Collaboration: Reaching across various territories

27 01 2014

As a 26-year veteran of a property and casualty insurance company, I saw change rapidly evolve year after year in my organization. I remember the days of learning how to work the IBM typewriter and then having to learn the computer with the DOS prompt. Yes, I had plenty of learning opportunities presented to me! All of this change wasn’t just happening to me, but it was happening to my colleagues as well. As with many corporations, our small organization was changing in terms of technology and structure. Over the years, my organization became part of a much larger structure. The organizational chart begun to grow into this multi-level diagram with people’s names and titles that my colleagues did not recognize, nor did we have the privilege of meeting these new team members face-to-face. We soon grew into an organization that became divided by multi territories. As a small organization, the headquarters training staff could afford to fly to a few offices and conduct face-to-face trainings. However, when our large organization started acquiring offices all over the country and overseas, training needs quickly had to be re-aligned in order to offer the least cost effective way of training.

This week in my graduate course, Teaching and Learning at a Distance, when we were asked to think about a scenario as an instructional designer implementing a training workshop for six regional offices where ongoing collaboration needed to take place, I quickly remembered the changes I experienced at my previous organization. It is where I was introduced to web conferencing and SharePoint software. I remember the first time I heard the word webinar! I said web who! Is it possible to be effectively trained sitting through a webinar? Wang & Hsu (2008) explains that:

Among many CMC systems, the webinar tool is one of the latest developments. Able to transmit video, audio, and images, webinar also enable users to share applications and to use whiteboard, the objective being to exchange information in a real-time and two-way format. Webinar creates opportunities for both educators and learners to experience different levels of interaction online, and these opportunities are essentially different from other communication approaches such as discussion-board postings and e-mails, as we mentioned earlier. There are three formats for webinar-session delivery: (a) presenter vs. multiple participants from one site; (b) presenter vs. multiple participants from multiple sites; and (c) multiple participants from one site vs. multiple participants from one or multiple sites. (p. 176)

This new phenomenon called “Webinar” quickly became second nature in our office. Instead of having personnel travel miles to other offices to conduct training or be trained on new procedures and new software, we made use of our phone and computer. Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek (2012) states that one of the advantages with online based learning is “Corporate training programs conducted via the internet can yield significant savings in employee time and travel costs, and training can be conducted on a ‘just in time’ basis (p. 126). I remember the first time many of my colleagues being in awe as they heard people on the phone introduce themselves from all of the country. In addition to hearing the main presenter and hearing from our other colleagues, we were able to see a visual of the presentation, hear audio, raise our hands on screen, and use the chat feature to ask questions and offer comments. I would recommend using webinar in the collaborative training environment.

SharePoint software is another collaboration tool we used in our organization to share screen captures and documents. SharePoint is a Microsoft based tool developed by the organization in 2001. The software allows organizations to be able to go to a central place for document retrieval and updates. The software uses the web, windows, and Microsoft Office as its operational foundation. Users familiar with the basics of these components will find the learning curve for SharePoint pretty easy. Training groups can be created within SharePoint and each member granted team access to go in and work on documents specific to their training purposes. A learning community is established in SharePoint by allowing for Wikis and discussion boards (www.bnl.gov). Moller, Foshay, & Huett (2008) argues that:

Web-based instruction thus holds the promise of increasing communication among learners, reconceptualizing learning from a one-shot fixed term to an ongoing event that is intermingled with the actual work processes. As part of the process of mastering content, significant learning, often occurs as the result of learner-to-learner communication. Logically, meaningful learning is more likely to occur when learners have access to a supportive community that encourages knowledge building and social reinforcement. (p. 74).

I found SharePoint to be a great quick go to resource on many occasions as I had to learn multiple systems after each company merger my colleagues and I endured.

At work in the presented scenario is the social constructivism theory, which is based on the learner being an active participant in constructing their learning as they socialize with other learners in a particular community doing social based activities. According to Bronack, Riedl, & Tashner (2006):

Social constructivists view learning as neither solely intrinsic nor purely extrinsic, but,rather, as a contiguous process that exist each time people willfully interact with each other in the world around them. Learning is manifest in the intellectual aptitude, cognitive strategies, motor skills, and dispositions people develop while working toward a goal within a community of others. Effective learning environments of all kinds must support participants as each becomes part of a community of practice through communication and co-construction. (p. 221)

Of course with all forms of technologies and learning theories, there are advantages and disadvantages, but Webinar and SharePoint are two great tools that are definitely worth exploring for encouraging collaboration and engagement across regions.

