Life by Design

Archive for December 2009

In this blog posting I will offer my reflection on the ways this course has opened up new awareness for myself with regard to learning, deepened my understanding of my personal learning process, helped me to develop a connection between learning theories, learning styles, educational technology and motivation, and how the knowledge gained in this course will prove valuable as I enter the field as an instructional designer.

There were many things I found surprising as we progressed through the course’s resources.  First of all, I did not have the appreciation I do now of the complexity and variability of the learning process.  I realize that there is no ‘magic bullet’ when it comes to creating good instructional design and that there is no one size fits all approach.  There has to be a careful and thoughtful analysis of the situation, the learners, the content and the available technology.  Concepts that were entirely new to me include:  connectivism, learning style fluctuation, ARCS theory, multiple intelligences and the idea that learning styles doesn’t carry quite the weight that I thought it did.  I was happy to see that I am a typical adult learner with high needs for relevance and independence.

My own learning process is much more complex than I had originally thought and informed by a large high tech village of resources that didn’t even exist a few years ago.  I can keep learning about how to learn which builds my confidence in tackling new and challenging topics in the future.  I used to be a student who would avoid taking courses I knew would be difficult for me.  I do not view myself that way anymore.

I have learned that there is a strong and valuable connection between learning theories, learning styles, educational technology and motivation.  Each of these four variables could be put together in a matrix as a useful analytic tool to use when evaluating each new design project.  Learning theory and motivation seem to be at the core of good instructional design.  Learning styles can be taken into account and choices need to be made about the right technological delivery system.  The key to making ‘best practices’ choices depend on a careful understanding of the specific learning situation and the unique needs of the learner.

The best thing this course has given me is an appreciation for the complexity of learning.  I will need to be aware of many things:  the learning styles or preferences of the audience, how to design motivationally, the appropriate use of technology and how to increase comfort with the use of these tools especially for the older adult learner, and how learning theory plays into the mix.  “The Horizon Report” and the ARCS model were especially enjoyable and important for me.  The ARCS model has given me a road map to follow for good motivational design.  I also felt that designing the Learning Theory Matrix was a very useful exercise that I will refer to often. Finally, learning to blog will ensure that I can remain part of an active learning community both giving and receiving information that will help in the construction of new knowledge as the reality of this field continue to change at a rapid pace.

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It is clear through this course that the concept of how I learn is  broader than what I initially described in our first discussion post.  In that post, I described myself as an experiential learner.  While this remains true, other things are also true.  My learning fluctuates during a given task depending on what I’m learning.  Gilbert J.  and Swainer, C.  (2008). I am much more reliant upon a connectivist point of view than I ever would have imagined.  Technology is becoming increasing relevant to me, so I am eager to learn anything in this area.  Lim, C.P. (2004).  Based on the criteria of an adult learner, I surely fit the description.  Conlan, J. , Grabowski, S., and Smith, K. (2003).  Instead of acquiring knowledge, I am constructing it day by day with course materials and the resources listed on my learning network map. Kim, B. (2001).   My ZPD in this online environment  not only includes our instructor, but a whole host of expert mentors I can access through my online learning network.  Kim, B. (2001).    I discovered that I rely on several different intelligences when I meet new learning and I have discovered the intelligences I need to further develop in becoming  a well-rounded designer in the future.  Armstrong, T. (2000).

My learning preference expressed in the first discussion post composed of years of exposure to both Constructivist and Social Learning Theory.  It has been through environmental and social interaction  that my learning has occurred.  I have not been exposed to much strategy on how to learn and I want to improve on that now.    I can  now better understand my reluctance to taking higher level math or computer programming.  My native intelligence in logical thinking is one of my weaker areas.  I can remember specifically in middle school, through some pretty traumatic experiences I had with math and the instructors, that I developed both fear of the subject and self-doubt about my ability in those classes.  I want to get over this now and improve these skills.  I, like many, learn best when a subject is relevant.  If I cannot see the relevance, I have difficulty justifying spending my time and energy on a topic.  I used to think this was a short coming, but now I understand that it is a natural characteristic of an adult learner.  Because of my early exposure to more of a Social Learning environment, I became dependant upon the instructor.  Now with a vast learning network developed which is mostly online, I feel much more confident in learning on my own.     I can understand now why high school was so boring for me.   Being  delivered in one specific format, not allowing any options for personal engagement and not addressing any of the multiple intelligences made for long, bland days at school.

Technology has become an essential tool in my learning.  With courses now, if the content or style does not engage me, I can augment my learning by accessing the learning network I have constructed online and find information embedded in venues that support my stronger multiple intelligences.  I have become reliant upon Google Search for research, blog searches for new content, a daily read of my aggregator, tools like Simply Box to capture information I want to save for current or future projects and my social bookmarking library for resources for my new career.  I am looking forward to learning how to create more visual and auditory media through technology.

