EDUC 8845

Welcome to the blog of Milton B. Francis of Walden Universty Ph.D. in Education program, with an Educational Technology concentration.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

New Technologies

In 2005, I was appointed by the former principal of the high school in which I currently teach to be the school’s technology coordinator and web designer for the school’s website: A position that I accepted with honor and humility, and still hold, maintain and regard with dignity. A feature of this position is to plan and execute technology professional development workshops for my fellow teaching colleagues in a timely manner. On one occasion, the school decided to switch from the system of the manual submission of grades (paper-grades) to a system where the grades are submitted electronically. A planned workshop, in collaboration with the school’s chairman of programming, to teach the faculty how to submit their marking period grades electronically via the school’s district email was set to get underway. Upon the announcement of this workshop several weeks in advance; it was met with negative responses by a few teachers. Some of these responses ranged from the timing of the workshop to its necessity. It was noticed that these negative responses were mainly from the faculty members who were in an older age category, and who had been teaching for a vast amount of years. Having observed this type of initial resistance, the program chair and I informed the principal, who told the faculty that it was a mandatory exercise, and that she would not tolerate such behavior.

On the day of reckoning, many of the resisting teachers straggled into the workshop. With this type of negative response, we (the program chair and I) decided that we were going to use a lot of hands-on experience, and less modeling, as we thought that this would have been a more practical way to demonstrate the need for this type of technology. The workshop began with a very brief overview of the reason why this change must be enacted. While making this presentation, the program chair was being heckled by a group of teachers who were seated in one section of the room. Some of these expressions of disapproval included questions and statements like: Why do we have to change? The way that we are submitting the grades is alright, nothing is wrong with it. Will this change improve the performance of the students? Who will benefit from this change? The principal then paused the meeting and ask the teachers to listen, as they will see the real benefit if they give the presenter a chance to continue. This was done, and the brief presentation was complete.

It was now my turn as the technology presenter to address the group. I modeled the use of this new wave of technology in the grading system. I then asked different teachers to volunteer in using the technology. To my amazement, this was where the root of the resistance originated. The younger teachers did not mind showing off their skills of technology, but the older, more experienced teachers, were afraid to use this modern day tool. I discovered that many of them did not use emails, more so, the district’s email. At that moment I realized that my job as the school’s technology coordinator has now taken on an added responsibility-teaching teachers how to use email (something that I took for granted).

If this workshop is being conducted in 2010, and with the knowledge of John M. Keller’s ARCS (Attention, Relevance, Confidence, Satisfaction) model, I would take a much more sophisticated approach to solving this problem. First, I would reckon that the older, more experienced teachers lacked the motivational skills that were needed to accomplish the task. In trying to inculcate this motivation, I would seek to gain their attention by capturing whatever little interest there is and stimulate their curiosity to learn. I would use low tech analogies that they used in their classrooms when introducing a topic to their students, comparing it to how I use hi tech to gain their momentum in the desire to learn new tools of the education system. Modeling, as was demonstrated then, would be a major issue, as this would try to encourage them to adapt to this new wave of discipline that is sweeping through the system of education. The next step to increasing the motivational level of my experienced colleagues is to show them the relevance of this new technology to the grading system. I would tell them that this new learning will improve their existing skills, and that they would best learn by building upon their present knowledge and skills. I would show them, during modeling, how they have technology skills embedded within them, and that these skills are just waiting to be released. With reference to future usefulness, I would allow them to see the need of the task for their immediate future, and how it makes the workload much lighter as teachers who are engrossed in consistently grading students work.

Having gained their much needed attention and showing the relevance of the new technology tool, my next task would be to build their confidence in the use of this tool for success. I would help them to believe or feel that they will succeed and control their success of the use of this new technology tool. In building this confidence, I would inform them that understanding the use of this tool will take time. They do not have to rush in understanding it, and if confronted with difficulties while using the tool, I am always available to render assistance. Don’t be afraid. I would also share with them their control over the use of the tool. They control the technology tool; the technology tool does not control them. This will allow them to demonstrate ownership, not just over the tool, but of their learning of technology.
Finally, after building all this confidence, seeing the relevance of the technology tool to the education system, and capturing their attention, I would now turn to the goal of satisfaction. Every person, irrespective of their strata in society, needs to feel that their accomplishment is recognized and that their effort is not in vain. So, in allowing them to feel satisfied, I would constantly praise their efforts when they emailed grades to the program chair. This praise would take the form of positive feedback and reinforcement of the use of the system. I would also invite the principal to commend their efforts and show her approval for their acceptance of the challenge.