References

Bronack, S., Riedl, R., & Tashner, J. (2006). Learning in the zone: A social constructivist framework for distance education in a 3-dimensional virtual world. Interactive Learning Environments, 14(3), 219-232

Brookhaven National Laboratory. (2009, November 16-19). What is SharePoint? Retrieved from http://www.bnl.gov/interlab09/Presentations/What_is_SharePoint.pdf

Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (part 1: training and development). TechTrends, 52(3), 70-75

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson

Wang, S., & Hsu, H. (2008). Use of the webinar tool (elluminate) to support training:The effects of webinar-learning implementation from student-trainers’ perspective. Journal of Interactive Learning 7(3), 175-194. Retrieved from http://www.ncolr.org/jiol/issues/pdf/7.3.2.pdf





Distance Learning…What is it?

13 01 2014

Distance Learning

When I first heard about distance learning, I had no clue how involved this learning concept was until I fully immersed myself in the process. I always thought of online learning or distance learning as this concept of just sitting in front of the computer reading screen after screen and taking an online assessment at the end of a bunch of screens to receive a score. This is what I experienced through the online courses I had to complete at work, so when I heard many of my former undergraduate classmates talk about pursuing graduate degrees through online learning methods I balked at the idea. I asked them after experiencing such an engaging and diverse learning environment at our liberal arts school why would they short change themselves with online learning. Many of my fellow alumni explained to me the format of the discussion boards, weekly assignments and course projects. They spoke about collaboration and interaction with classmates, as well as the challenge of instructor access and overall time management. Many commented about the ability to still think critically and dialogue openly with their classmates in the online environment. I learned through their feedback that distance learning was more than simply completing an e-learning course at work. E-learning is only just a small snippet of distance learning. After 5 ½ years of commuting back and forth to my liberal arts college and earning my undergraduate degree, I find myself fully embracing the distance learning concept to work on earning my master’s degree! I did not run quickly into the process, but rather after much research and word of mouth, I decided to give this process a try. I do not regret my decision because at the end of the day I am still a student of learning whether I am learning at my laptop in the comfort of my home or in a college classroom.

This week I began the 7th course, Teaching and Learning at a Distance: Foundations of Distance Education in my Walden University Instructional Design and Technology graduate program. I learned that the definition of distance learning is always evolving as technology continues to develop and grow at a rapid pace. Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012 describes distance learning as having four components involved in the learning process: institutionally based, separation of teacher and student, interactive telecommunications, and sharing of data, voice, and video learning experiences (p. 33). Whether the learner is learning through previously recorded learning DVDs, e-learning modules, or web-based instruction, the authors offer up that true distance learning has the four components. The most interesting thing I learned is that there is nothing new under the sun. Even though the technology of our generation makes distance learning seems like a new thing, distance learning started back as early as 1833.

The roots of distance education are at least 160 years old. An advertisement in a Swedish newspaper in 1833 touted the opportunity to study ‘composition through the medium of the post.’ In 1840, England’s newly established penny post allowed Isaac Pitman to offer shorthand instruction via correspondence. Three years later, instruction was formalized with the founding of the Phonographic Correspondence Society, precursor of Sir Isaac Pitman’s Correspondence Colleges. (Simonson et.al., 2012).

Distance education of today is vastly different! The learner can learn anytime, anywhere, with an instructor logged on at the same time or not (asynchronous or synchronous). They can access online or web-based instruction on their smartphone, tablet, or computer. The learner can choose to be fully immersed online or attend a combination of traditional classroom lectures and web-based courses. The concept of learning is always changing as technology advances and the learner is presented with more than one way to learn.

Technology advances is not only the reason for the booming nature of distance learning. The changing face of the learner has helped distance learning gain momentum. Moller, Foshay, and Huett (2008) explains that:
Distance learning is rapidly becoming a popular choice for continuing professional education, mid-career degree programs, and lifelong learning of all kinds. As so-called “non-traditional” students become an increasingly large segment of the student body at the post-secondary level, campus-based programs, residential or otherwise, may be leveling off in enrollment. Colleges and universities, therefore, see distance education as a way of sustaining growth. (p. 66)

The economic downturn of the past decade has caused many workers to meet the challenge of having to seek retraining in their current field or even transitioning to a new field. Many workers do not have time to sit in a traditional classroom because they need to be able to have the flexibility to maintain various social roles in their daily lives. The independence, flexibility, and mobility of distance learning offer the “new” learner the option of soaking up knowledge while continuing to be on the go with their lives. Businesses are also faced with ways of having to deal with fewer workers, so they are seeking ways to train workers without having them leave their jobsite to attend classroom training. The e-learning described earlier is an example of distance learning being used by businesses to conduct training.

