Sunday, October 24, 2010

Learning From Learning Theories

When I started the course that was the inspiration to writing this blog I had to talk about how I learned and what were issues that made learning challenging. I made the points that I learn kinesthetically and with a lot of visuals and examples. I also made mention of the fact that if I do not find things interesting I quickly label them as unimportant and those tidbits of knowledge rarely find their way into my long term memory.
My assignment this week was to discuss how my view of how I learn has changed based on all this new information about learning theories. But as I learned more about the theories I already knew and then new ones like Connectivism, Social and Adult learning theories my view didn’t change it was just enhanced.
I still think that the theories play upon one another. I agree when Jonassen says “that introductory knowledge acquisition is better supported by more objectivistic approaches (behavioral and/or cognitive) but suggests a transition to constructivistic approaches as learners acquire more knowledge which provides them with the conceptual power needed to deal with complex and ill-structured problems” (Jonassen, 1991). I think we float in and out of different elements of behaviorism, cognativism and constructivism throughout much of our life.
But the one this that did change was being introduced to the Connectivist theory. I fully agree with and learn through the parameters of this theory. I am fully connected to my “network” and learn a lot while online. The obvious way that Connectivism influences my education is that I am currently getting my masters online, and I have also created an educational blog (that you are reading now).  I am also a social network junkie, I live over a thousand miles away from my hometown and have friends all over the world. I stay in contact with all of them on Facebook, even the ones that live 15 miles away.  I stay “connected” through my blackberry. I use this mobile device to check my email, Facebook and to Google or spell check anything my friends or students can ask or come up with. Technology plays a huge and very important part in my education, formal and casual.
With the introduction to the new theories I also learned that I am not a textbook Adult Learner. I do not need to be involved in the creation of the instruction or help develop it. I am a busy adult I just want you to give me the information I need and then let me process it as I see fit. I do, however, prefer to learn things that matter in my personal and professional life. Anything outside of that box becomes less interesting and it is hard for it to hold my attention.
To honor other learners like myself, I will keep this blog concise and simple. Learning theories are, honestly, not my favorite topic to study, but they do have their place in Instructional Design. So if you are in or considering a career in ID you really need to understand how people think and learn so that you can fully understand how to teach them effectively.

Jonassen, D. H. (1991). Evaluating constructivistic learning. Educational Technology, 31(9).

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Connectivism in the My World: A Reflection

I remember when I was in the 2nd grade writing a paper on the Stegosaurus and my dad walking into the dining room with this huge box. When I opened it there was a full set of these green encyclopedias. I was ecstatic. I remember feeling like the entire world was sitting right in front of me. By middle school I was already frustrated with these little books lack of current information. And last year a student was giving out random volumes from an encyclopedia set he had found in his house. While standing there holding a “P” encyclopedia I realized how much had changed in my lifetime, how expansive the learning networks we all have really are, even in 2nd grade.

But the magic I once saw in those books my dad bought me is ever growing on the internet. Google is my current set of little green encyclopedias. I feel like I really do have the world at my fingertips by simply typing in a few words. According to Siemens, “connectivism is driven by the understanding that decisions are based on rapidly altering foundations. New information is continually being acquired and the ability to draw distinctions between important and unimportant information is vital. Also critical is the ability to recognize when new information alters the landscape based on decisions made yesterday” (Seimens, 2005 p. 24). So this made me wonder how the way I learn has changed. Google, often times coupled with my Blackberry, is my tool of choice. I can get the information I am searching for in a matter of seconds. If I am writing a paper, creating a smartboard presentation for my students, or just trying to prove a point in a conversation over dinner with friends, I can go to Google to get all my answers.

Another tool I use is Facebook. If I need to remember who was Homecoming queen my senior year in high school, where to get the best pizza while visiting New York, or some fantastic movie quote, I can just put it in my status and wait for the responses to roll in.

I could write a laundry list of others sources of information that I use to gain knowledge, but what it all boils down to is that I am now an impatient learner. When I cannot figure something out I am plagued by it. I have been Google-ing the word for when you learn a new word and then you hear it all of the time for months and I have yet to find the word. I blame myself for not knowing exactly how to word my request in that little bar to get my results, or that I need more sesquipedalians on my friends list on Facebook.  I am no longer satisfied with the fact that most people don’t know the information I am trying to get, as I once was before technology became such a prevalent part of my learning network.

I am not sure if “Connectivism” is a learning theory or just a pedagogical view, and to be honest, I don’t really care. Whatever you want to call it, I agree with it. Because information is created, distributed, altered, dissected, changed and redistributed at such a rapid rate you have to recognize the importance of being “connected”. I agree that “decision-making itself is a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow, due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision” (Seimens, 2005, p 24). Information has always changed at a rapid pace, but we were never privy to the changes at such a fast pace as we are now. So I am constantly rechecking facts and making sure I check more than one site in my search engine results. So as all of this becomes faster and faster, we must constantly learn new ways to fine tune our learning process.