Monday, December 7, 2009

Final Reflection on Technology and Learning

I came into this class with a great deal of knowledge concerning software and hardware in the business world. I also have a solid psychology, theology and philosophy background, just not very recent academic experience. I anticipated that this course would help me the most transition to the education world and it did, just in an unexpected way.

I knew that technology has never been the magic bullet that solves all educational challenges. It has been a catalyst. If you want to accomplish something, it can help you get there faster. More specifically, technology is primarily a communication catalyst. My experience with this course provided ample theory, practice and opportunity to experience this communication catalyst in an educational setting.

I engaged technology in my first blog by discussing computers versus man in search of meaning. I did carry this theme throughout the course. It is clear, and should say was clear, I did not have much educational theory. An early email from Dr. Wang suggesting Dewey’s pragmatism was a similar educational theorist, has had quite an impact. I have spent a great deal of time reading and connecting with his theory and his process.

Group 2 was not an especially strong group on the discussion boards. The group seemed to get it together on the last task, but not at first. I documented some of the challenges on my first blog reflecting on the challenge of communication over the internet and remote “virtual” classrooms.

Affordance was an interesting. It was a challenge. The “how” technology is used is based on ease of use pathways. It is easy to see the affordance of a hammer. PowerPoint is complicated with many layers. Unfortunately, my blog reflected on my distraction with the dynamics of our group and technologies “virtual” nature, as opposed to my musings on affordance.

Next, we engaged the behaviorist and cognitivist, theories. My psychology undergraduate degree from LSU was from a department noted for its behaviorist leanings. It took a little time and reading to recall details and think how technology works with these theories. It helped that the examples were software packages I knew very well. In sum, if humans were fancy biological computers, then behaviorists and cognitivists are completely correct. Education is identifying small steps, repetition, reward and creating hunger.

We then engaged constructivist and social constructivist theories. I began to define where I stand theoretically as a Dewey pragmatist. I found social context is important as the constructivists and social constructivists assert, but Dewey speaks of the living creature (context) that creates meaning, truth or beauty by connecting to the aesthetic. I also continued my reflection on technologies unintended consequence of “virtual” learning.

The lesson plan pulled it all together. I was able to see how others actually worked with technology in a classroom setting, and get feedback on how I would use it. The semester marked a big change from not using educational theory and tools to now comfortably competent with educational theory and tools.

Finally, my experience in EDT as a virtual classroom experience has solidified my sense that technology is a communication catalyst. The “full” learning experience occurs in many areas and not just visual reading. The nuances and cues available to the student in a face-to-face setting is a significant factor in acquiring and using information. If the real teachable moment experience is limited or sanitized with an emphasis on virtual learning, technology or in any other manner, then learning is hampered. If technology allows for the extension of the teachable moments to reinforce and extend learning then it is a catalyst to enhance learning.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Lesson Plans and Philosophy of Learning

A quick entry on lesson plans. I have never written a lesson plan before this semester. I have had the good fortune to write three and two are "high stakes" lesson plans. The internet was a great resource, but with so much information and my inexperience in what lesson plans are, I "started from scratch to write them. I probably will be glad I did, but it is very slow going. I constantly revise and change the activities, which means I am basically completely rewriting the lesson plans. The amount of time I spent on the plans is already significant, and deadlines are looming.

The amazing or fun part of the lesson plan is that I keep finding very cool internet resources, and ways to foster the "teachable moments." Each time I find a cool resource, I want to include it in a lesson plan and try it out on a class. Not teaching and having such a tight focus on these two main lesson plans limits my exploration and creativity.

Oh well, I will have to be sure I make and keep a list of all the web links and resources I am currently working with and later on I can review them later.

Lastly, philosophy of learning is very much pragmatic, in what I have read of Dewey. Experience and continuity as well as the Aesthetic or the living creature engaging art. I hope to finish reading Art as Experience and begin on some feminist philosophy and process theology as they engage Dewey’s educational philosophy. Not enough time…..

Friday, November 6, 2009

The last few units concerned learning theory and computers in education. Behaviorist, Cognitivist, Constructivist, Social Constructivist were studied. I return to my earlier thoughts on teaching and learning, computers and meaning. Once you introduce meaning, then you start mixing in various philosophies and things get very complicated fast. I will start by trying to make sense or provide meaning to the two extreme models: behaviorists and on the other end Social Constructivists.
I do believe that learning occurs as described by behaviorists. It is just that if one stops there in teaching, the greater challenge of synthesis is left unfinished. The student can and will integrate the schema into a larger schemata. It seems the danger is that individuals could become dogmatic or ascribe too much meaning to their synthesis. A person learns to do a task well without reflecting on the larger context, then it follows that the person has the answer and others are misguided.

Of course the social constructivist could also be so focused on meaning and context, that a practical answer, though not complete and thoroughly vetted, gets lost in the complexity and cultural biases. Inefficiency and inaction seem to be the extreme application of Social Constructivism. It also does not address the what of teaching.

The real challenge with teaching philosophy is that it is not just a learning model. It is a learning model that includes what is taught. A capitalist and a Marxist have very different views of what is important for our youth to be taught. As does Plato and Aristotle, Galileo, Sarte, Voltare, or more contemporaty feminists like Mary Wollstonecraft or Karen Lehrman, epiricist John Stuart Mill, Mead progressivism and Dewey pragmatism or Peirce's “Kantianism”, they all have a different opinion of what truth consists of and how to engage truth. I keep coming back to Plato’s definition of truth as shadows upon the cave wall. Truth is unknowable in it’s fullness.