As one can see Distance learning offers many pros such as flexibility, accessibility, reduced travel and tuition cost, and self-centered learning. However, the cons may be time management, reduced social interaction, access to instructor, reduced academic support and difficulty with advance technology. The complexity of distance learning is not slowing down its growth. As technology continues to evolve and consumers are offered a wide range of gadgets to enrich their daily lives, the face of learning cannot stay the same. Consumers are also learners and they want the same flexibility in their learning as they have with their spending power. Organizations and institutions who have not taken the plunge into the distance learning arena will be challenged with how to compete to attract the new consumer/learner who is evolving at a rapid pace.

References
Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 1: Training and development). TechTrends, 52(3), 70–75

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson





Catching a Hold of 21st Century Learning Trends

27 02 2013

Learning in the 21st century is not a cut and dry process that can be summed up in just a few words. 21st century learning is evolving, dynamic, engaging, and creative, just to name a few. From the young to the old, the learning process is no longer just confined to a classroom where the teacher stands in front of the chalkboard writing countless notes and in front of the students lecturing. Technology advancements have changed the way the learning process is carried out. 21st century learning trends now include smart devices, such as smartphones, smart televisions, smart tablets, social media etc. There was a time that technology was once limited in access to certain people who could afford the luxury. Today, however, it is now much more affordable for millions of people who can now take their learning on the go. How do we as individuals catch a hold of these 21st learning trends and make them work for us? My work over the past 8 weeks in Educ-6115 Learning Theories Instruction has shown me that I have to be willing to be informed and also open to going on a search to find the best tools to direct my learning experience.

What I found striking about the learning process during our weeks of researching and discussing is how rich our society is when it comes to learning opportunities. “People learn, continually, informally and formally, in many different settings: in workplaces, in families, through leisure activities, through community activities, and in political action” (Foley, 2004, p. 4). As we studied the learning theories of Behaviorism, Cognitive, Constructivism, Social Learning, Connectivism, and Adult Learning, I continued to see the connection between individuals and their environment. No matter what learning style or strategy we personally adopt, we still have to connect with others and interact with our environment in order to continue the human nature cycle of growing and relating in our society.

The course has deepened my knowledge of the personal learning process by helping me to understand the basic structure of each learning theory and the settings in which particular theories thrive. I have found that it is important first to understand my own personal learning process and motivation before I facilitate learning or training opportunities for others. “Before applying any model of learning in a classroom environment, we should first apply it to ourselves as educators and adult learners, for unless we have an experiential understanding of the theory and have personalized its content, we are unlikely to be committed to using it with students” (Armstrong, 2009, p. 20). Spending time exploring what type of learning styles are dominate for me will make me a much more effective facilitator. I will then be able to teach my learners how important it is for them to research and explore different learning strategies until they find what works for them.

At the center of learning theories, educational technology, and motivation is the learner and their connection with the environment and these concepts. Learning about Connectivism really brought this home for me. Davis, Edmunds, and Kelly-Bateman (2008) explain:

Just like anything else that involves human experience or interaction, the act of learning does not happen in a vacuum. It is at the intersection of prior knowledge, experience, perception, reality, comprehension, and flexibility that learning occurs. In years past, the traditional learning paradigms of behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism have been the benchmarks against which the learning process has been measured. What happens, though, when you throw into the mix all the technological advancements that have come about over the last 40-50 years? These theories certainly do not become obsolete by any means, but they do need to be used in a very different way to be able to incorporate the attributes of a 21st century learning environment. In today’s technology-rich society, it has become increasingly important to learn how to learn. Vail put it simply by declaring that learning must be a way of being.

21st century technology has changed the way learning theories and motivation evolves outside of the standard face-to-face classroom. Facilitators need to be able to learn how to cultivate and nurture the connection between the 3 very important entities.

