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Literature Review: Utilizing Virtual Reality in the CTE Classroom

Abstract

With the development of sophisticated computer hardware and software and their ever-decreasing costs, virtual reality is poised to be the next big tool to drive instruction in the K-12 classroom. This review will look specifically look at the Career and Technical Education classroom and at the different ways virtual environments can be created to allow students to experience real-world job sites virtually. Furthermore, this paper will delve into the benefits for implementing VR in the CTE classroom and what is required to make that implementation successful.

 

Image result for virtual reality

 

Introduction

Imagine being able to take your students down to the engine room of a ship, or fifty stories up to experience the construction site of a skyscraper. Just like traditional core subject teachers, Career and Technical Education instructors are constantly on the lookout for opportunities to bring real-world experiences to students so that those students can see—first-hand—the work environments of the occupations that their career pathway courses will one day lead to. Historically, this is done by taking students on field trips where they have the opportunity to tour a place of work, such as a welding or fabrication shop, a laboratory, a factory, or an automotive facility. While there is no substitute for bringing students on location to a job site, technology exists that could augment student site visits and eliminate the logistical obstacles that often prevent students from visiting many work sites. This literature review will provide definitions and distinctions for and between 360-degree video, virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR). This review also aims to examine the different types of equipment necessary to produce and engage in these technology experiences, the innovative ways these technologies are being implemented in the K-16 classroom, and, most importantly, the benefits to students and instructors for utilizing these technologies.

 

360-Degree Video, Augmented Reality, and Virtual Reality: Definitions, Descriptions, and Differences

All three technologies: 360-video, AR and VR have useful applications in the classroom, first let us understand the differences between the three.

360-Degree Video

360-degree video involves capturing footage from all directions through the use of an omni-directional camera. The footage is stitched together either by the camera or using a software application. Oley (2017) notes that this technology is “rooted in panoramic photography of the early 1850s.” Films shot in 360 degrees, allow viewers to click on the video and move their mouse around to observe different perspectives. YouTube and Facebook allow users to upload and view 360-degree videos on their platforms (Olney, 2017). Not to confuse matters, but Olney (2017) points out that 360-degree videos can be shot in 2-D or 3-D. 2-D has one feed being displayed to both eyes, while 3-D (stereoscopic) has an individual video feed for both eyes, which provides the sense of depth.

Augmented Reality

One only needs to look to the popularity of Pokemon Go or watch an NFL football game to understand how ubiquitous augmented reality (AR) has become in our everyday lives. (That yellow line indicating the line of scrimmage on your television set is an example of AR). Think Mobiles website defines AR as “an enhanced version of reality where live direct or indirect views of physical real-world environments are augmented with superimposed computer-generated images over a user’s view of the real-world, thus enhancing one’s current perception of reality.” In other words, with AR, both the real world and a virtual world coexist harmoniously.

Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality (VR) takes AR a step further and completely immerses a person in a total virtual world. The Virtual Reality Society (2017) describes VR as: “a three-dimensional, computer generated environment which can be explored and interacted with by a person. That person becomes part of this virtual world and whilst there, is able to manipulate objects or perform a series of actions.”

Now that we have a general understanding of these different types of environments, let us examine how they can be used in an educational setting.

 

Benefits of Incorporating VR into the Classroom (Why?)

Mulvahill (2017) provided some quotes form her students that captures their excitement about using VR in her classroom.

  • “It was really cool because it felt like you were there… I didn’t have to come up with a picture in my mind because I was seeing what it was actually like.”
  • “I like it a lot because it is fun to be able to be IN what we are learning about.”
  • “It was fun to learn because it let us use our electronics.”

That is a sample of a few students’ perceptions. “The market for virtual reality applications is growing at a rapid pace and is expected to double in the next five years” (Bolkan, 2017). As the cost of VR hardware drops—leading schools to have more access to technology—there is increased interest in VR as an educational tool, but will VR gain a foothold in the education sector, and what, if any, are the benefits to using this technology in the classroom?

Expense is one factor that the use of VR could potentially alleviate. “You can’t fly your whole school to Machu Picchu” (Johnson, 2017). Similarly, while not as expensive as a trip to South America, just the expense of commissioning several school buses to drive students across town to a workplace of interest to CTE students could get expensive. Add to that expense the cost of students missing valuable instruction time in their other core classes, and one realizes quite quickly how costly field trips can be.

