Experiential Learning and STEM

By Robert Gomez

The curriculum in the modern STEM classroom has been shown to benefit from the addition of Experiential Learning.  One of the primary reasons for this is that the Experiential Learning process makes the subject matter both real and relevant to the students.  Experiential Learning has the added benefit of instilling in students the skills necessary for them to achieve success throughout their adult lives.  Before we step any further, let us expand on what STEM stands for and STEM’s importance in the modern educational system.  The acronym STEM stands for Science, Engineering, Technology and Math.  The acronym was created to help bring awareness to the importance of the STEM curriculum in our modern educational system.  Instruction in the STEM curriculum is of vital importance to our national interests because it assists students in developing such skills as critical thinking and problem solving.  Also, through STEM intensive education, students develop skills beneficial to them in their future employment and in day to day life.  STEM curriculum provides students with the ability to negotiate through the ever increasing use of technology in our day to day lives.  More importantly, the modern educational system must educate students for jobs that have not been created.  This important teaching moment is one that everyone in the educational field must keep in mind when thinking about the long term goals of the educational field.  It can be said that in no other time in our nation’s history have we had to prepare our students for jobs that have yet to be created in fields that have also not been created.

Experiential Education is the method by which the United States will maintain its lead in the technological and scientific fields.  Experiential learning is learning through hands on situations.  It is also known as learning by doing.  Students that are educated in the STEM fields through experiential learning gain a deeper understanding of the subject matter and provides the student with the capacity to apply critical thinking and knowledge in complex situations.  This takes us to what experiential learning really does for students.  In simpler terms, Experiential Learning gives the students the tools with which to apply learned skills in different contexts.  Without being overly dramatic, it is this ability that humans need in order to become successful members of society.  The discussion of benefits to students continues with the idea when experiential learning takes students out of the classroom and in to the community, it increases their level of community involvement.  It is one of the foundations of democracy that calls for its citizens to become active participants in their community.

The discussion could continue ad nauseum on the virtues of creating better citizens and in turn a better functioning democracy.  I do not wish to denigrate this very important feature of Experiential Learning, but I am going to switch the emphasis of the discussion to more nuts and bolts of experiential learning.  In order for experiential learning to be successful in the modern classroom, it needs to be taught as part of a larger inclusive system that does not treat individual disciplines that are walled off and not in conversation with each other.  In this discussion concerning Experiential Learning, we see the theme of interdisciplinary studies.  This stems from the fact that students will be utilizing multiple skill sets when undergoing the field based experiences and classroom based learning .

As stated above, there are two main types of Experiential Learning, Field based and classroom based experiences.  We are most familiar with the idea of field based experiences in which the student works in the field alongside others while attempting to solve community based problems.  But there are many activities that can be undertaken that still hold true to the Experiential Learning ideals.  These are activities such as role-playing, case studies and simulations.

A logical question to ask during this discussion would be “where is the instructor during Experiential Learning exercises?  During these exercises, the instructor acts as a guide, resource, support and facilitator.  Also, the instructor only directly intervenes in the students learning in cases where the student lack the skills to deal with obstacles and situations that they encounter.  The instructor takes a largely hands off approach to instruction.  One of the most important roles of the instructor, however, is to instruct the students on the reflection process.  The reflection process is of great importance during experiential learning because it is during this process that students synthesize and process the information that they are learning and formulate new knowledge.  So, it is during this very important process that the instructor moves to the fore-front of the learning process.

In conclusion, the primary benefits of experiential learning is that it provides students with the necessary tools with which to develop intellectual capabilities to deal with problems, tolerate disorder and make warranted judgements.  These are what we would refer to as “life skills” and are important to both the academic and personal success of the students.


Eayler, J. (2009, Fall). The Power of Experiential Education. Association of American Colleges and Universities, 1-10.

Gilmore, M. W. (2009). Improvement of STEM Education: Experiential Learning is Key. Modern Chemisty and Applications, 9.

Schwartz, M. (2012). Best Practices in Experiential Learning. Los Angeles: The Learning and Teaching Office.

Experiential Learning and STEM

Games in Education

By Robert Doyle

My name is Robert Doyle and I am an Assistant Professor at NMSU/Doña Ana.  I have been teaching for over 15 years and have been using gaming software in as many of my courses as I can.  I am also looking at using mobile apps to help keep my students involved in the learning process.

First let’s look at the history of games. “The history of games dates to the ancient human past. Games are an integral part of all cultures and are one of the oldest forms of human social interaction.” (Wikipedia, History of games, 2017). How many of you remember PONG…  I actually had this game.

Educational Games, you can also define educational games as game based learning. “Game based learning (GBL) is a type of game play that has defined learning outcomes. Generally, game based learning is designed to balance subject matter with gameplay and the ability of the player to retain and apply said subject matter to the real world.” (Editorial Team, 2013).

As games evolved, they started to become more realistic and had more interaction.  One of the most popular early games was called, “LinearCity”, later to be renamed SimCity in 1989.  In this game you had to learn how to create, manage, and keep the population of the city happy.  This was done by creating roads, rail systems, housing developments, businesses and so on.  Individuals did not realize that they were learning.  I personally really enjoyed playing this game.

You can find educational games as far back as the 1960’s. First there was Logo Programming, (1967).  Followed by one of the oldest and popular game of all time, Lemonade Stand, (1979). The Oregon Trail (1985) perhaps no more widely played or fondly remembered educational game that even some kids know of today.  And was can not forget, Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego (1985).

