Friday, February 25, 2011

2011 Blackboard Exemplary Course Program Evaluation

Besides the normal weekly readings/activities, my course instructor afforded me with a great opportunity to participate as a peer reviewer in the annual Blackboard Exemplary Course Program (BBECP).

The program provides an opportunity for instructors using BB to showcase their work, have it reviewed by volunteer course evaluators and in turn, be recognized for exemplary achievements.

Although I have never designed or developed an online course before, I have taken one in past so I had an idea of what types of things work well. Not to mention, an online training session was provided by the BBECP administrators to provide further support in completing the review process (filling out a detailed rubric and feedback form).

Completing the detailed review took some time, but in the end, I’m really glad I decided to do it. The experience provided me with excellent background knowledge so that if I do have the opportunity to design/develop an online course in the future, I’ll have an idea of best practices.

The review I completed with my instructor can be viewed here (for confidentiality, all personal details including that of my instructor and the course we reviewed have been omitted): 2011 BBECP Review (

For those interested in participating in the BBECP in the future, you can find more info here: Blackboard Exemplary Course Program Information


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Week 3 (February 15 – 21, 2011)

This week we got our first look into approaching technology integration in instruction. The methodology we examined is known as the technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge (TPACK) framework. The model recognizes the aforementioned knowledge components as “interdependent aspects of teachers’ knowledge necessary to teach content-based curricula effectively with educational technologies” (Harris, Mishra & Koehler, 2009, p. 393).

Content Knowledge (CK) refers to “knowledge about the subject matter that is to be learned or taught” and includes such things as concepts, theories, proofs and ideas (Harris et al., 2009, p. 397). Teachers with insufficient CK can lead to student misunderstanding of content area.

Pedagogical Knowledge (PK) is “knowledge about the processes and practices of teaching and learning” including instructional purposes, goals and strategies (Harris et al., 2009, p. 397). Teachers with strong PK are usually well-versed in “cognitive, social and developmental” learning theories (Harris et al., 2009, p. 397).

Technological Knowledge (TK) is difficult to define as developments are constantly taking place and as such, associated definitions can easily become outdated. Therefore, Harris et al. (2009) advise to instead think about ways of working with technology, applicable to all tools, past, present and future (e.g. Fluency of Information Technology – “FITness”) (p. 398). As TK is constantly evolving (has no “end state”), teachers must try and keep up to date with developments, which is probably easier said than done (Harris et al., 2009, p. 398).

When combined together, we get the TPACK framework which, as stated earlier, considers the three knowledge domains (CK, PK, and TK) as being related and necessary to work together in order for “meaningful and engaged learning” to occur (Nelson, Christopher & Mims, 2009, p. 82). However, it should also be noted that as all three domains “co-exist, co-constrain and co-create each other,” there will never be a technological solution able to work the same in every instructional setting so teachers need to be very flexible (Harris et al., 2009, pp. 401-402).

Furthermore, teachers who excel in TPACK clearly understand that the aim is to adapt technological tools/resources “to fit the goals and objectives of their classrooms and curricula” and not vice-versa (Nelson et al., 2009, p. 82). Various Web 2.0 technologies exist today including blogging, social bookmarking and digital storytelling that afford TPACK-minded teachers new opportunities to help facilitate student learning and higher-order thinking (Nelson et al., 2009, p. 82).

Overall, I feel the TPACK framework is a good model for helping both teachers and administrators alike learn to integrate technology into their curriculum. Although I personally never heard of TPACK before reading these papers, the concept as whole seems intuitive. I have used Web 2.0 tools with students before and can appreciate the value-added benefit they bring to the learning environment. Students are viewed less as simply receivers of knowledge (as in behavioral and cognitive learning theories) but instead, constructors of knowledge (as in constructivist theory) via self-ownership and collaboration in problem solving. In the end, students will ideally be more “creative, skilled, life-long learners” who are “prepared for innovation and advancement of society” (Nelson et al., 2009, p. 82).


Harris, J., Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (2009). Teachers’ technological pedagogical content knowledge and learning activity types: Curriculum-based technology integration reframed. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 41(4), 393-416. Retrieved from

Nelson, J., Christopher, A., & Mims, C. (2009). TPACK and Web 2.0: Transformation of teaching and learning. TechTrends, 53(5), 80-85. Retrieved from

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Week 2 -- Part 2

In the second part of this week’s assignment, we were asked to reflect on the Massachusetts (TSAT) we completed in the previous week and answer the following question:

What are three specific skill challenges that you can accomplish this semester?

