Archive for April, 2012


Learning Reflected

What began as a required class, a hurdle to clear as I make my way towards a junction in my educational career, ended as a revelation into my own mind and way of thinking. Many times I have attended a class only to struggle to learn and remember important facts so that I could pass a test or write a difficult term paper. I did not realize that I was limiting myself and my mental capacity. I realize now that there are many different learning processes, aids for memory (both working and long-term), and even simple reflection, applied correctly, can and will enhance my ability to not only learn but retain important information.

Many times we hear or read something and think, “That was so simple but I had never thought about it that way”. As I read and researched, certain phrases would catch my attention, warranting a second look. For example, the book Learning Theories and Instruction, states:

Simply attending to and perceiving stimuli does not ensure that information processing will continue. Many things teachers say in class go unlearned (even though students attend to the teachers and the words are meaningful) because students do not continue to process the information (Ormrod, J., Schunk, D., & Gredler, M. (2009).

Something as simple as reflecting or elaborating on the subject mentally can enhance one’s ability to retain information. I found that to be so basic but yet surprising.

When I began EDUC 6115-2, I considered myself a Behavioral and Cognitive learner. Behaviorism implies learning comes from a change in behavior through observable performance and Cognitivism is basically a change in knowledge (Ertmer & Newby, 1993). When I was introduced to other learning processes, I had to rethink how I actually responded to information that was presented to me. I am an adult learner who learns behaviorally, cognitively, and with a measurable level of Constructionism. I participate in Social Learning through Connectivism almost on a daily basis. Before this class, I had no idea that I was limiting myself but most of all, that I was such a complex learner.

Learning theories, learning styles, educational technology, and motivation are the four areas an on-line learner and instructor must consider and acknowledge when preparing to embark towards higher education. We, as persons involved in knowledge seeking or teaching, must know how we learn, what we do to learn, how we access that knowledge (and the technological environment), and, most of all, stay motivated on our journey. Motivation is probably the most prominent component of learning regardless of the level of education or classroom forum. When there is a motivation to learn, there will be learning if the instructional environment is conducive to that process. Dr. Keller (1999) contends that motivation is manageable and is affected by the teaching environment but ultimately the responsibility of the learner.

I have already began to modify by instructional strategy when I work with students. I no longer require rote memorization which places the responsibility for learning on the students. I now facilitate association and elaboration to help the students not only remember but understand what they are learning, which is my responsibility. I have learned that within each student is a person who retains knowledge in different ways and has a different approach to learning [Gilbert & Swanier (2008)] and I, as the instructor, must not only instruct but facilitate that learning process and style for each student.

While there is irrefutable evidence of various learning theories, processes, and strategies as well as unlimited resources for knowledge, the burden of learning or knowing rests on us, the student. We have to self-evaluate. Knowing about when and how to use particular strategies for learning or for problem solving (metacognition), as defined in Wikipedia, is where our strength lies in learning.

References

Ertmer, P. A., & Newby, T. J. (1993). Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4), 50–71. Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective.

Gilbert, J., & Swanier, C. (2008). Learning styles: How do they fluctuate? Institute for Learning Styles Journal [Vol. l]. Retrieved from http://www.auburn.edu/~witteje/ilsrj/Journal%20Volumes/Fall%202008%20Volume%201%20PDFs/Learning%20Styles%20How%20do%20They%20Fluctuate.pdf

Keller, J. (1999). New Directions for Teaching and Learning; Summer99, Issue 78, p39

Metacognition, (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metacognition

Ormrod, J., Schunk, D., & Gredler, M. (2009). Learning theories and instruction (Laureate custom edition). New York: Pearson.

I’ve Come A Long Way

I am a life-long leaner only I haven’t come to realize that until recently. Education has always been important to me, even as a child. I know what it’s like to milk the cow or slop the hogs before getting on the bus to head off to school. I’ve had to miss school to plow or work in our 5-acre garden. It was hard and it would have been easy for me to believe that living was more important than learning. Nevertheless, I did my homework and studied. In a class of 125, I graduated number 26. It would be another 16 years before I opened a college textbook and 12 more years until I would earn my bachelor’s degree. And it took all that time to figure out how I learned and what else could work for me other than trying to remember facts.

