Reflection of the course Learning Theories

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When I started this course I had the expectation of getting a lot of answers to how I should do the teaching, so the student would learn a lot and finish the course. That did not happen, since (and I do know that) there are no simple answers or solutions to how things should be done. There is no panacea, no “one solution fix it all”, but there are different models and theories that can give directions of how to design a course, so it appeals to many students.

Looking back on what we study, I would not say that I found things surprising or striking when it comes to how people learn. I knew before this course that people learn in different ways, but for me, that meant that people have to find out about their learning style and be mature enough to apply that knowledge to their study. I also knew that I, as a teacher, can implement a course in a different way to meet these different styles. The thing I found most interesting, has been about the brain, and the fact that involving many parts of the brain functionality help me to remember more. Then add some emotions to that will increase it even more (Laureate Education, Inc., N.A). So, it is not so much about the students to understand their learning style (even if that would help them). The importance is that I, as a teacher, make sure to use all learning styles when teaching the subject in a course, and to make it fun, since that will help them remember (learning) more.

This course has of course given me a deeper understanding of my own personal learning process. I wrote in the first discussion post that I believed I was a cognitivist. Before I started this course I had read about different learning styles like audio, visual and kinesthetic. I had also met the word behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism but never really understood what it meant. Now, after also meeting the theories around social learning, connectivism and adult learning, I understand more and realized I am not a cognitivist only, since there is not one theory that explains it all. All theories are important, but they act as a filter for understanding learning (Kerr, 2007). Meaning that all theories will apply to my learning process depending on the subject and how new it is to me, and where in the process I am.

So, what have I learned? I have learned that it all is connected, and we need to use it all in a well mix. From learning theories, we have the importance of the environment but also other people and the interaction between those and the learner. We also find the knowledge of how we response to stimuli, but also need metacognition and problem-solving together with a social network to learn. It is also important to apply knowledge in different contexts, and if we are talking about adult learners they need to see the relevance to their job or life (Ertmer & Newby, 1993; Conlan et al., 2003). Add that knowledge to learning styles, that more “refers to the way the brain perceives and processes what it needs to learn” (Tomlinson, 2012). Whether we talk about VAK (visual, audio, kinesthetic) or MI (naturalist, interpersonal, logic/mathematical, spatial/visual, intrapersonal, bodily-kinesthetic, musical and linguistic) it comes down to the brain and mentioned above, the more the brain has to work (encoding in a different way) the more we learn (remember). So we take these different parts that a learner need to experience in a course, and use technology to help the learner to activate the brain and to connect to reality. I wrote in the discussion in week 6, “Technology is a tool and should be used according to the syllabus and objectives of a course. We should never use technology just because it is available. Today almost every professional is using technology in their work and not only for emailing or writing documents. Because of that, students should use this technology when they learn that profession. Using the tool in that way is how the constructivism would suggest us to work with learning. To use realistic settings and tasks that are relevant (Ertmer & Newby, 1993)”. Using all this in a sufficient way will help us to create courses that help learners to feel motivated. Although, I can not control that motivation. If students are in a course of the wrong reasons (motivation), then we might be lucky to make them actually interested in our course.

“It is too easy to reject an approach because it does not resonate with our personal experiences of learning and teaching. This shuts out the possibility not only of other people having very different experiences but also of opening ourselves to challenging new explanations of learning, which may demand that we step away from our personal worlds of comfortable beliefs and values.” (Foley, 2004). I used this quote in week 5, and I like it. It challenges me as a teacher (and an instructional designer) to look at different ways of designing a course and in that design challenge students to step out of their comfort zone and find new ways of learning, but also that they might learn more than they thought was possible. The challenge is also to help students to use their life experience and learn from them, and from others life experience (Foley, 2004, p. 60).

 

References

Conlan, J., Grabowski, S., & Smith, K. (2003). Adult learning. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/index.php?title=Adult_Learning

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

Foley, G. (Ed.). (2004). Dimensions of adult learning: Adult education and training in a global era. McGraw-Hill Education. Chapter 4, “Understanding Adult Learners” by Tara Fenwick and Mark Tennant (pp.55-73), Chapter 11, ” On-line Adult Learning” by Bruce  Spencer (pp.189-200)

Kerr, B. (2007, January 1). _isms as filter, not blinker. Retrieved September 19, 2012, from http://billkerr2.blogspot.se/2007/01/isms-as-filter-not-blinker.html

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (N.A). Information Processing and the Brain [DVD]. In Series Title. Baltimore, MD: Author

Tomlinson, C.A., Parrish, W.C. (2012, March 25). Presentation presented at ASCD Annual Conference, Philadelphia, PA. Retrieved from http://www.caroltomlinson.com/Presentations/2012ASCD_LearningStyleControversy.pdf

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Fitting the pieces together

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We are getting closer to the end of the course in Learning Theories and it is time to reflect on what I have learned. The first week, without knowing that much, we would write down about how I learned. Reading that today, seven weeks later, I can see that some things have changed. Not so much how I learn but how it is connected to the different learning theories and learning styles.

