Philosophy of Teaching and Learning

My personal philosophy of teaching and learning follows constructivism. The University of Sydney describes constructivism as, “Humans construct knowledge and meaning from their experiences.” I agree, but also believe learning relies heavily on the merits of both students and professors.

I am drawn to online education because of the flexibility, efficiency and potential of this new field. Online education allows distance learners opportunities for education, can be completed at the learners’ pace, and drives innovation for educational technologies. A report on innovation in education from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) lists five models of supports from education technology, “Educational gaming, online laboratories, technology-enabled collaboration, real-time formative assessment and technological support for skills-based curricula.” These are excellent examples of the many wonderful possibilities for online courses, but their value rests on the merit of the course design.

Online education has great potential, but also provides many challenges for instructors. To design a successful class there must be meaningful lessons. These lessons must provide opportunities for students to create knowledge on their own, and include a system of assessment. Accountability is tricky with physical separation between students and the instructor, which is why finding a way to record student progress is vital. Online courses should have clear goals and instructions. The goal is for students to meet the learning objectives not just jump through hoops.

I have found that my philosophy changes the more I learn, which leads to my final educational caveat. To have merit as an instructor, continued learning is key. There is so much change in education it is crucial to keep honing your skills and to make data driven decisions.


Works Cited

Constructivism. (2017, August 7). Retrieved December 03, 2017, from

OECD (2016), Innovating Education and Educating for Innovation: The Power of Digital Technologies and Skills, OECD Publishing, Paris.






Final Article Review!

Today I had a student question why I made them do spelling homework, which inspired the search for my final article. I chose to review Beyond the Rainbow: Retrieval Practices Leads to Better Spelling than does Rainbow Writing which was published in 2016 in the Educational Psychology Review.


Spelling has always been a weakness of mine, so I was particularly interested in the best method of spelling practice.  The article covers 3 experiments comparing rainbow writing and retrieval. The tests were done on 1st and 2nd graders which I personally thought was an appropriate age since they would more likely still be learning new-to-them words.


In the justification for the importance of spelling there were several reasons why we need to improve spelling instruction. One I found particularly interesting was, “Graham and Hebert (2011) found that teachers judge the quality of ideas in papers containing spelling errors more harshly than the same papers with no spelling errors.” Which I realize I am guilty of. Sometimes it’s hard to grade content differently than writing conventions, but it’s really unfair to.


The method of the first experiment seemed simple and effective to me. They chose 20 words and have a group of 2nd grade student’s study with rainbow writing (when you write each letter a different color) and the other group use retrieval (spelling test, correction, repeat). The results clearly show retrieval as our winner!

The second experiment was the similar experiment 1, but with students from a different geographic region (Ohio). These students did a post-test, then studied with their given method before the post-test. We can see that before the practice our rainbow group was scoring higher, but after practicing the retrieval group made huge gains and took the lead.

The third experiment was again similar to the first two, but this time they tested 1st graders. Once again retrieval is the clear winner, even with the younger age group.


            I found this study to be valid, it is simple and effect to compare spelling tests using different studying methods. My only complaint is that it is such a narrow scope. Now I am curious on what the very best method of spelling practice is. I am also curious if retrieval is the best method for older students. Maybe retrieval beats rainbows for sight-words, but does it win in higher grades? I’m glad that I know a better way to study words. I wish they had compared more methods, but I get that this study was just a comparison.


Works Cited

Jones, A., Wardlow, L., Pan, S., Zepeda, C., Heyman, G., Dunlosky, J., & Rickard, T. (2016). Beyond the Rainbow: Retrieval Practice Leads to Better Spelling than does Rainbow Writing. Educational Psychology Review28(2), 385-400. doi:10.1007/s10648-015-9330-6

Article Review 4

This week I did not want to chose a dud, so while searching for gamification articles I chose, Gamification of Dietary Decision-Making in an Elementary School Cafeteria, because it has been cited at least 29 times. Hopefully this means it has merit, not that it has been made fun of on that many occasions.
From only reading the Abstract I am interested! This study looks at a gamification implemented in a K-8 school to help students chose more fruits and veggies, and lower food waste from unconsumed food. This reminds me of My Fitness Pal, or other food tracking apps. Having badges and leaderboards that encourage healthy habits seems like a great idea.