As teachers, we also do not want to expose children to dangerous environments. You wouldn’t want students to learn how to operate a port crane by doing it the first time in reality. Never mind the fact that practicing first in VR could save lives and prevent damage to property, it allows students to see if such an activity is something they have an aptitude for and want to pursue.

Finally, VR allows one to do the impossible. “you can’t change skin color, but if our avatar has a different skin color or gender when you look down, this will affect your implicit biases for weeks to come.” (Johnson, 2017). VR allows teachers and students to do things in the classroom that are impossible in the real world.

Implementation of VR in the Classroom

Since Ivan Sutherland and his student, Bob Sproull, created the first head-mounted display in 1968, VR has come a long way, but it has yet to be widely adopted. Only 21% of households have a headset and this percentage is far lower for classrooms (Higgin, 2018). Given this statistic, VR is at the very early stages of educational implementation. When contemplating introducing VR into your classroom, it is good to first have an understanding of your different options:

One option is to use a high-end headset like the HTC Vive or the Oculus Rift, Facebook’s VR headset, have been hitting price points around $400 (Steinbach, 2018). These headsets require one to be connected to a computer that is configured for VR. This type of model will provide users with a more true-to-life experience. Given the ubiquity of smartphones today—essentially every student has one—teachers and technology integration specialists can also consider using headsets that accommodate a smartphone. In this type of setup, the phone is the processing hub, eliminating the need to connect to a computer. The experience is not quite as seamless, but it is still very good considering the drastically reduced price. Examples of headsets that use a smartphone are Samsung Gear. Particularly impressive is the Merge 360 VR Goggles. According to their website, the Merge 360 headset is made from a soft, pliable material that is comfortable, withstands a lot of use, easy to clean, and can be shared with multiple users. All these qualities are necessary in a classroom unit. These qualities make them ideal for a classroom setting. The very inexpensive Google Cardboard, is a solution that, at the $10 price point, fits almost every school budget. Depending on what headset you go with, the quality of the VR experience varies, naturally, but the affordability has opened the door for experimentation and introducing the technology to a wider audience (Steinbach, 2018). To compliment the explosion of VR devices, Google expanded its Expeditions Pioneer Program in 2016. This program was the result of a hackathon in Google’s education department. Jen Holland, then a product manager at Google Apps for Education, drew on existing Google assets—the recently launched Cardboard, some teaching apps in development, and a huge archive of 3D maps and photographs. She combined the three to make interactive virtual reality lessons, which she calls “experiences” (Hansman, 2016).

 

Next Steps

While appreciating the strides VR has made as an entertainment and educational tool, heretofore, we have only discussed the consumption of VR content in the classroom. It is unlikely that content providers will ever completely satisfy educators’ need for specific subject area content. A recent study was conducted by Foundry 10 in which it analyzed student’s perception of VR usage in their learning. The study also sought to learn in which subjects students found the use of VR to be the most useful. The report indicated that 44% of students were inclined to use VR in science; 38% in history; 12% in English and 3% in math education (Hentsch 2018).

An advantage to using 3D-creation tools is that it allows the student to do more than consume virtual reality; it allows the student to become the creator of  his/her own VR content (Hentsch 2018). Platforms like CoSpaces Edu allow students to create and explore VR and AR worlds. Equipped with some coding knowledge, students can animate their worlds or use their own 360-degree photographs to create their environments. By using approachable tools such as CoSpaces Edu, students now have the power to create any environment of their choosing. This is an exciting prospect for the realm of CTE education because, currently, not much content exists that is applicable to CTE.

 

Summary

No one would argue that a digital revolution is changing the way we engage students in school. The tools that teachers can now access make it much easier to implement VR. More than ever, schools are doing everything they can to make their students “future-ready.” By facilitating access to virtual reality in the classroom and allowing students to experiment with the VR tools, they will be much more prepared for the digital world in which they will inhabit and launch a career (Hentsch 2018).

 

References

Ausburn, L. (2019). “Spheres of Reality”: A Conceptualization of Desktop Virtual Environments in Career and Technical Education and an Implementation Training Model Virtual Environments in CTE and Industry.