As a future instructional designer, this class has taught me that I need to make sure I am a facilitator of learning who is not afraid to address and evaluate my own learning deficiencies, remain knowledgeable of the latest technology trends, and be conscious that learning is not one size fits all. Teachers need to get used to facilitating and not instructing in the 21st century learning environment. “Rather than simply provide knowledge, teachers must take students’ pre-existing ideas into account when planning instruction and ensure that instruction includes motivation for learning” (Ormrod, Schunk, Gredler, 2009, p. 110). As a current AmeriCorps member working in the community facilitating budget, credit, and home buying workshops, I am seeing how prior knowledge plays a big role in the instruction planning. During the course of the 8 weeks, I have been sharing my newfound knowledge with the program manager. As a result, she allowed me to help work closely with her in revamping some of the curriculum, which now includes interactive case studies, activities, and videos that are more in line with adult learning.

I believe I have a great start in instructional design as a result of completing Learning Theories and Instruction. The course has taught me some great foundational knowledge that I will carry with me into all areas of my life. I am passionate about community outreach education and this course has been especially helpful to me in understanding how Constructivism, Social Learning, Connectivism and Adult Learning are important in this field and many others. According to Trask (2012), “Congress should update the Workforce Investment Act, which has not been reauthorized in 14 years. State and local governments need to support adult education and workforce training programs which will mean resisting making drastic cuts in these areas to balance budgets. Many adult education programs already have waiting lists and we, as a society, can’t afford to make the situation worse” (Huffington Post). As I continue to learn more about instructional design, I will continue to be advocates for adult learners as we catch a hold of 21st century learning trends.

References

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

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/

Foley, G. (2004). Introduction: The state of adult education and learning. In Foley, G. (Ed.). Dimensions of adult learning: Adult education and training in a global era. Berkshire, GBR: McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing.

Trask, R. (2012, September 26). How adult education can help close the skills gap. [blog message]. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/randy-trask/how-adult-education-can-h_b_1917081.html.

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





Learning Theories Summary

25 02 2013

What is a learning theory? Should we seek to understand them?

According to the textbook I am using for my graduate learning theories class…”a well-developed theory of learning fulfills several functions. In addition to serving as a framework for research, theory should bring new insights to situations, and serve as a working explanation of events. Specific functions primarily address instruction, including planning and evaluating instruction and providing information about classroom problems” (Ormrod, Schunk,, & Gredler, 2009, p. 11). The learning theories I have researched over the course of 7 weeks are: Behaviorism, Cognitive, Constructivism, Social Learning, Connectivism, and Adult learning. I have now been charged with answering the following questions:

Now that you have a deeper understanding of the different learning theories and learning styles, how has your view on how you learn changed?

After completing my research of the above theories, I believe I have a much more open minded view of how I learn. Before I delved into specific learning theories, I knew I was much more of a visual/auditory learner who liked to see notes written on a board or on a handout. However, I now know my learning style or preference goes much deeper. I am an adult learner who brings prior knowledge and experience to the table that impacts the way I learn new material. I now know why my Grandmother used to say that “experience is the best teacher.” According to Dr. Jeanne Ormrod, “We tend to bring in all kinds of ideas from what we’ve learned from other people, what we’ve learned from our reading and so on, and we pull them together in order to solve a new problem or address a new situation. We do this with other people; often with our parents when we are young; then as we get older, with our teachers, with our classmates, with our peers, and so on” (Laureate Education, Inc., 2009). Here Dr. Ormrod is talking about Vygotsky’s work with social learning theory. This specific theory talks about our human need for socialization and how much our cultural environment impacts us. Constructivism is another theory that talks about prior knowledge and experience we bring to the learning environment and how we construct our learning. “Constructivism contrasts with conditioning theories that stress the influence of the environment on the person; constructivist theory also contrasts with cognitive information processing theory that places the locus of learning within the mind with little attention to the context in which it occurs” (Ormrod, Schunk, & Gredler, 2009). While I may have a preference for a particular learning style, there are other ways I adapt based on prior knowledge and experience and other factors when placed in certain situations.

What have you learned about the various learning theories and learning styles over the past weeks that can further explain your own personal learning preferences?