Questions before Reading:

How did they keep track of foods eaten?
Are students self-recording?
What components of gamification were used?
How effective is it?

On my first read through I couldn’t help but think how fun this study sounds. I found the validity of their method to be spot on. The study was created to solve a problem (poor nutrition) and encourage kids to have healthy habits. The main component of gamification used was narratives.

“During the assembly, the heroic and villainous characters were introduced and students were told that over the next few weeks they would play a game in which they could help the heroic characters to capture each of the villains. This help would come in the form of energy that the students could harness for the heroes by eating fruits or vegetables in the cafeteria.”

The students were encouraged to try new FV (fruits and veggies), and each specific target FV to continue the narrative. Students were read brief stories about superheroes needing energy from FV before lunch as the narrative progressed. I was curious on how their study could tell if the gamification increased FV, which they

Figure 1. Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Across Baseline and Gamification Phases.
achieved by having randomized target veggies. The narrative encouraged students to improved overall FV consumption especially the target FV which you can see had a significant increase.
I found the methods to be entirely sound. The researchers measured consumption by weighing the sorted waste. Their goal was to find a way to track and increase FV consumption with gamification. Surveys were sent home to families with very supportive results, students enjoyed the study as well.
This study answered all of my questions. They tracked consumption by waste weight, researchers did the recording, narratives, trends and prizes were the components of gamification and you can see from Figure 1 it was very effective. I find this to be a valid and interesting read.

Works Cited

Jones, B. A., Madden, G. J., & Wengreen, H. J. (2014). The FIT Game: preliminary evaluation of a gamification approach to increasing fruit and vegetable consumption in school. Preventive medicine, 68, 76-79.

Article Review 3

Rachel LaSota

Article Review 3

29 September 2017


I’ve continued my research into gamification and chose to specifically look into gamification in elementary schools. After a few strategically worded google searches I found A Practical Study of Mathematics Education Using Gamification which is perfect because I am looking for ideas to revamp my math class.


Continuing on my theme from last week I decided to pose questions for the article after only reading the abstract. Since the abstract is so brief I decided to include the whole thing, but I have highlighted the key ideas for those of use with less time, conveniently this is also where I pulled my critical questions from.



This paper explores the use of gamification in math lessons for children in order to highlight the relationship between math education and its application to society. In school education, there is an existing problem about how to relate concepts learned in math to everyday life. One of the reasons for this problem is that it is difficult for teachers to set appropriate questions for students. We investigated a classroom using gamification intended for elementary school sixth grade students (34 people). As a result, it is argued that gamification is effective in math education.”


Now for my questions:

  • How is math gamified?
  • How do we use games to related to everyday life?
  • How does student age effect gamification effectiveness?



Let’s dive into the article!

Synopsis Critique
The article is organized into 4 brief sections; Introduction, Method, Result, Conclusion.



Article introduces the idea that there is a problem in math, which is relevancy. Teachers are not asking appropriate questions, so the answer is to use gamification.


“Gamification is the application of aspects such as “scenarios” and “competition” from a technological game-playing context to a non-gaming situation”




The two advantages of gamification are, “The ability of children to feel the need to question.” And that it, “Improves children’s motivation and interest for learning” which is what the lesson is based off of.


The research follows at 6th grade class of 34 students. The students were asked to create goods to sell for a local football team. Once created they were assessed based on a rubric that cover Interest, Knowledge, Calculation and Representation or Graph.



The results cover how the students scored on based off of the rubric. The majority of students scored high in knowledge, with less impressive results in Interest, Knowledge and Representation or Graph.


The students then took a two question survey asking how arithmetic and proportionality relate to society. The survey shows a small raise after the lesson in both areas.



