Monday, December 19, 2011

Course Reflection - EDUC 6711

            During the last seven weeks, we studied several different learning theories and had the opportunity to grow as an educator.  In addition, we studied how integrating technology into these various learning theories can enhance student learning.  I have always felt that, since students learn in different ways, we must learn to incorporate different instructional strategies in our classes.  Having studied the various instructional tools throughout this course, I feel I have a broader range of tools to use in my classroom.  I also feel I have a better grasp on why certain students respond differently to the same instruction.  Trying to reach all learners is a challenge.  As educators, we must constantly evolve so we can continue to offer our students the best opportunity to grow in our classrooms.
            In week one of this course, we developed a personal theory of learning.  In it, I stated that all students have an innate desire to learn.  Students lose focus and motivation when the challenges become too great for them to handle.  Once students have the confidence that they can achieve in the classroom, they are more willing to work hard to battle challenging topics.  In my theory of learning, I also stated that students learn in different ways.  As teachers, we need to vary our instruction so all students can be successful.
            I would like to make some modifications of my personal theory of learning.  I still think students want to learn.  I still think instruction needs to vary to help students.  However, my focus before this class centered on how I delivered instruction to students.  Studying constructionism and connectivism allowed me to understand the power of learning strategies where students learned the concepts on their own with me being more of a facilitator.  Let the kids build a roller coaster to develop an understanding of energy and its conservation.  Let students work together and learn from each other as opposed to everyone learning my way.  With the many technological tools available, the possibilities are endless.  I may be able to learn from students in the same way they learn from me.  If I can learn to let students take on greater responsibility, students will be able to better understand the concepts I am trying to teach them.
            Two tools I would like to incorporate into my classes are Voice Thread and One Note.  I see an extremely high value in using Voice Thread when I know I am going to be out.  Instead of students working out of their textbooks, I could develop a Voice Thread lesson plan to instruct them.  Students would be able to collaborate using Voice Thread to achieve a particular learning goal.  One Note is a tool that I feel also has great potential.  One Note allows for collaborative work, especially in the one-to-one environment.  Even if we do not go to the one-to-one environment, One Note can still be used to have students work cooperatively.  There are many other tools I have learned about during this course.  However, I am a believer that one cannot learn and implement many tools at once.  As I continue to develop my repertoire of instructional skills, I will be able to include more tools into my classroom.
            One long-term goal change I would like to make is to institute a more regular lab/student-centered learning activity using technology.  While I use some of these activities throughout the year, I feel like I can incorporate more.  If I planned out more and preset the dates,  I would be more inclined to do more.  Oftentimes, I get caught up in how much of the curriculum I have covered.  I then have to decide to spend time on a lab or to move on to another topic.  Sometimes, due to time constraints, I choose the latter.  I need to make a better effort to incorporate these activities on a regular basis.
            Another long-term goal I would like to change is to use more collaborative work.  Many students have their own laptops in class.  We are looking to implement a one-to-one program where each student has his own laptop.  Many schools who have already implemented such a program use One Note regularly.  By learning how to use One Note, will be in a position to better incorporate this application in a classroom setting.  By doing this, students will be able to collaborate much easier.  Until we do that, I will have to find other ways of students collaborating.  By having students work together, they can learn from each other.
            There are still many ideas that I would like to implement.  These take time to complete.  However, I am making progress on that front.  In addition, I am a member of the technology committee.  I need to continue bringing ideas to the committee to enhance the learning environment of the school, not just my classroom.  As I develop my skill level in this area, other teachers will be able to do so as well.  This will give our students a better chance of success in the classroom.

Tim Trotta

Sunday, December 4, 2011


Here is the link to my VoiceThread.  I was very dissappointed in the user interface.  I felt it was not very user friendly.  Maybe it takes a few times to get a better feel for the interface.

Tim Trotta

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Connectivism and Social Learning in Practice

Social Learning Theory states that students learn from interacting with each other to build artifacts (Laureate Education, Inc, 2010).  Students sitting idly at their desks listening to lectures are not benefitting them.  Student must be actively engaged in the learning process by interacting with each other.  Students learn a great deal from each other during this interaction.

In Using technology with classroom instruction that works, we learn about cooperative learning.  Cooperative learning does not help students at all unless the strategy is used to enhance student learning.  Using cooperative learning just for the sake of doing so will not provide for the best learning environment.  However, when used effectively, students will learn a great deal.  Technology should be incorporated whenever possible.  Using multimedia, such as creating a video, requires students to work together.  Students may not feel thrilled about the subject material in the class, but having a student be the director of a film could be his forte.  Videos cannot be made without working together. 

