Wrapping up the Theories

As I approach the end of my Learning Theories and Instruction course, I appreciate the insight I’ve gained from this class.  Prior to this course, I focused on learning style: auditory, visual, kinesthetic, etc.  This course has changed how I view the theories related to learning, and I realize that there’s a closer link to the psychology of learning than I had previously understood.

I mentioned in a previous blog that each learning theory I studied would elicit a reaction of “that’s the best style for me.” The real insight I gained in this class is that all the learning theories – Behaviorist, Cognitive, Constructivist, Connectivism, and Adult learning theory each have an application that best utilizes that theory.

I’ve learned a great deal about my learning style, and also my son’s style of learning. When working with my son, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, I found the work of Vygotsky to be very helpful in understanding some of the challenges my son faces. Vygotsky’s stress of social factors in learning is key to helping my understanding. I’ve never analyzed the learning process in terms of social interactions and a socially mediation. Given the social deficiencies implicit with Asperger’s, I found this theory to be especially insightful to understanding on-going issues. I also gained a much better understanding of the applied behavior analysis (ABA) approach. I’ve always considered this approach best suited for small children and children that showed extreme deficits of basic skills. I have a much better understanding that ABA can be an effective strategy to change behavior with older learners, including adults.

In regards to my own personal style, the style I identify with most is Connectivism. I rely on an evolving network that I use for my learning. I think that this may be true for many learners, especially those that are using online learning. Examining the theory of Connectivism has been the most central theory that affects my skills as an instructional designer, especially because so much of my instructional design work is computer based.

Ultimately, one of the theories that I found most applicable to my work is the Adult Learning theories. I find that the ideas for increasing motivation, especially the ARCS model is especially critical to making online learning better for learners. It helps me understand that I need to factor the motivation of learners and better understand how making small changes to materials can make them more appealing to users and more likely to actually complete a course.

I found the application of technology to be both interesting and challenging. Again, I think I’ve focused on a very narrow window of technology. This course has given me an opportunity to discover new and changing technology, such as mobile apps, personalized internets, and game theory. I look forward to exploring these theories as they become readily available to utilize in our instructional design.

Ultimately, I think this was a wonderful class for laying the foundation for becoming a more effective instructional designer. I’m excited to see how I can use analysis to determine which learning theory best applies to my future course materials and realize that I’m now open to utilizing more theories, instead of falling back on the tried and true methods I may have employed in the past.

The Theory of Theories

As I began this class on theories related to Instructional Design, I’d read a new theory and think “that’s the theory that best applies to my learning style.” But as I spent more time studying different learning theories, I realized that there is no one theory that describes my style. I learn using a variety of methods, technologies, social networks, etc.  My style adapts to the learning situation and the resources and technologies available.

I’ve always assumed that my learning is most effective when giving an opportunity to self-direct the process, to have as much control over learning as possible. It’s one of the reasons I’ve always embraced computer-based classes. I thought it was essential to have the ability to navigate at my own speed and pace through materials, deciding what was important and what I already knew.

I underestimated the importance that social interactions have on the learning process. I realize that effective training has to provide an opportunity to discuss and learn from peers, to discover new information, and to learn to search for information in different ways. My former idea of the perfect computer based training simulation didn’t offer any of those options. It was a higher tech version of the behaviorist model for learning.

My learning network has changed dramatically, as has my expectations for creating useful training materials. I’m much more cognizant of the importance of social groups for learners and instructors. I believe it’s critical to build in exploration of a topic for a learner. My assumption of what a learner needs is not always definitive.

I’m excited by the role that technology plays in my learning and in the future application for my instructional design. My network of information has expanded to include discussion groups, peer conversations via Skype, searches of educational databases and libraries, combined with the software tools to create more effective training – learning management systems, blogging, etc. I’m excited about changes that are on the horizon for technology and especially excited about how these changes will affect my future work.

In the not too distant future, I can imagine offering training classes that incorporate tablet computing for remote users. I can picture courses that include game based learning, and better/smarter personalized web searches.

This course illustrated how little I actually knew about learning styles – my own and others. It’s been an eye-opening experience that will help me with my work towards my Master’s degree and, I hope, ultimately make me a better instructional designer.

 

 

 

Connectivism

George Siemens theory of connectivism combines three different components: chaos theory, importance of networks, and the interplay of complexity and self-organization. This week, our class in instructional design focuses on our individual network and how our network is changing the way we learn. (Davis, Edmunds, Kelly-Bateman, 2008).

A few weeks ago I had a discussion with my former college roommate. She postulated that our average undergraduate GPA should be increased at least one grade point simply because we had fewer resources available to us in comparison to this generation of undergraduates.

Our approach to writing a paper involved trudging to the library, searching the card catalog for the appropriate reference books, searching the stacks for journals and magazines, finding outdated references on microfiche or microfilm and viewing it from there. Once we had the information, we hand wrote our first drafts of the paper, then took our draft to the handy typewriter to prepare a final version.

Thank God that my learning network has changed from those days! Google has replaced the card catalog; I can find almost any journal or magazine article on the internet; and I can prepare relatively error free papers using my computer and word processing software. It even checks for typos!

I rely heavily on my organization’s intranet for information. It’s a critical part of my daily research, it’s a one stop shopping place for information related to policy and procedures, and is an essential part of my job as I prepare accurate training materials.

Skype has made it possible for me to quickly ask questions of colleagues, and have quasi face-to-face meetings around the globe with other employees. My biggest challenge is accounting for language barriers and different time zones.

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” (Siemens, 2005).

I’m amazed at how quickly my learning network is changing. While it’s incredible to look back at how it’s changed from 25 years ago, it continues to evolve. Six months ago, I never would have included resources from my Walden University experience:  my peers that I’ve met through course discussions, the University library resources, our blogs, etc. This constant changing foundation of resources continues to affect my learning and decision making. I support the theory of connectivism through my own learning experience and look forward to studying it as it applies to my work as an instructional designer.