecture in which technology was the leading factor.
For the minor Sustainable Development in Developing Countries at the University of Twente I am the student assistant. The minor-students have to work in groups, like a consultancy company, to write a proposal on the topic of waste management and livelihood improvement in Kisumu, Kenya. For us, living in the Western world, it is difficult to gain an impression of the conditions in Kenya without going there and seeing everything by ourselves. And there is also not a lot of information available about the current waste disposal system.

And that is where technology comes in!

A Skype conversation was organized with three people from Kisumu who are engaged in the waste management system there. The students had prepared questions and divided roles: who was going to ask the questions and who was going to take notes. The students were really excited and enthusiastic to talk with someone from Kisumu who could give them more information for their proposal. The people from Kisumu were also very enthusiastic to give the interview. In the end the students had really collected a lot of useful information for their final proposal.

I think this is a very good example of how technology can bring useful opportunities for education. Even though it was a bit complicated since you have to make appointments with people from a total different culture. At the beginning we were wondering if they would be online and if the skype connection would be good. Another example is that we discovered that one of the Kenyan persons did not have Skype, that is why a small group of students sat somewhere else where they could contact him by telephone.

But what can I say about the combination of Technology, Pedagogy and Content in this lecture?
I think the pedagogy that has been used in this lecture can be best characterized as collaborative learning since they had roles divided among the students and they had to work together to make it work. Next to working together with other students they off course also had to work with the people from Kenya at the other side of the Skype connection. I think the technology used was very flexible since when we found out that one Kenyan person did not have Skype, we called him by telephone.  The content of this lecture was the waste disposal system in Kisumu. The people from Kenya  off course know a lot about this system. But since the students had already read a lot about this as well they also knew enough to keep the conversation running.

In this case I think the technology, pedagogy and content are mixed together very well. So I think this is a good example of how technology can have a great value for education. Next time I will write more in detail about combining Technology, Pedagogy and Content… 

zaterdag 15 oktober 2011

Cool tools for schools… yes or no?

In the lecture of last week we were looking at the possibilities of using technology in education and we were trying some technology ourselves. At first we looked at one of the newest events in the technology world: QR-codes. Some QR-codes were hanging in the classroom and it was nice to see that this kind of technology can be used in education as well.

After this, we got the assignment to play in groups of three with different tools available at At this website there are all kinds of different tools which can be used straight away; examples are tools for making slideshows, videos and music. We choose to look at the drawing tools. Each person had to look at one specific tool, try to find out how it works and try to imagine how it could be used in the educational setting.  Since we had just one laptop with us, we looked with the three of us at the next drawing tools:  ‘Google sketch-up’, ‘Word-it-out’ and ‘Floor planner’. All of us already knew ‘Google sketch-up’ a bit. It is a program in which you can build buildings and put all kinds of furniture in it. You even have the possibility to look up your own furniture on Google and then download it and place it in your floor map. In this way you can make a nice floor map of your own house. Weaknesses are that you need to practice before you can really do a lot and that for example making a selection can be difficult sometimes. I had never before thought of the idea to use this program in education, but actually I think there are a lot of possibilities for use in schools. The next program ‘Word it out’ is a program in which you can make word clouds. So you put in some sentences and then the program makes a word cloud like shown in the picture beneath. It is a nice way of presentation so at school it could be used by learners for making a front page or picture.

The last program we took a look at is Floor Planner (underneath a picture of the interface of floor planner is shown). This program looks a lot like Google Sketch up, but it is more easy to use and you can chose to have a 2D and 3D view. You can make floor designs and you also have a lot of possibilities to decorate your home. The map you create looks really nice. You can choose nice cars to put in the garage. A weakness of the program is that you can give the furniture abnormally seizes.  For educational purposes it can be used to learn students to draw floor maps, to improve spatial awareness and learn them about dimensions.  

Our evaluation of these three programs: is it a cool tool for school?

By doing this exercise I discovered that there are a lot of different drawing tools which can be very useful and helpful in education. And moreover, those tools are not that hard to work with. This makes it possible for teachers to use it in education.

One of the other groups got the assignment to go outside and play the game ‘Seek ‘n Spell’ by using mobile phones. They had to go to different places to gather letters and create words with these letters. The person who has got the most words at the end becomes the winner. It was very interesting and nice to see that you can do learning activities by using the newest technologies. I think a lot of students would be really enthusiastic to join an activity like this.
Other groups had taken a look at slideshow tools, quiz and poll tools and file and storage tools. It was very interesting to see what kind of different tools are available and in what way you can use them in education. Also drop box was discussed. I use drop box mostly to share pictures with friends but realize now that it has also a lot of possibilities for education.