Now, most of the earlier games where simulation based, or just learning with fun.  But in 1987, the first set of truly educational games started to appear.  One of the most popular was Math Blaster, Reader Rabbit, and Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing.  I remember these games fondly, when I had my software company, we sold primarily educational software to schools all over the United States and one of my most popular was the edutainment series.

While we are on the lines of gaming in education, we cannot overlook, edutainment. First of all, what is edutainment, “Educational entertainment is content designed to educate through entertainment. “And should be enjoyable for the user using the software.”  It includes content that is primarily educational but has incidental entertainment value, and content that is mostly entertaining but contains educational value.” (Wikipedia, Educational entertainment, 2017).

Most edutainment games covered more serious topics such as in 2005: A Game of Macroeconomics, 3D Body Adventure and 911 Paramedic just to name a few.  These types of game involved more real life situations and helped explain complexes subjects.  These games also introduced more realistic graphics and sounds.

“While there has been a surge in the acceptance and prevalence of game-based learning in schools over the past decade, especially in light of the success of programs like Khan Academy, playing games in the classroom is nothing new. Educational games have been a commonplace part of the K-12 experience since the beginning of the 1980s (and in some places well before that), with early titles introducing students to fundamental math, history, and problem solving concepts just as games do today. While the graphics may not have been great, the games helped to engage a generation of kids with technology and laid a solid foundation for the educational games that were to come.” (Heick, 2012).

As games in education progressed, big corporations started to get on board. Companies such as Microsoft and Cisco Systems started developing and disturbing educational games. Minecraft which was created by Microsoft was a complete hit.  Afterwards, Microsoft released an education edition of this program.

Cisco Systems created a program called, “Aspire”.  Aspire is a SimCITY clone with an emphasis on networking and customer service.  You can also assign homework’s using this software as well. You can play it as a standalone game, as a classroom or compete against the entire world.  Aspire is totally free to any Cisco Networking Academy students anywhere in the world.

Online games in education is now starting to take off.  Hour of Code is one of the most popular coding sites in the world.  It is used to promote coding to the youth in every country and every grade level.  It is a both visual and text-based learning, as well as there is plenty of educational and community support systems.

Apple is also following up with Swift. “Swift is a powerful and intuitive programming language for macOS, iOS, WatchOS and tvOS. Writing Swift code is interactive and fun, “and can be taught at any age, skill level and grade.” the syntax is concise yet expressive, and Swift includes modern features developers love. Swift code is safe by design, yet also produces software that runs lightning-fast.” (Apple, 2017)

Now let’s look at virtual environments for learning.  One of the most popular was, Second Life.  I was using Second Life so some time and even taught classes in it.  Earlier in Second Life’s life, a lot of Universities had a presence in this virtual world.  NMSU, UNM, USC, Harvard were just a few.  Also, most companies also had a presence, Cisco Systems, publishing companies, etc. Second Life still exists, but on a much smaller scale.

What is the future for games in education? “Game developers all over the country are working to align some educational games to Common Core State Standards, while educators and video game makers are seeing benefits in using games in a classroom context, despite concerns from administrators. This could be the golden age of educational video games.” (Papallo, 2015).

“Around 67 percent of U.S. households are home to people who play video games. Many of those gamers are students, who can spend almost as many hours playing video games as they do attending school. So it only makes sense that the U.S. Department of Education considers video games an educational opportunity…” (Burks, 2015).  So it is good to see the government looking to this technology to help students learn.

As for academia, “Fact or Fiction?: Video Games Are the Future of Education”. “Some educators swear by them as valuable high-tech teaching tools but little is known about their impact on learning.” (Malykhina, 2014). “Video games are playing an increasing role in school curricula as teachers seek to deliver core lessons such as math and reading—not to mention new skills such as computer programming—in a format that holds their students’ interests.” (Malykhina, 2014). So, it is up to you the teachers to determine if games will fit for your curriculum.

Finally, let’s talk about the world and what the world does to promote games in education.  There is an event called the, World Education Games. “The World Education Games is the world’s largest free online education competition held every two years.” (Learning, 2016).  There are over five million students from across the world and is designed for all ages and ability levels.  Medals and trophies are awarded to winning students and schools.

My reflection… I feel that video games or apps will continue to grow and become a more integral part of day to day education.  Without games, our computers would not have the power and graphic capability they have today, thank you!


Apple. (2017). Swift 3. Retrieved from http://www.apple.com: https://developer.apple.com/swift/

Burks, R. (2015, April 14). US Department of Education Sees Future of Education In Video Games. Retrieved from http://www.techtimes.com: http://www.techtimes.com/articles/45979/20150414/u-s-department-of-education-believes-future-of-education-will-include-video-games.htm

Editorial Team. (2013, April 23). What is GBL (Game-Based Learning). Retrieved from http://edtechreview.in: http://edtechreview.in/dictionary/298-what-is-game-based-learning

Heick, T. (2012, September 12). A History Of Video Games In Education. Retrieved from http://www.teachthought.com: http://www.teachthought.com/uncategorized/a-brief-history-of-video-games-in-education/

Learning, 3. (2016). World Education Games. Retrieved from http://www.3plearning.com: http://www.3plearning.com/worldeducationgames/

Malykhina, E. (2014, September 12). Fact or Fiction?: Video Games Are the Future of Education. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fact-or-fiction-video-games-are-the-future-of-education/

Papallo, J. (2015). Are Video Games the Future of Education? Retrieved from http://www.educationworld.com: http://www.educationworld.com/a_news/are-video-games-future-education-994027856

Wikipedia. (2017, March 4). Educational entertainment. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Educational_entertainment

Wikipedia. (2017, February 8). History of games. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_games

Games in Education

Learning Communities

Denice P. Maldonado

Hello, my name is Denice Maldonado I am from Las Cruces, NM and I am the head librarian at Gadsden Middle School. I just wanted to give you a little bit of background information before I share with you some of my thoughts and research that I did this semester about Learning Communities. I used to be a Science teacher, so as a Science teacher I had one classroom, a set of about 160 students, and worked with six teachers. To me this was ideal. But then I had a change in position and now I’m the head librarian at the middle school and work with close to 800 students and 56 teachers. This doesn’t include principals, teaching coaches, and everybody else in the school that needs help from the library.