 

Billinghurst, M. (2002, December). Augmented Reality in Education. Retrieved from https://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/4810740/ar_edu.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAIWOWYYGZ2Y53UL3A&Expires=1557702994&Signature=YKC7p8XwCM8VrTiqCv%2F4RbdNYPY%3D&response-content-disposition=inline%3B%20filename%3DAugmented_reality_in_education.pdf

 

Hansman, H. (2016). How Can Schools Use Virtual Reality? Retrieved from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/how-can-schools-use-virtual-reality-180957974/

 

Hentsch, C (2018). Virtual Reality in Education: How VR can be Beneficial to the Classroom. Retrieved from https://edtechtimes.com/2018/02/09/virtual-reality-in-education-how-vr-can-be-beneficial-to-the-classroom/

 

Higgin, T. (2018, April 3). What the Research Says About VR in Classrooms. Retrieved from https://www.commonsense.org/education/articles/what-the-research-says-about-vr-in-classrooms

 

Johnson, M. (2017). How Virtual Reality and Embodied Learning Could Disrupt Education. Retrieved from http://www.gettingsmart.com/2017/11/how-virtual-reality-and-embodied-learning-could-disrupt-education/

 

Kessler, S. (2017). Using Virtual Reality in the Real-Life Classroom. Retrieved from http://www.govtech.com/education/news/Using-Virtual-Reality-in-the-Real-Life-Classroom.html

 

Lynchdecember, M. (2017). Are Teachers Ready for Virtual Reality in the Classroom? Retrieved from https://www.theedadvocate.org/teachers-ready-virtual-reality-classroom/

 

McCann, A. (2018). 10 Reasons to Use Virtual Reality in the Classroom. Retrieved from https://www.teachthought.com/technology/10-reasons-use-virtual-reality-classroom/

 

Mulvahill, E. (2017). How One Teacher Got Started with Virtual Reality in the Classroom. Retrieved from https://www.weareteachers.com/virtual-reality-classroom/

 

Steinbech, R. (2018). Virtual Reality in the Classroom is Becoming the New Norm. Retrieved from http://www.gettingsmart.com/2018/02/virtual-reality-in-the-classroom-is-becoming-the-new-norm/

 

Thompson, M. (2018). Making Virtual Reality a Reality in Today’s Classroom. Retrieved from https://thejournal.com/articles/2018/01/11/making-virtual-reality-a-reality-in-todays-classrooms.aspx

 

Innovation Plan Outline

Innovation Plan Outline

Introduction

In the CTE classroom, teachers are constantly on the lookout for opportunities to bring real-world experiences to students so that they can see first-hand the work environments of those who work in the trade or career pathway the student is studying. Historically, this is done by taking students on field trips where they have the opportunity to tour a place of work, such as a welding or fabrication shop, a construction site, a laboratory, a factory, or an auto shop. While there is no substitute for bringing students on location to a job site, technology exists that could augment student site visits and reduce the logistical obstacles that often prevent students from visiting many work sites.

My proposal is to leverage the latest technology in 360-degree cameras to create virtual field trips students can take to experience real-life career job sites.

For further context for this  outline, please take a look at my full Innovation Proposal and Literature Review.

I. PLANNING

  1. Present idea of creating virtual career-themed field trips to the Assistant Superintendent of Career Readiness to gain approval for dedicating time and resources to this endeavor.
  2. Solicit approval from campus principals of CTE Arts A/V pathways throughout the district to allow students to participate in the 360-degree filming of different career work sites.
  3. Present idea to campus CTE department heads.
  4. Approach Arts A/V teachers about the plan.
  5. Encourage Arts A/V instructors to identify students who would be suitable candidates to work on the project. Ensure that students are knowledgeable about the techniques for 360-degree filming.
  6. Engage business partners from six high-growth, high-demand job sectors about the feasibility of filming at their places of employment. The careers for which we want to find business partners willing to let us film on their job sites are:
    • Automotive
    • Construction
    • Culinary
    • Health Science
    • Manufacturing
    • Maritime
  7. Identify company point-person for day-of filming

II. IMPLEMENTATION

  1. Procure equipment necessary for 360-degree filming and editing.
    • The Ricoh Theta V is a good camera at a $400 price point.
    • Possibly a small lighting kit
    • microphone
  2. Schedule filming dates with business partners.
  3. Secure any media release documents that might be necessary on industry job sites.
  4. Schedule off-campus releases for 2-3 student filming crews.
  5. On the day of filming, liaise with identified company point person.
  6. Supervise filming and interviewing.
  7. Communicate with campus personnel when filming has concluded, and students are returning to campus.
  8. Update Arts A/V instructor on the filming shoot and inquire about time required to edit footage.
  9. Receive completed segment from campus Arts A/V team and review.
  10. Either accept or provide recommendations and ask for edits.
  11. Make videos accessible via online repository (department website or app-enabled site such as Google Expeditions).