For a long time I believed that learning was simply remembering what was taught and doing what you were told. Teachers could be strict or nice and some would rant and rave while others were more compassionate. That’s what I thought teaching and learning was. Having said that, I see that teaching could be demonstrations, lectures, small group sessions, or (unfortunately) making me memorize, just to name a few. The teaching I enjoy the most is that instructor that can ask the right question at the right time to put me into a deeper mode of thinking or reflection.

Learning is so much more complex than simply recalling an answer and regurgitating facts. People are different, I am different, and we have brains that function similarly but so very differntly. I did not realize, until recently, that we have so much in common but learn in so many different ways.

I still prefer hands-on learning with demonstration and I still prefer to see and hear what I’m being taught versus one or the other but I have discovered within myself another method that I find equally satisfying- comprehension, to read, reflect, and understand. I also enjoy input from others as we discuss relevant issues of learning. I learn from learning about you and how you think. I discovered on-line Social Learning. I had no idea it was even out there but I enjoy it immensely.

Then I discovered that my home computer, my laptop, and my phone were part of an infrastructure of knowledge that could be harnessed and brought right to the learning part of my life. Connectivism combined with social learning and reflective questions, sprinkle in some cognitive thinking and metacognition, with a smart phone and wah lah…higher education. If we consider that knowledge is all around us in the world and not just in our heads (Wikipedia, 2011), why not learn every chance we get? We have come a long way since the blackboard, chalk, and a notebook. I have come a long way.  

 

Connectivism. (2011). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Connectivism

Connectivism

I’ve only just began studying connectivism but I have already developed some opinions of the theory. I take connectivism quite literally, meaning I apply definition to the theory by breaking the actual word down to its basic components. If connect means to join and ism is a condition or state of being then connectivism is the state of being connected. One of the accepted definitions of connectivism is “the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, and complexity and self-organization theories” (Seimens, 2004). I like the word “principle” in this definition. I believe connectivism is not a learning theory but a conduit of knowledge. Once that knowledge is presented to the learner, the learner must apply the method of learning that is appropriate to enable recall or introduction to long-term memory (LTR) for use in the future. Simply put, connectivism is technology of every shape and form being accessable to millions of people who seek knowledge. Knowledge is not a tangible comodity but it is the act of knowing.

I like Westerns and several years ago, HBO had a series called “Deadwood”, a show about a small but booming mining town in the foothills of South Dakota. The show represents the way life was in the late 180o’s for gold miners in the Black Hills. In one episode, Trixie shot a man in the head for hitting her. In the ensuing chaos, Doc was called and it was evident that the man was going to die but Doc was absolutley amazed that the man was still alive, even able to mutter, “She shot me.” Well, the man died and Doc took him down to his office for an autopsy. Doc had an active interest in medicine and I suppose he even graduated medical school but the show never disclosed that part of Doc’s past. Doc learned most of his skills on the battlefields during the Civil War. Doc cut and prodded but never discovered how the man lived for a full 20 minutes after being shot in the head. You see, Doc didn’t have the internet, at least not on the show.

Here in the real world, many if not most of us, carry a cell phone with applications. One company brags that there are over a half a million “apps” their phones can access. There is at least one computer in every home and if there is not, there is one at work or the neighbor’s house. The internet is the common denominator of technology that we live our lives around. Connectivism is what brings knowledge to our doorsteps. This morning, I sat on my front porch and checked my email, chatted with a friend who lives 3000 miles away, and worked on a school project- all on my cell phone. Then I logged on to my computer in my office, double checked my references, imported a file from a major university, and published a blog using most if not all information I obtained from the World-Wide Web. If I had a mind to, I could post a question and a complete stranger on the other side of the world could answer it. That, my friend, is connectivism to me. It is not a learning process or theory, it is the act of obtaining knowledge from those to whom I am connected, from the systems that bring knowledge to me and puts the world at my feet.

 

References

Seimens, G. (2004) Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. Retrieved from: http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm