Meaningful Learning with Technology

51HSVz3SS2L._AA160_The text Meaningful Learning with Technology by Jane L. Howland, David Jonassen, and Rose M. Marra, Fourth Edition (Boston: Pearson, 2012) was an engrossing read. The target audience for this book is elementary or secondary school teachers who have an interest or intention of incorporating technology into their instructional programs. Written from a constructivist viewpoint, the book was probably aimed at both beginning and intermediate technology users; teachers well-versed in classroom technology would probably find most of the material a review of what they already know.

The stated goal of the book is to describe and demonstrate a variety of ways that technology could be used to engage and support meaningful learning for. This goal is described in depth in the initial chapter, which defines the characteristics of meaningful learning, describes the components of pedagogy related to technology, and contrasts learning from technology to learning with technology. A lengthy discussion of instructional technology standards and how technology can be used to foster 21st century skills is also incorporated.

The volume is slender, but it includes chapters on all aspects of an instructional program. These aspects are grouped into nine broad categories which the authors have labeled inquiring, experimenting, designing, communicating, community building, writing, modeling, visualizing, and assessing. Each chapter provides topical objectives, relevant introductory information, recommendations for how technology can be used for that particular aspect, and descriptions of several software programs that relate to the topic of the chapter. In some cases, the authors present case studies showing how actual teachers have used a specific technological program in their classroom. Photographs, diagrams, charts, and tables further illustrate the material. Each chapter concludes with a short summary, a listing of the NET Standards and the 21st Century Skills that are addressed in that chapter, discussion topics, and a list of references. The book concludes with an epilogue containing a handy list of common sense criteria for deciding when and what types of technology to consider for specific learning tasks. Finally, the authors provide an appendix offering sample rubrics for assessing characteristics of technology to ensure their utilization will result in meaningful learning.

The authors do not provide step-by-step instructions for how to use each of the software programs described, nor do they purport to. Rather, they discuss the learning theory supporting the inclusion of technology and the benefit of technology on the overall learning process.

What did I gain from the book? A review of some learning theories and concepts I have already studied. A reinforcement of some educational philosophies I have already embraced. An in-depth exploration of NET Standards and the list of 21st Century Skills. An articulated rationale and a set of guidelines for incorporating educational technology in my classroom lesson plans. An expansion of my knowledge about educational technology tools for content areas other than Language Arts. A revisit of some software programs I have experimented with previously. An exploration of some software programs I have never heard of before. That’s quite a bit, actually.

Chalkboard Champion Jaime Escalante: He Was the One To Stand and Deliver

50479530_127002097486One of the most well-known teachers in twentieth-century American history, Jaime Escalante, passed away in 2010, but already his story is fading from our collective cultural memory. Recently I conducted an informal poll of the students, and even a few of the younger teachers, at my Southern California high school. “Do you know who Jaime Escalante is?” I questioned them. Almost every one said they didn’t, until I mentioned he was the teacher portrayed by Edward James Olmos in the 1988 movie Stand and Deliver.

The recipient of numerous awards and special praise from President Ronald Reagan, Jaime Escalante was a popular and talented teacher who challenged supposedly “unteachable” inner-city Latino students to achieve beyond a level anyone thought them capable of, eventually leading them to unparalleled success on the extremely difficult Advanced Placement Calculus exam.

In researching the life story of Escalante for my own book, Chalkboard Champions, I learned some surprising facts about this remarkable educator. For example, the movie never mentions that prior to immigrating to the United States, Escalante earned a degree in mathematics and a teaching credential in Bolivia. He was a veteran teacher with nine years of experience in prestigious Bolivian schools when he decided to leave his politically unstable homeland and come to America in search of a better life for his family. Once he arrived, unable to speak a word of English, he discovered that his education, training, and experience held no value here. Determined to return to the classroom, Escalante set about learning the English language and earning his university degree all over again. It took him ten years to get back into the classroom, at a significant cut in pay, by the way, but to this dedicated teacher, it was well-worth the hard work.

A painstakingly-researched and well-written account of Escalante’s life can be found in the biographical book Jaime Escalante: The Best Teacher in America by Jay Matthews. For a condensed version of Escalante’s life, check out chapter 12 my first book, Chalkboard Champions. Either way, you’ll find his story compelling and inspiring.

When a Man Marries a Teacher

anniversary dinner (3)Greetings! I hope everyone is having a terrific day today, whatever you are celebrating—Spring, Easter, Passover, or, as in our case, our seventeenth wedding anniversary. Here we are, my husband Hal and I, enjoying a wonderful anniversary toast.

As I do every year, I said to Hal that we should conduct our annual Year in Review. “Did we meet our objectives for the year?” I asked him. “What will our goals for the coming year be, and how would we measure them?” I queried him next. And finally, “Should we revise our mission statement?” As usual, he merely stared at me (cue the sounds of crickets).

Well, what else can a man expect when he marries a teacher?

Former Middle School Teacher and Pro Basketball Player Anquell McCollum

5867323Many gifted athletes share their talent and expertise with young students when they become teachers and coaches. This is certainly the case with Anquell McCollum, a professional basketball player who also served as a former junior high school computer skills teacher and university assistant basketball coach.

Anquell was born in 1973 in Fayetteville, North Carolina. He graduated from E.E. Smith High School in his home town. There he played basketball, where he distinguished himself with 24 three-point field goal attempts, of which 11 were successful. Although this milestone accomplishment was broken in 2004, Anquell established a state record at the time.

After his high school graduation, Anquell enrolled in Western Carolina University, where he played as a guard for the Catamounts during the 1992–1993 and 1995–1996 seasons. In his freshman year, the 6’1″, 180 pound Anquell earned a place on the Southern Conference (SoCon) All-Freshmen Team. Between his sophomore and senior years, Anquell was selected for the All-SoCon Tournament all three years, he was a First Team All-SoCon player two years, and in 1995–1996 he was named both the Conference Player of the Year as well as the Conference Tournament Most Valuable Player. That season, Anquell averaged 25 points per game and was ranked fifth in the nation. He led the Catamounts to one of the most historic seasons in the university’s history. That was the year the university won its only Southern Conference championship.

Following his college graduation, Anquell became a professional basketball player. He first played in  France for the 1996-1997 season. From 1997-1999 he played professionally in Venezuela. In 1998 he played in both Columbia and Hong Kong. Additionally, in 2000 he played in the Dominican Republic and in the United States Basketball League for the Treasure Island Tropics. At the end of that season, Anquell retired from the game.

In 2000, Anquell returned to Western Carolina University to complete his degree in Computer Information Systems. Between 2000 and 2004, Anquell accepted a position as a computer skills teacher at Spring Lake Middle School in Spring Lake, North Carolina. He then became the Assistant Director of Admissions for Western Carolina University. In 2004–2005, this gifted athlete became an official assistant coach for the men’s basketball team at the university.

This chalkboard champion was named to the Western Carolina University Athletics Hall of Fame in 2010. Anguell and his wife, Marie, currently live in Cullowhee, North Carolina. They have two daughters.