III. Evaluation

  1. Solicit feedback from stakeholders involved in filming (business partners, students, instructors).
  2. Promote videos to students and parents using all means of effective district communication.
  3. Using web page analytics, monitor the number of times videos were accessed online.
  4. Develop survey to ascertain efficacy of videos.
  5. Distribute survey to students
  6. Based on survey results, modify this plan.

Wrap It Up

If I had to summarize this course, 5303, Applying Educational Technology Portfolio, in one word, that word would be “freedom.” The course was unlike any I have ever taken before. I and others in my cohort spent the preceding course, 5302, understanding the COVA approach to learning, which advocates for Choice, Ownership, and Voice on the part of the learner all within an Authentic learning experience. In this course, we got to experience COVA first hand through the creation of this ePortfolio.

Using the digital artifacts we had created in 5302—our Growth Mindset Plan, Learning Manifesto, and annotated list of learning communities, among other items—we had some material with which to start the process of assembling it all and reflecting—through blogging—on why this creative endeavor is such a powerful learning tool.

While I appreciated all the freedom this course provided in terms of what my ePortfolio would look like and contain, I had a bit of difficulty with the time management freedom it allowed. Like anyone who works in education can attest, the job is never done. The only limits for how much one works are the limits he/she creates for him/herself and the number of hours in a day. That said, the work on my ePortfolio would sometimes be pushed to the back burner in order to address more time-sensitive issues. A wiser man would have carved out time in his schedule for work on the ePortfolio, and not have deviated from it. But because I knew my portfolio wasn’t due until week four of the five-week course, I could postpone working on it. Now that it is time to submit it for review and I have been working on it five days straight, I can’t help but feel like I robbed myself an opportunity to take my time with it and reflect more deeply and intentionally on what I want this to be. I know this ePortfolio is not finished. Neither I nor the instructors in the program intend for it to be. To the contrary, the investment they and I have made in creating it is done with the goal in mind that it will continue even after I have exited the program.

When I reflect on the time I spent in the classroom as a teacher, I’m not sure I would have had the guts to relinquish control of the learning the way these program instructors did and the way many of my fellow classmates in the program are grappling with doing in their classrooms. It is a scary prospect for a teacher to not specify exactly what you are looking for in a project. What if your students completely miss the mark? As a teacher there is comfort in dictating the learning. To the credit of my professors, they know significant learning is accomplished in a COVA environment and they are willing to extend to the student freedom and endure the unknowing on their part to foster an authentic learning experience.

Call me old fashioned, but I believe in accountability. One might assume with all the inherent freedom in a course that is centered on creating an ePortfolio in a COVA approach, that there is a lack of accountability. While my professor did have specific requirements, the ultimate accountability was accomplished through the social connections aspect of the course. The crucial component of 5303 is that it connects learners in a positive way. As learners and creators, we are encouraged and inspired to provide feedback to our fellow students, which in turn compels us to put forth our best effort. It is this compulsion to contribute and feel respected by our peers that holds the true power of accountability for this course.

wrap up
http://www.pexels.com

Sharing my ePortfolio

sharing
ShutterStock Royalty-free stock photo ID: 319332548

The thing I simultaneously get the most joy and experience the most frustration from in the process of creating my ePortfolio is playing with my website’s settings. I am using WordPress, a platform that I don’t have a lot of experience working with. There is a rush of exhilaration when I figure out how to make something work. That is what keeps me motivated to continue working with it. I’m like that golfer who can shoot an infuriating 120 on a par 72 golf course, but will come back the very next weekend to plunk down 60 more bucks for another green fee because he sank one impressive putt. The majority of my time working with the platform features me pulling my hair and gnashing my teeth with an occasional celebratory fist pump.

I’m even less certain about the content of my posts. When trying to reflect on and write about my own learning, I search for themes to express and narratives to impart, and it usually just winds up reading like a mishmash of disjointed ideas. But then I can turn my attention to customizing my site in WordPress or scouring Google images for the perfect graphic to accompany a post, and for a minute, I’m distracted, entertained, and the sense of not knowing what the hell I’m doing abates. Exhale.