“From the results of this study, the gate for teaching and evaluation methods that incorporate the application of gamification concepts is open as children are more likely to feel the connection between the subject and society. It will also increase student motivation and interest. On the other hand, If children have a difference of academic ability, Gamification might have no effect. Therefore, challenges remain in terms of measuring a child’s academic ability.”

I am realizing now how short this article is, I hope it content rich!



I found merit in these claims that math is a harder subject to inspire students because of this disconnect from relevancy. I’ve noticed when you put math in terms that students can connect too they take it more seriously since they can grasp value.


This quote answers my first question of how math is gamified – using scenarios and competition. Upon further reflection I am realizing this was a pretty weak questions, but also necessary when analyzing this article.


I am wondering how they established these two advantages, this makes me question the validity of this research. Seems like a poorly constructed project.



The fact that this study is based off of one classroom makes its results very questionable. Personally I would take any results with a grain of salt. This research does not have merit.



Wow, I am laughing to myself about how poor an article I chose. I guess you can’t always pick winners. This whole article is based off of student self-reflection to 2 questions. Even the results are very shaky, they provide numbers but we are not informed on what they mean. I would have liked to see the survey to know what each quantity represents.





I highlighted the gems from the conclusion. I hope you enjoy their nonsense as much as I did.


I am concluding myself that this is a garbage article. It did not answer my questions. It does not have a solid structure or results. The conclusions drawn hardly tell us anything, and are open-ended.


I hope you enjoyed my review, I did not find this study to have value. There weren’t any questions asked, the study has a very weak design, and the results drawn have no credibility. I would have liked to see a true research structure with a control group, a copy of the student self-reflection, and a sample of what the projects the students created look like.



Works Cited

Sakai, K., & Shiota, S. (2016). A Practical Study of Mathematics Education Using Gamification. International Association for Development of the Information Society.

Article Review 2

For my second article review I chose to continue my investigation of gamification.  I chose Does Gamification Increase Engagement with Online Programs? A Systematic Review which was recently published this past March.

After only reading the Abstract, I decided to brainstorm some of the questions I would like to see answered. Since I am no expert in gamification I found it hard last week to determine “value” I still am skeptical how grad students are supposed to determine value in a scholarly article of unfamiliar content, but I will do my best.  The questions I would like to see answered are:


  •         Does gamification increase engagement online?
  •         Does gamification work better online or in person?
  •         How can you measure engagement?
  •         What counts as gamification?
  •         Are there various levels of gamification?


To help organize my thoughts as I analyze the article I decided to use columns to divide synopsis and critique. Let’s get started!


Synopsis Critique
The article begins with some interesting statistics, “The average adult spends an estimated 20 hours per week online.”

It goes on introducing the idea of gamification and provides a definition of gamification, “The two most commonly accepted definitions are: 1) ‘The process of game-thinking and game mechanics to engage users and solve problems’ [9] and 2) ‘The use of game design elements in non-game contexts’”

I continued reading and was happy to have a more detailed paragraph follow that truly dives into what it means to be gamified, “Gamified applications’ refers to software that incorporates elements of games. Points, badges and leaderboards are the most common gamification elements. Others include: providing clear goals, challenges, levels, progress, feedback, rewards, and stories or themes”

The article continues and provides examples of popular applications that use gamification to motivate users, and opinions about if gamification works. They even bring attention to the problem with researching gamification is that it is hard to have a control condition.

The methodology begins by stating it follows PRISMA guidelines. It continues on explaining how they collected data from other research by only choosing the studies that targeted adults, and were online. Each study had to have at least one type of gamification targeting engagement. The studies included need to have a control group, and bee full length peer reviewed articles.

This study is really a study of other studies. They used eight different electronic databases and searched “Gamif*” only looking at English studies after 2010. Then experts looked at all the studies to see if they were eligible.

The study went on explaining how the results were synthesized, which a lot went over my head once they started talking about the different classifications.

I was excited that the next section was results. After looking at 1017 studies they found 15 that met their parameters.

