And So It Goes

Posted: December 15, 2012 in Learning About Learning

We’ve reached the end of our semester full of reflections about learning — at times eye opening, at times grueling, always inspiring. Here’s my review, influenced by flu symptoms at the finish line:

As I approach the end of my Learning About Learning reflections, with the imminent end of the course that prompted this, it seems fitting that I should find myself looping back to Connectivism — also the closing topic of Reflections of a Moodler two years ago, almost to the day. Even now, significantly more knowledgeable about learning theories and their relationship to connectivism, my views about learning for the digital age have not wavered and are in fact strengthened. I believe even more strongly now what I previously stated that “teaching for the digital age requires guiding students to reveal patterns and draw connections from the cacophony of information they are exposed to with the influx of technology in their every waking moment. It means assuring them that while knowledge is abundant, it is humanly impossible to internalize it all, in preparation for those unexpected critical decision making moments they will no doubt encounter as adults.” (I store my knowledge in my friends)

I am also reminded of the terrific little book A New Culture of Learning by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown, which in a similar way to George Siemens, stresses our obligation as educators to foster the ability in our students to analyze context in order to make sense of their world as well as to create a context, an environment, that builds their passion for learning and cultivates their imagination.

As I reflected on this week’s presentation and readings on the topic of Communities of Practice, I considered how I might apply this information in my own professional development efforts. The article by Dianne Conrad, “From Community to Community of Practice: Exploring the Connection of Online Learners to Informal Learning in the Workplace,” seemed particularly relevant. I have discovered, as the article supports, that building community in online environments makes for a richer learning experience. I also appreciate the report that in the workplace these relationships tend to revolve around the work itself and last as long as they are beneficial to the participants. However, it seems that when the institutional objective is to encourage a paradigm shift as a result of a combination of both formal and informal learning situations, building a strong sense of community and fostering those relationships is a key strategy. Otherwise, you risk isolated pockets of change which may only last for a short duration.


Slow Turning

Posted: November 20, 2012 in Learning About Learning

It’s been a slow turnin’
From the inside out
A slow turnin’
But you come about

— John Hiatt, Slow Turning chorus

In his song Slow Turning John Hiatt hints at his transformation, as revealed in a 1991 interview. Some transformations are indeed a slow turning evolving over long periods of time and some come suddenly with life’s unexpected twists and turns, as poignantly shared by a team mate during our group’s presentation on Transformational Learning last week. But, it appears all transformations have something to do with seemingly contradictory conditions — an unyielding resoluteness to persevere and an openness to accept change. For transformative learning to occur, the individual must decide to steadfastly embrace change in order to evolve into a different version of him or herself. Otherwise, it is an insincere attempt or as Paulo Freire would say:

It’s really not possible for someone to imagine himself/herself as a subject in the process of becoming without having at the same time a disposition for change. And change of which she/he is not merely the victim but the subject. ~ Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of Freedom

Been There Done That

Posted: November 14, 2012 in Learning About Learning

“If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly” — G. K. Chesterton

Experiential learning, perhaps the most basic form of learning, was this past week’s Learning Theory topic. We learn by doing and we construct new knowledge based on past experiences. Painfully true, for our eLearning design class team as we fumbled our way through the Articulate software program to the finish where we faced our “interdependence of fate” (Lewin), revealed in a project grade. Team work is not for the faint of heart, if “task interdependence” is required, but it’s important to keep the task in perspective. We are after all adults, with busy adult lives. The schoolwork will get done and will soon become that thing you did for that class. The longer you live the more you know. Experiential learning.

This week’s topic of self-directed learning was intriguing for this life-long independent learner. The bulk of research analyzing the motives of people inclined to learn on their own was indeed fascinating. It never occurred to me that I was doing anything worth researching, as I spent countless hours teaching myself myriad computer applications, anything that life required needed learning at the moment without the financial resources to facilitate the process or the convenience of time, and whatever my curiosity led me to explore further. After all, it’s what my father does all the time even now in his late 80’s – a practice modeled for this daughter since infancy. I imagine there may be similar circumstances and reasons in the learning journeys for many self-directed learners or “Edupunks” as we are now being called. Though, it’s not something we generally talk about with others, even those we recognize to be of like mind.

Somewhere around page 116 of this week’s reading in Learning in Adulthood (Merriam, Caffarella, & Baumgartner, 2007), concerning “the external context of the learning activity” a line from a John Hiatt song, “Sometime Other Than Now,” started playing in my head:

A little bit of fear, you know it goes a long way
It’s followed us around since we were little kids

Sometime Other Than Now

While a lot of fear may be paralyzing, as indicated by Rager’s study with cancer patients, I’ve come to believe that a little bit of fear does go a long way at motivating self-directed learners. Nothing makes the fires burn for learning like fear of failure, fear of not being hired, fear of a never changing future, fear of not fitting in, etc. I wonder if researchers have considered the power of fear other than its paralyzing effects. “A little bit of fear, you know it goes a long way.” Something to Google…

Bloomin’ Objectives

Posted: October 26, 2012 in Learning About Learning

This week we have been pushing the boundaries of our “zone of proximal development” (Vygotsky) as we explored Social Constructivism in this course. Yet, in real life, as I design instruction and present the topic of well-written instructional objectives to higher ed faculty, I am continually pulled back to behaviorism — the foundational theory presented early in the semester. It appears, when all is said and done, accountability for performance (dubbed “outcomes-based assessment”) weighs heavy on the instructor’s mind and the Cognitive Domain of Bloom’s Taxonomy is the map we are called to follow. Can learning bloom without Bloom?

I’ve been reading an awful lot about Transformational/Transformative Learning Theory as my team prepares for our upcoming presentation. I have also experienced transformations first-hand in deep learning situations. Yet, while there were no objectives clearly stated with performance, criteria, and conditions identified, significant cognitive changes did take place. I know because I felt different and saw the world and behaved internally differently as a result. The changes were subtle and indiscernible to those even closest to me, but were in fact life changing and not readily measurable.

This leaves me wondering about the instructor’s dilemma particularly in higher ed and instructional design. We stick with Bloom in the now, to document our handy work, but those of us deeply committed to our vocation hope for immeasurable life-long transformation as a result of our instruction.