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Reflection

Reflection

One of the things that I learned in this class is that there are several factors that could potentially interfere with the adult learner’s quest for further education.  These include: biological factors such as physical deterioration and memory loss, life experiences, work experiences, previous learning experiences, cognitive abilities, and the time since their last learning experience (Conlan, 2003).  With all of these potential deterrents, the one thing the adult learner has in his / her favor is motivation (Conlan, 2003).  The reason the adult learner seeks education is usually to further his / her education, or to allow for job change.  This motivation is usually intrinsic in nature (motivated from within).

As I progressed through this course, I experienced my own setbacks ranging from illness of family members requiring my support to continuation of daily activities for my immediate family.  Though this unforeseen incident could have been a deterrent, the motivation of the adult learner kicked in, and I was able to complete the course.

I found several aspects of the course particularly interesting.  The first of these was the mindmapping exercise.  I must admit that when I first started that project, I questioned its utility.  As I progressed and added more nodes to the map, I started to visualize on paper what had only been in my head before.  I know see mind-mapping as an excellent brainstorming tool – one that can be used to prevent / minimize writer’s block as assist in maintenance of a project’s focus.  My mind-map is now posted on my desk and I will continue to refer to it and tweak it until my project is implemented.

I also found the information regarding the use of the ARCS (attention, relevance, confidence, satisfaction) model to be useful.  I can see myself using that model as I continue to develop courses.  Its usefulness ranges from prevention of attrition, to maintaining interest in the course.

This class has opened my eyes to the differing ways that people learn.  Though common sense and observation told me that everyone’s learning style is different, I was not as keenly aware as I now am about the breadth and depth of these differences.  I have also reclassified myself from being a strict cognitive learner to being one that has a little piece of each of the learning styles presented.  I subscribe to Ormod’s viewpoint that teaching the student effective learning strategies is better than catering to their self-identified learning styles (Ormrod, n.d.) as the tools for self-identification of learning methods are subjective and the “ideal” learning method for the individual may change from tool to tool and even day to day based on the answers given.

I walk away from this course with a new favorite motto.  It is now posted on my locker at work: “Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand.” Confucius, circa 450 BC.

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

Ormrod, J. S. (2009). Learning Theories and Instruction. New York: Pearson.

What I’ve learned about me and how I learn

When I first started blogging a couple of weeks ago, I admitted to being a clinical laboratory scientist by trade and a teacher by accident.  I also admitted to realizing that I needed to learn more about how to learn, so I could be a more effective teacher.  Back then I knew nothing of learning theories, I had heard of people like Bandura and Vygotsky in my college psychology class, but paid no attention to who they were, or what they thought, beyond what was required of me for class.  Now I look at their theories and those of others with renewed respect as I think about the effect that knowing about these theories could have on my instructional design and teaching career.

At the beginning of this class, I self-identified as a cognitivist learner – one who learns by “listening, watching, touching, reading, or experiencing and then processing and remembering the information” (Library, 2013).  Now having delved into the others; behaviorist, constructivist, social learning, connectivist, and adult learning theories, I now consider myself to be something of a learning theory mutt as I can no longer see only one place where I fit in.  Snelbecker, as quoted in Ertmer and Newby sums up my feelings better than I can, when he says that designers of learning cannot allow themselves to be restricted in one theoretical learning position.  He urges the designer to examine each learning theory and select the theory that best fits the educational needs of the moment (Ertmer, 1993).

I have always found that I needed feedback before proceeding to work on papers / projects.  Good feedback along with positive reinforcement (such as a raise on the job) has often translated into some of my best work.  That, I suppose is the behaviorist part of me.  My cognitivist side is the side that uses mnemonics to remember almost everything.  While I struggle with the constructivist view that knowledge is created internally rather than from external forces (Ormrod, 2009), I like the idea of knowing what my zone of proximal development –the quantity of learning possible given the ideal learning environment (Ormrod, 2009) – is so that my expectations of myself and others can be realistic.  The social learning theory recognizes that some learn best by practicing after observation of others (University of Alabama, 2013).  In my line of work, this is how we train new employees: first demonstrate the skill, then watch the individual perform the task, then finally have the individual perform the skill by himself.  I have found this approach to work well for me and have been frustrated in the past by trainers who have deviated from this and tried to “force-feed” training in an attempt to get it done quickly.  My “Linkedin” account attests to my connectivist side.  Connectivism works as the learner builds a network of people within their learning community.  More nodes are added to the network as needed (Davis, 2008).  Finally, my presence in this class speaks for the adult learning theory.  Most adult learners seek further education out of a need to further themselves in their careers.  They bring with them experience gain from prior learning and work experiences (Conlan, 2003).  This definitely describes me, as I mentioned before, my primary motivation for seeking further knowledge in this area is to be a more effective teacher / instructional designer.

 

 

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

 

Davis, C., Edmunds, E., & Kelly-Bateman, V.  (2008).  Connectivism.  Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching and technology.

 

Ertmer, P. N. (1993). Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing Critical Feature from an Instructional Design Perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 50-72.