Yet, I also come back to Dewey’s aesthetic and experience. He seems to echo my original engagement of meaning. Specifically Dewey, in Art as Experience, gives voice to my concern for the connection between meaning and learning and clarifies this for me here and now. He seems to argue that it goes back to a live creature in a certain place that connects to the aesthetic. Learning meaning and connecting to the learning experience or event, requires joy or thrill and context.

Anyway, back to the course and it’s premise of learning theory and computers. Where is it cool and fun and where is it a waste of time? Well it will have to wait until the next paper or blog as I am out of time.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Behaviorism and Cognitivism

The basic building blocks to learning, and therefore teaching, are found in the behaviorists and Cognitivist understanding of learning. I say basic because they are both looking for that single discrete event where knowledge is acquired. Cognitivists allow for a little more complex system in the learning process.

Computers are a perfect model for both, especially as they get more complex and our ability to program them improves. The heart of computers will always be the yes/no statement. As complex or nuanced we are able to develop, they will, if they use the current basis of design, rely on single, discrete computations or steps. Perfect for that which behaviorists and cognitivists are trying to find for people.

The challenge as a student and teacher, is that the basic underlying assumption that humans can be reduced to the discrete steps has not been proven. In fact, as a pragmatist/constructivist, the context and perspective of the society and individual are crucial. Humans seem to add a third dimension to the on/off discrete steps with perspective and context.

So, I do believe that learning does effectively occur as behaviorists and cognitivists describe. They just are too limited in their scope to include our understanding of the process as individuals and as a group. I look forward to contructivism and connecting it to pragmatism, Jung's collective unconsciousness, Freud's superego and Dewey's Pragmatism.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My background in technology is extensive, and oddly enough, it is a hinderance in this course. I am trying to engage my peers in discussions, but find it hard to not "take over," or in critiquing their work, overwhelm them. We shall see on the next activity.

My background is that I worked for Broderbund Software/Learning Company (now a part of houghton mifflin, but think kidpix, Carmen Series, Printshop, etc) on direct to consumer sales and marketing, Harvard Graphics (which then was supplanted by MS's Powerpoint) demonstrating and selling, and selling integrated online and print marketing campaigns.

I can give numerous examples of technology misuse or myths that I see happening in the education field. Technology is a tool. When a new tool comes along it is used in every concieveable way. Sometimes, it just doesn't work.

One example is a good friend who tried to start a "virtual" church. He is a Methodist pastor in a mid-sized urban church. It was a great experiment, but didn't work. The on-line experience is too ephemeral and individual. Community and immediacy just was not there. People will start relationships online, but they still meet face to face. In my opinion, church still needs to meet in person.

Anyway, technology is simply a tool. A nifty presentation or slick newsletter that lacks good educational content is still a poor teaching tool. I can't tell you how many times I saw or participated in a presentation that was "pretty" and was a complete and utter waste of time. I also think a more effective presentation tends to be one that does not focus on "bells or whistles." It does not detract from your educational objective.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Online discussions

My first experience as an online discussion and as discussion leader did not go well. The group was late selecting a group leader, people did not adhere to deadlines and then I lost my connection to the internet right at our deadline and had to buy a new computer before connecting back to the group. As a leader and a teacher, I was not quick enough to identify that our group was not going to be able to pull this together, and losing my connection caused the group to miss our deadline.
I should have identified there was a potential challenge when we were unable to chose a leader in a timely fashion. The first post regarding next steps (or process) was from Rebecca asking "Has anybody decided if they would like to be our leader?? "
I replied the next morning on the 9th
"I will volunteer to be leader for group.
1) Everyone will need to check in with an OK to proceed- or provide alternative.
2) If this is OK with everyone, then we can agree on process to evaluate it list and then discuss classification."
3 of the group out of 4 responded their approval in 24 hrs. On the morning of the 1oth, with just 3 approvals I wrote "
I will proceed as if you are OK with me leading. If not or if you prefer to lead then let us know. I will be happy to relinquish the reigns of power.

First, we need to decide on the IT list we will use. Read everyone's and submit your votes here. begin thinking how you want to organize the list."

One person submited categories or ways to organize. I attempted to refocus group to task on chosing a list, and begin to organize the list.

One person responded in a timely fashion. I was unable to access the discussion group on Saturday and only one person was concerned we did not have anything to post. I pullled together the information available and submited our list for Greshem late organized according to software/hardware and by instruction or non-instruction.

I will hopefully lead this group again, assign specific tasks with deadlines far in advance, and identify leverage or motivation to get this done in a timely manner.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

My Theory of Learning or Getting Students to Ask Questions

Herbert (Tad) Brickson
Basically, people learn when they ask questions. My more formal definition currently is that Learning is a multifaceted event centered on the individual. Learning has four basic parts: question, answer, test, and refine.
I have had two real challenges. One regarding a situation where you don't have adequate prior knowledge. The second challenge focused on small questions and small integrated learning events.

So I will set up two comment areas
For the lack of prior knowledge, I reflected on how someone in a concentration camp is faced with an unthinkable situation. I proposed Victor Frankle’s book “Man in Search of Meaning” as a way people “asked” questions about an impossible situation or a situation that one had little prior knowledge.
Victor Frankl arguing against reductionism and importance of meaning
A discussion of learning with little to no prior knowledge
Tell me what you think below
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The second question focused on small learning outside the class room and no real question to ask. My current thought is when learning gets to such a simpe task, then it isn't learning until it makes some "sense" or connection with other information. My example is a computer that memorizes data and doesn’t understand. Issac Asmov I, Robot and Star Trek's officer Data are not real computers. We are getting closer, but I don't think computers learn.

Everything Asimov which includes I, Robot

MIT and Artificial Intelligence
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