To conclude I would like to say that this site can really show people that it is not that hard to use technology in education.  A lot of teachers do not know how to use technology in education or where to find suitable technology for education. That is why a lot of teachers stick to the old ways of teaching. This is really a pity since using new and different technologies can be a good way of motivating students. This website is a good example of how easy it can be to use technology in education. Most of these tools are easily accessible, they are free to use and also easy to work with. So teachers: just go for it!

maandag 10 oktober 2011

It is not that important which pedagogy you choose, you have to switch between them to keep all students engaged


Simschool is an online learning environment focused on classroom management. The target group is teachers and pre-service teachers. The players should learn how to survive in the classroom. Simschool is a simulation in which the player is a teacher standing in front of a classroom. The goal is to engage every student in the lesson and adapt the right material to the individual student. As a player of the game, you can try different pedagogical approaches to see: a. how you can engage the students and b. what the effects of the different pedagogies are.  By trying different pedagogies you can find out what pedagogy fits with which student needs and still covers the learning content. The ultimate goal of Simschool is to improve your teaching using the experiences in SimSchool, so for example improved general teaching skills, improved use of technology and improved confidence in the use of technology. Figure 1 shows the classroom at the beginning of the lesson. Figure 2 shows personal information about the student at the end of the lesson.

Figure 1. The classroom situation in simSchool at the beginning of the lesson

Figure 2. The classroom situation in simSchool at the end of the lesson

Everly’s bad day

In the classroom of this simulation is only one student (Everly) present. You can overview the situation easy and as a teacher you can focus completely on the student. The lesson we did was mainly based on the traditional learning approach. It was very structured and can be given classical. Traditional learning is teacher-centered, in this simulation the teacher decided what should be done, how much time it should take and in which way things should be done. The lesson is not really adapted to the needs and preferences of the (individual) student. In practice it could be like the simulation we did: Everly started with a recall of the last week’s lessons, then he took notes during lecture and finally he had to do an oral quiz. Everly’s results at the end of this module were low academic growth, no sense of affiliation with the task and a bit sense of ability to do the task hand.




Our experiences with simSchool

In this simulation you can experience how different approaches work out. We can imagine this simulation can help teachers and pre-service teachers to see how different approaches work in practice. They are free to explore and there are no consequences in real life.
 The simulation does not account for external influences, like parents, noises, bad weather, etcetera. The teacher qualities are not defined either. So if you are for example a bad presenter in real life, some things won’t work even if you have chosen the right combination of tasks in the simulation.
The lesson we gave to Everly was really bad for his academic growth and his affiliation with the task. Since it was not student centered but teacher centered. The teacher decides what to do and does not account for individual preferences. In simSchool it is possible to look up more information about Everly at the computer on the teacher’s desk. So in this way you can adapt the lesson to the individual needs of the student. Unfortunately this is what you also see in practice. It is for a teacher impossible to adapt his lesson to each individual student, because every student has his own learning preferences. To meet all those preferences a bit, a teacher should switch of pedagogy during his lessons. So, it is not that important which pedagogy you choose, but you have to switch between them to keep all students engaged.


How do simSchool, pedagogies and technology meet?

There are four levels of tasks in the simulation, (1) recall, (2) skill/concept, (3) strategic thinking, (4) extended thinking. In table 1 these tasks are coupled with a pedagogical approach. For each pedagogical approach there is given a short description and the tasks opportunities in simSchool and at last the way to use technologies.


Traditional learning


In short

The lessons according to this approach are teacher-centred. This encompasses that the teacher chooses what tasks should be carried out and how this should be assessed. In this way the lesson mostly has a fixed structure. The interaction is classical, so the teacher interacts with the whole group. The individual needs of each student are not taken into account.

In simSchool

Examples of which tasks you can choose in the simulation to support the traditional learning approach are shown in table 1. So for example you can choose to do a whole-class oral response, in this way the teacher is addressing questions and the students have to respond with the whole class. This is a typical classical lesson and therefore a form of traditional learning.

In technology

This approach is best supported by ‘old technologies’ like blackboard and books.