Through my (literature) research I learned the importance of providing effective and efficient learning communities for students and staff as well as online learning communities, and tips on how to enhance participation. As head librarian one of my goals is to change the image that students have of the library. I want them to be able to correlate all of these new innovative learning technologies to the library and know that the library is here to support them when exploring them. I do so by incorporating technology in my library lesson plans. Another goal is for students to change the way they view librarians. I want them to see us as resources, not just as a mean people that’s shushing them all the time.

Learning Communities
Moving on to my topic: Learning Communities and I’m going to be talking about what a learning community is, how I participate in them as a professional, how I organize them in my library and online learning communities. Basically a learning community is a group of people working together in order to achieve a learning goal. Of course one of the most common type of gatherings for learning communities is face to face; for example trainings and workshops. I would even consider church members a learning community.

There’s also online learning communities which are becoming more popular. The way I participate in learning communities as a professional is during teacher trainings at our school. In our school they call them Professional Learning Communities, PLC’s. We met once a week during the teacher’s prep time. Most of the times I’m a participant but sometimes I also present. During these workshops we talk about what the Language Arts teachers are focusing on as far as curriculum and the way that I can supplement that in the library. I use the information shared to create my lesson plans. As a presenter I share information with the teachers regarding the library such as contests, library hours, events, or  just general information.

I want to highlight my presence so the teachers know I’m available and willing to help. The way I provide learning communities in my library is through rotations. I have the students come in with their language arts teacher. Our classes consist of a 90 minute block therefore, we schedule two classes per day, each for 30 minutes. This leaves us about 30 accumulated minutes to make use of before, during and after the students come in for things like transitions and regrouping before the next class comes in. This schedule allows the students to visit the library every two weeks. We create and distribute monthly calendars in which we include the teachers rotation schedule. When creating the calendars we take into consideration events held by the school and holidays, but most of the time we stay on schedule. Students come into the library to check books in and out. I also prepare presentations for them on how to use the online database, library procedures, and search engines. Aside from my presentations I develop lessons that complement the language arts curriculum.

Preparing for Learning Communities
The teacher coach at my school who organizes most of our PLC’s shared the book Leverage Leadership: A Practical Guide to Building Exceptional Schools by Paul Bambrick-Santoyo (2012). She mentioned her and the administrator’s use this book to plan the PLC’s. The book is filled with ideas and tips to keep in mind when organizing learning communities. Leverage Leadership is a great resource for anybody interested in hosting learning communities. Although the information I’m going to share is specific to educators any employer can make use of this resource for any work related learning community they would want to host. For me one of the most important points this book brought up is to articulate an objective. In other words be sure you know what you’re going to be teaching.

What will the teachers be able to do at the end of the session? It’s not enough to just say, “Teachers will know how to do this” or “They will be familiar with this”. Instead, what will the teachers be able to do when they walk into their classrooms the next day? How is their practice going to change because of the information you shared during the learning community you held? Another important tip to keep in mind is give time for the participants to get their hands dirty and do the heavy work. Participants should be able to try the activities that you’re presenting. I compare this to learning to ride a bike. You can see videos, you can hear comments, you can get suggestions from people, but you’re never going to learn unless you go out and get on a bike and try it for yourself.

The last tip I want to share focuses on preparation. I believe this can go without saying, but being prepared is key for any endeavour that requires a gathering of people. However, an essential tip to keep in mind is rehearse. Rehearse what you’re going to say, have an agenda. Also, be ready for those tough questions and responses because they come up and most times we forget to prepare for those. When planning for a learning community we usually focus on the positive information. We tend to oversee that there’s going to be tough questions that are going to put you on the spot. Be ready to answer them. Also, build time and take into consideration if you’re going to have people move around and take breaks. Make sure that you get any materials like binders, packets, or handouts ready as well.

Online Learning Communities
Now I will be talking about online learning communities. I participate in online learning communities as a student as well as a soon to be, online instructor as well. So why is e-learning so popular and why is it important for us to keep in mind? It increases access, improves the quality of learning, prepares students for knowledge based society and creates lifelong learning opportunities. There are different programs that allow us to host online learning communities. Of course there’s Google hangouts and any Learning Management System will have a way of hosting the online learning communities. For example Canvas, offers Adobe Connect. There’s also Skype and Youtube. I include YouTube because although viewing a video is not technically a real time meeting, an online learning community can use it as a reference.

Learning Communities and Education
Finally, learning communities and education. Katerine Bielaczyc and Allan Collins wrote an article named Learning Communities in Classrooms: A reconceptualization of Educational Practice (n.d.). Although I will briefly share some of the key points from this article, I recommend anybody interested in learning communities and education to take the time to read it. The authors share three main reasons why we should incorporate learning communities in education.