Another strategy that is often used is referred to as the jigsaw strategy.  Here, students are responsible for teaching other members of the class who are researching a different topic (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010).  Students form groups with a similar topic and research that topic.  This research can be done in a way that students work together.  Even after the research is complete, the group must form an outline of material they will teach to others.  Then members of this group return to their original groups and teach the rest of the class what they discovered.  This is effective because if forces every single student to teach a topic to somebody else.  I have always felt that teaching a topic to someone else is a great way to understand the topic yourself.

Tim Trotta

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2010). Social Learning Theories [DVD]. Baltimore, MD:

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction 
             that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Constructionist view learning as an internal process that occurs when students build external artifacts (Laureate Education Inc., 2010).  Students build an object (an artifact) in the learning process.  While they are building, they assimilate and accommodate their schemas so they can move toward equilibration (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010).  In doing this, students are active in the learning process.  The teacher will only act as a facilitator.

Technology can be a tremendous advantage to this type of learning.  As we saw in Ch 11 of Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, Mrs. Omar’s 5th grade class learned about investing money and which model works best.  They did not have to spend a great deal of time working out high school math problems in the process.  The spreadsheet she had her students use computed the numbers for them.  This allowed them to accomplish the teacher’s objectives without getting bogged down in mathematical computations.

Using data collection tools is another use of technology to accomplish learning in Constructionism.  Using sensors and data collection probes, allows students to find data, and be able to plot the data accurately and quickly.  This allows students more time to analyze the data.  From here, the teacher can expand the lesson to include additional thought-provoking questions.

In my physics classes, we use Vernier’s LabPros and data collection equipment.  Students like it because it allows them to analyze the data without worrying about drawing the graphs.  The graphs are already drawn.  When students look at the graphs and various points on the graph, they usually are able to identify what it is I want them to see.  One example is a walking activity.  Students can see how velocity and acceleration work together.  This also helps them to see what is meant by negative velocity and/or negative acceleration.  This is a topic that many students find difficult to overcome.

Many of the problem-based learning classes can get caught up in “little issues”.  An example would be the graphs mentioned earlier.  When these “little issues” are resolved, students can focus on the real task at hand. 

Tim Trotta

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2004). Constructionist vs. Constructivist Learning Theories [DVD]. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Cognitive Learning Practices - Week 3

This week’s learning resources address how our brain processes information, and how educators can use this information to facilitate student learning.  Much of the information relates to how students can transfer information/data to their short-term memories, and then to their long-term memories.  When students make a meaningful relationship with this storage system, they will be better able to retrieve this information when needed.  As Dr. Orey states in his video, it is not that students forgot a fact; it is students forgot how to retrieve that fact.
Howard Pitler addresses cues, questions, and advance organizers as a strategy to help students in this endeavor of retrieving information.  Cues and questions are similar in that they attempt to trigger something in students’ memories to allow them to retrieve the needed information.  An example would be a teacher trying to help a student remember when Christopher Columbus discovered America.  The teacher might say, “Columbus sailed the ocean blue…” and let the student finish with the correct answer.  In my AP Physics class today, I helped my students memorize formulas for the moment of inertia of a rotating object.  I related a long rod rotated about one of its ends to a baseball bat. Its inertia formula is 1/3 ML2.  A baseball player swings a 1/3 ML2 rod.  Now when a student forgets the moment of inertia of a rod rotated about its end, I could ask him about the baseball player.  This question strategy is similar to a cue in that it will trigger the retrieval of information. 

Advance organizers help with memory as well, but in a different way.  Advance organizers can help students classify information in an attempt to keep information organized.  In this way, students can make better sense of large amounts of information.  When students can keep this information straight, and have a better understanding of the meaning of the information, there is a better chance of retrieval of this information when needed.  I have been using a graphic organizer for years in my physics classes.  Students are required to have a column for all the given information in a problem.  They are also required to have a column for the information they need to find.  They must also start solving the assigned problem with an equation.  In requiring students to use this advance organizer, they are able to stay more organized throughout their solving of the problem.  Even though students do not like to do this because they feel it is quicker to just “do the work in my head,” students will need the organization skills when solving more complex problems involving multiple unknown variables.  These problems cannot be solved in their heads as they will need to use multiple equations to solve problems with multiple unknowns.  When students have to solve a type of problem they have not seen recently, using the graphic organizer will help them stay organized and remind them of the process used.