Viewing my extremely talented team members’ sites is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, each of their sites have numerous characteristics that inspire in me great ideas for how I might incorporate them into my site; on the other hand, they are difficult to measure up to. April’s is super clean, easy to read, and she makes use of design technique in which one image scrolls on top of anther to create a layered effect. Very impressive. Michael’s is extremely rich in content and does an amazing job showcasing the work of his students. Chad’s is fun in a slightly quirky kind of way. He uses graphics expertly and is a talented writer. His blog page keeps going and going. I have lots to envy and learn from these teammates.

Owning the Idea

idea
Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2003/09/how-to-pitch-a-brilliant-idea

What is the point of creating significant learning environments through an approach that offers learners choice, ownership, voice and authentic opportunities (COVA)? In his essay Do I Own my Domain If You Grade It?, I think Andrew Rikard arrives at the answer to this central question when he asserts that the goal of instructors is to “promote high quality, original scholarship.” I am absolutely on board with this line of thinking. While it is important to understand and appreciate the ideas and principles of thinkers and academics whose work has broken new ground, that is not the end goal. The objective is to take that research, confirm it, disprove it, expand on it, and create something new. I believe this is what is meant by the phrase “owning an idea” that kept coming up in this week’s readings.

Part of owning one’s ideas relates to the audience the learner is sharing his/her ideas with. The nature of an ePortfolio (or “One’s Own Domain”) implies that the learner will share his learning publicly. This is powerful because it shifts the ownership of the learning from the instructor to the learner. As Rikard points out, if the audience for an assignment is only the teacher, it is the teacher who has posed the question and established the parameters of what one’s demonstration of learning should look like. If, on the other hand, the audience is public, the onus is on the learner to shape the evidence of his learning. He must establish a point of view and create and defend his ideas to a wide audience.

When we read Marshall McLuhan’s pronouncement: “The medium is the message,” he means in addition to the content of the message, the medium by which the message is transmitted actively shapes that message. Similarly, perhaps we could say: “the audience is the message” because the message—in our case, the learner’s demonstration of learning—is vastly different when it is formed solely for the teacher than when it is created for a wide public audience. With the former, the teacher is dictating the message; with the latter, the learner is dictating the message.

Not to beat a dead horse, but I continue to feel frustrated that all the readings this week seem to assume that the audience is made up of classroom teachers. I agree wholeheartedly that I should be prepared to do that which I ask students to do. The problem is I don’t have any students. When I am encouraged to model ePortfolios and reflect on their implementation in a classroom I don’t have, I feel lost and that I’m musing hypothetically. The creators of this program certainly “walk the walk” in that they have shared their ePortfolios that contain submissions that use a variety of technologies.

 

Rikard, A. (2015, August 10). Do I Own My Domain If You Grade It? https://www.edsurge.com/news/2015-08-10-do-i-own-my-domain-if-you-grade-it

The Value of ePortfolios Out of the Classroom

Up until this point, I have derived a lot of value from learning about the Growth Mindset, articulating my learning manifesto, and coming to understand the COVA learning approach within “significant learning environments.” Furthermore, the opportunity to establish an ePortfolio to serve as a living repository of my learning in this program has been extremely beneficial. However, it is becoming more and more apparent that not being in the classroom, engaging with students on a daily basis, leaves me unable to implement the principles we are learning about in a real-world environment. Just to be clear, the topics we have covered thus far in 5302 and 5303 have been invaluable to me as I apply them to my own learning. Without having students of my own, my regret and concern is that I do not have the opportunity to apply ePortfolios to my student’s learning.

Setting aside my concerns about not having a laboratory (classroom) to test the benefits of ePortfolios with my own students, I can share with you a few reasons why I am convinced they are an ideal way to document and build upon my own learning. First of all, ePortfolios are living reflections of learning. If we accept the constructivist notion that learning is connecting and building upon already-established knowledge, the ePortfolio is the perfect tool/venue for documenting one’s learning then coming back time and again to refine or add to the ideas one has put forward. The electronic nature of an ePortfolio allows one to make these revisions and expansions with ease and flexibility.

Another benefit to the ePortfolio is the fact that technology allows the creator to reach a vast audience. Through tools like RSS feeds, the audience can always stay up-to-date about how the ePortfolio author is revising and expanding the reflections of his/her learning.

