Reflection as part of the Curriculum: How can technologies encourage reflection? (Revised*)

How important is reflection in an era so fixated on technology? Are students skimming on the surface? Do they still have the ability to make deeper, meaningful connections in the classroom? How are educators adapting to the digital landscape? What technologies encourage reflection and how? At Pace, we use ePortfolios to do this. What about blogs or other forms of technology?

What are your views on reflection? Have you/your students used reflection to demonstrate a deeper level of understanding- learning outcomes, strengths and weaknesses, personal or real-life connections based on class material? 

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We use reflections to develop greater understanding. What makes you feel that technologies would hinder reflection? Through technologies such as blogs and online collaborative sites if used correctly, they might actually acheive greater understanding.

Darcy, 

I agree with you that certain technologies can definitely encourage reflection. However, I do agree to some extent that technologies have also limited our personal connections and has enabled many to skim on the surface rather than think deeper. I feel that we are in a generation that wants to obtain information quick and easy. No one has the time to read an article, let alone a book. They want their information in 140 characters or less. I think in many ways, students aren't able to retain a great deal of information anymore with "technology overload" and therefore they have difficulty analyzing and understanding content and further reflecting on that content. 

I think it's great that schools and universities are using technologies such as blogs and ePortfolios to encourage reflection. In my grad program we are required to use ePortfolios to collect our academic and professional work as well as reflect on our experiences. There is also a class solely on blogging taught by a NYTimes blogger. I think there are ways to get students to reflect and use technology- it's a matter of educators discovering and capitalizing on those gems! 

Thank you for your reply! 

Best, 

Michelle 

Hi Michelle,

On the subject of critical reflection per se, I think the technology used has little to do with it, whether it's face to face coversation with pencil and paper, online forums or blogs, or virtual classrooms. I think that what does make a difference is the curriculum (Is it a front loaded information dump or a voyage of discovery?) and the assessment (Does critical reflection count towards anything or does the end of course test win all?)

If the "powers that be" don't value critical reflection, then neither will learners and teachers. We could try to encourage it but we run the risk of being perceived as irrelevant and unhelpful by our learners. To get an idea of a learning system that encourages critical reflection and enabling learner independence, the Reggio Emilia approach is a good place to look, at least Jerome Bruner thinks so.

Matt, 

I agree with you that the curriculum is a major aspect of whether students can retain and further assess and reflect on the information they are given. I think technologies, if used correctly, can enhance the curriculum. Instead of seeing technology as a distraction, use the technology to engage them. Have students explore information for themselves to add to the discussion. Let them be a part of the learning process. I think students now more than ever are yearning for new pedagogical approaches. Let's bring in the iPads, use blogs, ePortfolios, social networking sites, etc. but use it for the right reasons. Storify is a great way to create a story or follow a certain "hot topic," and it incorporates articles from websites, tweets and Facebook feeds to pull in what other people are saying about that issue. I think it's all about how the teacher/professor views technology and whether s/he will adapt the curriculum for the students. I do feel, however, that students can easily be distracted by bringing certain technologies into the classroom. It's a matter of keeping them engaged and focused as well- especially when iPads are in their hands! 

Thank you for the feedback!  

Last week, in my physics class, I was attempting to motivate my students to do research on alternative energy sources that will help to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere.  The emphasis is on replacing the production of electricity from combustion sources like coal or natural gas and favoring wind energy or solar photovoltaic cells.

Each day at the start of class I would mention yet another climate change occurrence that I had read about or heard about on the radio that was at the detriment to our survivability as a species on this planet.

On Thursday I mentioned the following climate changing occurrence:

The director of the World Meteorological Organization at the United Nations reported that the Arctic ice pack melted over an area larger than the United States during the summer of 2012. The polar ice pack shrank to a record low in September before slowly beginning its fall and winter growth.

“The alarming rate of its melt this year highlighted the far reaching changes taking place in Earth’s oceans and biosphere: Climate change is taking place before our eyes and will continue to do so as a result of the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which have risen constantly and again reached new records,” Michel Jarraud, director of the WMO, said in a statement.

Jarraud noted the increasing incidence of extreme weather across the planet, with drought covering as much as two-thirds of America’s “lower 48″ states, and much of western Russia. So far, despite a cool, later winter/early spring, 2012 has been one of the nine warmest years in the 160-year history of keeping climate records.