The following is how I responded:

Discuss current best practices on teaching and learning with technology in order to plan rich learning environments and experiences.
I feel that the readings this week have already helped in progression towards this goal. Having a firm understanding of the various learning theories should hopefully lead to effective use of instructional design and technology.

Distinguish between effective and ineffective design and presentation in electronic format (e.g., websites, multimedia, charts).
Again, the readings this week have already given me some insight into this. Namely, the discussion revolving around the principles of Perception and Attention (Cognitivism) shed some invaluable light on this.

Design and deliver effective staff development in technology and its integration into the curriculum.
I hate to sound like a broken record, but again, the readings this week come up big again here. Not only does knowledge of the key learning theories help to design and deliver effective lessons/training, it also provides one with the necessary supporting proof and evidence to convince others (i.e., fellow staff ) to take part in the evolution of educational systems.

* A couple other skills I also hope to address, but don’t know how much progress I will make with are the following:
Design and develop lessons and activities that integrate technology in a variety of instructional settings for all students.
Use technology resources to collect and analyze data, interpret results, and communicate findings to improve instructional practice and maximize student learning.

Week 2 (February 8 - 14, 2011) -- Part 1

This week we got our first taste of learning theories (e.g., Behaviorist, Cognitivist, and Constructivist) which I was really excited about because of the huge role I know they play in the field.

We were asked to post on our blog space in Blackboard addressing the following question:

What concept or idea intrigued you most in this week's readings? Why?

The following is the response I prepared:

This is a rather difficult question because all of what we read this week was quite intriguing. If I had to pick one though, I would have to say the discussion surrounding Cognitivism caught my attention the most (with Constructivism not far behind).

With respect to my teaching scenario in Second Language Learning (SLL), I feel like I can relate most to the principles surrounding Cognitivism. Some of these principles include the following:

Memory: this plays a central role in SLL as learners are constantly confronted with tons of new vocabulary as well as grammar rules. Finding effective ways to organize this information combined with opportunities for practice (or repetition) are both highly necessary for retention to occur.

Comprehension: this is also an extremely important aspect in SLL. I can recall countless instances of student s saying they comprehend a certain word or grammar point but, when asked to use it in a practical scenario, blank stares are drawn. Again, providing students with multiple opportunities to practice in various contexts is important here so that they are ‘able to apply what is learned outside of the instructional setting’ (Allesi &Trollip, 2001, p. 23).

Motivation: as stressed in the reading, this is such a critical factor being it’s what really drives us as learners. The debate between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation was also a bit of an eye-opener for me. I’ve been quick to use extrinsic motivators in the past, but I think I will focus on more intrinsic ones in the future as this obviously is a bigger asset to have in the learning process. The motivational theories discussed were also quite helpful in contextualizing this principle in terms of instructional design (ID). I think I favor Malone’s though as it seems to make more sense. I’m especially fond of the ‘Fantasy’ factor as I’ve always had success with this in grabbing student attention (e.g. Imagine you are traveling to the US/UK and you need to do such and such…).

Constructivism entails many ideas and principles which I think are generally very important in today’s educational settings, and what most Web 2.0 tools available today seem to be geared towards. However, I don’t feel I can relate to them as much with respect to my personal teaching scenario. Unfortunately, the students I tend to deal with generally need to be ‘spoon-fed’ information and aren’t very good at thinking for themselves. Part of this problem has to do with the educational system the students are brought up in where they basically depend upon rote memorization in order to succeed. That being said, there are some Constructivist principles I do try to employ including focusing on learning (as opposed to teaching), and collaborative work.

With respect to Behaviorism, as discussed in the readings, approaches like drills and tutorials are still widely used in SLL today (and will probably continue to be for a long time). However, the feeling I came away with was that the principles discussed seem to deal more with classroom management techniques rather than instructional design. Again though, not to take anything away from this theory as it’s evident it helped pave the way for the other learning theories to come after (i.e. Cognitivism, Constructionism, Objectivism, etc.)

In reality though, as suggested in the readings, teaching/ID methodologies should definitely incorporate a mix of all three learning theories as no particular one is complete from A to Z.


Alessi, S., & Trollip, S. (2001). Multimedia for learning: Methods and development (2nd Ed.). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Educational Broadcasting Corporation. (2004). Constructivism as a paradigm for teaching and learning.

Standridge, M.. (2002). Behaviorism. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Week 1 -- Part 2

In addition to the readings in Week 1, we were also asked to complete the Massachusetts Technology Self-Assessment Tool (TSAT), which is basically a survey of (instructional) technology competencies.