Library, O. T. (2013, June 30). Understanding Human Behavior. Cognitive processes: storage of information and language. Retrieved from http://library.thinkquest.org/26618//en-5.5.3=cognitive%20learning.htm

Ormrod, J. S. (2009). Learning Theories and Instruction. New York: Pearson.

University of Alabama. (2013, June 23). Online Learning Laboratory. Retrieved from Social Learning Theory: http://www.southalabama.edu/oll/mobile/theory_workbook/social_learning_theory.htm

 

 

 

The brain and learning

 

Welcome back! 

This week I’ve been forced to think about my brain – why I can remember things from 25 years ago, but forget my mental grocery list by the time I get to the store which is less than a half a mile away.  I have gained much more respect for the brain and how it functions, specifically how it processes information and turns it into this thing we call learning.

As I embark on the instructional design journey, I recognize that an effective teacher / designer has to be aware of how the brain works.  While the teacher doesn’t need to acquire a degree in neuroscience, he /she should gain a healthy respect for how the brain processes, stores, and retrieves information (Perry, n.d.)  It is also important to recognize that the brain’s “attention span” is limited – the brain fatigues fairly quickly (can sustain 4-8 minutes of “factual information” before it begins wandering (Perry, n.d.).  This is particularly important to recognize as we design learning activities – making sure that the information is clearly presented in a way to reach the learners before they mentally check out.

There are neurological studies to explain this.  The term mental fatigue has been likened to the fatigue that one feels when performing physical exercise.  MRI scans of the brain have isolated the area of the brain (anterior cingulate cortex) that is responsible for an individual’s feeling of mental fatigue as described by a feeling of “lethargy and slowness of thinking” (Publishers, 2012).  For the instructional designer, this is again important to recognize so that we can reach the learner prior to the onset of brain fatigue.

One more thing, check out this website http://www.lumosity.com/app/v5/personalization/memory.  It says it can train your brain in the areas of speed, memory, attention, flexibility, and problem solving using games.  I’m going to try to do this everyday to see if I can train my brain to compete with Watson (IBM computer) on Jeopardy and maybe I can also train my brain to remember that nagging grocery list of mine!

You should also check out these two resources to learn what I learned about my brain this week:

http://teacher.scholastic.com/professional/bruceperry/brainlearns.htm: an essay by Dr. Bruce Perry describing how the brain learns.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121210101630.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily+%28ScienceDaily%3A+Latest+Science+News%29: a research magazine covering various topics.  Check out the “mind and brain section”.

References

Perry, B. (n.d.). How the brain learns best. Retrieved from scholastic.com: http://teacher.scholastic.com/professional/bruceperry/brainlearns.htm

Publishers, I. (2012, December 10). Functional magnetic resonance imaging offers insights into mental fatigue. Retrieved from Science Daily: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121210101630.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily+%28ScienceDaily%3A+Latest+Science+News%29

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Beginning the journey

I am a clinical laboratory scientist by training and an accidental educator.  I never pictured myself teaching anyone or anything, yet when opportunity knocked, I opened the door and found that I liked what was inside.  Now I am trying to learn more about learning.  I’ve always jokingly said that I needed to be taught how to learn as my study habits have always been less than ideal.  I want to learn about how we learn so that I can become a better learner and in turn a better teacher too!

As I started to build an e-learning website several months ago, I discovered that my e-learning skills were woefully inadequate.  I decided to find out how I could boost my knowledge so that I could save my students from burnout from the dreaded, boring Powerpoint©.  Enter, instructional design.  As I read more about the field, I was intrigued and thought that it was definitely something that I could use to make my skills more relevant.

I have found these three sites / blogs useful in my Instructional Design journey thus far:

1.       www.articulate.com/rapid-elearning/ The Rapid e-learning blog authored by Tom Kuhlman has been very useful to me as I have attempted to teach myself the ins and outs of the Articulate© suite of products.  In his blog, the author covers e-learning issues and provides useful tips from creating templates, building graphics, course design, to tips to preventing creation of yet another boring Powerpoint© presentation.  As you scroll through the comments on the site, you see users from beginners like me to advanved, commenting on how useful the author’s tips and shortcuts are to their creation of e-learning material.

2.       http://www.instructionaldesign.org/  This site describes many issues related to instructional design including descriptions and application of numerous theories of learning.  It also has a list of recommended books related to Instructional design.  This site also provides a link to instructional design conferences and jobs.  Additionally, the site describes the pros and cons of storyboarding.  This I found particularly useful as I have been trying to figure out where I can incorporate this tool in projects that I create.  Finally, another useful tool on the site is a table that describes various methods (including pros and cons of each) that are available to test the functionality of the material created.

3.       http://theelearningcoach.com/elearning_design/10-qualities-of-the-ideal-instructional-designer/  This site authored by Connie Malamed was helpful to me as I made my decision to pursue instructional design.  It describes ten qualities that make a good instructional designer.  The site also boasts a free ecourse that describes what instructional designers do, and e-learning samples that I have used as examples in courses I have built.  This site also has several useful podcasts for those days when you simply cannot read anymore and just would rather listen to someone else’s voice.

I look forward to this odyssey and invite you to follow me as navigate my way to instructional design excellence.