I wish Sun Tzu had read Donald Schon
As we have discussed, the ePortfolio requires that we reflect on our learning. In Coaching Reflexive Thinking, Donald Schon posits that an effective way to reflect on our learning is through storytelling. Recently, my book club read The Art of War by Sun Tzu. When we gathered to discuss the book, it was the shortest book club meeting we had ever had. The reason for this, as you well know if you’ve read the book, is that it reads like an instruction manual: 1) know your enemy and yourself; 2) don’t attack until half of your enemy’s forces are across the river; 3) in the midst of chaos, there is opportunity, etc. These are good lessons, but there is no narrative included to illustrate why these recommendations are so valuable. If Sun Tzu had included a story that showed and put into context why these rules are so valuable to a military leader, I would have learned much more from his book. Instead, I came away feeling as though I had just read a list of precepts.

The Power of COVA

COVA-Full

If I’m honest, I thought this program would be more about using technology tools as a means of delivering lessons. Granted, we are only one class in; so, a deep dive into these tools may still be yet to come. I am surprised at how much the program has focused on learning theory. But I must say, it is a pleasant surprise. As I have worked through the weeks in this first course, I have come to understand the importance of understanding the research produced by the authors and thinkers we have been exposed to. And in a sneaky move perpetrated by the cunning creators of this program, We are being asked and encouraged to demonstrate our learning using a variety of technology tools. Our clever professors have wisely not made the digital platforms and technology tools the end, but rather the means to an end.

Without a doubt, the most insightful message I have learned so far is Michael Fullan’s explanation of the push/pull dynamic in education. To summarize, kids get increasingly bored as they move through their education, but there are practices and tools we can use to reverse this trend and lure them back into meaningful, relevant learning.

Enter the COVA approach to learning. All of the components of the COVA approach will contribute to my having a sense of agency over my learning because everything is based on choice for me the learner: choice in the types of projects that will reflect my learning; choice in the way I present it; and the ability to relate my learning to my real world experience.

The ePortfolio is a perfect example of the utilizing the COVA approach. Because of the personalized nature of the learning I have demonstrated using this approach in the ePortfolio, the likelihood is high that I will continue maintaining an building the portfolio after my program of study has ended. The reason for this is that this product is something I am invested in because I was given the freedom to make it mine, rather than merely submit an assignment that checked off the requisite boxes.

Simon Sinek’s Tedx talk “Start With Why” hammered home for me what is important when you are trying to connect with people. Be it selling a product to consumers or delivering a lesson to students, it is the why someone does something that people gravitate to. In the context of teaching and learning, students are less inclined to be engaged with what I’m teaching, be it sonnets, photosynthesis, quadratic equations, or the French Revolution, as they are to why I teach—because I believe any student if he/she dedicates her passion and effort into a realm of study can contribute to it.

Harapnuik, D. COVA. Retrieved September 23, 2018 from www.harapnuik.org/?page_id=6050

Harapnuik, D., Thibodeaux, T., Cummings, C. (2018) COVA, published under a Creative Commons license

A Reflection On My Own Learning

reflection
Retrieved from https://medium.com/thrive-global

I’m going to date myself by referencing a cassette tape.

When I was in Mr. Martin’s 7th grade Life Science class, he gave us an assignment—I don’t remember the parameters exactly—but I remember it had to have something to do with the environment. Point is, we had a choice about what aspect of the environment we were going to do our projects on. I chose acid rain as it was a topic very much in the news at the time. In addition to allowing the students to come up with our own topic, Mr. Martin gave us a choice about the format our evidence of learning would take. We could write a report, we probably could have done some sort of infographic, but he also said we could record our report on audio cassette. I’m thinking EASY! I’m a way better talker than writer. I’ll pop in a tape, press record (remember, you had to press the orange record button and the play button at the same time), then it was just a matter of B-S-ing for a few minutes. This will be the easiest major grade ever! (How’s that for some fixed-mindset thinking? (It’s all about the grade)). And, I was pretty excited about using somewhat cutting-edge technology as my project’s media. I soon realized that blathering on tape for three minutes wasn’t going to cut it. I had to do the research, plan out my script, and execute a smooth delivery. That wound up being a lot of work—probably more than I would have put into the assignment if he had just told us to write a paper. In this case, the freedom to express myself in my own way, had made the project mine. This wasn’t going to be my paper compared to 30 others. No, I had the chance to reveal a little bit about myself in the way I presented the project. Now it wasn’t just an assignment, it was a reflection of me. I had to represent. There is a reason I remember this project all these years later: I felt invested in the work because of the choices Mr. Martin allowed me to make about my own learning.