Inquiry based learning


In short

Unlike traditional learning, inquiry based learning is student-centred. Students have to do research and experiments to find out new things. The main goal is learning by doing their research. In this way the students determine the pace of the lesson and the learning process. The teacher does not provide information classically, but it is the purpose to support the students in their research so that they find the right information by themselves. In this way the teacher mainly has the role of supportive guide and not the role of information provider.

In simSchool

Examples of which tasks you can choose in the simulation to support the inquiry based learning approach are shown in table 1. So for example you can develop a hypothesis. This means that you have to state a hypothesis all by yourself or in groups and afterwards you can do experiments to see if your hypothesis is true.

In technology

For integrating technology while using an inquiry based learning approach you can use the internet to search for information to use when developing a hypothesis. Another option is to provide the students with a simulation in which the student can change the input variables and by looking at the different output variables can make conclusions about underlying technologies. 


Collaborative learning


In short

Students work in small groups with students of different levels. Every student takes part of the whole, so each group member has to know where the task is about and what is happening in the group. Students take place in group discussions to be held informed. Assessment is in the form of peer assessment, whereby the teacher and students pay attention to the content of the assignment and to the way of collaboration.

In simSchool

In the table you can find several tasks in simSchool you can use for collaborative learning. Typical examples of collaborative learning tasks are creating a product in a group or recalling last week’s lessons in a group discussion. Both tasks ask from students to work together, share their knowledge and discuss about similarities and (more interesting) differences in their knowledge.

In technology

The most important support technology can give to a collaborative learning approach is the support of the communication. Because nowadays internet is available for almost every students, internet applications are a good way to support communication. You can think about forums, msn, skype, weblogs, dropbox, et cetera.


Problem based learning


In short

Problem-based learning (PBL) is a student centred approach. In PBL the student works towards the understanding of a resolution of a realistic problem. Students work in small groups and create a knowledge base for solving the problem by discussing problems and each other’s knowledge. Problem based learning works most of the time with peer assessment. 

In simSchool

In the table you can find different tasks in simSchool that will fit in a problem based learning approach. An example is playing a game. Most games provide students with several problems they have to solve before reaching the goal. By collaborating with fellow students, students can exchange information about how to reach the goal or subgoals.

In technology

Technology can support PBL by supporting the communication between students (for example: skype, msn, blackboard, etcetera) or by providing a problem in a realistic environment (for example: games and simulations).


Project based learning


In short

Project based learning is like problem based learning and collaborative learning student centred. Students work in groups on long-term projects in the real world. These projects are interdisciplinary.

In simSchool

In simSchool you can find different tasks that fit within a project based learning approach. In the table you can find some, for example developing a project plan and designing on multiple criteria. Students need these tasks to conclude their project. For a good collaboration and planning they need a project plan. For organizing an event or creating a product they have to take several criteria in to account, which they can learn with the task: designing on multiple criteria.

In technology

For integrating technology while using a project based learning approach you can use for example MS Project to let the students develop a project plan. In this way technology can support the pedagogy since the students will have to make their own project planning.

Table 1

Learning approach
Tasks in simulation
Examples of possible use of technology
Traditional learning
Classical lessons, teacher-centered, fixed structure.
Go over last week’s lessons, take a written test.
Books, exercise books, blackboard.
Do whole-class oral response, silent reading.
Take notes during lecture, analyze text.
Inquiry based learning
Students do research in experiments, set and test hypotheses.
Encyclopedia, internet, simulations/games.
Play a game. Compare and contrast.
Develop a hypothesis.
Collaborative learning
Students work in groups of students of different levels. Everybody takes part of the whole, group discussions. Peer assessment.
Go over last week’s lesson, take a pop quiz, do a brief presentation from memory.
Internet (forum, msn, skype, weblogs, dropbox, etcetera).
Do a team worksheet.
Play a game. Compare and contrast.
Student-lead class discussion, make a creative product, develop a project plan, develop a hypothesis.
Problem based learning
Student-centered. Students solve a realistic problem in little groups. Peer assessment.
Interactive blackboard, internet for communication and research, simulations and games.
Play a game, do design on multiple criteria.
Make a creative product, develop a hypothesis.
Project based learning
Student-centered. Long-term projects. Real world problem. Interdisciplinary.
Interactive blackboard, internet for communication and research. MS Project J
Do a team worksheet.
Do design on multiple criteria.
Develop a project plan, develop a hypothesis, make a creative product.

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