There are many advance organizers students may use.  Many of them involve the use of technology.  Word processing and spreadsheet software allows students to take notes.  Many of my current students use these applications regularly with success.  There are also online organizers.  Kidspiration and Inspiration are two that are mentioned in our text.  While I have not used them, they appear to be easy to use and extremely helpful.  The additional benefit of using technology is that students have grown up using these tools.  Students tend to prefer using computer applications over traditional tools, such as paper and pencil.  When students use these tools, there is a better chance the information they are processing will enter both the short-term and long-term memory locations in their brains.

The other strategy in our text that we studied this week is “Summarizing and Note Taking.”  This is a skill that almost all students need to practice.  Even my “cream of the crop” students do not understand how to take notes or to summarize.  This is a skill that must be practiced.  Many students are afraid if they delete a piece of information, it will not be in their notes when they need it.  I am constantly working with students with their note-taking skills.  While I feel like some progress is being made, I feel I could use more advance organizers to allow students to take better notes.

Concept mapping is another tool presented.  Using this strategy, students are able to organize information.  The concept map allows students to rearrange various nodes of information to a format that suits each learner.  Software tools can also take the concept map and export it into an outline.  I have not used these in the past, but I certainly feel like it is something I can implement into my classes. 

Virtual field trips are another strategy used by teachers.  Field trips are valuable experienced if properly planned out.  Students can perform more hands-on tasks on a field trip.  Unfortunately, logistics prevent students from taking many field trips throughout the year.  A virtual field trip can provide many of the same benefits.  I have been taking my physics students to an amusement park at the end of the year.  While it is a fun trip, students are expected to collect data and solve physics problems as they relate to the rides.  With many students playing spring sports, it is very difficult to have everyone attend the trip.  For these students, and other students who do not wish to pay to attend the field trip, students can take a virtual field trip.  Youtube has many attractions from amusement parks all over the United States.  Virtual field trips put students in a real-life situation without actually going there.  Students tend to find these more interesting, and will make learning meaningful on these virtual field trips.  This in turn, will allow greater retrieval of information when it is needed due to the associations students are able to make.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Behaviorist Theory - Week 2

During week 2, we read about two different instructional strategies, “Reinforcing effort” and “Homework and Practice.”  Both strategies use the behaviorist theory of learning to achieve the desired result from the student.  The behaviorist learning theory uses two methods to achieve conditioned responses, reinforcement and punishment (Laureate Education, Inc.  2010).  According to Dr. Michael Orey, reinforcement is the preferred way to go.  While punishment works, reinforcement has a much greater impact on behavior.  Students should see their positive accomplishments be rewarded (reinforced).  In this way, they will show they are learning something.

In the “reinforcing effect” strategy, students are learning about the relationship between effort and achievement.  This seems to be such common sense that we do not need to elaborate on it.  However, research indicates that not all students recognize this relationship (Pitler 2007).  Students need to be taught the value of work.  By showing the students Ms. Powell’s rubric, student have the opportunity to see what the teacher is looking for in students.  Students can also see what behaviors to avoid, such as only studying for a test on the previous night.  By using the spreadsheet idea, students are learning how to collect date, organize data, and create graphs, in addition to understanding how effort impacts achievement.  The calculation and graphs are easy to develop using the spreadsheet.  This makes seeing the results that much easier.  Students who had to make the graphs using paper and pencil may get frustrated that they never see the correlation between effort and achievement due to not completing the graph adequately.

In the “homework and practice” strategy, students have the opportunity to review the newly acquired material.  Practicing this material will strengthen students’ knowledge of concepts.  Pitler recommends giving homework with a clearly articulated purpose and outcome.  He also recommends teachers should also provide feedback as quickly as possible.  By providing this feedback, student work can be reinforced or corrected more efficiently.  Technology can enhance this experience.  There are many online application that provide practice problems with instant feedback.  There are also many applications which can help with the reinforcement of skills.  These include word processing and spreadsheet applications, multimedia, web resources, and communication software (Pitler 2007).  The communication software is being more influential as today’s technology grows.  GoogleDocs is a common communication application which helps to organize information from several students.