When I look at the research and back over my childhood, I can see how I adopted a more visual/auditory learning style. I grew up in a home with a single mother and four brothers and our access to opportunities were not that ideal. We were considered poor according to the poverty guidelines, but we were rich in family. In my home, we learned a lot of things from watching my mom and other family members carry out task. We also listened to the older family members and friends who visited our home on a regular basis share stories and give us advice. For me, all of the learning theories are connected through human interaction and the environment. How we connect with our environment impacts our behavior, thinking, learning and social interactions. Our environment shapes our personhood and our learning abilities. In fact, the behavior and social learning theories are often referred to as environmentalist theories:

Theorists such as John Watson, B.F. Skinner, and Albert Bandura contributed greatly to the environmentalist perspective of development. Environmentalists believe the child’s environment shapes learning and behavior; in fact, human behavior, development, and learning are thought of as reactions to the environment. This perspective leads many families, schools, and educators to assume that young children develop and acquire new knowledge by reacting to their surroundings (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory).

What role does technology play in your learning (i.e. as a way to search for information, to record information, to create, etc.)?

When I studied Connectivism, I realized the importance of technology in my learning. There was a time in my life that I relied heavily upon books to learn the additional knowledge I needed for certain situations, but this is no longer the case. When I went to high school, there were no career tech teachers devoted to teaching me how to do research using search engines. In fact, search engines in my world were not even heard of yet. Technology began to impact my life when computers entered my workplace. Since my prior experience was almost non-existent, I had to make a choice to enroll in an Introduction to Microcomputers class to learn the new world of computers or be stuck in the entry level job I was currently assigned to. Connectivism changes how we use technology to learn. “New technology forces the 21st century learner to process and apply information in a very different way and at a very different pace from any other time in history. As a result, the span of time between learning something new, being able to apply it, and finding that it is outdated and no longer useful continues to decrease” (Davis, Edmunds, & Kelly-Bateman, 2008). Even in my online learning theory class, technology is changing the way I search for information and create discussions with my fellow classmates. I am definitely learning to process and apply information in a different way! Just look at the ways we are able to connect through social media.

I hope you have a sense of how learning theories are not cut and dry scientific explanations for how we learn. We are complex human beings who may have certain learning styles and preferences for the way we learn, but we are adaptable in many ways! Learning theories are great guideposts to use as framework in helping us learn more effective and streamlined ways of learning information.

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/

Laureate Education (Producer). (2009). Theory of Social Cognitive Development. [DVD]. Baltimore, MD: Dr Jeanne Ormrod.

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

North Central Regional Educational Laboratory. Theories of child development and learning. Retrieved from http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/students/earlycld/ea7lk18.htm





22 02 2013

According to Conlan, Grabowski, and Smith (2003), self-directed learning is a process shaped by reflection and action. The learning process is conducive for the adult who is living a full life working, raising a family, and pursuing other areas of interest. However, the informal process can be unstructured, which can lead the adult learner to become complacent or unorganized in accomplishing their learning objectives or goals. Self-directed learning may not be a one size fit all for adult learning situations. It depends upon the adult, the situation, and how he or she thrives in a particular learning environment. I learned quite a bit about the theories of adult education through our graduate class readings this week and understand how widely interesting this field has become. I think the authors Davis, Edmunds, and Kelly-Bateman (2008) explained self-directed learning best by stating 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.” I believe that as adults whatever is seen as our point-in time reality at any given moment shapes the learning experience and how we seek additional knowledge. I know this was true for me when I decided to pursue my undergraduate degree.

Until I was faced with the reality of change surrounding me at work and the reality of getting older without pursuing my real passions, I did not get up and make a move. Adult education became very real to me when I did some soul searching and realized that I had the power to connect with others in my community who could help me to shape my purpose, and also offer me mentorship during the process. Spencer (2004) in his discussion regarding online and distance learning, talks about the importance of the adult learner being connected to a community or environmental group to promote social learning (p. 197). Community connection is not just important in an online format, but also in the physical classroom. I believe the adult learner will gain more from their learning experience if they can connect their experiences with other learners who have similar experiences and goals. This became the case for me as an adult learner when I decided to choose a setting where building community was the central theme. I wanted to be in a setting with older adults whom I could connect with and also use as a resource and motivator when I felt like quitting the process. I did face many challenges as an adult learner juggling motherhood, marriage, a full-time job, church, and my community service on and off campus. The liberal arts setting and the one-on-one mentoring were keys to me having a successful 5 and ½ years. I gained some valuable friendships and lifelong lessons from the experience.