The first reason they write about is social constructivism. Social Constructivism is the view that people learn best not by assimilating what they are told but rather by knowledge construction process. In order for individuals to learn how to construct knowledge it’s necessary that the process be modeled and supported in the surrounding communities. Having a learning community will allow you to do that.

The second reason is learning to learn. This argument states that children will learn to read and write if the people they admire read and write. For example, if you have a group of positive people getting together all working towards the same goal, wanting to explore something new, that groups drive and attitude will influence other people that would have otherwise been resistant. But of course, we should be mindful that this could work both ways.

Lastly, learning communities support multicultural education by providing an atmosphere where people of diverse backgrounds can get together and interact. A learning community must synthesize diverse views which allows students to respect people’s varied contributions. This helps students prepare to live, work, and appreciate people from different cultures. Thank you.


B., & P. (2012). Leverage Leadership. John Wiley & Sons.

Collins, A., & Bielaczyc, K. (n.d.). Learning Communities in Classrooms: A reconceptualization of Educational Practice . Instructional Design Theories and Models , 2. Retrieved February 2, 2017, from http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic541040.files/Bielaczyc%20and%20Collins-Learning%20Communities%20in%20Classrooms.pdf

Learning Communities

Project-Based Learning

By Aerick Sanders

Hello everyone, my name is Aerick and I am going to be discussing project-based learning which I will also refer to as PBL.

Now project based learning seems self-explanatory but this technique is more complex than what it may seem. PBL is a teaching model that organizes lesson and learning around projects. It incorporates complex questions and problems that make students think critically. PBL is used to help students find the answers on their own and incorporate the classroom lessons into their project.

PBL was first implemented by William Heard Kilpatrick. In 1908 he began his doctoral studies at Colombia University where he studied under John Dewey. In 1918, he released an article discussing project based learning. His article was called “The Project Method”. His idea of this type of teaching method arose from Dewey’s earlier work “Interest and Effort” that discussed the idea of engaging students in purposeful activities.

Kilpatrick used the idea of individual learning and developed PBL. He felt as though projects would be a good way for students to be able to challenge themselves individually and help the child develop as a whole. PBL is a way for students to learn at their own level but it also allows them to challenge themselves through analytical and critical thinking.

In 2000, John W. Thomas, Ph. D wrote a review on the research related to project-based learning. In his review, he discusses several key factors to PBL such as the research and practices of PBL, the effectiveness, the role of the student and the challenges that come with PBL. Project based learning has a uniqueness to it and several characteristics that separated this method from others. There are five criteria that should be reached to effectively use PBL.

Those five criteria include: centrality, a challenging or driving question, constructive investigations, autonomy and realism. Centrality refers to the project being the central to curriculum and main teaching strategy. The students would use the project to help them understand the curriculum through the challenges they may come across working on the project.

Next is the driving question. PBL is designed to aid students in developing critical thinking skills. This is done by focusing a project on a problem that drives the student to encounter the central concepts and principles of a discipline. It aids the student to make a connection from inside the classroom and use it in their daily life. In a way, these challenging questions make students develop an intellectual purpose. This criterion goes back to Kilpatrick’s original purpose of child-centered teaching.

Constructive investigation is another criterion that Thomas discusses in his research review. This is the idea that the goal of PBL is to have a goal-directed process that makes the student transform and construct knowledge. If the project’s central activities do not challenge the student or have any type of difficulty to it then the student will be unable to expand their knowledge. They can easily use prior knowledge and will not grasp the curriculum.

PBL is essentially a student-driven way of teaching. They require the effort of the student in order for PBL to be effective. The projects should be realistic and not school-like. This will encourage the student to care about the lesson and they will be able to use what they learn outside the classroom. Because isn’t that the whole reason we teach? PBL projects involve more student autonomy, unsupervised work time and more responsibility of the student.

Since more responsibility is put on the student, the characteristics of each individual student has a impact on the effectiveness of project based learning. These characteristics can include gender, age, demographic characteristics, ability, and motivational variables. Some research conducted by Rosenfield in 1998 proved that some students that do not do well in traditional classrooms tend to do well in PBL activities. And vice versa. Those who do well in traditional classroom setting tend to not be successful in PBL activities.

Since I’ve kind of touched on the importance of the students role in PBL, lets discuss the instructors role. Projects require that teachers get to know the interests of their students. They must pay attention to what interests their learner’s and base the project on that topic. This will help motivate the project and keep students focused on the purpose. The teachers role is to help facilitate and lead the students in the direction that you want the project to go.

PBL requires the kind of leadership skills that allow teachers to help a group of learners to move in the right direction, pointing out potential pitfalls or making suggestions without getting defensive when students decide they like their own ideas better. The teacher should possess a tolerance for helping students negotiate conflicts and enough self confidence to not give up if the project refuses to pull through and come together like originally planned.

Not all project will be successful. Which is a disadvantage of this style of teaching. However, I do believe because of the inexperience with many teaching techniques, any style may prove to be unsuccessful the first time around. It’s a learning experience for both the students and the instructor as well. The inexperience of the teacher can affect the success of the project along with resistance from students. Some students don’t like project work and will close themselves off.

Some strategies to keep the student from closing off can include making project participation voluntary. You can give students the option to work together in groups or allow them to work on their own if they prefer to. You can also set aside a couple hours a week to allow project work if the class will allow that kind of time. In cases where both students and teachers are new to this style of learning, group discussions and group decision making will help ease the transition.