The next section went into detail which I really found interesting. “The most common gamification features evaluated were leaderboards, badges, and rewards. Some of the studies focused on gamification for a single session vs over time.

Engagement was measured by volume, total posts, comments etc. Performance was also measured as some of the gamification was for medical apps not just learning. For example an app that would give you badges for taking your medication or exercising on time.

The results are grouped in the different aspects of engagement, time spent, times visited and volume of contribution. The majority of the studies showed that gamification does help!

The Key findings was another interesting piece of the article. It basically says that gamification does increase engagement, but the effect appears to wear off over time.

I did enjoy reading the strengths and limitations of the article. It is very strong how they systematically chose their research, but there is a potential for bias and it is not a complete view of all gamification because it was limited to only the English language.

The conclusion again agrees that gamification does increase engagement with online programs, and the most effective method shown are leaderboards.

Good Overview, I believe the article does a nice job establishing itself.


One of my five questions answered in the first few paragraphs, but what are “game mechanics” I can make a guess but I did like more clarification.





I guess patience pays off. I like the list of gamification elements, and especially how they included the importance of clear goals. I think this is crucial in all parts of education. There is nothing worse then trying your best in a class, but failing because the professor hasn’t set clear goals. I can see how these elements would really increase engagement. If the research follows this design as they test engagment I am fairly certain it will prove to be more successful than classes without.





I didn’t know what PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses, but after some quick research *cough*  Wikipedia *cough* I learned it was an evidenced based standard  to help researchers ensure complete reporting by requiring a certain amount of studies for their meta-analysis.




I hadn’t realized that there were studies of studies. I quite liked seeing how it worked. I think that the process seems exemplary and througrough. Later on in the paper it even says this is the only study (for gamification) of its kinds so far.

This seemed like finding needles in a haystack, but I am glad I made it through their justifications which all made sense to me. I think the 15 they found were done fairly.

I’ve seen more gamification in elementary schools. My students use Typing Agent, Prodigy Math, Accelerated Reader, and Spelling City. All of these have  multiple aspects of gamification, including leaderboards and badges. I personally use apps with gamification, like Zombies, Run for exercise, and like earning badges for my step counter. Before this I hadn’t really made the connection that I liked them because they were gamified.


Answers my question about different levels of engagement. I do feel a little weird about time spent. I think that people learn in such different ways it’s a much wilder variable. I could read an article and think about it all day which would go unnoticed, vs someone who reads and spends 10 mins making comments and is done.



Gamification is a novelty.. I guess the solution is to make cooler and cooler and way cooler games 🙂



Seeing the article check itself with its own limitations was nice. I’ve found all the conclusions and results extremely appropriate.





I’ve been inspired to try and add more gamification into my classroom, but also I’ve realized how much I already use but had not realized. Even having the class earn rocks when they are quite quickly is a little game. Games make everything more fun.


After reading the article I went back to check my questions:


  •         Does gamification increase engagement online?  Yes!
  •         Does gamification work better online or in person? Unanswered
  •         How can you measure engagement? Time, # visits, volume
  •         What counts as gamification? Badges, points, leaderboards, puzzles…..
  •         Are there various levels of gamification? Yes, depending on how many aspects are involved


In conclusion I found this to be a very interesting read and nice collection of potential articles to review in the future. I not only learned a lot about gamification, but I learned about PRISMA too! I think that the study was done efficiently and accurately. Yes, this article has value.


Works Cited

Looyestyn, J., Kernot, J., Boshoff, K., Ryan, J., Edney, S., & Maher, C. (2017). Does gamification increase engagement with online programs? A systematic review. Public Library of Science. Retrieved September 22, 2017, from


Article Review 1

Students Engagement through Gamification in Education Gamifying Formative Assessment. – Click To Download

I am interested in gamification in education so for my first review I chose an article from the Journal of Engineering Education Transformations, Students Engagement through Gamification in Education Gamifying Formative Assessment.  I found the introduction very interesting as it was my first taste of gamification. I was especially interested by the answers given when asked why they play games.