As to the Arctic icepack, “The trend is not only continuing but accelerating. The more it melts, the faster it will melt,” said Jarraud.

Two other climate-related developments have made news this year.

The Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has found that the global sea level is rising at a rate 60 percent faster than previously estimated, according to a report in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

“It confirms the trend toward a warmer planet,” said the report.

Sea levels are 20 centimeters, or about eight inches, higher than a century ago. They increased by six centimeters between 1990 and 2010. The trend threatens to imperil coastal cities, as witnessed in the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy that devastated coastal New Jersey, portions of Staten Island and low-lying beachfront neighborhoods on Long Island.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have also noted changes in the Chukchi Sea off Arctic Alaska.

Non-Arctic species such as gray whales and orcas (killer whales) are feeding in the Chukchi Sea, site of a controversial lease where Shell Oil plans to begin drilling next summer.

The global news follows Tuesday’s release of a Washington state panel’s report on ocean acidification. It found that about 25 percent of human-generated fossil fuel emissions are being absorbed by the oceans.

“As a result, the average acidity . . . of the surface ocean has increased about 30 percent since 1750,” the panel reported. “Today’s ocean acidification is important not only for the amount of change that has occurred thus far, but also for how quickly it is happening. The current rate of acidification is nearly ten times faster than any time in the past 50 million years.”

The panel found that acid buildup is putting in peril Washington’s $270 million a year shellfish aquaculture industry.

 

In the physical science classes that I teach at the high school level, I am implementing engineering-based curriculum initative that have really stretched my abilities as an educator. This has required hours of thought and preparation dating back to the summer planning months when I was able to explore, for myself, fundamental questions about how students learn science. The motivation comes from the advocation of Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and the emphasis on engineering-based learning as core components of the new way we want students to learn science.

Reflection is a key element within a culture of learning because it helps to provide the means to be creative. It is a process that provides a soild basis from which new models for teaching and learning can be designed.

It can get obsessive for determined teachers as they creates as well as implement cutting-edge curriculum initatives in the science classroom.

Greg, 

Thank you for the feedback. I took a brief look at www.nextgenscience.org to learn a little bit about the NGSS approach to science education. I feel that these steps are a great way to encourage students in science, even beyond the classroom. It gives them a sense that they are on a path towards accomplishment- perhaps a degree in the sciences and further, a career in the sciences. Through research and application, they are taking away something tangible from their K-12 experiences. They are playing a critical role in their own education.

I am very interested in how you bring outside examples into the classroom. You said that you reference articles or radio broadcasts frequently to keep your students updated on changes or new developments in the field. I think this is a very important aspect of the curriculum and can certainly help students in the reflection process. Making "real world" connections are key. If students can recognize how the curriculum applies to the world and their lives, then that can help them tremendously in retaining information. They need more than just the text or a lecture from the text. They need an array of examples. I'm curious to know if your students bring examples into class as well. Do they reference articles, documentaries, news broadcasts, etc. related to the topics you mentioned? If so, where do most of your students obtain the information? 

Best, 

Michelle 

I do not think technology limits reflection in anyway. Certainly there are some products, such as twitter, that do not naturally encourage reflection. To summarize technology as a whole in such a conversation would be similar to equating a cocktail party to all human gatherings.

This question could have been better asked as follows:

"What technologies can be used to augment and encourage student reflection?"

Without technology this discussion is not even possible. Without technology there would be no way for students to get the large volume of information they have access too including primary sources for current world events. When you do some reading about augmented human intellect you might reformulate your question to the following:

How much teaching and assessment be modified to accommodate modern learners and prepare them for the future?

After reading some of your posts I realize that I could have rephrased this question (and so I did). I find that many educators are very hesitant themselves about using technology in the classroom, while others are willing to adapt their pedagogy to a new era of students. The criticism I hear from certain educators is that students aren't digging deep enough anymore or that they're not making strong connections. Some claim that social networking, video games, smart phones, etc. have limited students in many respects. I however, as a graduate assistant working in the Academic Technology department at my University, see the great possibilities that certain technologies can provide and can certainly enhance reflection via blogs, ePortfolios, digital storytelling, etc. I don't mean in any way to say that I believe technologies hurt reflection. I think it all depends (as others stated) on the curriculum and the teacher/professor and their willingness to change and adapt. If used correctly, students can utilize social media, iPads, educational video games, etc. to develop deeper understanding. 

Thank you for ALL of your feedback! 

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