Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Description of Simschool
The SimSchool is a classroom simulation which supports a quick accumulation of a teacher's experience in analyzing student differences then designing instruction to individual learner needs. In addition, it aids in gathering data about the impacts of instruction, and seeing the results of your teaching. It can be likened to a flight simulator but this case designed for educators. It presents instructors an opportunity to explore instructional strategies, examine classroom management techniques, and practice building relationships with students that will translate into increased learning.

Just like a flight simulator does to student pilots, the Simschool on the other hand, gives teachers experiences that are real and measureable. For example, it helps to improve the teachers’ general teaching skills, confidence in using technology and an increased belief that the teacher has the skills and ability to make a difference in a child's life. In addition, it helps improve pre-service teachers' performance in teacher preparation courses and attitudes toward inclusion of special needs students and to understand the significance of positive impact on the mastery of deeper learning capacities that comprise the readiness to teach. Lastly, it increases ones focus to remain on the path to the field of teaching acquired through rapid development of strong self-efficacy and resilience.

In conclusion, Simschool enables transformational experiences for teachers by helping to understand student behavioural and learning styles hence design an appropriate individualised instruction for each of them. At the same time, the teacher is able to develop positive classroom management techniques that makes them become more effective instructors in their classrooms and any other learning environments.

Description of Everly’s bad day
This is a classroom simulation in which learning tasks are assigned to a student called Everly Kassam. First of all, a lesson plan is prepared and Everlys is given learning tasks based on the plan and the knowledge of her profile also known as learning characteristics. Everly is talkative, likes variety, learns best by doing, takes risks, good in improvisation is creative and likes group work. Based on this knowledge, Everly is given learning tasks that suits her needs at various levels of Blooms taxonomy of learning so that her academic achievement, happiness, and power are raised. In the class the teacher gives the tasks and at the same time is able to track Everlys academic, happiness and power as she works on the tasks. Unfortunately, when the tasks are assigned, they impact negatively on Everlys academic performance, power and happiness. This is to mean that Everly did not achieve much learning from the instruction that was planned for that day. In fact by the end of the lesson Everly was worse than before the lesson began.  
In this module I was trying to find a better way to instruct Everly so that her achievement all round improves in terms of academic, power and happiness. This was done by planning and re-planning then choosing the best tasks to give Everly so that she meets the objectives of the lesson and striking a balance between her academic, power and happiness during the lesson.

A reflection on the Simschool in relation to pedagogy and technology
Pedagogy is the art or science of teaching while technology in education is commonly defined as a technical device or tool used to enhance instruction. According to Lever-Duffy, McDonald, and Mizell (2005) “educational technology might include media, models, projected and non-projected visual, as well as audio, video and digital media.”
By working through the Simschool, a lot of new understanding emerges to me regarding the relationships that exist between pedagogy and technology. The relationships are as described below:
i)                    Technology must be used to support the goal of a sound pedagogy. Selection of instructional technology is guided by good teaching and learning principles which is usually wide ranging in terms of applicability. That is to say that learning theories should guide the selection of the instructional technology. There is need for teachers to address the pedagogical principles that will guide their use of technology for teaching and learning.  As teachers explore the process of technology integration and search for ways that it can be effectively accomplished, they will develop the rationale to examine the appropriateness of the technologies they are using and whether such technologies are compatible with their lesson plan and learning outcomes. Technology is just a means to support instruction in the teaching and learning process and not vice versa. In the Simschool, this was evident when the teacher first has to choose and present the task. He also changes the tasks and guides the whole learning process meaning that technology cannot be used as a replacement to the teacher but as a tool to help him in reaching the goals set for the lesson.

ii)                  Technology should be considered as part of the instructional process. Technology should not be an appendage to be attached at any convenient stage during the course of instruction. The decision on the selection and use of technology for instruction should be made at the onset during the preparation and not in the middle or at the conclusion of the instruction. The objective s and methods of instruction including technology and outcomes of instruction should be specified at the planning stage. This is supported by Diaz and Bontemball (2000):

