When I think of times that I have shown new technologies to teachers, I know of some that would try to use it immediately and others that would never try it. For example, recently I showed several teachers the power of a wiki. A few were excited and asked me questions about set up, embedding, and classroom activities. I was happy to show them. However, a couple of teacher present thought that the wiki is just a waste of time for their classes and did not want to take the time to learn how to use one.
These individuals were initially curious but had a hard time seeing the relevance of using a wiki in their classes. What they were currently doing worked for them. Their students were getting good results on state tests so they saw no need to invest time in new technologies for learning.
When considering Keller’s ARCS model for motivation, I can think of two parts of it, the relevance and the confidence, are the greatest hindrance to learning a new technology. As mentioned previously, many teacher see no need or relevance of new technologies when what they do works for them. Unfortunately, state assessments are built in such a way as to promote older teaching styles so new teaching technologies are not as relevant to these teachers. However, to address this, I would demonstrate quality student work for them. If they could see how well students do on wiki based assignments and discussion, they may see the relevance of the technology.
The second area, confidence, is another issue with learning a new technology. This is an old and new teacher problem. They have trouble learning new technology so they do not want to use it. For these individuals, I would work one-on-one with them to help them gain the confidence they need to understand how to use a wiki and other technologies. I find the area of confidence to be one of the greatest limiters of teachers when technology is involved.
With a rise in relevance and in confidence, I do believe the other motivational components of attention and satisfaction may grow as well.
I have been working with personal learning networks for quite some time now, even though I have never officially identified them as such, until today. The mind map you see above is a map of that personal learning network. To the untrained eye, it may look a bit convoluted, with all the various lines and connections. I drew it this way to indicate the connections between various branches. Most of the branches are connected to others along those pathways.
Without this network, I would not be the educator I am today. This would meet Seimens’ (2006) social aspect of his connectivist theory. I use my connections on twitter to gain knowledge about new web 2.0 and 3.0 technologies and teaching ideas. I also use it as a research tool to gain ideas about topics that I am interested in. Additionally, I use my connections with my colleagues at Walden University to gather information, to discuss concepts, and to learn from them. Every aspect of that network adds to my knowledge and understanding of learning, of being a professional, of family, and of life.
When I have questions, I use this network to help find answers. I may begin with the informational aspect of this network. As I seek to know more about a topic or to see another side of that topic, I will seek information from the people in my network. This network is one of my most valuable assets as a professional. I am constantly seeking to enlarge it as I attend events like conferences and make connections with other professionals.
In this video, Howard Rheingold speaks of changing culture and economies based on the advent of new technologies. He mentions the shift from nomadic to agrarian cultures, stating how the advent of the alphabet introduced an elite group in society. Then, with the advent of the printing press, literacy was allowed to spread, opening doors for religious reformation, governmental reformation, and scientific reformation. Now, with communication technologies that can reach anyone in the world instantaneously at any time or place, society is changing again. Rheingold argues that this is bringing about the rise of new forms of collaboration in industry and in life. However, a question must be asked here. Is this new form of collaboration in industry and economics from a sense of altruism or a sense of self-interest? Rheingold makes it clear that much of the collaboration that is apparent in industry occurs out of self-interest. IBM and others are using more and more open source material and allowing others to develop open source material to foster greater economic gains for themselves.
But what of individuals that participate in community actions that have no economic gain, for example, individuals and groups working together to pose solutions to the BP oil spill cleanup in the Gulf? Or individuals working together to form open source software, open source browsers, or open source email clients? These people seem to work not out of self-interest because they have little to gain from their work, other than some personal sense of satisfaction. One could argue that on some levels, much of humanity works in their own self-interest, yet, as Rheingold mentions, there is a trend among web users to foster collaboration for things greater.
A potential exists for technology to play a profound role in the rise of collaboration. Web apps like Skype and Google Voice, allow for free voice or video conferencing around the world. Simulated worlds like Second Life see users meeting and problem solving dailiy. Could computing apps like Google Docs or wikis open the door to sharing data and editing in real time among collaborative groups.
Internet technology is available to any who seek to collaborate for a common goal. Will that goal be altruistic or in self-interest?
Behaviorism, congitivism, or constructivim, which of these schools do you belong too? In spending time with these topics, you may just experience a bit of cognitive confusion about which _ism to follow as an educator. So which _ism is it? Which _ism is the correct theory? Many scholars would tell you that their _ism is the valid theory today. However, Bill Kerr speaks differently of the _isms in his blog post _isms as a filter, not a blinker. Kerr is reflecting on a blog conversation that he had with Downes and Kapp on the validity of the various _isms. Knapp sums up the conversation the best on his blog post Out and About: Discussion on Educational Schools of Thought:
We need to take pieces from each school of thought and apply it effectively because…Cognitivism doesn’t explain 100% how humans process information and neither does Constructivism or Behaviorism. What we need to is take the best from each philosophy and use it wisely to create solid educational experiences for our learners.
Knapp further argues that each _ism has a place in the developmental stage of a learner – behaviorism for early stages where the cognitive load is light, cognitivism for procedural learning, and constructivism for problem solving. This is an interesting approach that warrents study and discussion among scholars. I am a constructivist and enjoy the ideas of situated cognitivism as well. However, when teaching mathematics, I see the need for a behaviorist tact to teach basic skills when they are lacking. The idea that one theory explains all learning should be challenged and considered as educators map out curriculum.
When I began to grasp my own understanding of learning theory and understanding of how that theory applies to my work as a teacher, I had to take a serious look at what type of person I am, a pragmatist, an objectivist, or an interpretist. Driscoll (2009) defines pragmatism as the idea that "reality exist but cannot be known directly." With pragmatism, knowledge is gained through both cognition and experience (Siemens, 2008). Objectivism follows the tenet "that reality is external and objective, and that knowledge is gained through experience" (Siemens, 2008, pg 9.). Interpretism is the belief that "reality is internal, and knowledge is constructed" (Siemens, 2008, pg. 9). At heart, I am an interpretist; though, you might see me as a blend of the pragmatic and interpretist if you were to watch me teach.
Because I see that knowledge should be constructed, you might consider me as someone that follows the constructivist theories of Bruner and others. This is a fairly accurate assessment. However, I am beginning to understand that our youth are, as Marc Prensky and others have stated, growing up as a digital generation, both socially and educationally (Prenksy, 2001). As digital learners, young people are forming connections, not just in the local community, but globally (Palloff and Pratt, 2007). This falls in line with George Siemens theory of connectivism. Connectivism is the idea that learning occurs at its greatest rate through networks and communities. As many would believe the idea that networks are formed purely in an external sense, Siemens states in his blog Elearnspace that these networks are formed "in at least three distinct ways: neural, conceptual, and external/social" (Siemens, 2008a).
Some may question the validity of connectivism as a learning theory. However, it does contain the critical elements of learning theory. Learning occurs through networks and communities, the diversity of these networks and communities are its influencing factors, memory is formed through adaptive patterns in the network, transfer occurs by sharing through the networks, and learning is dynamic, and flows from a diversity of resources (Siemens, 2008). It is important for learners not only to construct knowledge in the digital world but also to be able to transfer that knowledge to new situations and to other networks. This is an example of one way learners can transfer knowledge to others: to teach the topic themselves. This is a video two of my students created for just that purpose:
Finally, you might be asking, "What does this have to do with museums and curators?" Well, Siemens writes about four metaphors of education. The first is the "educator as master artist" where the teacher is the master who critiques and passes on his knowledge to a new generation of learners. Another metaphor is the "educator as network administrator." In this view, the educator assists learners in forming networks and connections. They also encourage learners to self-direct their own learning in the network. In a sense, the educator is the developer and maintainer of a learning network. A third metaphor, the "educator as concierge," allows the educator to guide, occasionally using lecture or to allow learners to work on their own (Siemens, 2008). The final metaphor is the "educator as curator." "A curator balances the freedom of individual learners with the thoughtful interpretation of the subject being explored" (Siemens, 2007, paragraph 9).
I have long been the concierge, but have recently begun to work as a curator in my classroom. This metaphor makes most sense as I work with my students and shift the focus to what is best for them and not necessarily for me.
I am an educator. I am a learner. Realizing that the same is true for my students was revolutionary to me. They are educators. They are learners. This is why I have shifted to the curator.
Driscoll, M. P. (2005). Psychology of Learning for Instruction. (3d Ed.). Pearson Education, Inc., Boston
Palloff, R. & Pratt, K. (2007). Building online learning communities. (2nd Ed). Jossey-Bass: San Fransisco
Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. Retrieved from http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf
Siemens, G. (2008a). Networked learning. Weblog entry. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/blog/2008/12/12/networked-learning/
Siemens, G. (2007). Networks, ecologies, and curatorial teaching. Retrieved from http://www.connectivism.ca/blog/2007/08/networks_ecologies_and_curator.html
Siemens, G. (2008, January 27). Learning and knowing in networks: Changing roles for educators and designers. Paper presented to ITFORUM. Retrieved from http://it.coe.uga.edu/itforum/Paper105/Siemens.pdf