Teachers should also provide a method of coaching that allows students to retain control over their project work. Student will make the decision on which path they want to take with the project. If needed, the instructor should reinterpret the students’ move and together they can find mutual insights if the instructor feels the students path will have several complications along the way.

One of the weaknesses of PBL is that there is often a poor fit between the activities that form the daily tasks of the project and the underlying subject matter concepts that gave rise to the project. Projects can get off track with students and teachers pursuing questions that are peripheral to the subject matter of interest. A solution to that problem according to Blumenfeld in 1991 and Barron 1998 is to find ways for projects to center on learning appropriate goals.

After successfully completing projects, teachers say that the student enthusiasm was increased after the project compared to their enthusiasm before. Since PBL focuses on topics important to the students, their motivation is higher and they become more curious and inquiry more about the topic. The students tend to dig deeper into the topic and spend more time on a task than they do when a teacher assigns group work and a shared group ethic is created.

Some students when asked what the project work has meant to them, they mentioned that they gained a greater awareness of their ability to conduct such research, their ability to map out a project, the ups and downs they faced during the project, and the pride they had in gaining important knowledge and insights. Some students had enthusiasm in mastering new technologies that they used during the project.

In conclusion, project based learning in comparison to other instructional methods, has value for enhancing the quality of students learning in subject matter areas. PBL allows students freedom to explore topics that are important to them and it can also help the students develop self motivation and improve their skills within and without the classroom. Thank you for listening and I hope you learning a little bit about project based learning.


Project-Based Learning. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project-based_learning

Barrows, H. S. (1986). A taxonomy of problem‐based learning methods. Medical education, 20(6), 481-486.

Barrows, H. S. (2000). Problem-based learning applied to medical education. Southern Illinois University School of Medicine.

Barrows, H. (2002). Is it truly possible to have such a thing as dPBL?. Distance Education, 23(1), 119-122.

Project-Based Learning

Cuturally Responsive Teaching using Technology

By Selena Valencia

To all my fellow educators out there, have you ever thought about Culturally Responsive Teaching? If you haven’t, you should! However, all of us educators need to consider Culturally Responsive Teaching using Technology.

Now that Culturally Responsive Teaching is on your mind, I want to define what culturally responsive teaching really is. Elizabeth Kozleski (n.d.) put it simply by saying, “In 2000, Professor Geneva Gay wrote that culturally responsive teaching connects students’ cultural knowledge, prior experiences, and performance styles to academic knowledge and intellectual tools in ways that legitimize what students already know”. This means that culturally responsive teaching allows teachers to create learning patterns that promote student engagement and achievement in the classroom.

If you want to be able to foster the connection between school and a student’s culture/expose them to different beliefs but aren’t sure how, here are some simple strategies provided by Brown University (n.d):

    • Use cooperative learning especially for material new to the students
    • Assign independent work after students are familiar with a concept
    • Use role-playing strategies
    • Assign students research projects that focus on issues or concepts that apply to their own community or cultural group
    • Provide various options for completing an assignment

Okay, so, now you have a pretty good understanding of what culturally responsive teaching is and different strategies you can use, but now the big question: Why is teaching in a culturally responsive way important? Here it is– students need to understand that there is more than one way to interpret a statement, event, or action. By being allowed to learn in different ways or to share viewpoints and perspectives in a given situation based on their own cultural and social experiences, students become active participants in their learning.

Elizabeth Kozleski also says, “Culturally responsive teaching also helps to bridge different ways of knowing and engages students from non-dominant cultures in demonstrating their proficiencies in language usage, grammar, mathematical knowledge, and other tools they use to navigate their everyday lives. Further, by understanding the features of this knowledge, students from non-dominant cultures can learn how to translate the logical structures of their knowledge and map them onto the school curriculum” This is important because children from homes in which the language and culture do not closely correspond to that of the school may be at a disadvantage in the learning process.

Brown University supports this in saying, “These children often become alienated and feel disengaged from learning. People from different cultures learn in different ways. Their expectations for learning may be different.” If you think about it, this is so true because when you visit a friend’s house, set-ups are different, routines are different, and more! You have to be respectful and think the way they do in their home. For our students, when you effectively teach in a culturally responsive way, you want this home to school differnce to be slim. For example, Julia G.Thompson (2013) states in How to be a Culturally Responsive Teacher, “…some cultures stress the importance of cooperative learning while others do not.” This means students from some cultural groups prefer to learn in cooperation with others, while the learning style of others is to work independently. To maximize learning opportunities, teachers should gain knowledge of the cultures represented in their classrooms and adapt lessons so that they reflect ways of communicating and learning that are familiar to the students.

Now that we know why culturally responsive teaching is important, we have to think about what can happen if culturally responsive teaching is ignored. Well, educators understand that children learn about themselves and the world around them within the context of culture. Brown University sates, “If ignored, students from minority cultures may feel pressured to disavow themselves of their cultural beliefs and norms in order to assimilate into the majority culture. This, however, can interfere with their emotional and cognitive development and result in school failure.” So as you can see, ignoring culturally responsive teaching can cause a lot of damage to the student in the long run. This is why teachers should not avoid culturally responsive teaching and should aim to expose differences through effective communication. Brown University suggests:

    • Teach and talk to students about differences between individuals
    • Show how differences among the students make for better learning
    • Attend community events of the students and discuss the events with the students

So, what kind of diversity are we seeing in the classrooms? According to FangFang Wen (n.d.) it is stated, “With the establishment of education acts for students with special needs, more and more students with exceptionalities have opportunities to be involved in a regular classroom. In addition, there is an increasing trend of English Language Learning students to account for a larger percentage of the student population in the classroom.” With this statement in mind, diversity goes beyond ethnicity, but also physical and mental ability, and language offerings.