    ‘’Use of technology to enhance educational process involves more than just learning how to use specific piece of hardware or software. It requires an understanding of pedagogical principles that are specific to the use of technology in an instructional setting...Pedagogical –based training begins with helping teachers understand the role of learning theory in the design and function of class activities and in the selection and use of instructional technologies’’(pp.2 and 6).
In the Simschool, there is a laptop which when clicked gives us information about the student personality profile, academic ability and teachers’ reflections on the same. There is also a metre and a thermometer giving the student’s academic potential and feelings respectively as the lesson progresses. This is reflective of a real classroom teaching and learning environment. It points to the fact that, technology must be considered along with the issues involved in teaching and learning. For example issues like, developing learning objectives, selecting methods of instruction, feedback, evaluation and assessment including follow-up activities. The technology used for teaching and learning should therefore be considered as an integral part of the instruction and not as an object exclusive to itself. It is important that practicing teachers and in-service teachers recognize that technology in education is considered part of pedagogy. Technology should be implemented in the classroom only if its role in a given instruction is determined along with pedagogical issues related to a given instructional task. The role of technology in education can only be determined if teachers who implement technology at the classroom level are involved in technology decision- making because teachers have the responsibility of facilitating instruction.
  • Identifying learning objectives in a technology-based instruction requires teachers to select and/or adapt instructional technology to match the objectives based on the students’ needs.
  • Presenting instruction using technology as part of the instructional process requires teachers to choose the methods that are relevant to the objectives, the technology selected, learning styles, modes and pace of learning.
  • Evaluating technology-based instruction requires teachers to select appropriate evaluation techniques that are relevant to the objectives, methods of instruction, and to technologies that have been used.
  • Designing follow-up activities using technology requires teachers to select appropriate follow-up materials that are relevant to the objectives of the instruction and technologies that are accessible to the students as well as easy to use.
  • Developing course enrichment materials using technology requires teachers to provide opportunity for students to explore issues related to the course materials and to provide them with the opportunity to select and analyze course enrichment materials using technology in ways that broaden their problem-solving skills.
  • Locating sources for additional instructional materials using technology requires teachers to use the internet and multimedia networks to develop additional learning materials and expand instructional resources aimed at broadening the knowledge and the skill gained.
  • Designing a dynamic classroom using technology requires teachers to provide a learning environment that is colourful, engaging, exciting, interactive and energetic as a way of encouraging students to venture into the world of technology and to discover knowledge for themselves.
iii)                Technology should not entirely replace the teacher in the instruction process. From the Simschool it’s evident that students with different attitude and varied learning needs exist in a class. This variety cannot be managed and control by technology alone except with the teachers’ support. Teacher have to support student in the task process by guide or facilitate changing between tasks, give encouragement remarks and ensure that all the students are engaged towards meaningful learning. For instance, in the Simschool the teacher continuously assesses the students’ progress form the teacher’s console. He checks the academic, power and happiness levels of the student. He then devises when to change task, when to give a reinforcement to the student and decides which student needs attention at what time based on his knowledge of their individual differences and interests. This implies that teachers should develop strategies to motivate students to keep them focused as the instruction progresses and to consider that different students prefer different learning styles and that they learn at different rates. For example, for those students who like simulations provide games, for those who get along with others, give group work just to mention a few.

To conclude, it is important that teachers use a variety of teaching methods, and students must be taught to use the newly acquired knowledge and skill as well as to critically evaluate and modify such knowledge. In other words, teachers should be able to engage students in an exploratory learning experience which is designed to stimulate thinking. According to Bruner (1966), the essence of teaching and learning is to help learners acquire knowledge and use the knowledge they have acquired to create other knowledge.
iv)                Technologies like simulations can be used to train teachers on pedagogical approaches without hurting the student. They help one to nurture teaching skill through practice by varying different approaches with flexibility. Through them students can learn their mistakes and correct instead of transporting them in large-scale into a real classroom environment. It widens the teachers knowledge on individual differences that each student bring into class and how to manage them as a teacher to attain maximum learning for a majority students. In the Simschool it emerged that teaching and learning even becomes more difficult as the student number increases since each one of them has different learning needs that must be attended to in the lesson. Sometimes such situation lead to not adequately attending to some students at the expense of the others whose profile is liked by the teacher. The Simschool technology thus makes us aware of this fact before entering the real classroom.

v)                  Teachers should be comfortable with the technology they intend to use in the classroom. Topper (2005) believes that “for teachers to use technology in support of their teaching, and to see it as a pedagogically useful tool, they must be confident and competent with the technology they are planning to use (p. 304) otherwise, the learning goal may not be achieved. It is important that teachers recognize that a relationship exists between technology in education and pedagogical decision-making. According to Anderson and Borthwick (2002) research evidence shows that “participants whose technology instruction was integrated in their methods course reported more frequent use of technology for both teacher productivity and student projects during both on-campus courses and their first year of actual classroom teaching” (p. 5). There is no blueprint for technology integration, however, it is suggested that effort be made to link technology for instruction to all levels of pedagogical processes and activities.

vi)                imageModern technology offers educators a variety of new tools that can be used in the classroom. Technology can help teachers track and assess their students' -- as well as their own -- performance in the classroom. It can also be used to facilitate communication between students and teachers and to create digital records of student growth and development that can easily be passed along from grade to grade. Teachers can use technology to make their own work more productive -- teachers can use spreadsheets to track student work and also track their teaching plans. If a group of students is performing poorly in a particular area, this kind of record keeping can highlight areas that the teacher needs to focus on in their own teaching. These tools can also help administrators assess and improve teacher performance. Technology gives us a way to get feedback continually during the teaching process, instead of at the end of the teaching process -- when you end up with only a retrospective understanding. How can technology assist in understanding the minds of children? You can gather a lot of insight by talking to a child at length, but that is often not practical in the classroom. Given the constraints of the classroom, technology can provide another set of ways to assess what children understand and learning. It allows for continuing evaluation of the classroom lessons.
Technology integration should be considered as part of the process of instructional preparation. Instructional technology should be identified at the planning stage just as the students’ readiness is assessed, lesson objectives identified, methods of presenting are established, and evaluation strategies are determined. Follow-up activities should also be established at the planning stage. Poor implementation of technology integration is likely to affect the desired outcome. A better way is to consider relationships that exists in the pedagogy and the technology before putting the technology into practice it. In this case the technology is like a subset of pedagogy in the field of education. This can be illustrated in diagram below.

Diaz, D. P. & Bontenbal, K. F. (2000). Pedagogy-based technology training. In P. Hoffman & D. Lemke (eds.), Teaching and Learning in a Network World, pp. 50-54. Amsterdam, Netherlands: 105 Press.
Lever-Duffy, J. McDonald, J. B. & Mizell Al P. (2005). Teaching and learning with technology. San Francisco: Pearson
Topper, A. (2005). How are we doing? Using self-assessment to measure changing teacher technology literacy within a graduate education technology program, 12(3), pp. 303-317.