The top answers were that it provides them challenge, creativity and winning. Other outcomes were social environment, friends, Problem solving, random surprises, exploration, imagination, sharing, teamwork, role playing, recognition, and last but not the least triumphing (Ryan , R.B etal 2006).

The article continues with interesting statistics on gaming, then answers the question, “What is Gamification in Education?” (Mishra, p. 2) Gamification in education is when you integrate game dynamics to increase participation and motivation to your students. I found that the research greatest value is in the list of core elements or, “Core drives” (You-OI Chou, 2003) of gamification. The list contains:

  1. Epic Meaning and Calling
  2. Development and Accomplishment
  3. Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback
  4. Ownership & Possession
  5. Social Influence & Relatedness
  6. Scarcity & Impatience
  7. Unpredictability & Curiosity
  8. Loss & Avoidance

This list is such a wonderful tool for designing units. If these are the factors that are put into creating a good game, it would make sense that they would create a good lesson. It makes so much sense to cater education to these “Core drives” as they produce so much motivation and engagement.

The journal designed an experiment using reverse grading, “‘Based on the core elements of ‘Loss & Avoidance’ and ‘Ownership & Possession’” (Mishra, p. 3) in the classroom to see how students respond. They tracked the progress of 22 university students subjected to reverse grading, which is grading students based on their potential taken from day one. This allows personalized learning as it differentiates student potentials. The results showed overall students were more motivated because of the gamified assessments.

I found this article to be an interesting read, and have great value. The researchers clearly did their research and their experimental method directly correlated to gamification claims. I am interested in seeing how well the other “Core drives” would fare. The conclusions backup how engaging gamification can be as an education tool. This is significant as it shares some key strategies proven to help with student engagement. I am excited to implement the “Core drives” into my own lessons, and now that the research to back them up!


Works Cited

Mishra, R., & Kotecha, K. (2017). Students Engagement through Gamification in Education Gamifying Formative Assessment. Journal of Engineering Education Transformations.

Something Old; Something New x2

I decided to make a double post with two new original activities. 


Purpose: As we strengthen our online presences especially in academic communities I think it is important to represent ourselves. People can chose not to have profile pictures for privacy, but lets at least create and reflect on our own avatars for our websites.

Task: Create an avatar and set it as your webpage profile. Reflect on the pros/cons of having an avatar/profile picture.

You can use any avatar maker, or try

Grade: 10/10  A+ of course, check out this avatar and reflection.

  I think that having a profile picture helps the public determine if you are genuine or not. It can help you seem relatable. Sometimes I don’t like using my real photo because I know I will be stalked by students and like my privacy. For example I would never let them know my Overwatch username or I would be bombarded when I want to relax.


Google Yourself

Purpose: As we venture onto the web we leave behind traces of our identity online. Maybe its that old myspace profile that you never deleted, or that beauty vlog series you were sure would go viral in middle school. Lets track down and see how we look to the public online.

Task: Using a new browser (if you use one you have accounts on it will find your stuff automatically), Google yourself and reflect on what you find.

Grade: 15/15 A+ I actually found this project really fun, I learned new things about myself and realized there is a women in Temple City with my same name who is running for the school board. I found the comparison between Google and Edge interesting and am really freaked out by the Knot. I think everyone should do this an I added more points because I ended up changing the privacy settings on most of my accounts! Sometimes you need a reality check.


Submission: I used  Microsoft Edge for the first time since it used to be internet explorer and was pleasantly surprised. I realized quickly that I wasn’t using Google search, but Bing. So what are the top results when you Google me?

  1. Facebook (mine)
  2. Facebook (not mine)
  3. This blog
  4. A mysterious LinkedIn account I must have forgotten I made.
  5. Whitepages
  6. Voter Records (they know I am registered Democrat)

Surprislingly I don’t pop up for any images. So I decided to use Google (still on Edge) and compare the results. My Google results are below.