I read a September blog in The Huffington Post by Randy Trask that spoke about adult education being able to close the skills gap needed in today’s labor market. Trask explains in detail about the difficulty employees have filling jobs with educated and well-trained workers. While the nation has made progress in some areas of education, the blog stated that 40 million adults still do not have high school diplomas. This lack of education ends up placing a greater social burden upon society. Trask (2012) writes, “Lack of education is directly tied to higher rates of incarceration and greater dependency on social services as well. And, the cost to the American economy is staggering. If dropouts from the class of 2011 had completed their high school education, the economy would benefit by the addition of $154 billion over the course of their lifetimes. Conversely, it is estimated that each adult lacking a high school credential costs $260,000 in taxpayer support over his or her lifetime.” I personally believe that adult education has to continue to reach beyond the classroom to reach the 40 million high school dropouts living in our communities. I believe you have to do research of a particular community and their needs before you launch into a full blown educational or training program. Researching the foundation of adult learning theories is a great start! For example, if a community is faced with technology challenges, then this would be an immediate area that would need to be addressed in designing curriculum or before offering any online courses. My second suggestion is to always design a course with some type of mentoring component as a resource to participants i.e. whether it is an ongoing blog, instant chat, face-to-face meetings, etc.

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/

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/

Spencer, B. (2004). On-line adult learning. In Foley, G. (Ed.). Dimensions of adult learning: Adult education and training in a global era. Berkshire, GBR: McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing.

Trask, R. (2012, September 26). How adult education can help close the skills gap. [blog message]. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/randy-trask/how-adult-education-can-h_b_1917081.html.





Connectivism

8 02 2013

Cheryls Learning Connection

Why did I choose the blog name “New School Adult?” My whole perspective on learning changed after I attended a liberal arts undergraduate program geared towards working adults for 5 ½ years. It had been about 19 years since I had been in a structured learning environment, so I did not know what to expect when I signed on to complete a 4 year degree. Yes, I was fearful of the unknown! It did not take me long to realize that times had changed, and that the way I used to learn was considered outdated. When I reflect on my journey, I am reminded of Tom Hanks and the movie Castaway. Tom’s character was going about his daily life and was comfortable in his success. In the course of his daily work, his character experienced a plane crash and became stranded on an island. He used parts of the wreckage to learn how to adapt and to become creative in his survival. His character ended up spending four years on the island and was ultimately changed physically and mentally by his experience. He was a new adult thinking in a new way when he returned to his friends and family. The “new school adult” is much like Tom in Castaway having to adapt and be creative when it comes to the shift in the learning process. No longer is learning just confined to a physical classroom; learning can occur online, in a coffee shop, commuting to work, etc. The way we connect with each other and acquire knowledge has changed.

This week in my graduate level learning theories course we explored connectivism and how it has impacted learning. Siemens (2004) explains:

The starting point of connectivism is the individual. Personal knowledge is comprised of a network, which feeds into organizations and institutions, which in turn feed back into the network, and then continue to provide learning to individual. This cycle of knowledge development (personal to network to organization) allows learners to remain current in their field through the connections they have formed.

According to Siemens 2004), we can define networks as connections between entities, such as computer networks, power grids, and social networks. The way we interact with our networks and trade information back and forth impacts our learning. Whether it is a blog, social media, YouTube, a church group, a social club, or a podcast, we are connecting with others and trading knowledge. In the process of trading, we are teaching and learning from each other. Connectivism becomes important when you talk about adult education and its growing field.

Adult education or adult learning is called Andragogy and is based on finding ways to help adults learn. Matthew Knowles, the founder of Andragogy, wanted to create learning environments and programs that were centered on the self-directed adult. He explained the five assumptions for the adult learner as:

Has an independent self-concept and who can direct his or her own learning
Has accumulated a reservoir of life experiences that is a rich resource for learning
Has learning needs closely related to changing social roles
Is problem-centered and interested in immediate application of knowledge
Is motivated to learn by internal rather than external factors (Conlan, Grabowski, & Smith, 2003).

If you were to examine Knowles assumption of adult learning and Siemens principles of connectivism, you will begin to understand the crossover, and how important networks are to the way we use our personal experiences and social roles to now learn and acquire new knowledge. Siemens principles of connectivism are:

Learning and knowledge rest in diversity of opinions.
Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known.
Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities (Davis, Edmunds, & Kelly-Bateman, 2008).

As an adult learner in the 21st century, we are looking for ways to learn that mesh with our daily routines of being on the go as a career person, family member, and community member. The wealth of technology has made adult learning much more possible for millions of adults. The adult no longer has to feel guilty about leaving their home lives or jobs to pursue classroom knowledge. They can limit their classroom time and choose how to receive the bulk of their information needed to gain new knowledge. Connectivism has definitely enhanced the field of adult learning.

