With the increase of technology in homes, businesses, and schools, it is imperative for educators to incorporate digitally mediated learning activities to enhance students’ skills and understanding of these technologies. Creating a learning environment that integrates effective learning practices with age-appropriate technology will promote student engagement and motivation. The combination of well-planned lessons, various modes of technology, and Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences will lead to increased achievement for all students.
The digitally mediated learning activity that will be presented in this paper focuses on teaching first grade students the life cycle of an animal using I-Pads. Students will use the I-Pads to collect and gain knowledge of an animal’s life cycle through visual and auditory modes of learning. Using this newly acquired knowledge, students will use an app on the I-Pad to create a life cycle diagram of that animal. Throughout this assignment students will use the I-Pad as a tool to research, learn, create, and present information. The digitally mediated learning activity discussed in this paper will demonstrate how combining technology and best learning practices can have a positive effect on student learning and teacher instruction.
The learning theory that best aligns with this activity is the theory of multiple intelligences developed by Howard Gardner. His theory suggests that each individual possesses varying levels of intelligences, including one or more of the following: linguistic, musical, logical-mathematical, spatial, body-kinesthetic, intrapersonal, and interpersonal. He believes that learning and teaching is most effective when it focuses on the distinct intelligences of each student. Furthermore, Gardner believes that instructional activities and assessments should be tailored to meet different and multiple forms of these intelligences (Culatta, 2013).
Gardner’s theory can help educators in the areas of curriculum development, assessment, and instructional planning. In his article, Smith (2002, 2008) quotes Mindy Kornhaber, a researcher, who states that Gardner’s theory “provides educators with a conceptual framework for organizing and reflecting on curriculum assessment and pedagogical practices. In turn, this reflection has led many educators to develop new approaches that might better meet the needs of the range of learners in their classrooms”. The main strength of his theory is that it can provide teachers with knowledge on how to better reach his or her students and thus help them grow as learners.
The first grade students who are participating in this activity are diverse learners with varying strengths and weaknesses. For this reason, it is imperative that the activity is differentiated for each student based on his or her specific needs. The differentiation for this activity can be accomplished using Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. The following identifies the intelligences involved in this project, as well as how they are incorporated:
- Verbal – students need to record a verbal description of each stage of the animal’s life cycle
- Visual – there are visual effects from the e-books and videos, as well as the photographs that will be used to create the diagram
- Interpersonal – students will be working and engaging with a partner to complete the project
- Kinesthetic – students will be manipulating text and pictures on the I-Pad to create the diagram
The purpose of this activity is for students to use technology, specifically I-Pads, as a tool to gain and demonstrate knowledge of an animal life cycle, and not to use it as a substitute for learning. The current state of education is revolving around technology and the ways in which it can impact teacher instruction and student learning. It is important that technology is viewed as a way or a means of enhancing education, rather than a tool to replace it. In line with Harris’s thinking, the advancements made in technology have challenged the ways in which we teach students due to the fact that the web contains most of the answers that we ask students to find. With the presence of the Internet, educators need to shift their teaching, as well as design different and creative ways for students to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding. In his article Harris states, “don’t just have students research a period in history, have them write a song about it or create a diary to tell the story from a historical perspective”. He describes these as tasks that the Internet is not yet capable of accomplishing and therefore would be a reasonable assessment of students’ knowledge and application of that knowledge (2010, p. 14).
Creating new inventive assignments will tap into these intelligences, while also allowing for students to showcase their actual learning rather than just regurgitating facts from the Internet. According to Jackson, Gaudet, McDaniel, & Brammer (2009) “the use of Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, coupled with an understanding of how effective technology can enhance the learning community, can meet the diverse learning needs of all students” (p. 71). Although technology can sometimes provide an obstacle in assessing students’ actual understanding of a skill or concept, it compels teacher to develop more authentic and diverse ways for students to demonstrate that understanding using technology as a support for learning and not a replacement.
Based on this research the I-Pad was chosen to accomplish the tasks presented in this learning activity. The I-Pads are a useful tool for this activity for a few reasons. One being that students get excited about using them, which automatically gets them motivated in the assignment. Second, students always seem much more engaged with the visual and sound effects of reading books on the I-Pad compared to reading a paperback book, which will result in better retention of the information being learned. Lastly, students appear much more interested in an activity when they feel that they have some choice with what they are creating or learning, which will be accomplished through the creation of their life cycle diagram.
