Reflection on my learning of EDUC6115 course

It is time to look back at past few weeks of my learning about learning theories and instructions, and reflect on those thoughts!

Frankly, I had never given a serious thought to all the theories and terms used to explain the learning process. Just by observing, I understood that each person learns in different ways, depending on their educational goals and values, abilities (strengths and weaknesses), influences from their immediate environments, interest in a subject and a teacher/instructor’s approach to teaching it, relevant social interactions, motivation, etc, etc…

So, a well defined, exclusive, course EDUC6115, on learning helped me in many ways to:

– reiterate my experiences about understanding my own and other’s learning process,

-access immense sources of excellent research findings to support my understandings,

-comprehend the importance of effective instructions, to be a sensible instructional designer.

I remember that in the first discussion post, I said I was taught in a behaviorist method in my younger days but a combination of cognitive and constructivist would be my best learning philosophies. Now, I’d add a dash of connectivist and social learning to the list! Because along with the appreciation of the importance of learning about short and long term memory, how to effectively improve storing information in LTM, create own understanding through scaffolding techniques, I realized the importance of discussions, interactions in technical and social networks, use of latest technology, knowledge of multiple intelligence, motivating factors and much more! This expedition through the ocean of knowledge of various learning styles introduced me to learn in many various ways!

Thus, I’d say that learning styles, learning theories, educational technologies, and motivation are all pieces of the big learning puzzle. Each piece must be used to fit together in a way to complement and supplement contextual information to benefit the learner.

Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences was one of the striking points to me, which offers the best information because it provides descriptions of learning styles. The theory of multiple intelligences (MI) is an especially good model for looking at teaching strengths as well as for examining areas needing improvement. MI theory provides a model through which one can activate a person’s neglected intelligences and balance use of all the intelligences. As Gardner says people utilize several intelligences based on learning tasks makes me want to include variety in the instructions to kindle a learner’s MI capabilities.

I agree with Gagne, who states that there are several types/ levels of learning that require different types of instruction, and different internal and external conditions. He identifies five major categories of learning: verbal information, intellectual skills, cognitive strategies, motor skills and attitudes. I feel that a systematic approach to learning tasks for intellectual skills, such as the ones addressed in this course (and many other online classes), requires organized hierarchy. This facilitates learning at each level and provides a basis for the sequencing of instruction (Gagne’s nine events of instruction)

However, we all know the importance of motivation to a successful learning experience, especially in a self-directed learning, online environment, I’d definitely consider Keller’s ARCS model  principles to design mass motivational email messages along with adaptive motivational design. In this task, information and data about the target audience will be a great help in creating excellent online courses.

I strongly agree with the research study by Comeaux (1995) which found that interaction and involvement lessened the psychological distance for students at remote learning sites.  Because, I believe that a learner must feel a strong connection with his/her instructor and cohorts and be happy to come back to learning something new!

Additional Ref:

http://tip.psychology.org/gagne.html

http://tinyurl.com/nfzh35

Learning Theory puzzle pieces come together…

Looking back the past 7 weeks, I’m glad to say that I’ve definitely learnt a lot about my own learning style. This may be because, earlier I had no opportunity to take any “courses” on learning theories. Although I did modify and made some changes in the way I learnt-mainly because of the whole new “on-line” experience, I don’t think my view has changed on how I learn.

“We are all so different largely because we all have different combinations of intelligences” (Howard Gardner) and as Dunn and Perrin (1994) described learning styles as “the way in which each learner begins to concentrate on, process, and retain new and difficult information. That interaction occurs differently for each individual” (p. 2) Thus, I have learned that the theories of learning can be used in different contexts with different learning types.

A quick recap of the learning theories we studied:

  • In Behaviorism, learning happens as a response to a stimulus in the environment. This is influenced by positive reinforcement and feedback. Acquiring basic skills with a focus on measurable and observable/expected behavior helps students extensively
  • In Cognitive theory, focus is on knowledge acquisition (information processing of brain) by following well structured procedures and rules, influenced by growth of conceptual understanding and strategies of thinking to solve problems with reasoning. Higher intellectual skills develop this way.
  • In Constructivist theory a learner constructs knowledge based on his/her own experiences. Largely influenced by environmental learning opportunities, students learn to solve problems of emerging relevance structured around primary concept.
  • In Social Learning theory, learning is achieved through meanings and understandings out of social encounters. Language, symbols and signs in a society, are the tools that facilitate learning. Students achieve strong social and interpersonal skills with this.
  • In Connectivism, learning occurs by integrating information from social and technical network. Influenced by complex environment, diversity of cultural and social network, students benefit by connecting, compiling and internalizing abundant information.

