Mary Ewart's bPortfolio

EDU 6655 – Human Development and Principles of Learning – Metareflection – Standard 2

Looking back at my previous at the beginning of EDU 6655: Human Development and Principles of Learning and comparing them to my current understandings and the questions that understanding creates illustrated exactly how much I learned during this course. When I began this course, I did have some fairly recent information about how the brain learns due to an action research grant I wrote and participated in four years ago, but I was able to put together so many more pieces and extend my knowledge in multiple areas. Additionally, I was able to apply more of my learning to my classroom and see the results in my students.

At the beginning of this course, we focused on what happens in the mind of the learner as they are learning. Memorization, categorization, connections, and motivation to remain actively learning were all processes that I knew about, but as we moved through the course, there were many other factors I learned about. In reading Brain Rules by John Medina, I learned that our senses are designed to work together, and that in order to learn best, we must have multiple senses or modalities activated. Students must engage multiple senses in order for their brains to process information most effectively. I teach Algebra 1, which is notorious for being a breaking point for many students mathematically. I have seen many students work hard, struggle over and over again, and simply not get it, only to repeat the course the following year – with me as the teacher again – and be incredibly successful. In How People Learn, I learned that our brains develop at different paces, and that learning physically changes the structure and organization of the brain. This helps me understand how those students who are simply a year older with a year’s worth of knowledge and experience are able to understand what was previously not understandable, no matter how much effort was applied. Also in How People Learn, I learned how important current knowledge, culture and experience, and ability to form connections with that knowledge and experiences is for a learner’s success. This was further illustrated by the video Fish Is Fish that we watched and reflected on. In order for my students to learn the information I teach them, I have to consider what prior knowledge, experiences and skills they will need.

Later in the course we wrestled with the question of why there is often a gap between what we as teachers teach, and what students actually learn. As we started this question, my previous understandings were that prior knowledge matters, as does a connection between what is being taught and its place in the subject or real world. Through additional readings in Brain Rules, and How People Learn, I learned that students’ prior fluency, attention, practice, perseverance, motivation have an impact on the learning gap. I participated with a group to look at the areas of attention, memory, and gender differences when considering how the brain works. Our presentation, Chapter on Memory, illustrated several key points related to those topics, and I encourage you to check it out. Another factor that came up during my reading of How People Learn is that students’ own belief in their ability to learn has a major impact on their actual ability to learn. What stood out to me most in this area was the difference between a student who is an entity theorist, and a student who is an incremental theorist. Entity theorists focus on the appearance of learning – or how others see their understanding. These learners focus on looking like they are smart and successful, and consequently avoid challenges that have the possibility to reflect them in a poor light. Incremental theorists believe that the more learning they do, the more intelligence they will have, and will actually seek out challenges to benefit from the struggle to learn (“How People Learn”, 2000, pg 102). As I learned about the difference between these two types of learners, I wonder how we as teachers can help students transfer from entity theorists to incremental theorists and see a value in their own work to learn as success.

As we wrapped up the class with a final presentation that you can see here, I came up with instructional shifts based on the research we did that I believe will make my classroom a better classroom for my learners. The first of those shifts is explicitly teaching my students strategies for remembering the material. We learned that stronger learners have more studying strategies, and I assert that all learners could benefit from a sharing of those strategies. Secondly, I will be working hard to present as many different strategies related to each topic that I can. This will allow my students to have multiple entry points when attempting to solve a problem. Additionally, with the change to the Common Core State Standards, the ability to use multiple methods to solve a problem becomes a necessity. Third, I will continue to work hard to know each and every one of my students, personally and academically. This can be a challenge with 140 students during the day, and a maximum of 54 minutes at a time with each student; however, the benefits to both my instructional planning and my students’ learning are invaluable. One way I am already doing this is with student surveys and unit pre-tests, but I am sure I can find more. The fourth change I am going to make is to teach students, wherever possible, how to ask the questions needed to make sense of new information. So much of Algebra is simply memorized by students without any effort to make sense of why it is. Modeling the strategies for students will give them the tools they need to attempt it themselves. A fifth shift is a focus on discussion. A traditional math classroom is often lacking in student talk, and I have and will continue to change that in my classroom. Our students need to talk to make sense of information, to help categorize new information with current knowledge, and to find misconceptions that exist in their own understandings. Without guiding discussions, many discoveries and connections do not end up being made. The sixth change is very easy to implement, but can make a huge impact; I will be making sure to break up instruction into segments of no longer than ten minutes. Students need time to process information. They need time to restate it to another person. Above all, they need time to stop and stretch for a minute. By teaching in ten minute segments, and giving intentional breaks with ideas or prompts for students to think about or discuss, I will allow their brains a chance to stop and refocus without losing the importance of what I am teaching. A presentation summarizing my learning and the six shifts, along with student evidence of the changes I have already implemented can be viewed here.

Overall, this course has validated many of my previous understandings on how people learn and extended it in multiple areas. My largest take-away from this course is that I still have so much to learn about how my students will learn, and I am inspired to continue to research and experiment to find the ways that work best for me as a teacher and my students as learners. Teaching is an always-changing profession that requires flexibility and willingness to grow, and I welcome the challenge.


Retrieved from


Medina, J. (2014). Brain Rules. Seattle, WA: Pear Press.