FangFang Wen continues to say, “These students, both male and female, have diverse physical abilities, diverse intellectual abilities, and diverse cultural backgrounds. Under such conditions, it is very difficult for one teacher to meet all of the students’ diverse needs in classroom. Learning technology is an effective way to enhance excellence in education, to support curriculum requirements, to meet various needs, to help students learn to love learning, and to ensure quality of education.” This is where my research of new technologies comes in.

There are plenty of easy-to-use online resources available to help teachers who want to include learning projects which will appeal to students’ interests while exposing them to a variety of different cultures. Learning technology can be a useful tool to help teachers meet diverse students’ needs.

The first source being the simple use of the speech-to-text tool many computers now offer. This would allow communication options for students who are not comfortable speaking the dominant language that they wouldn’t have in a non-technology based classroom.

One resource that I found that I instantly fell in love with was Skype in the Classroom. This is a community where teachers collaborate to create lessons and connect K12 classrooms globally through free Skype video, audio and texting. If you have not checked out Skype in the classroom, I suggest you do so. It’s a very exciting way to expose students to different cultures through lessons, virtual field trips, and guest speakers!

Another really cool online resource that teachers can use to create a diverse and accepting environment is the Global Read Aloud program. It was founded in 2010 with the goal of connecting the world with a book. When a teacher signs up their classroom, they participate in a reading of a book that classrooms around the world are reading as well. Then, they can connect with one or multiple classrooms around the world to discuss the reading.

Next, at the easy-to-navigate ePals site, teachers and students can collaborate with other teachers and students from over two hundred countries in authentic learning projects. You can join other classrooms in projects that are already in progress or you can design your own project and ask other classrooms to join in. This allows students to collaborate with other students who are different from them, but allows them to work at the same goal.

Teacher Vision has an article that has multiple ready-to-use tips for welcoming and engaging diverse students. It has strategies, special needs resources, English language learner resources, holiday resources, and so much more! I believe this site is a good place to start if you are wondering where to start with culturally responsive teaching.

Additionally, Ginger offers several features that can help students with dyslexia and other learning disorders with writing. It is also designed for speakers of languages other than English. Some of the features include: Grammar checker that analyzes context to determine any errors or misspellings. Word prediction and sentence rephrasing tools that can be helpful for students learning how to construct sentences properly. And TTS functionality so students can hear what they’ve written.

In conclusion, technology can aide in the culturally diverse classroom. It can expand options and enhance assignments—for example through text to speech capabilities for students with language barriers and students with special needs. It is also a very useful tool when it comes to exposure to different cultures through different online sources that allow collaboration with other classrooms around the world.


Brown University. (n.d.). Retrieved from Learning Within the Context of Culture: https://www.brown.edu/academics/education-alliance/teaching-diverse-learners/learning-within-context-culture

Kozleski, E. B. (n.d.). Culturally Responsive Teaching. Retrieved from Equity Alliance : http://www.equityallianceatasu.org/sites/default/files/Website_files/CulturallyResponsiveTeaching-Matters.pdf

Thompson, J. G. (2013). How to Be a Culturally Responsive Teacher. Retrieved from Middle Web: https://www.middleweb.com/9471/culturally-responsive-classrooms/

Wen, F. (n.d.). Learning Technology and Diverse Students: A Classroom Resource Guide for School Teachers. Retrieved from http://sicw.wikispaces.umb.edu/file/view/GRST-09FinalWFF.pdf

Cuturally Responsive Teaching using Technology

Flipped Learning

By Austin Shaffer

Hello everyone, Austin Shaffer here. Today, I will be giving an overview on the Flipped Learning paradigm through discussing some of the important aspects associated with it. There have been quite a bit of creative solutions introduced into the classroom over the years to try and facilitate in the learning process for our students. Flipped Learning has created quite a bit of buzz in the learning community, so I would like to look at it a little more closely.

Flipped Learning essentially started in 2007 by John Bergmann and Aaron Sams. Although, it was arguably first mentioned and implemented unsuccessfully in 2000 by a couple of professors from the University of Miami. It was known then as the Inverted Classroom (Noonoo, 2012, para. 3). Initially, Bergmann and Sams implemented software into their classroom that would record their live lectures. Stemming from that, they decided to stop lecturing their students altogether, and instead prerecorded all of their lectures for their students to view. Through more practice and other ideologies, this became the Flipped Classroom. There are a lot of misconceptions about what Flipped Learning actually entails. Many members of the learning community think it just entails student work at home. “Flipped Learning is an approach that allows teachers to implement a methodology or various methodologies into their classrooms” (“Definition of Flipped Learning”, 2014, para. 2).