References

Driscoll, M. P. (2005). Psychology of learning for instruction (3rd ed.). Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.

Retrieved February 8, 2010, from ARCS model of motivational design (Keller)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Connectivism. Is it a learning theory?

Human beings are holistic in nature; therefore connections are pivotal to our very existence. Before birth, we were all connected to our maternal parent literally. Scientifically, this was our first external connection ‘from within’. As development progresses, it became more natural to make connections, not just internally, with our subconscious, but with the external world around us. As a learned individual, who is determined to be a scholar practitioner, there is no exception to what I called ‘The book of the rule’. This ‘book’ or ‘guideline’ allows us to be the individuals that we would like to be as progression continues in life. On becoming a scholar, I am expected to relate/connect to individuals from all walks of life, therefore, what better way to rehearse this connectivity, but with anyone who shares or differs with my opinions and beliefs. George Siemens, a theorist on learning in a digitally-based society, defines connectivism as the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, and complexity and self-organization theories. He further stated that the starting point of connectivism is the individual, and that 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 the individual. As a future scholar practitioner, I am that individual, as can be seen in the mind map shown in the figure below.






In this the age of technology, one cannot say the word without thinking ‘log on’. The very act of ‘logging on’ is, in itself, a connection. With this initial connection, come several different types of connectivity. This connectivism aids in the process of learning, as I am able to communicate, and collaborate with different individuals in different strata of the global society. Some of these connections are social, like twitter, facebook, and ning; some are professional, like teacher tube, ConnectEd, and the United Federation of Teachers; while others are educational/academic, like blogs, scribd, TED, my Walden University portal, wikispaces, and google documents. In connecting with the social (social networking technologies) websites, I feel a sense of appreciation as I learn about past and present friends and acquaintances, as well gaining knowledge and incites about places, ‘famous/popular’ people, and activities that worth pursuing. From a professional standpoint, the websites within my practicing profession serve as information and knowledge share, as there are mutual benefits between both parties, the professional sites and myself. Even though the communication and collaborative activities within the social and professional sites are interesting and meaningful to learning, I most benefit from the educational/academic sites. As a scholar practitioner in training, blogging with my peers and other academe is helpful in that I learn the rudiments of peer-review, a critical aspect of all scholars. Wikispaces and google docs are equally interesting as they serve the same purposes as blogger to a trainee scholar. Scribd is also an academic endeavor, as it allows for scholarly sharing of academic documents. TED, like the academic sharing community mentioned, is more of a vidoeblog of academic endeavours.

Therefore, even though there are strong arguments surrounding the acceptance of Siemens connectivism as a learning theory within the technological arena, people are benefiting from the varied experience that they never once had before the wide development of technology. Communication and collaboration are now widespread. Individuals, within seconds, can reach across the globe without traveling a foot. As Siemens says, ‘learning is no longer a reservoir; it is a river that is flowing’. I believe the textbook is not the one bought in stores, as that is fast becoming obsolete; it is the other person with whom I am communicating and collaborating, as this discussion is current with the changing times.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Collaboration (A constructivist learning tool)

The day that an infant entered the world, is the day that he/she became natural to the reaction of the elements of life, as the medical personnel or representative thereof, welcome him/her with a gently slap on the buttocks. A response mechanism is automatically triggered, as the young child cried, signifying a connectedness to life and to people. This is the first sign of interactivity to the world. Overtime, this instinct is developed, as growth and maturity sets in. With this growth and maturity, coupled with interactivity and connectedness, socialization is formed. It is with this socialization tendency that individuals communicate, as they aim to relate to each other. This relation breeds cooperation. Howard Rheingold, in his TED Talk video on Collaboration, said that ‘cooperation, collective action, and complex interdependencies play an important role’. This role of collaborating with each other is significant, if interactivity is to be sustained, and the group, with its dynamics, is to be established.