The behaviorist learning theory allows for building up students using reinforcement.  Two strategies using this learning theory were examined.  Technology can help in several ways.  As technology develops, there will be even more ways for to reinforce positive student work.
Tim Trotta

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Reflection Paper for Walden University - Understanding the Impact of Technology on Education, Work, and Society

I have learned a great deal in this course.  So far, I have created a blog, worked with a wiki, created a podcast, and studied how the workforce is changing and what skills people need to be productive employees.  Students will use a skill set that varies slightly from what they currently use.  They will need to acquire 21st century skills which will put them in a position to succeed when they go to work.  These 21st century skills involve the use of technology while enhancing their ability to think critically, communicate, be creative, and work collaboratively with others.  These skills are the ones we should be emphasizing through our core content (not in place of) because these are the life skills students will probably use the most throughout their lives. 
I felt this course was taught in a way that we could model it for our students.  We were not told, “This is how you create a blog.”  We were given a starting point to give us some direction and told to go create a blog.  We were then given time to work on it.  As students, we were responsible for our own work, not the teacher.  The teacher was only responsible for pointing us in the right direction and answering any questions we had.  Since I had never used any of the above mentioned technologies, I now feel more confident implementing one of these into my classroom.  This is what we need to strive for in our classrooms.  Too many times we get caught up lecturing or telling students how to do something instead of letting them figure it out for themselves.  What is even more disturbing is that administrators tend to lecture at faculty meetings.  The administrators cannot “teach” the faculty what they need to do without lecturing.  Yet they expect us to teach in a student-centered learning environment.  This class is a good model of how we should teach in our classrooms.  Our administration should be doing the same.
I have always been a believer that students learn by working on some task.  Minimal learning takes place when listening to a lecture.  This course has given me many ideas to use in my classroom.  Students learn a great deal by working on open-ended projects.  The learning process of students is more apparent now.  I look back at some of the strategies I used in my classes and think, “What was I thinking?”  Having a better understanding of the learning process allows me to transition from a “deliverer” of information to a facilitator.  Student can find information in many places.  Students need me to give them direction so they know what to look for. 
The best way for me to continue to expand my horizons is to keep practicing the techniques I have learned.  I am only starting to scratch the surface of what I am capable of doing in my classroom.  I need to keep adding more new ideas using technology and develop new ways of making my students learn to think.  The rest of the faculty also needs to learn the same skills.  I need to attempt to expand my role in both my classroom and with the rest of the school.  In this way we can all learn more as we progress and students will be better prepared for both college and life.
I have set two long-term goals over the coming years.  I would like to incorporate a daily blog in each of my classes.  This means I would need to post to each of my five blogs each day.  This seems like a daunting task.  However, I am sure this will become routine I will not even have to think about it much.  My other goal is to use technology in each of my classrooms each class.  Again, this seems like a great deal of work.  Lessons will have to be tweaked (and in some cases overhauled) as more creative assignments need to be implemented.  Unfortunately, I am the only physics teacher at the school.  I am not able to bounce physics ideas of anyone else in the building.  I am teaching a chemistry class next year so I might be able to share some ideas with the chemistry teacher.  If we could work together, we could come up with some neat assignments to enhance student learning.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

AP Physics 2011-2012

This is my first blog post for AP Physics 2011-2012.  I am curious what each of you thought about using Web Assign.  I'm sure it was new and it was a little different, but I want to get some feedback from you, the students.  Please post a brief comment to give me some feedback.  You do not have to sign up for an account to do this.  You can use "anonymous" for posting.  Just make sure you put your name somwhere inside the actual comment so I know who it came from.  Thanks.

I hope you are enjoying your summer.  We will be back in school in about 3.5 weeks.  I still want you to enjoy your summer, but start getting some of the beach sand out of your heads.  We have a lot to cover in this upcoming year, so be ready!!!!!

Mr. Trotta

Monday, August 1, 2011

Student Profile - Podcast

Check out my podcast located here:
This is my first ever podcast.  Please let me know what you think.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Partnership for 21st Century Skills

Reaction to the website:  This web site is dedicated to helping people understand what skills they need in the 21st century work force.  The work environment is changing and many of the blue collar jobs have been eliminated.  The 3R’s and 4C’s are the skills most employers are looking for and will be most in demand.  (As a side note, usually 3R’s refer to 3 words, each beginning with the R sound.  Not so on this web page.)  Many of these skills should already have been developed at home (parents) and throughout school (former teachers).  To be honest, are not any different than the skills from the 19th century.  However, more employers will be looking for these skills.  Therefore we need to make sure students acquire these skills.
Information that surprised me:  Nothing on the web site surprised me per se, with the exception that the impression is given that these 21st century skills have someone been created recently.  These skills have always been needed.  Many times they have been overlooked with a greater emphasis on content knowledge.
Information or opinions that I disagree with:  “Every child in the U.S. needs 21st century knowledge and skills to succeed as effective citizens, workers and leaders.”  This statement is part of the mission statement.  There are many effective citizens, workers, and leaders who do not possess 21st century knowledge.  You don't have to have these skills to be successful in the real world.  The workers who collect my trash may not know how to turn a computer on, but could be very productive members of society.  I agree that the number of jobs available to people without 21st century jobs is dwindling and therefore it is more difficult to find a job.  It is not impossible, just more difficult. 
 Implications for me and my students:  21st century skills are in demand.  The more skills someone has, the better prepared they are to handle a job (and a family for that matter).  Teachers need to ensure these skills are being taught on an everyday basis.  Parents should also be teaching these skills at home.  However, as teachers, we have no control over how that is handled at home.  I have been teaching my students these 21st century skills for a while now.  I have always felt the ability to solve problem (and think critically) is one of the most important skills someone can have.  I feel my role now is to enhance the classroom so student can acquire these skills with more variation in the classroom.

