Sunday, February 26, 2012

Learning Theories and Instruction – Reflection

When we started this cycle, I thought it would be one of the most boring courses in the program.  Think about it; an entire course on theories attempting to explain how humans learn.  To be honest, at one point or another, I had heard about most of the things we mentioned.  None the less, when it was put into the appropriate order and context, I started realizing how many details were missing in what I thought I knew. The first thing that I found interesting in this course was observing how theories evolved as time passed;  from the very early thinkers who justified what they could not explain through the gods, to the more modern theorists who device new theories as they find out new information about the brain.   I also found striking that there is not a single theory that by itself can explain the learning process yet, in their own way, they all explain a very important part of learning.    Beharivorism recognized that humans responds to stimulus, Cognitivism that humans use their memory to retain information for future usage, Constructivism that learners construct their own knowledge from experience, Social Learning that learning is obtained through social interactions, Connectivism that learning exists in the world rather than the head and is gained through the development of networks that help to provide current information.  Finally, adult learning is a huge topic in and of itself and probably the theory which will have the biggest impact in my role as Instructional Designer.

As I mentioned on a previous discussion, this course has not changed the way that I learn.  None the less, it has definitely deepened my understanding of my personal learning process.  For one thing, this was the first time in my life that I have done an exercise of metacognition to better understand what works for me in a learning environment.  It was also the first time that I put together a mind map and thought about the networks from which I draw knowledge and information.  In fact, after I handed in the original assignment, I was able to come up with another couple of nodes which I could have added to the map.   I found the topic of multiple intelligences very enlightening as well.  This was new to me and again, for the first time I did an exercise of analyzing what I am good at.

You realize you are learning when you are able to start differentiating and understanding the value of theories, learning styles, educational technology and motivation.  My conclusion is that each learning theory explains a particular aspect of how we process information and gain knowledge, our learning style is the mechanism, activity or technique that works best for us to acquire our learning.  As time evolves, we will only see an increase in technology and its usage within the education field.  I think that at the moment, education is being redefined in order to utilize available technology.  The idea of information anywhere/any time is redesigning the playing field of education and making online learning programs a rich alternative at the moment and probably, the preferred learning method for the future.  Motivation is a constant requirement of any learning environment and very tightly related to adult learning.  To the extent the instructional designer is capable of understanding and implementing the principles of the adult learning theory and develop instruction taking into account ARCS (particularly in online learning), the adult learner will remain motivated and ready to learn.

There is no doubt that this course will help me further my career in instructional design.  One thing is to design and another to design with an understanding.  This course has helped me to understand human aspects of learning which will be beneficial in the future.  I think that the most important one is that each learner has a different way of learning.  As instructional designers we need to develop a good understanding of the audience we want to reach, understand their multiple intelligences, understand their learning styles, appeal to their motivation and provide instruction in a way which capitalizes on their differences.  This is not easy to do, but at least I have a good understanding of what to shoot for.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


The first week we started the course, we were exposed to three learning theories: Behaviorism, Cognitivism and Constructivism.  We were also introduced to the timeline in the History of Learning media presentation.  The first thing that caught my attention was how you could see a lot of the very earlier thinkers’ ideas within the more modern theories we were learning.  I also noticed the relationship of theories to the knowledge acquired of how the brain works.   Through the weeks, as new learning theories were added, additional factors to consider were thrown into the mix.  For example, a new dimension was added after constructivism, where we started to see the importance of social aspects through the Social Learning theory.  At this point, I began to notice the fact that we learn in ways which go further than just classroom instruction.  We now began to see the importance of the social context in learning.  Then we saw that not only is the social context important, but also that the world is full of information that we need to connect to via information networks.  Finally we found out that as adults, we have different ways of approaching the way we learn and that there are many factors which affect how we actually learn. 

Given what we have learned, how has my view changed on how I learn?  Basically, my view of how I learn remains the same.   I still learn better when things are presented in an organized fashion and when I have the opportunity to learn by doing.  None the less, I now have a better understanding of the reasoning behind why I learn the way I do.
 Given the cognitive theory, I am now better capable of understanding why I learn better when things are presented in an organized fashion.  Based on the explanation of learning styles, I have a better understanding of why it is easy for me to understand lessons which are accompanied by visual material.  When I look at the adult learning theory, I see how action learning and experiential learning works best for me.  If I look at multiple intelligences, then I find comfort in knowing that there is hope for me to increase at some point of my life my logical-mathematical intelligence, as all intelligences may be improved.   Basically, the way I learn remains the same; however, I can now come up with an explanation of why I learn in a particular way.
At this point, technology is playing a very big role in my learning.  As I worked in a computer manufacturing company for many years, technology has been a part of my everyday life for some time.  None the less, I always perceived it as a working tool; even when I was learning through it.  Taking this program via online learning, has opened up a new perspective on how I view learning.  I always envisioned formal education in a classroom environment.  I am now a believer that online learning is effective.  I also believe that motivation, metacognition and self direction as a learner are key to succeeding in the program.  I find it interesting that most of the articles we read are online and assignments already assume that additional research will be done on-line.  I think that in time to come, technology will play a much bigger role in education and as instructional designers we will be at the forefront of implementing it.   

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Connectivism and Learning Networks

Connectivism contends that people learn through networks they construct in order to gain knowledge.   According to this theory, not only is nurturing and maintaining connections needed in order to facilitate continual learning, but the ability to see the connection between fields, ideas and concepts become a core skill.  There is no doubt that there is a great amount of informal learning which occurs via our interaction with others.  With technological advances, our networks have expanded from personal to virtual communication and even to communication with machines that hold information we need. 

As I was growing up, my network was comprised of family, friends and teachers.  Now, it contains all of those components plus major ones facilitated by technology.    By having all these resources available to me, the way I learn has been greatly impacted.  I am now able not only to consult with those close to me, but to source and verify information via technology resources and in most cases get an instant response.  I would say my network has changed the way I learn by improving the amount of reliable information I can obtain almost instantaneously.   Understanding the theory of connectivism has also made me realize that the information I am obtaining could change at any time depending on newly discovered facts.  As learners, this fact should encourage us to constantly seek the latest information available on the different topics of interest.

As we talk about digital tools which facilitate learning, the list is very long.  Once you log on to the internet, possibilities are limitless.  From searching topics on Google, to connecting with your friends in Facebook to accessing business applications on line, to sending e-mails , it is very hard to determine which tool best facilitates learning.  As all these tools have become an integral part of our everyday life, I would propose that we learn equally from all of them.  I personally feel that so much technology sometimes limits the benefits of human interaction; hence,  I make the greatest possible effort to maintain personal relations, choosing to call someone on the phone rather than texting them or having lunch with them rather than chatting on Facebook. 
I think that it is important to understand the linkages in your network.  It is important to understand where the latest reliable knowledge lies and how multiple links that hold pieces of information interface with one another.  Being able to interpret the information you receive is also important.   When I have questions, I go to the different links or resources in my network to find out the answer.  Once I obtain information, I may use another part of my network to verify that the answer I am getting is correct and based on the latest available information. 

There is no doubt in my mind that a great amount of learning occurs via networks we construct.   To this extent, I am in full agreement with the central tenets of connectivism.    Putting together a mind map has made me realized how much I rely on my network in order to obtain knowledge.   This does not mean that I feel connectivism is the one, all inclusive theory of how we learn.  In my opinion it is another piece of valuable information we should keep in mind as we design effective instructional solutions.