In conclusion, this journey of self exploration of my learning style has clearly impressed me with the complex nature of learning.  I hope to remember this as I become an instructional designer.  I want remain  sensitive to the subtleties of learning behavior as it interfaces with human nature and  new content.

References

Armstrong, T. (2000).  Multiple Intelligences in the classroom (2nd ed.).  Alexandria, VA:  Association for supervision and Curriculum Development.

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

Davis, C., Edmunds, E., & Kelly-Bateman, V. (2008).  Connectivism.  In M. Orey (Ed.), emerging Perspectives on learning, teaching and technology.  retrieved from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epitt/index.php?title=Connectivism

Gilbert, J., & Swainer, C. (2008).  Learning styles:  How do they fluctuate?  Institute for Learning Styles Journal (Vol. 1).  Retrieved from http://www.auburn.edu/~witteje/ilsrj/Journal%20Volumes/Learning%20Styles%20How%20do%20They%20Fluctuate.pdf

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

Lim, C. P. (2004).  Engaging learners in online learning environments.  TechTrends:  Linking Research and Practice to Improve Learning, 48 (4), 16-23.

In creating my learning network map, I am struck by how much I have leaned into technology from where I was even just a year ago. I am clearly a digital immigrant. Prensky. (2009) . In putting my map together, I realize that the way I learn has changed substantially.  It is much more web-based.  I do not read or subscribe to much print material anymore.   That includes books, newspapers, magazines, telephone books, cookbooks, bank statements and so on.

I have become a much more independent and self-sufficient learner in seeking out what I want to know.  This probably changes the way I relate to an instructor and the role that person has in my learning life.  It is easy to augment and go deeper in any subject I am learning by myself.  I also realized that I now rely on information I can access online more often than what develops in a f2f (face to face)  conversation.  I also notice that my sense of timeliness of information is impacted by the Internet.  In years passed, if a reference was a couple of years old, it still felt relevant.  Now, I look for references that are just months old, often finding them.  Anything older than this doesn’t feel current.  I find it interesting that Twitter is described as the ‘freshest version of the Web’.  We can’t learn everything ourselves,  however, and so must rely on our learning networks and experience a ‘cross pollination’ of information.  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.  Davis, Edmunds and Kelly-Bateman. ( 2008).

The tools that I have found  most helpful in facilitating my learning are:  aggregate readers, online news sources, how-to videos on “YouTube”, Google searches, blogs, podcasts, online libraries and virtual classroom and tours available in Second Life.

When I have a question, I usually will do a Google search, blog search, and check out relevant book titles on Amazon.  If I need to learn how to do something, especially a new application of technology, I’ll turn to “YouTube” video instruction or go to the software website.  I might also check my social bookmarking connections to see if anyone I’m connected with has information that I want.

My learning network supports the basic tenants of connectivism in the following ways:

With the abundance of information and the explosion of connectivity  with other people locally and  globally, I need to rely on rich networks to get what I need and to manage the inflow and rate of change that’s occurring every moment.  There is so much information available, that I can’t possibly track it all myself nor can I possibly keep it organized in a traditional way.   This information is both abundant and complex. Rather than trying to do it all myself, I can reach out into my network of both people and online resources.  Others become my peer instructors, especially if they have more experience than I do in some area.  Connectivisim thrives on a social network that is diverse.  I would say that my learning network is a rich synthesis of a great deal of input from many sources.  The diversity gives strength to the perspectives that I will form from the information I gather.  The ability to see connections between fields, ideas and concepts informs my ability to make a new decision about an issue as the realities keep changing.  Davis et al. (2008).  With my learning network I feel that I have some semblance of having my finger on the pulse of changing events.  I used to find myself telling my colleagues, “Boy,it seems like  there’s a lot going on. “  Now, I know there’s real truth to that statement.   I’m including the following video produced by Tom Woodward as an excellent view of the need for connectivism to help develop 21st century skills.  One of the tasks of the future seems to be to develop community around content for optimal learning.


Improved 21st Century Plea from Tom Woodward on Vimeo.

References:

Davis, C., Edmunds, E., & Kelly-Bateman, V. (2008). Connectivism. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching and technology.  Retrieved from

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

Siemens, G. (2009).  “Connectivism”.  Video Production, Sylvan Learning, Inc.
“Timeline of the History of Learning”. Flash Media Program. (Prensky and Knowles)

Woodward, T. (2009).  Improved 21St Century Plea. http:// Vimeo.com/7859303.