  1. Facebook (mine)
  2. Temple City News (not me)
  3. The Knot (Creepy, I didn’t think I published this yet!)
  4. Temple City News (not me)
  5. Something in California
  6. Linkedin

Google did have images of me, 2 of the 5 first images are my old Facebook Profiles.


[Not So] Final Project

Garageband: Media Literacy Rap

Poster Created by Nikki Stien

Part One:

Below is a lesson created for middle school students which can easily be altered for younger or older students by modifying the rap framework and expectations. 


Media Literacy is an important skill in this digital age. Learning to navigate the web safely, and having good digital citizenship allows students to contribute positively to the online community. Cyber-bullying is a serious problem, which is easily combated by raising awareness. We will be putting out media skills to the test as we use Garageband to produce our own raps centered around Digital Citizenship.



  1. Learn about Media Literacy. – link to presentation.
  2. Use the information to write a short Rap on Google Docs. – link to the template.
  3. Once you have written your rap you will start laying tracks on Garageband.  – link to download.



  • The topic of each rap must be relevant to Media Literacy.
  • Raps must have an intro, chorus, verse and outro.
  • Raps must be appropriate and completely original.





Part Two:

Throughout this semester I have strengthened my understanding of digital citizenship. I now know the answers to my “wonders” for this class. I think that I learned the most from exploring the creative commons. Knowing how that resource works will really step up my digital arts game.

I thought of digital citizenship as needing the “digital” and am starting too less, but it is nice for clarification. if you think of where in a middle school students should learn about citizenship you think in a social studies classroom, but does that teacher really have time to teach digital citizenship too? If it just implied? Don’t steal toasters, don’t steal songs – it seems similar. I think that you still need the Tech teacher to take the digital side of citizenship because it is too broad and ever changing. Someone needs to explain to students what piracy is.

I think that I currently have a very strong understanding of digital citizenship. To be honest I am probably at my peak. I am coming off a summer of taking many masters classes for my ONID (Online Innovation & Design) degree, just taught a year of middle school tech, and have just enjoyed all this free-time from summer to play on the internet. My next year teaching is now fourth grade. I hope my skills don’t slip. Still I will be getting older and busier and slowly get more out of touch.

I don’t believe my habits have changed much over this class. I still wake up, play video games, do homework, go outside, then come home for more video games (and it is awesome). I do think they have changed slightly in that I multitask a lot. I will see my assignment, think about it while I slay daemons in Azeroth, then get to work. When I go for walks I was also working on iNaturalist. When I went to DC I doubled up the film I made. My favorite part of this class was that it is OK to weave all the bits of your life in. I think it is fantastic that we are allowed so much freedom because it produces so much excellent diversity in our assignments.

My goal for this winter is to pull in as much technology for my fourth graders as possible. Fourth grade is government and citizenship – which I will include digital citizenship. I plan on teaching them how to green screen, use GIS, and if I get enough computers even animate.


Part Three

My advice for future students is to stay on top of your assignments. In fact get them all done as early as possible and do the extra credit in case life catches up to you and you need to slack for a while. Make a friend or two in the class for group projects and sharing ideas. Be creative and lazy, combine as many projects together as you can. Work smart. Go with your gut.

Most importantly make sure to spellcheck and format. No one wants to read a messy blog, keep it pretty and it might be useful again someday.

Fire Away

I have a few outstanding questions about the ADA and IDEA…

Can lifeguards be disabled?
Who decides what ADA accommodations are unreasonable?

Do teachers with disabilities get  accommodations?

Why are children serviced under IDEA until 21? Are we not adults at 18?
Can “children” with disabilities vote?

Is there accountability for ADA? How does UAF rank with accessibility?

Does morbid obesity fall under ADA?

Exploring the ADA

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that protects people with disabilities from discrimination. This protection includes the following areas explained in the presentation below.

 Click to  learn about ADA with this lovely Google Slide I created.


Comparison of IDEA and ADA

We need to know and care about ADA and IDEA because we are teachers. We have students in our classrooms who qualify for these special services and by law we have to provide them.