I found filling out this form to be rather beneficial in helping to identify my strengths/needs. From the results, I can conclude that I have a pretty good foundation in Technology Operations and Concepts. However, there is definitely some room for improvement in terms of Ethics & Safety as well as Teaching & Learning (with Technology). I hope this course will aid me in becoming more proficient in the skills comprising these areas.

You can view my completed form here: Massachusetts TSAT (Mohammed) -
You can also find a blank version here: Massachusetts TSAT (blank) -

Week 1 (February 1 - 7, 2011) -- Part 1

In the first week, we were asked to read four articles. The first two, entitled Frameworks of Educational technology (Ely, 2008) and What Field Did You Say You Were In (Reiser, 2007), focused on defining the field of Educational/Instructional Technology.

I found these articles rather enlightening as the respective authors provided a bit of a history lesson with respect to not only how over the years the field has changed but, consequently, the naming as well. Reiser (2008) mentions how the field dates back to the early 1900s where the focus was on “instructional media – the physical means via which is instruction is presented to learners” (p.3). Instructional media can include various resources including audio, images and film. The irony about this is that even today, some people still equate the field with instructional media (Reiser, 2008, p.3).

However, over time (mainly during the 1960s and 70s), other views also came to light that looked beyond instructional media. Namely, ideas emerged that the field could also be thought of in terms of a process aimed at improving instruction (Reiser, 2008, p. 3). From the late 1970s and into the 90s, this view was taken a step further with the shift in paradigm focus from behavioral to cognitive and constructivist learning theories (Reiser, 2008, p. 5).

In 1994, the AECT offered a new formal definition for the field focusing on instructional technology. As Ely (2008) mentions, what’s nice about this definition is that it “builds on past definitions” (describing the process of the field), in addition to “adding contemporary interpretations and applications” (addressing instructional strategies) (p. 245).

In 2008, the AECT published yet another definition for the field, but this time describing educational technology. Although both educational and instructional technology have been used interchangeably in naming the field, the former seems to be more of an encompassing term describing “the use of technology in any aspect of the education enterprise”, whereas the latter is more specific focusing on the “use of strategies and communication media” in the “process of teaching and learning” (Ely, 2008, p.244).

Following these articles, the next two we read entitled Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants and Do They Really Think Differently (Prensky, 2001), discussed the evolving divide between “digital natives” and “digital immigrants”. To be quite honest, I found this article truly inspiring and a must-read for all those working in any facet of education/instruction. So many of the issues Prensky (2001) discusses is particularly why I decided to pursue a Master’s in this field.

According to Prensky (2001), “digital natives” refers to the students of today who “are all ‘native speakers’ of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet (p.1). “Digital immigrants” refers to everyone else who was not “born into the digital world” but is trying to adopt the new means of technology (Prensky, 2001, pp. 1-2). Prensky (2001) states that these two groups, in essence, speak different languages (pre-digital vs. digital) and hence, have trouble communicating with each other (p. 2). In order to deal with this issue, it is necessary that we as educators/instructors “reconsider both our methodology and content” (Prensky, 2001, p. 3). Furthermore, the backing and support of administrators is also vital in order for this effort to catch on and succeed (Prensky, 2001, p. 6).

I can recall on numerous occasions during my time as an EFL instructor where teachers would complain about not being to connect with their students, criticizing them as being lazy and unintelligent. They had no hesitation in finding faults in their learners, but were not so willing to stop and evaluate their own teaching practices. I too suffered from this phenomenon early on in my teaching career, but soon got over it once I began to embrace technology use in the classroom. In order to engage students, we have to try and incorporate into our lessons what interests them - that is, technology. Although integrating technology does require additional work to be put in, I honestly believe the results are well worth it. Once teachers realize this, the learning experience will likely be more enjoyable on both sides of the fence (i.e. that of students and teachers).


Ely, D. (2008). Frameworks of educational technology. British Journal of Educational Technology, 39(2), 244-250. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2008.00810.x

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon 9(5).,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf

Prensky, M. (2001). Do they really think differently? On the Horizon 9(6).,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part2.pdf

Reiser, R. A. (2007). What field did you say you were in? In R. A. Reiser & Dempsey, J.V. (Eds.), Trends and issues in instructional design and technology. 2-9. Upper Saddle River, N.J: Pearson/Merrill Prentice Hall.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

My new focus with this blog

As I have finally decided to pursue in my Master’s degree in Instructional Technology, I plan to dedicate this blog for the time being to discussing the weekly readings/activities I’ll be doing in my first course, Foundations in Instructional Technology.

As always, any comments or feedback to share regarding my posts would be much appreciated.