Friday, July 8, 2011

When am I ever going to use this stuff?

One question students always ask is, “When am I ever going to use this stuff?”  The same can be said for this blog.  A blog can be a great tool, but if nobody uses it, then what benefit does it provide?  Today, I will attempt to answer this question.  As I stated in my first ever post, I plan to start small.  Once I get comfortable in the blogging world, I will expand it to include all of my classes.  For now, I want to limit it to my AP Physics class who are all seniors.  This should be a relatively easy transition to my other physics classes once I achieve a certain level of proficiency.  The content (at least initially) will be similar.
I see this blog having a few purposes.  First I see it as a means of communication.  When I assign certain homework assignments, I can post them here.  I could also use this space to elaborate on the details of the homework assignment.  I could include due dates for assignments and post test reminders.  I could also announce pop quizzes on the blog.  Students who visit the blog get a heads up about an upcoming quiz.  Students who complain they did not know about the quiz are basically announcing that they did not visit the blog.
Along the lines of communication, another area where this blog may prove useful is when I am out of school one day.  When I am out, I am required to submit an assignment to the office for students to do while another teacher babysits, ahem, I mean proctors them.  I could save a lot of work for the office and the sub if I could just say, “Students should check the course blog for their assignment for today.”  I could post the assignment on the blog, writing to them in a manner they will understand.  There is nothing like trying to explain a physics lesson to an English, history or math teacher who knows nothing about physics.  I mean no disrespect to educators of those disciplines, just that many are not familiar with physics jargon.  This is no different than me trying to help students in a history or English lesson.  Assuming I am able to do so, I could be logged on to the blog during class in case there are questions about the assignment. 
This blog will also be used as a venue where students can interact and ask questions of me and each other about content area.  This could include homework assignments or general questions about the material we covered.  Having students interact like this allows them to learn from each other, and not just from me and the textbook.  Students may also feel more inclined to post an answer to a blog than to raise their in class to answer a question.  In class, there is also the fear of answering a questions wrong and feeling embarrassed.   A blog can help alleviate that to an extent.  There is one drawback here, however, in that the blog is asynchronous.  Students may have to wait for their answers unless other students are online.  An RSS feed may help with this.
A third use of this blog could be for AP Exam review.  I am looking for ways to improve my AP Exam review.  Printing out old exam questions and telling students to work on them does work to an extent.  However, there may be a better way.  I am thinking about printing out an old AP Exam questions to post on the blog.  Students should attempt to complete the problem.  Students are free to discuss it on the blog, but each should post a solution to the problem with explanation.  AP Exam questions recently including “explain” and “justify your answer” type questions where students need to write out an explanation.  This could be a great place to practice this writing skill.  To be honest, our school has undertaking an initiative to increase student writing abilities.  A blog may be the perfect place for this to happen.  I think I will pass this on to my principal to see if we could incorporate it into our school.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Tim's 1st Blog Post...Ever!!!!

This is my first blog.  Who knows where this will lead.  To do anything well you need to practice.  Many people think practice makes perfect.  Cal Ripken Sr, a former coach and manager of the Baltimore Orioles, coined the phrase, “Practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.”  Hopefully, I will be able to make this blog into something useful.  To do this, I will need to practice.  I have wanted to try new things in my classes, but it is very difficult to do this during the school year.  So here I am, on my summer break, trying to start a blog.  For this blog, I am going to start slow.  I am hoping to incorporate my AP Physics class so this will be more useful.  Of course, it is summer time and many of my students are taking a break from school.  I have assigned them work to do in preparation for the rigorous school year ahead.  I hope they will complete the assignments on time.  Maybe I could use this blog as a means of communicating with them throughout the summer.  I would like to get up to speed on this so it can actually be useful in my class.