Knowing these theories made me wonder and I concur with Kerr, when he says, “It seems to me that each _ism is offering something useful without any of them being complete or stand alone in their own right.”  (Kerr, 2007)

Thinking about my own learning style, clearly indicates to me that I use a good mix of all the different styles, depending on the complexity of the subject to be learnt.

Personal Web has been a very important and primary technical source to search for the most useful and reliable information, mainly in the area of learning new technologies. According to Lim “Internet technologies allow learners to access up to date information anywhere and anytime” (pg. 16) As I mentioned in my earlier blogs, there is an ocean of information; infinite amount of knowledge to be accessed, organized and internalized by using technology. Connectivism, (the term is fairly new to me) is obviously the means for learning in this on-line class. We are all connected together and are learning by the technology.

However, until now, I had never seriously thought about how I used technology in my everyday life for personal learning and helping kids to learn. Use of social networking sites: Facebook, Orkut, LinkedIn etc has grown on me so easily and effortlessly that it makes me wonder that the world has shrunk and is such a small place after all!

Ref:

Ormrod, J. (Host). Walden University [Media Playlist]. Baltimore, Maryland: Laureate Education Inc. [Learning styles and strategies]

Gardner, H. Project Zero. 2010 Project Zero: http://www.pz.harvard.edu/

Kapp, K. http://karlkapp.blogspot.com/2007/01/out-and-about-discussion-on-educational.html

Kerr, B. http://billkerr2.blogspot.com/2007/01/isms-as-filter-not-blinker.html

Conlan J., G. S. (no date). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/index.php?title=Adult_Learning.

Gilbert, J. &. (2008). Learning Styles: How do they fluctuate? Institute for Learning Styles Journal [Vol.I].

Kim, B.  (2001).  Social constructivism.  In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technologyhttp://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/index.php?title=Social_Constructivism.

Reflection on my Mind Map

This week as I learnt to make my mind map, it made me reminiscence the formative, growing up years. My learning was very much centered around the teacher and parent guided methods and even in high school, there were very limited opportunities to learn in a constructivist way. College, in fact gave me more opportunities to branch out, make connections with my friends in other colleges and learn immensely by exchange of information and personal discussions. Graduate school exposed a variety of learning opportunities: reciprocal teaching, elaboration, modeling, constructivism and connectivism. The major sources of information were professors, books and journals from the library. A personal computer was way too expensive and highly inaccessible and World Wide Web was a luxury.

It was only when I came to the US, I learnt the basics of surfing the web and was aghast at the amount of information I could gather from it and learn! That was the starting point of an electronic network changing my life. It connected me to numerous other rich resources that supplemented and complemented my skills and knowledge. Now, it is the first life line to reach out for guidance and support when my human resources are inaccessible.

So, my network has changed the way I learn from being a passive young learner, to a self-directed adult learner where the online resources and instructor are my guide and facilitator, specially in my present venture of studying IDT.

The only digital tool that has facilitated my learning is the World Wide Web. According to Siemens, “considering technology and meaning-making as learning activities begins to move learning into the digital age” (2005, para. 15). Inherent to this new viewpoint on learning is the idea that we can no longer personally experience everything there is to experience as we try to learn something new. We must create networks which, simply defined, are connections between entities. By using these networks – of people, of technology, of social structures, of systems, of power grids, etc. – learning communities can share their ideas with others, thereby “cross-pollinating” the learning environment (Siemens, 2005, para. 21).

When I have questions, the places that I look for answers depend on the topic, complexity, and the degree of accuracy. In most cases, Google is definitely my preferred choice and then I fine tune my search and supplement it with knowledge from human network, other e-resources, and of course from books.

I must thank my wonderful father who constantly (even to this day!) inspires me to look beyond what I see and be an active learner. He’s my guru, guide and philosopher.

So, be it, helping my children do well in school, advising students on their research projects, discussing possible ways to overcome hurdles in research protocols, supplementing my music or yoga knowledge or just to be in touch with friends who are spread all over the world, connectivism has immensely helped.

Davis’s (2008) idea that there is some “delicate interplay between complexity and self-organization” in all the things I do.  Luis Mateus Rocha (1998) defines self-organization as the “spontaneous formation of well organized structures, patterns, or behaviors, from random initial conditions” (p.3).

Siemens says,” Education is complex, lots of multiple impacting factors. The dimension to address with connectivism is that nature of abundant information, of primary use of technology, the increasingly complex systemic-based environments we face today” very well summarizes how we learn today.

As connectivism suggests that there is more than one way we acquire the knowledge, I am very glad that I am able to use connectivism to enhance my learning experiences.

Ref:

http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/index.php?title=Connectivism

Video Program: “Connectivism” by George Siemens