In the theory of learning from the constructivist perspective, the approach to learning emphasizes authentic, and challenging projects that include students, teachers and experts in the learning community. The goal is to create groups or learning communities that are more closely related to the collaborative practice of the real world. Working collaboratively, allows individuals to develop their own framework and perspectives, such as modeling, discourse, and decision-making. The real world phenomenon acts as a guiding principle for individuals to ‘meet and greet’ each other physically, mentally, and technologically. The physical contact allows for the expression of emotions, a vital ingredient in life that is necessary for the release of tension and anxiety. In the mental issues, the ‘meeting of the minds’ allows for learning to transpire, thereby empowering the learners to fulfill their mental desires, as they seek to attain full learning capacity, which, of course, is unattainable, like full employment is, to the macroeconomic structures of government. Rheingold also spoke about the use of technology in the process of collaboration. Among his highlights are Google bloggers, Amazon, EBay, and Wikipedia.

Technology today plays a vital role in cooperation and collaboration. These two terms are buzz words for the constructivist. For individuals to collaborate, they must first cooperate. They should not see each other as rival competitors. A major collaborative tool used in today’s technology is Web 2.0. There is a large number of Web 2.0 tools; some of the more popular ones include Blogger, Podcasting, Social bookmarking, MySpace, YouTube, Delicious, Digg, Twitter, Flickr, Wikipedia, and Facebook. Many of these tools serve as Social Networking Technologies (SNTs), where individuals collaborate with each other via the Internet. During this collaboration, learning is occurring, and so the parties involved, benefit from the process.

Reference

Howard Rheingold on collaboration

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cognitivism as a Learning Theory

In Bill Kerr’s New Year’s day blog of 2007 _isms as filter, not blinker, in which he said that learning theory is full of _isms, and asked the question ‘Are they useful guide to what to think and do?’– I would both agree and disagree with points/statements that he conjectured during the discussions with his colleagues Stephen Downes and Karl Kapp. The learning theories of behaviorism, constructivism, connectivism, etc, are indeed necessary when discussing the full potential of the learner. However, like full employment in macroeconomics, full potential of a learner is unattainable. There is no ultimate learning, as learning is a life long process. This brings me to the statements made by Kerr, when he said ‘The learning theory is indispensible to the curriculum reform effort. What I have noticed is that these _isms do not stand still. They evolve, they listen to criticism and move on. I've also noticed that learning theorists, who have a different favourite _ism to mine, might still come up with significant findings in their empirical studies that I find hard to reject or ignore. So, although it is possible to make perfectly valid criticisms of Skinner's behaviourism or the theoretical foundation of cognitivism that is not the end of the story. The outcome of Kerr’s statements here signifies the impact that social change has on learning theory. The phenomenon of social change is greatly impacting society, and the theories of learning are not averted in this endeavor.

In the dialogue between Downes and Kapp about learning theories, with reference to Kapp’s blog – Definitions: ABCD Objectives (which I found interesting), we are still rewarding behavior, whether is positive or negative. However, the tendency, in recent times, is to acknowledge and recognize the learner when the behavioral outcome is suitable to our liking, which really makes us behaviorists at this stage. Punitive measures for not learning have, more or less, become obsolete, especially with the ongoing discussions in the psychology of learning.
The notion of stimulus-response ( a programmable behavior) highlighted in the discussion, cannot be dismissed, as it relates to today’s technology of ‘on’ and ‘off’, or ‘stop’ and ‘go’, or ‘yes’ and ‘no’ which had their discovery in the binary mathematics system. However, a simply ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or in my mathematics logic class, ‘true’ or ‘false’ without any reason whatsoever, is not sufficient to foster the learning system. Therefore, the theories of behaviorism, cognitivism, or connectivism cannot be isolated from each other, if ‘adequate’ learning is to take place. In the continued dialogue between Downes and Kapp the term ‘dehumanising’ was mentioned. But, how does it affect learning? If it does! It does have an effect on the learning process. Take the examples (machines) stated in the argument; they are right on target, but using machines, such as the calculator, enhances the process of learning if properly utilized. Depending solely on these tools of technology does hinder the learning process. In my mathematics classroom, permission is granted to use the graphing calculators when it’s absolutely necessary, and not just to do simple algorithmic calculations like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division or even simplifying ‘well known’ squared and cubed numbers.