Flipped Learning is built upon the foundation of four pillars which include: a flexible learning environment, learning culture, intentional content, and a professional educator. To better understand Flipped Learning, I would like to take a look at each pillar more closely (“Definition of Flipped Learning”, 2014, para. 5-8). The first pillar, a flexible learning environment, allows for a variety of learning modes. It is often noted how educators will physically arrange their learning spaces to better integrate a lesson or unit. By doing so, they allow students the freedom to choose when and where they learn (“Definition of Flipped Learning”, 2014, para. 5). For the second pillar, learning culture, rather than the traditional teacher-centered model, the instructor centers the model to a more learner-centered approach. By doing so, during class, topics can be explored more fully and as a result students feel more involved in the learning process throughout (“Definition of Flipped Learning”, 2014, para. 6). For the third pillar, intentional content, educators must make every effort to help students develop self-centered learning. Educators must determine what materials should be taught by themselves and what materials students should explore on their own to arrive at the appropriate conclusions. By doing so, educators can maximize their classroom time (“Definition of Flipped Learning”, 2014, para. 7). The final pillar, a professional educator, entails how an educator must be an expert of their craft. It is argued that a Flipped Classroom is much more demanding of a traditional one. With this in mind, the educator must be very observant and continually provide feedback for their students. Being reflective throughout the learning process is key to the successful implementation of the Flipped Learning Paradigm (“Definition of Flipped Learning”, 2014, para. 8).
Through the implementation of the previously aforementioned four pillars, educators can expect to see a shift away from the traditional classroom. It is important for educators to remember that their role in the Flipped Learning Classroom is as a guide or facilitator to knowledge, rather than spoon-feeding the information to their students (Prensky, 2010, p. 21-25).

You may ask yourself, “Why implement the Flipped Learning Classroom?” It is important to realize that students today are much different than students from the past. With modernized technology, such as the internet, students have the potential to learn much more than in the past. Furthermore, as a result of their upbringing, students today expect much more from their learning experience. While we have discussed the educator’s role in the classroom, let’s now take a look at the student’s role. According to Prensky (2010), the students must take on the role of the following: a researcher, a technology user and expert, a thinker, a world changer, and a self-teacher (p. 18-20). These defining characteristics help to promote the Flipped Learning Paradigm in the classroom. Another role that must be clearly defined in the Flipped Classroom Paradigm, is the role the parents play. Their role is key to successful student learning. Parents should make every attempt to act as an educator would; As a facilitator to knowledge. Parents should also be expected to encourage their students self-learning and be involved in every way possible (Bergmann, 2013). Within the Flipped Learning Paradigm, sometimes parents can be resistant to change. As they expect teachers to teach rather than students teaching themselves. As such, educators must reach out to parents to explore their concerns and remedy any potential issues. Educators must encourage parents to remain active and present within their students education (Bergmann, 2013).

Some other important considerations for the Flipped Learning Classroom Paradigm is technology accessibility. It is important to understand what technological limitations your students may have. What technology is available in the classroom versus what is available to students at home. Depending upon your answers, modification of your curriculum might be necessary to ensure your students are learning appropriately. Another important consideration is exploring what topics your students are passionate about. A cornerstone of the Flipped Learning Paradigm is engaging your students through interesting topics. Be sure to explore what your students are most interested in learning about, and modify your curriculum as necessary. Flexibility is key.

Finally, it is important to understand our own limitations with regards to the Flipped Learning Paradigm. When considering lesson plans and activities for students, be sure to ask yourself whether or not this is something you currently feel comfortable with. If you aren’t comfortable, consider alternative means to deliver the instructional materials. Additionally, utilize the many resources available to build upon your own deficiencies as an educator. Some educators might be intimidated to move to a new teaching paradigm. Prensky (2010) suggests asking yourself some of the following questions before considering implementing this Flipped Learning Paradigm: Do I know how to translate content into guiding questions? Can I make learning real and not just relevant? Do I see alternatives to lecturing content? And am I comfortable letting students take the mainstage? (p. 32) If you answered yes to the previous questions, then it might be time to consider implementing the Flipped Learning Paradigm in your classroom. If you answered no to some or all of these questions, consider what matters most in your own pedagogical thinking. Consider the learning process your students currently use, and how you could create a better learning environment conducive to the learning process.

Through reading through some of the insights on the Flipped Learning paradigm, I hope you have gained a better understanding of how this paradigm works, and how it can show a real positive change in the classroom. I hope any educator would consider implementing this paradigm for the benefit of not only themselves, but most importantly for their students. Thank you.


Bergmann, J. (2013, August 26). What If Your Child Is In A Flipped Classroom? Retrieved April 23, 2017, from http://www.jonbergmann.com/what_parents_should_know_if_their_child_is_in_a_flipped_classroom/

Definition of Flipped Learning. (2014, March 12). Retrieved April 23, 2017, from http://flippedlearning.org/definition-of-flipped-learning/

Noonoo, S. (2012, June 20). Flipped Learning Founders Set The Record Straight. Retrieved April 23, 2017, from https://thejournal.com/articles/2012/06/20/flipped-learning-founders-q-and-a.aspx

Prensky , M. (2010). Teaching Digital Natives. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin: A Sage Company.

Flipped Learning

Self-Paced Learning (SPL)

By Nina Parsons

Self-paced learning (SPL) is a recently proposed learning regime inspired by the learning process of humans and animals that gradually incorporates easy to more complex samples into training. Self-paced instruction is any kind of instruction that proceeds based on learner response (Jiang et al, 1970).

The content itself can be curriculum, corporate training, technical tutorials, or any other subject that does not require the immediate response of an instructor. Self-Paced learning outside the classroom means a student can start and complete learning targets at any time (Jiang et al, 1970).

This model will allow students to have a schedule that meets their individual needs. Students will not have to wait for the beginning of a traditional semester to start work on learning targets. They can complete their learning in any setting, at home, on the road, or anyplace that has internet connections.