“We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience.”
 — John Dewey


I am excited to be immersed in the COVA learning approach as I work through this program. I appreciate the opportunity to choose how I will present my learning, incorporating my voice into my projects and enjoying the freedom to make them authentic to my life and experiences—both professional and personal. Just as I thrilled at the chance to use technology in Mr. Martin’s class, technology tools today are so much more ubiquitous and varied they offer many more exciting and unique ways to demonstrate knowledge. All of the components of the COVA approach will contribute to my having a sense of agency over my learning because everything is based on choice for me the learner: choice in the types of projects that will reflect my learning; choice in the way I present it; and the ability to relate my learning to my real world experience. No one in this program shares the same life experiences. We all have unique aspects to our lives and jobs that require opportunities to demonstrate our learning in unique ways. Why would we expect (why has anyone ever expected) that the evidence of learning could be dictated by a one-size-fits-all model of assessment? As I continue to learn to shed the fixed mindset, the realization sets in that learning isn’t about the grade—obviously, I’d like to do well and pass—it’s about the process of coming to understand something and being able to relate it to others. That is a unique process to each person; therefore, it only makes sense that each person needs to be given choice, ownership and voice in his/her learning.

More about the Growth Mindset

When considering the differences in mindsets, as presented by Dweck, the benefits of adopting a growth mindset to supplant a fixed mindset are rather obvious. When the learner is struggling with a task or concept, the holder of the fixed mindset is content to throw up his hands and proclaim, “I just don’t have the mental capacity to grasp this.” That is the end of the conversation, and one would not expect much learning to take place following this conclusion. Alternatively, if the learner has activated a growth mindset, the task IS achievable, the concept attainable if he/she continues to work hard, try new strategies, and seek input from others. Ultimately, this growth mindset frees us to master more ideas at greater depth (if we are willing to work at it) than being confined in a fixed mindset allows us to do.

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Photo by Bruno Scramgnon on Pexels.com 

Having been fully convinced that adopting a growth mindset is advantageous in academics—not to mention that it is healthier in other aspects of life—the question becomes: how will I ensure that I embrace and implement it properly in my life and career so that its benefits are enjoyed by those I encounter? If I take an honest assessment of my mindset up to this point—while I can point to examples of growth—I would have to say I lean more toward a fixed mindset. One exception to this is in the area of technology. I have always approached computers and software with a sense of excitement and wonder. Even though I have often been frustrated by a piece of hardware not working properly or a nettlesome application, I am usually driven to keep working at it until I figure out the problem.

Being of an age that I can fully appreciate the world-transforming effects of the computer age, a wildly important goal for me is to learn and develop new ways to leverage the power and versatility of technology systems to impact education. Integrating technology into education does many things, but two I’d like to point out are that it 1) it equips teachers with an array of tools to reach students; 2) presents students with infinitely more opportunities to have autonomy in their education—a key element to better performance according to Daniel Pink. If a growth mindset is exhibited through the tactics of strong effort, trying different strategies and seeking input from others, as Dweck asserts in “Carol Dweck Revisits the Growth Mindset,” technology integration is an invaluable means of aiding these tactics. By utilizing technology, students can control the what, when, where, why and how they choose to learn.

If we are seeking to incorporate Universal Design in Learning in our curriculum and instruction to ensure that all students have an opportunity to learn, which obviously we should be, it is important to have the tools to make that possible. Technology can provide those tools. Specifically, technology offers tools that can stimulate all three networks in the Universal Design for Learning:

  • Recognition Networks—How we gather information. As Dr. Harapnuik mentioned in our first meeting, we have access to all the information in the world in the palm of our hands (our cell phones).
  • Strategic Networks—How we organize and express ideas. Technology offers a multitude of forms and venues for presenting ideas.
  • Affective Networks—How we get engaged and stay motivated in our learning. When considering the order of importance of the three networks, I would say the “why” of learning—the Affective Networks—is most important. It doesn’t really matter what we learn or how we learn if we are not motivated, challenged, and excited to learn in the first place.