Connecting Learning Sciences to Educational Technology: Theory, Evidence, and Practice

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In 2015, the Ministry of Education in British Columbia redesigned the province’s curriculum to better prepare students to participate in a technology-infused world that is constantly evolving. The purpose of the redesign is to prepare students with skills that empower them to become better learners; enabling them to explore topics in-depth, make connections and apply their knowledge to different situations. This wikibook was created with this curriculum redesign in mind for BC educators to use as a foundation, or an enrichment of their instructional practices.

This book contains a balance of theory, evidence and practice, that will not only inform educators of learning theories but will give real suggestions on applications across disciplines and grade levels. Each article is grounded in research and details innovative ways to incorporate new ideas into the classroom. The common thread between all the articles is the integration of technology into classroom practices to support and enhance student’s learning. This book contains links to the core and curricular competencies of the new curriculum for varying disciplines. Additionally, this book contains useful links to resources and lesson plans for educators.

The first section of this book will provide educators with learning science theories that will inform instructional strategies based on research. These learning strategies will enable students to gain valuable skills that will be applied to different learning contexts. The second section gives educators a glance into different ways to apply learning sciences through the integration of technology like virtual reality and simulations. The third section of this book focuses on assessment strategies that are grounded in research and focused on the BC curriculum such as formative and self-assessment. Finally, the last section deals with classroom strategies for educators to engage students in learning activities such as storytelling, critical thinking, and argumentation.

This book was written by the students of Education 892, Cognitive Tools and MultiMedia Learning at Simon Fraser University.

Learning Science Theory

Learning Science Theory: It is important to introduce learning strategies that have a grounding in research. Instructional techniques that are based on learning science can help students gain valuable learning skills that will aid them in their current courses, allowing them to gain competencies outlined in the B.C. Curriculum. These learning strategies and techniques can also set students on a successful learning path whether they pursue post-secondary education, or use these skills in the workplace.
It is advantageous to implement problem-based learning in the classroom. Problem-based learning encourages students to solve authentic, real-world problems using different strategies. Being involved in problem-based tasks can prepare students for such ill-defined problems they might face outside of school. We have two resources to describe the use of problem-based learning and instruction for students of various ages (Problem-Based Learning K-12 and Problem-based Learning in Post-secondary).
Another instructional intervention, inquiry based learning (Inquiry Based Learning), encourages students to ask questions to arrive at knowledge. In this and other learning tasks, students must use their cognitive flexibility (Cognitive Flexibility) to process new information, adapt it to their prior knowledge and perhaps change their thinking or actions based on that new information. When designing a technology-based learning environment, instructors must be aware of managing students’ cognitive load, and avoid presenting much extraneous, unnecessary, information. We outline how a multimedia learning environment could be designed regarding the inclusion of graphs and illustrations (Seductive Details). Instructors should also be aware of how to manage the cognitive load that might come about for second-language learners when using online resources (Managing Cognitive Load with Authentic Language Materials).
Throughout a student's learning tasks, it is important for them to self-regulate their learning and transfer their knowledge to other contexts. Self-regulated learning allows students to create academic goals, use strategies, monitor their learning, and make adaptations to their strategies based on how well their goals have been met (Self-Regulated Learning). Gaining self-regulated learning skills could aid a student in improving their academic achievement in every class they are taking. Another phenomenon to aid academic success across courses is called Transfer of Learning. We have outlined some recommendations for instructors to support transfer of learning in their class (Transfer of Learning).

Applying Learning Sciences: Reality Technologies, Gamification, and Intelligent Tutoring Systems

Learning science theory has applications to a wide range of pedagogical approaches and contexts; however, this section focuses specifically on the use of virtual reality (VR) and games in K-12 schooling, and simulation and debriefing in the healthcare field. Simulation is an educational technique that replaces real experiences but maintains the same level of challenges regarding instructional outcomes, and is used in different disciplines including healthcare and medical education (See Debriefing in Simulation). To be effective learning tools, games must be carefully selected to meet students’ needs and target learning outcomes. In addition, the article Learning from Games, describes how instructional design principles, including metacognitive, critical thinking and debriefing strategies, maximize the learning potential of educational games (see Learning from Games – Planning, Guidance, Metacognition, Critical Analysis and Debrief for Popular Games in the Classroom). The article Gamification and Learning: The Optimal Zone describes parallels between gaming and learning, and offers some suggestions for gamifying your classroom across the elementary, high school and post-secondary levels. (See Gamification and Learning: The Optimal Zone). VR technology is now available for classroom use, but is it an effective instructional tool? This section examines the recent but limited research on the role of Reality Technology in the classroom and outlines some of the current educational media available for these devices (see Virtual Reality in the Classroom and Augmented Reality in the Classroom). Through the application of learning sciences, students from K-12 can benefit tremendously from these state-of-the-art tools.

Assessment of Learning

Assessment is an important instructional dimension in classroom settings. Typically, assessment is defined from the teachers’ perspective, such as grading an assignment. However, assessment can vary from its sources, such as self-assessment, peer assessment, or teacher assessment. Therefore, in this section, there are three chapters addressing the issue of teaching, learning, and assessment. First, we primarily examine the best practices of assessment from K-12 to post-secondary schools. In the case of K-12, the new BC curriculum especially stresses the importance of formative assessment, so self-assessment - being part of formative assessment - gains its popularity and practices in K-12 classrooms (See Self-Assessment in Secondary School and Beyond). Research findings support that self-assessment fosters learners’ writing performance because students can actively monitor and evaluate themselves based on a pre-given rubric. Even with support from technology, such as clouds, learners self-assess their work more efficiently and accurately (See Digital Self-Assessment For Intermediate Students). On the other hand, what is the role of assessment in instruction? What influences assessment? And what are some features that affect the practice of formative assessment? These issues have also been investigated in depth in this section, including the instructional process of giving feedback, goal setting and student motivation, instructional assessment strategies, and the role of guidance (See Formative Assessment Strategies for Teaching Design: Guidance, Feedback and Motivation). We simply cover some basics of assessment in this section, trying to give recommendations to educational practitioners who are concerned about teaching, learning, and assessment in their classrooms.

Teaching Classrooms: Strategies

Traditional classes are characterized as being teacher centered. In such a classroom environment, the instructional methods may not necessarily be the most efficient for all learners. However, there are a number of approaches that can be helpful for teachers and instructors who wish to explore alternative ways to design classes according to the learning outcomes and teaching context. This last section looks at some examples of these teaching strategies relevant to classrooms in British Columbia: (1) argumentation and critical thinking skill development for the elementary-aged students (see Argumentation and Critical Thinking Skills of Elementary-Aged Students); (2) blended learning, or hybrid learning, which describes a melding of traditional and online teaching methods (see Blended Learning); (3) computational thinking, or the solving of complex programs through computing science oriented thought processes (see Computational Thinking: K-12 Computer Programming); (4) creativity, and its value in the context of education and broader society (see Creative Thinking); (5) the flipped classroom, where students are given instructional content online prior to attending class, freeing up class time to delve deeper into the learning material (see Flipped Classroom); (6) storytelling, and its role in education (see Storytelling and Technology); and (7) critical thinking, with a focus on secondary-level history (see Thinking Critically about History). Hence, the integration of technology applicable to each pedagogical approach will be thoroughly discussed.

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