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What is meant by a ‘tutorial’?

From E-Learning V

Fig.1. What is a tutorial?

In my decade+ using these platforms (I first attempted a module of the Open & Distance Learning MA in 2000/2001)we’ve gone from ‘computer-based learning’ and ‘web-based learning’ to ‘online learning’ and ‘e-learning’ or ‘eLearning’. ‘MOOC’ (Massive Open Online Course’ is a dreadful term so ‘Free Online Course’ must surely be better?

It’ll pan out over the years.

I have come to like ‘hang-outs’ (a term coined by Google) as an informal online gathering. A lecture online, is by default something akin to a ‘TED lecture’ surely? Webinars are a reasonable catch-all and perhaps what becomes of an OU Live moderated sessions?

Regarding tutorials, though traditionally small groups, a tutor and one or two, maybe three students for an hour – it is these asynchronous conversations that match this where the role of ‘tutor’ is taken by the educators, but also by well-informed contributors – this can happen here. The learning effect is, I would say the same, or very similar. You offer thoughts, these are challenged, or people agree and add or amend them and in this way you ‘construct’ meaning. Constructivism is one of the older ‘learning theories’, whereas ‘connectivism’ is very much a product of learning like this.

These is called a blog platform, yet it has affordanced of what used to be called a ‘Bulletin Board’ (I did one of these with the OU in 2001. Think text messages strung together in a kind of Excel spreadsheet). A blog, for my money, has a modicum of independence of design, tools and sharing. Go see WordPress. I wouldn’t change much here though. I cherish the new things I learn from people on totally different courses, the company and support that I know is here too.

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When Learning Theory met Engestrom

Fig. 1 When Learning Theory met Engestrom

(Clicking on this might take you to the original, as well as each doodle as a separate image)

I am forever ‘mashing things up’ with whatever tools I stumble across – recently adding images and text with an App called ‘Studio’ – essentially loads of layers, typically text and graphics over a photograph. In an attempt to assemble paper scribbles and add annotations I’ve produced the attached. I’m trying to visualise ‘opennness’ with this, and by doing so implying that what goes on between groups of people is perhaps similar to what goes on with different parts of your brain – it is contrasts and differences that assemble to create something new. It also relates to learning theories and practices – so didactic behaviorist, for constructed to cognitive. I suppose what I might be proposing is looking at how a person, a couple of people or a group of people interact and how openness in such situations is more conducive to problem solving and creativity.

Is neuroscience is going to blow this allow out of the water?

20130324-234258.jpg 20130324-234309.jpg 20130324-234322.jpg 20130324-234644.jpg 20130324-234330.jpg

KEY

Green = Activated

Amber = Engaged

Red = Blocked

What concerns me is the belief that theories of learning, which academics have identified in eduation in the last 90 years, are either key drivers or infleuncers in the design of learning. Surely these are all observations after the event. Like trying to analyse a standup comedy routine using a set of plans and parameters – ‘Good Morning, Vietnam’ comes to mind. As, I suppose would ‘Dead Poets Society’ to bring in Robin Williams again. Was the Khan Academy a product of such analysis? No? An investment banker wanted to help his nephews out with their Math so he recorded some videos. Actually, I jsut realised my wife is doing this for a friend’s daughter who is learning French – creating bespoke French language pieces for her to practice on. I can’t even think what either of them are – behaviourist or social-constructive and experiential. I’m afraid, given what the academic ‘gurus of e-learning’ keep coming up with they are probably the least intuitive or inventive because their hands and minds are tied by this kind of thing. Just my opinion.

If I want to develop a platform or school that uses e-learning I’ll go find myself a ‘Robin Williams’ kind of educator – someone has a natural flair for it, who engender a following, who most importantly delivers extraordinary results.

Looking back at school I know that what motivated me was two fold – my own long term goal and the quality of an inspired and informed teacher who had tutoring, moderating and teaching in their blood.

There’s a reason why research and teaching don’t mix. I’ve asked some academics about this and they have told me that they haven’t gone into the commercial sector, nor do they teach … ‘because they hate people’.

Where in these theories is the person?

This relationship, the rapport that can form between tutor and student is what is lacking and it is why, in my opinion, the lifes of the Oxbridge Tutorial, that one to one, or one to two or three hour long session once a week is far, far, far from dead.

Neuroscience is going to blow this allow out of the water.

Already the shift is very much in favour of genetics and the way our unique brains are formed as we develop as a foetus. It is nature, not nuture, so frankly, we can have anything thrown at us in terms of life experience and how we learn and how we respond will remain individual. This is the perspective of my father in law whose secondary education was the being in the Polish resistance during the Second World War, his first university a prisoner of war camp. He had England or the US as choices having decided not to return to Poland. And found himself learning English in Gateshead. The story continues … so what kind of learning was occuring in the POW camp?

He bartered lessons in German for lessons in English.

Social-situated in extremis.

Not that it can be injected into a class, and even less so in online learning, but ‘fear’ doesn’t half help turn a short term memory into one that will stick. Playing Devil’s Advocate, can ‘e-learning’ only ever be ‘cotton wool’ the safest, tamest learning you will ever recieve? Try reading an essay out in a tutor group – there’s fear! Try getting up in a hall of 300 people to make your point in a debating chamber – terrying. An odd conclusion to reach at the end of this reflection on the exercise – but where is the ‘fear’?

And I mean the right kind of fear, not the threat of the cane or other such punishment, but the fear of letting you down, or your side down, or of humiliation … against the public reward if you get something right?

Pinned down in a collapsed cellar in Warsaw my father in law believed he would die. He was the only one alive. Everyone else had been flattened. By some chance he had been standing under a beam that had partially protected him. He made promises he’d keep if he lived. He was found. A smash to the head.

Does learning have more impact when there is something at stake?

Try introducing this element into an e-learning module.

The impossible hypothesis – people learn better and make decisions with firmer convictions, where their life is at stake?

Then again we turn to neuroscience and will conclude that some will, some won’t, that the response of the individual to a shared experience means that you get as many different outcomes as there are people.

Institutions think that grades divide students – that’s only the tiniest fraction of what makes each person in that class different. If the student isn’t suitably self aware to know how to play to their strengths and managed their weaknesses then the observant tutor and others who are part of the institution should be doing this on their behalf – as parents, friends and siblings might do. Even with medical intervention.

The ‘Flipped classroom’ for me is finding ways to work with the individual who happens to be in a class that is probably already sorted by age and culture, if not also social class and gender.

And therefore already inappropriate.

Maybe the classroom has had its time. A short-lived interlude in human development over the last 70,000 years.

Communities of Practice

Communities of Practice Wenger (1998).

In a community of practice the social dimension is central to these: through the process of sharing information and experiences with the group members learn from each other, and have an opportunity to develop personally and professionally. In communities of practice there needs to be a domain – a commitment to a shared area of interest, a community – to interact and learn together and a practice (i.e. develop a shared repertoire of resources).

Communities of Practice – Leve & Wenger

“Learning occurs in social contexts that emerge and evolve when people who have common goals interact as they strive towards those goals” from http://www.innovativelearning.com/teaching/communities_of_practice.html

The research I am proposing centers on the notion that interactivity contributes to an improved learning experience.

Transactional Distance

Special teaching methods need to be used when at a distance (even though distance also exists in the classroom).

The research is also looking at the pedagogical strategies for distance teaching.

e.g. Oxford Film Foundation 1980-84 ‘Privileged’ and learning on set, The Oxford Theatre Group and learning at the Edinburgh Fringe, The Oxford Union as a precursor to Parliament …

Contemporary theories of learning – the better you understand how people learn, the better able you are to help them do so.

Enlightened and loving the Open University’s Masters in Open and Distance Education (MAODE) which is exclusively an online, e-learning experience ‘at a distance’ (the postgraduate student cohort is global) but always keen to have a book on the side to read cover to cover, take notes on, think about and share. This, I have come to understand, is largelly because I was taught (or indoctrinated) to learn this way – books, notes, essay, exam. Though never sharing – learning used to be such a secretive affair I thought. How The OU has turned me inside out – the content of my mind is yours if you want it, and where we find difference or similarity let’s bounce around some ideas to reinvent our own knowledge and improve on it.

As I read ‘Contemporary Theories of Learning’ in eBook form on an iPad I add notes electronically on the page, or reading it on a Kindle I take notes on the iPad – I even take notes on paper to write up later. I highlight. I also share choice quotes on Twitter @JJ27VV. Which in turn, aggregates the key ideas that I can then cut and paste here, with comments that others may add.

Simply sharing ideas in a way that is Web 2.0 and very 21st Century.

How do we perceive and share knowledge? What matters most in this equation

How do we perceive and share knowledge? What matters most in this equation?

Society, the institution, department or the individual educator?

Learning occurs at the interface between individuals, between the teacher and pupil, between pupils and of course between the thinkers, the educators, researchers and academics.

This interface is expressed as an artefact: a lecture, a book, a TV appearance, a podcast, a chapter in a book or a paper – as an expression of a set of ideas. This interface is also a conversation, in a tutorial, at a conference or less formally in passing over a meal, or drink (in the Oxbridge experience at the High Table, in the senior, middle or junior common rooms, in halls and rooms where societies and loose groupings of people meet, as well as in studies and rooms). Recreation of this online as minds meet, discuss and share. Informal or proactive groups or societies coming together. People with people.

On the one hand we like to put the institution above the person, whether in academia or the commercial world we rank and recognise Oxbridge and the Russell Group ‘above’ other universities while, for example, in Law we put Freshfields, Clifford Chance and Herbert Smith in the top ten of 125 or 500 legal practices.

However, it is an the individual level, at the interface between one person and another, one mind and another, where the learning occurs, where the knowledge is applied and changed, and in various forms written up or written out to cause or record effect.

It is at this interface, where minds meet, where ideas are catalysed and formed.

Towards my own theory of learning ?

Or trying to get my head around Engestrom’s Activity Theory that fits the bill for me?

 

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