My whole liberal arts undergraduate experience taught me about networks. As I attended classes with my adult peers, I began to form support networks with adults who were struggling like me to learn new technology and critical ways of thinking. Each class became a mini community in which we introduced new networks and traded information between them. As we shared information from individual personal and social networks, we learned to apply knowledge in and out of the classroom. Although I learned many valuable lessons, the two most important lessons I will always remember from those 5 ½ years of connecting and learning is that learning is a lifelong experience, and that a community is not just a physical entity enclosed within a neighborhood of houses. So, I invite you to become a “new school adult” and see what new networks you can create through connectivism. I am sharing a picture of my networks, so you can get a visual of how connectivism evolves.

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/

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/

Siemens, G. (2004, December 12). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. Retrieved from Elearnspace website: http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm

 





The Brain and the Learning Process

18 01 2013

This week in my graduate class we moved forward in our studies of learning theories and instruction by exploring how the brain operates when it comes to learning and problem solving. It was challenging to try to digest all of the terminology and different theories, but it was interesting to read about ways the brain processes information. Dr. Jeanne Ormrod in the video “Information Processing and the Brain” talks about the information processing theory and how this theory focuses on what goes on in the learner minds, how the learner takes in information, and how the learner retrieves information to apply to their outside world. Dr. Ormrod also talks about the computer metaphor being used by many theorists to explain what goes on in a learner’s mind. The computer metaphor has been often used to describe the information processing theory due to duplicate processes used by both computer and the brain, such as input, encoding, storage, and retrieval. However, Dr. Ormrod brings up a good point about the weaknesses of relying solely on the computer metaphor and why theorists are getting away from using it. Although the brain may function similar to computer functions, the emotional aspect of the learner is not being taken into account. In addition to viewing Dr. Ormrod’s short video, I had a chance to review two other articles as it relates to the brain and the learner.

As a learner, we know that we encounter both visual and verbal in our learning. I believe as educators, we have to learn how to find methods that bring some type of balance to both areas. Schmidt (2009) explains, “Human minds have 2 information-processing systems, 1 for verbal material and 1 for visual material. Multimedia learning research suggests that using both systems, rather than one or the other, results in deeper learning” (p. 69). Schmidt goes on to explain how she has developed and used visual explanations in the courses she teaches. Visual explanations are short write ups by the students to see how well they understand the material being taught. Schmidt has her students to stop and write a mini response of the main themes discussed in class. Out of these responses, Schmidt develops what she calls cognitive sticky spots to address material that her students are having trouble grasping or just may not be too clear about. By having students write and speak Schmidt is encouraging the students to use their brain in both areas, thus creating a more effective and balanced learning environment. Schmidt also mentions in her article that she allows her students to help her create and produce other visual aids to help her enrich her learning environment.

Another area I found in my reading this week on the brain and learning is the issue of how learners solve problems or think about solving problems. I came across another article that shared information about problem solving and its relationship to learning. Although the author is citing a study from 1950, I believe his discussion can be quite relevant to the classroom today. Lochhead explains that the study showed good problems solvers as being more active than poor problem solvers. Lochhead states, “Poor problem solvers are less active because they do not believe there is anything for them to do. Their view of both problem solving and learning places them in the passive role of absorbing information and giving it back. They think you either know the answer to a question or you don’t. While this attitude may seem naïve, it is in fact the logical consequence of most schooling” (p. 68). Lochhead goes on in the article to give examples of students solving particular math problems as it relates to problem solving. According to Lochhead, research shows that it is important to have students very involved in the problem solving process and to show them that there is more than one way of approaching and solving a problem. Lochhead also describes in his article the importance of having learners write out and speak aloud their thoughts as one important approach to problem solving. He calls it thinking aloud. Lochhead’s article is a short read, but gets your mind to thinking about problem solving in the classroom.

References:
Laureate Education (Producer). (2009). Information Processing and the Brain. [DVD]. Baltimore, MD: Dr Jeanne Ormrod
Schmidt, S. J. (2009). Development and Use of Visual Explanations: Harnessing the Power of the “Seeing” Brain to Enhance Student Learning. Journal of Food Science Education, 8(3), 68-72
Lochhead, J. (1981). Research Synthesis on Problem Solving. Educational Leadership. 39(1), 68-70