There are advantages and disadvantages to Self-Paced learning programs that happen outside a traditional classroom setting. First, learners have the opportunity to learn in their home or a familiar environment. When they are in a familiar environment, the student is more relaxed and can concentrate on their learning. Learners can even participate in courses when they are on-the-go (thanks to mobile phones and tablets) (Two Approaches to Self-Paced Learning. (n.d.).

Learning can also progress at a pace that suits the learner. Learners who work at a fast pace have the opportunity to gain competency quickly. Learners who learn at a slower pace have the opportunity for repetition without being pushed ahead to quickly (Jiang et al, 1970).

Self paced learning is good for permanent content; All organizations have some training content that’s permanent and that needs to be distributed to a lot of people. Common examples include company policies or standard training manuals. Self-paced learning is good for permanent content, because it eliminates the need of live facilitators and scheduling-related coordination (Two Approaches to Self-Paced Learning. (n.d.).
There are also disadvantages to Self-Paced learning programs that happen outside the traditional classroom. Learners who lack time management skills can fall behind easily. If the student is not self-motivated this type of program might be difficult for them (Jiang et al, 1970).

One of the most significant drawbacks of self-paced learning is the absence of a facilitator. This means that there is no opportunity for feedback or assistance from an experienced instructor, unless the learner is able to communicate with the instructor via the Learning Management System (Two Approaches to Self-Paced Learning. (n.d.).
Next, students who need opportunities for collaborative learning are at a disadvantage because when the student is outside the classroom they are working independently. Finally, not all learners cope well working externally through their self-paced materials (Jiang et al, 1970).

For example, learners with English as a second language (or special literacy/numeracy requirements) may struggle and therefore need face to face assistance from a classroom teacher. There are quizzes available for students to take to see if Self-Paced learning outside the classroom is right for them.

Self awareness at a cognitive and emotional level would appear to be the key enabling process in the development of self-regulatory strategies” (McMahon, 2001). However not all students have or are able to develop such self awareness. While learner self-awareness is considered to be the key enabler of successful self-paced learning, organizational self-awareness is also a critical component. This factor is certainly a key consideration in the traditional academic world where colleges and universities seek to expand student access to classes through online courses and resource centers. It is even more important, perhaps critically so, in the business world (Jiang et al, 1970).

Distance Learning in general, and self-paced DL in particular, is often seen by cost conscious organizations as an attractive alternative to expensive instructor led learning. While it is true that many economies can be had in self-paced learning, sufficient attention and resources must be applied to establishing an environment in which it can succeed.

The middle school math teacher Natalie McCutchen showed us how she has converted her pre-algebra class to a completely self-paced system where students work on different skills at their own pace, and how she’s gradually introducing self-paced learning in her other math classes as well. She developed a system through trial and error, here are the steps to her system (Gonzalez, n.d.)

Step 1: select a unit of content: This can be a chapter in a textbook or a batch of skills or content you would typically teach as a unit over a couple of weeks. This unit should have clearly defined learning targets, which are likely dictated by whatever standards your school follows (Gonzalez, n.d.).

Step 2: create the assessment: Decide what students should be able to do by the end of the unit and create an assessment that measures it. The simplest type is a test with clearly identified right and wrong answers, where each item (or small group of items) in this assessment is aligned with one learning target. For skills that require more teacher interpretation to measure, like writing, the assessment could be a writing task, such as an extended response question with a prompt and a rubric. Each skill listed in the rubric would align with a specific learning target (Gonzalez, n.d.).

Step 3: create the chapter guide: set up a guide that shows which assessment question aligns with each learning target, then lists book or video lessons students can follow to learn each skill, exercises that will give students independent practice with the skill, and a brief assessment students can take to test their mastery (Gonzalez, n.d.).

Step 4: give the pre-test and help students identify standards to master: Use the assessment you created in Step 2 to pre-test students on the skills for this unit. Use the results to identify which learning targets each student has already mastered, and which ones they still need to learn.

Step 5: Giving each student a Chapter Guide, have them mark which standards they have already mastered—based on pre-test results—and which ones they still need to learn (Gonzalez, n.d.).

Step 6: provide time, materials, and supervision for self-paced learning: From this point on, students will begin the process of moving through the lessons on their own. Your job is to make sure they have the materials they need to do the work: If you are sending students to videos, make sure they have devices to access them (and earbuds to keep the audio to themselves). Make sure students know where to look for answer keys, and where they can access the mini-assessment when they are ready to take it. Check in with students regularly to make sure they are making good use of their time (Gonzalez, n.d.).

Step 7: Iterate. Keep in mind that this system probably won’t work perfectly the first time you try it. You may want to try it just once with a short unit, rather than attempt to convert your whole year to self-paced learning. You might want to offer it only to students who have the academic skills and maturity to handle it (Gonzalez, n.d.). You may need to tweak it, then tweak it some more. But speaking for the kids who would love a chance to see just how fast they can learn and how far they can go, I’d say it’s worth a serious try (Jiang et al, 1970).

Gonzalez, J. (n.d.). Self-Paced Learning: How One Teacher Does It. Retrieved March 09, 2017, from https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/self-paced-learning/

Jiang, L., Meng, D., Yu, S., Lan, Z., Shan, S., & Hauptmann, A. (1970, January 01). Self-Paced Learning with Diversity. Retrieved March 05, 2017, from http://papers.nips.cc/paper/5568-self-paced-learning-with-diversity

Two Approaches to Self-Paced Learning. (n.d.). Retrieved March 09, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/discussion/two-approaches-self-paced-learning

Self-Paced Learning (SPL)