I wrote then; “So when it comes to my own learning process I realized I actually learn best by teaching! When I read something, I need to tell others about it to make sure I understood it correct, and to make it stick in my memory. Even if I heard it, I need to tell others about it“. That has been very clear to me during this course that this is true. Every week I have learned something new and I have told colleagues and friends about some of it.

I also wrote that of the three theories that we just read about (behaviorism, cognitivism and constructivism), I am a cognitivist. That has changed since we now have met three more (Social Learning, Connectivism, Adult Learning) and on top of that discussed multiple intelligence and learning styles like visual, auditory and kinesthetic. I realize that all this different theories is part of my learning – all depending on the subject I am learning. As an adult learner I cannot disregard my prior experience of life, work and knowledge and I am a part of a social society and learn from others. Especially when I can’t be quiet but have to talk to others about what I have learned.  Every week we have had a topic to discuss and I feel I can write a lot of each topic since I have experience or knowledge about it and are able to connect what we read about to that I know. And I am also able to use this new knowledge directly in my courses that I teach.

The society has of course grown with the World Wide Web and I can find so much new knowledge there, if I want to. I can see that every day I do some search on Google, discuss with someone on Skype, emailing different people and reading different posts of blogs through my RSS feed.  The technology made it easy to find knowledge quickly and even enable me to take my Master Exam at a University in USA while I’m in Europe.

Learning will continue using every style and intelligence and all that I am.

 

 

Reflection over my Mind Map

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I started writing my mind map over my Learning Network. I divided it all into two categories – Social network and Professional network. And then I started to write this reflection and after a while I realized I wanted to change the mind map. Back to the drawing tool and now I divided it in to People, Analog Media, Digital Media and Technology.  Even though the People part does not seem so big when looking at the mind map, it is. People are important to me when it comes to learning.

I learn from family and friends, from people at church, book club and dance group (my private social network) as well from people at work and my own students and from professors and classmates in courses I study. Everyone have their own history and experience and meeting them and talking with them about anything give me new knowledge. Sometimes it is hard fact about some area that I am familiar with or in an area that is new to me, and sometimes it is more about value and beliefs. All is connected to the prior knowledge and experience I bring with me. Sometimes that mean I have to change my opinion about something and sometimes it confirms what I already know and/or believe.

I also read a lot of books – both for just pleasure and for learning. To discuss novels in the book club gives me real insights in the other members’ life, but also about myself. And of course about the time or place the book is about. When I read in my professional work it is about learning a new area, getting deeper into something I already know and to prepare the lecture for the courses I teach in.

In the analog media area you also have newspaper, journals and TV. And I am not only talking about news on TV, you can learn a lot from sit comes and series as well from documentary and talk shows.

In the digital media part you find anything you can find on Internet. Social media is not a big part of my life. You do not find Facebook in it, because I am not part of that. And even though I am a member of LinkedIn and StayFriends (I think it is called MemoryLane in USA) I do not use it. Why? I prefer real people and my social life with real people takes much of my time so there is no time over to keep up with a lot of virtual contacts. The blogging we have to follow is through this course and that is something I also use in my profession (as a developer of software and teacher).

You can also find phone apps in the digital media part. There are many apps that are about knowledge (wordfeud uses prior knowledge) and right now I am hooked to something that is similar to Trivial Pursuit. You use prior knowledge and you learn new things. For example – I have recently learned that Hotchkiss is a French car and after discussing this with friends I will never forget it. I do not know when that knowledge will come in handy (besides getting points in the game), but when it does, I have it stored.

Whenever I need to find information quickly about something I Google and read different sites that I find. Google is a developer’s best friend; we use to say to our students. And it is, whenever you are stuck with a problem in how to write code, to use a certain algorithm or class, to find a simpler solution to what I am supposed to do, you Google. There is always someone that faced that problem and found a solution and is happy to share.

Then the question is; does my learning network fit in to the tenets of connectivism? Well, according to the theory it is a mix of technology, social network and information. And looking at my learning network that is true – I use technology to find information and in discussions with people (f2f or through technology) that information is connected to my prior knowledge and experience with the cultural dimension to it all. So, the answer is yes. Yes, my learning network fits into the tenets of connectivism.

(assignment in my course)

Mind Map – Learning Network

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Mind Map over my Learning Network