According to Warren (1997), engagement provides students with choices, makes them feel empowered, and encourages them to take initiative with their own learning. The use of I-Pads will target those aspects, which will increase student engagement and thus support student learning of animal life cycles. From a teacher perspective, the use of I-Pads for this activity will help promote student discourse and collaboration, as well as enhance their technology skills, all of which are essential components in teaching students in a “21st century classroom”.
A digitally mediated learning activity could be used to teach first grade students about the life cycle of an animal. This activity is appropriate for students ranging from ages five to seven in a first grade classroom. By participating in this activity students will come to a deeper understanding of how an animal changes through the life cycle process. The following would be the learning outcomes or objectives that students would be expected to know by the end of this activity:
- Students will be able to explain that living things experience a life cycle that includes birth, growth, reproduction, and death.
- Students will be able to identify each stage of an animal’s life cycle and arrange those stages in the correct order.
- Students will be able to describe the changes in structure and behavior that occur during an animal’s life cycle.
The activity would require students to work in partners to gain information about the life cycle of an animal. Below are the steps that would be followed in order to meet those outcomes:
- To begin, the partnerships will need to agree on an animal they would be interested in researching from a pre-selected group of animals. The teacher would select the animals prior to the lesson in order to keep the activity structured, and to ensure students do not pick animals where research may be difficult or above their ability level.
- Through the reading of e-books on the I-Pad, or by listening to a video clip on the I-Pad, students will research the animal’s life cycle. During this time they will fill out a fact chart for each stage of the animal’s life cycle. Students will write words or phrases about each stage (i.e. tadpole stage – no legs).
- Students will use the chart to create a diagram of that life cycle using the Educreations app on the I-Pad. The app allows students to add pictures, text, and voice recordings to a blank slide.
- The I-pad will be used to search for photographs to include in the life cycle diagram. They will be required to find one photograph for each stage of the life cycle. Students will put the photographs in order from the first stage to the last stage (i.e. egg à tadpole à froglet à adult frog)
- Students will incorporate labels in their diagram by typing the name of each stage onto the picture (i.e. “tadpole” onto the tadpole photograph).
- Using the audio record feature of Educreations, students will practice and record a brief oral description of each stage of the life cycle. A minimum of one sentence for each stage will be required.
- Each partnership will present the diagram and voice recording to the class.
In this activity there is both formal and informal learning present. The formal learning that is taking place is the required readings and videos, as well as the creation of the diagram. In addition, this learning activity would take place in the context of the classroom environment to allow the teacher to check in on students’ progress and understanding. The life cycle project is directly linked to the science standards and curriculum for first grade, which focuses on organisms that undergo metamorphosis. In terms of informal learning, students will have the opportunity to select the animal that they are interested in researching, which will likely increase their interest. This peak in curiosity may encourage them to engage in research outside of the classroom, such as in the library, computer lab, or at home.
Students will be working in partnerships in the context of a traditional classroom model. At a young age it is beneficial for students to have the face-to-face interaction with their peers to help build social and collaboration skills. According to Bates and Watson (2008) students who partake in face-to-face classes have rich conversations with one another, which allow them to share their ideas and learn from one another (p. 43). With the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and new standards-based assessments, it is more important than ever for students to work together to solve problems and complete tasks. In addition, the social aspect of a traditional classroom is more present than in any other type of setting. Learning how to appropriately interact and communicate with peers is as equally as important as academic learning, since they are life-long skills that a student will need in order to build future personal and professional relationships.
Assessment and Evaluation
To assess students’ understanding of the content and technology presented in this digitally mediated learning activity the following two methods of assessment will be used:
- Rubric-Based Assessment
According to Paul Curtis, director at New Tech Network, traditional assessments provide only one grade for a project or assignment, which is not helpful or beneficial for teachers. One grade does not give educators enough information about students’ specific skills and abilities, which prevents teachers from identifying the areas where a child may need to be challenged or where intervention may be necessary. For this reason he suggests used a rubric-based assessment, which scores students in various areas based on the requirements of the project. A rubric-based assessment allows teachers to view where students are struggling or if resources are needed for differentiation. Curtis also expresses how it enhances communication with parents by informing them of how his or her child is performing in a range of areas. He states, “It changes the entire dialogue. It’s a richer conversation. Once we recognize students’ weak areas, we can work together to improve them” (Boss, 2011).