The blog post by Kapp (Definition: Cognitivism), in which he drew attention to some of the theories of learning, showing their relevance to cognitivism, is indeed relevant to today’s technological era. The learner is indeed a complex information-processing system, as he rightly stated. So, for this reason, Stephen's response of ‘the mind is not like a computer....... and depicting the mind as analogous to symbol system processors is to misrepresent it in a fundamental way’, is certainly admired by me. Understanding how the learner learns is still a complex task for educators today, as different individuals learn differently, and with the use of different styles/methods. This brings me to the use of the buzz words that are used in my school: Differentiated instruction. Since students learn differently and at a different pace, the administrators at my school ‘insist’ on the use of different modes of teaching, of which the use of technology, with its different formats, is one of the key methods. Thinking about one’s own thinking (metacognition) is really important to the ongoing development of the theory of cognitivism. This is the place that I would like to get my students, so that they can take ownership of their learning and stop blaming the society for their misunderstandings.
In the blog Out and about: Discussion on educational schools of thought, Karl Kapp’s discussion about the use and importance of blogging is well taken. Like Bill Kerr in the blog _isms as filter, not blinker, responses were acceptable, and taken as constructive criticisms that further the discussion which I believed, was quite scholarly. The three men seem to form, whether purposefully or accidentally, a learning community, which should be beneficial to not just them, but other readers of the blog. Like Bill, Stephen, and Karl, the learning community of Leasa, Sheila, and myself should replicate the goal of blogging-that of discussing, critiquing, and encouraging each member’s blog in a scholarly manner, as we aim to become scholarly-practitioners in our own right. With this thought, I invite my two other members of the learning community, and anyone who blogs, to respond to this blog.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Personal beliefs about how people learn, and the purpose of learning theory in educational technology.

Learning, in my opinion, is the epitome of the educational system. It is the ability to acquire knowledge, and to use that knowledge to the benefit of oneself, and to the wider society. But, what is really meant by the term ‘learning’? Why do people learn? How do people learn? These are some of the questions that have been asked over the years; solutions have been given, but many people, I believe, are still yearning for more answers. To some, an ultimate solution needs to be found, while to others, the process is ongoing. There is no final answer to these questions, as the belief of many, is that, the education system, with its structures and alignment, are always developing as the social systems of society changes. The term ‘learning’ has been defined in so many ways by psychologists, educators, and scholar practitioners, to name a few. It has also being critically assessed by ancient and modern scholars. One such scholar is George Siemens, a theorist on learning in a digitally-based society.

In a video ‘What is learning for me?’ Siemens view learning as a connect. This connection is with other people, and with tools that enhance his learning. However, he mentioned that there are barriers to his learning whenever things like copyright and government initiatives arise.


What-Is-Learning-For-Me-George-Siemens


Even though I agree with Siemens in part with his theory of the concept of leaning, with regards to the connection with people, I believe that when things like copyright or even government initiatives come alive, that is also learning, and not really a barrier, as he stated. Philosophically, how would he know that these tools are infringing on his right to learn if he did not learn that these tools exist to perform the task that he said they are performing? Overall, I believe that people learn through doing and repeating a task that allows them to gain the concept of the task, which eventually becomes a part of their inner being, as they demonstrate it to the wider society.

The theory of learning is of utmost importance to any discipline in society. One such discipline is educational technology. Learning is a mindset, so Siemens, the digitally-based theorist on learning, compares the mind to the computer. He said that, like the computer, ‘we accept inputs, manage them in short-term memory, archive them in long term memory, (and retrieve in short-term memory when needed), generating some type of output’. Technology is a tool that is used to enhance learning, and learning occurs when it’s coupled with teaching or instruction. Together, they formed what has come to be known as educational technology. Therefore, since technology has an effect on the learning process, the theory of learning must be a part of this digital discipline, which has whirlwind into the 21st century, with no intention of retreating.


Reference

Driscoll, M. P. (2005). Psychology of learning for instruction (3rd ed.). Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.

Siemens, G. (2008, January 27). Learning and knowing in networks: Changing roles for educators and designers. Paper presented to ITFORUM for discussion. Retrieved December 8 from http://www.tskills.it/userfiles/Siemens.pdf