National Research Council. (2000). How People Learn. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Robinson, K. (2013, April). How to escape education’s death valley. Retrieved from:

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EDTC 6433 – Technology – Meta-Reflection – Standard 12


Determining how to best use technology in the classroom is a problem that can be more challenging than someone might expect. At the beginning of the course, we set goals for our growth and technology use, and then worked through the course to achieve our goals. Our learning through the course supported our goals work, and we were able to take our weekly classwork and apply it directly to our classrooms. At the beginning of the course, I felt I had a reasonable proficiency with technology and I wasn’t sure how much I was going to be able to learn. However, as I worked through the course I realized just how much I had to learn. This learning can be seen in my weekly blogs.

My reflection on my growth as related to my goals is below:

  • My digital citizenship goal was, “I am going to intentionally teach students appropriate digital communication skills and appropriate usage of resources found on the internet. I will do this by providing 3 10 minute lessons on appropriate usage of digital content by December 2014.” I met this goal moderately. I found it incredibly difficult to present lessons of any length not directly related to the content, so instead, I chose to teach this while embedding it into assignments. In my Foundations for Calculus class, we had these conversations when they worked on their problem solving PowerPoint presentations and Law of Sines and Cosines problem assignments. As I introduced these assignments, I reminded students of appropriate use of materials, and as I worked with individual students working on these projects, I reminded them of appropriate usage, and how to give credit for work that was not their own. This class is predominately seniors, and many just needed a reminder that the rules that apply in English and history classes still apply in mathematics. For my Algebra 1 classes, I accomplished this by introducing the concept of an infographic by having the students read and explore three different infographics all related to digital citizenship. Students really responded well to this introduction. As with my Foundations for Calculus class, I also worked with students individually as they worked to create their infographics.
  • My collaboration goal was, “ Create 1 Haiku Wiki assignment for students to complete by December 2014.” I met this goal, but I used a discussion board instead of a wiki because I felt it worked better for the assignments. Students created presentations or problems, and then posted them to a class discussion board, where they responded to their peers work in a specific way.
  • My communication goal was, “Find at least 3 resources for each new unit that I can post to Haiku that will help parents and students understand the concept and connections to other units and real world situations.” I was able to accomplish this goal for Unit 4 in Algebra 1, which was the only full unit I taught since the setting of my growth goals. I will continue to do this as I got great feedback on it from students, colleagues and families.
  • My presentation goal was, “Create an assignment where students create 1 infographic related to Unit 4 Algebra 1 material by December 2014.” This was a success. My Algebra 1 students really went above and beyond in the creation of their infographics, and I feel that they understand the way a function can be modeled in the real world so much more than in previous years.
  • For professional growth, I had two goals:
  1. Participate in one twitter chat related to secondary math education by the end of first semester.
  2. Present information about one technology tool to my department by the end of the year.
  • I really tried to participate in a twitter chat, but unfortunately, nobody chatted on the day I tried! I will be doing more research in finding another twitter chat related to secondary math teaching and I will prevail! I have not yet presented a tool to our entire department, but I have shared many resources with the department members who are on the same content team as I am. I will continue to do this, and will be presenting to the entire department before the end of the year.

I worked hard to find technology projects that would extend the teaching I was already going to do. I wanted to make the assignments authentic and not to just add technology. I also wanted to find ways that I could make my life as a teacher easier by using the technology. To achieve that, I focused on picking goals that would help my students learn more by adding technology. The infographics that I used really allowed students to master the concept of a function that models a real world situation. The problem solving PowerPoint assignment was an extension of the normal problem solving process that we use in class, and it allowed the students to use technology to communicate their results in a different way. I chose to do this because in the future, those students will have to be able to communicate using technology in the workplace on a daily basis. As far as my professional growth goal, I just was not able to figure out what to do with a twitter chat. I think if I had found a chat that was more “chatty”, it would have been easier to do, but since nobody appeared to be chatting, there didn’t appear to be a moderator, and there was nothing for me to say, I wasn’t able to participate.

I really don’t like not being able to complete a goal, so I am committed to figuring out a twitter chat. I will do some more research to try to find a chat that is active and related to my content, and I will participate. Additionally, I am going to try to find more ways to integrate technology in a way to make the abstract concepts in Algebra and Calculus more concrete. I’d like to find ways to use technology to investigate future concepts. Overall, and on a broad scale, I am committed to working to add one technology activity per unit to each class this year. Next year, I’d like to do the same thing. By doing this for a few years, I should have a good mix of learning techniques, and I can continue to work on making the projects and activities applicable and authentic. I anticipate being able to gather some ideas for those activities from twitter chats, once I can figure them out.

I feel my role as a teacher leader with technology is two-fold. First, I think my role is to continue to explore and try new technology. Trying technology can sometimes work really well, and other times, be a complete disaster, but you will never find new tools until you try to see how they work in your classroom, with your students, and with you facilitating the activity. Second, my role is to share what I learn and experience with my colleagues both in my department and as a school. Technology can be scary for teachers to try, and I have found that teachers are much more willing to try new things if it comes from a colleague who says it’s valuable. As I continue to experiment and share my results with my colleagues, I hope that they start to feel comfortable exploring and trying out new technology on their own. I feel that is the mark of a good leader; someone who can show and guide others, and also inspire confidence in others to try new things.

Some additional artifacts are:

Annotated Bibliography – Integrating Technology Presentations Using Infographics In The High School Classroom

Tech Final Presentation – Ewart


Gallagher, K. (2014, April 27). How  Real Kids Create Real Infographics. Retrieved

November 4, 2014, from


Manners Matter Infographic. (2014). Retrieved  November 4, 2014, from


Tolisano, S. (2011, September 6). Creating Infographics with Students. Retrieved

November 4, 2014, from

Wong, D. (2013, February 26). 5 Inforgraphics to Teach You How to Easily Create

Infographics in PowerPoint. Retrieved November 4, 2014, from


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