After completion of this project, students’ diagrams will be scored on a rubric in the following areas: pictures, content, mechanics, attractiveness, and labels. Each area will be scored on a 1-5 scale with 5 being considered “excellent”, a 4 “very good”, a 3 “fair”, a 2 “acceptable”, and a 1 “unacceptable”. Students can score a total of 30 points on the entire project. This rubric will identify what areas a student is strong in and what areas they may need further instruction or intervention with. In addition, the overall score will indicate whether or not students gained the appropriate knowledge and were able to apply that knowledge in the project.
- Formative Assessment – Observation
Garrison and Ehringhaus (2009) describe formative assessment as being part of the instructional process. This type of assessment informs teachers of student learning, which allows them to adjust teaching practices in the moment or in the future (p. 1). Another important aspect of formative assessment is that it does not present a student with a grade, but rather it helps teachers determine where to go next in the learning process to help students understand and gain the intended knowledge and skills. One type of formative assessment is observation. According to Garrison and Ehringhaus (2009), “Observations assist teachers in gathering evidence of student learning to inform instructional planning. This evidence can be recorded and used as feedback for students about their learning or as anecdotal data shared with them” (p. 2).
Observations can be used in this learning activity to assess students on their use of the I-Pad as a learning and creation tool. Although students have previous experience using the I-Pad, it is important to ensure students are using this type of technology appropriately and effectively in this specific activity. Students will need to accurately navigate around the Internet and the Educreations app in order to create their diagram. They also need to be knowledgeable about how to search for and upload photographs into their diagram. In addition, they will need to be competent with their typing skills, as well a their ability to change font and format. Lastly, students need to be aware of how to use the audio record feature on the app to document their understanding of their animal’s life cycle. Observations can be used to determine each students’ skill level with these various tasks. Based on these observations a teacher can intervene to assist students during the learning process or use the information from the observations to plan for a small or whole group lesson on a particular skill.
Bates, C., & Watson, M. (2008). Re-learning teaching techniques to be effective in hybrid and online courses. Journal of American Academy of Business, Cambridge. 13(1), 38-44. Retrieved from https://datapro.fiu.edu/campusedge/files/articles/batesc2701.pdf
Boss, S. (2011). Comprehensive assessment: what experts say. Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/comprehensive-assessment-experts
Culatta, R. (2013). Multiple intelligences (howard gardner). Multiple Intelligences. Retrieved from http://www.instructionaldesign.org/theories/multiple-intelligences.html
Garrison, C., & Chandler, D. (2009). Effective classroom assessment: linking assessment with instruction. Westerville, Ohio: National Middle School Association and Measured Progress. Retrieved from http://www.amle.org/portals/0/pdf/articles/Formative_Assessment_Article_Aug2013.pdf
Harris, C. (2010). One-upping the web. School Library Journal, 56(11), 14-14.
Jackson, A. , Gaudet, L. , McDaniel, L., & Brammer, D. (2009). Curriculum integration: The use of technology to support learning. Journal of College Teaching & Learning. 6, 71-78.
Smith, M. K. (2002, 2008). Howard gardner and multiple intelligences. The Encyclopedia of Informal Education. Retrieved from http://www.infed.org/mobi/howard-gardner- multiple-intelligences-and-education.
Warren, R.G. (1997) Engaging students in active learning. About Campus. 2(1), 16-20. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ550318
Links to Resources
Animal Life Cycle Rubric: http://www.rcampus.com/rubricshowc.cfm?sp=true&code=E9B959&
Create your own rubric for assessment: http://www.rubrics4teachers.com/
Animal Videos: http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/
Animal Life Cycle Resources: http://www.kidskonnect.com/subjectindex/15-educational/science/87-life-cycles.html
Frog and Butterfly Life Cycle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRdVGTTK05Q
Chick Life Cycle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T93Qp3JLrFA
Ladybug Life Cycle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SvHWxDjfFB8
Cow Life Cycle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9avgSuJxo-U