Should Students Blog?

During the second week of EDU 6323 – Technology as a Medium for Learning, I had my graduate students examine blogging for learning.  In addition to starting Michelle Miller’s Minds Online, they read Stephen Downes’ Educational Blogging, Henry JenkinsWhy Academics Should Blog, Steve Wheeler’s Seven Reasons Teachers Should Blog, Sue WatersTop 10 Ways Blogs and WordPress Are Used In Schools, and Vicki DavisLove Song to My Readers.

To add to the context, I also asked students to view Sir Ken Robinson‘s TED Talk:

Finally, I asked students to go to Teach 100 and find 3 blogs that resonated with them.

Their discussion posts aggregated yielded this Wordle –

Week2Wordle

The blogs they liked (and the spread shows the diversity of 14 graduate students):

So, a mixture of corporate blogs, edited blogs, and individual educator blogs.

One of the questions I asked my students was whether students “should” blog?  The answers were generally positive, but with interesting additional notes.  Some felt that we should start students journaling in elementary school, but within safe zones … with mixed feelings about the appropriate age for students to blog on the open web.  Others felt that grading blogs diminished their learning potential – it led to extrinsic motivation rather than intrinsic.  Most felt that blogging needed to be purposeful and aligned with learning objectives.  Most saw a clear alignment between student blogging and Miller’s call for course redesign through technology.

As to whether teachers and faculty should blog … most were skeptically positive.  In fact, one student decided this was the week for her to stick her toe in the blogosphere.  Unfortunately, within a day of her establishing her blog through GoDaddy, it was hacked and hijacked.  An unfortunate learning opportunity for us all … and she does plan to try again with a more secure setup.

This exploration of blogs leads next week to exploration of web searches and website validity.  It should be interesting!

 

Seminal Books on Online Learning

Monty Jones at VCU emailed several of us today with an interesting thought query from Brianne Adams:

What are the seminal texts in online education?  Given how fast the field has evolved, are there any?

I have been evolved with online education for two decades, and along the way, there were books that had a huge impact on me, so I do believe there are “seminal texts.”  They were not the first books on online teaching and learning, but they were five books that stay in my mind.

book_palloffThe first book that really impacted my teaching online was the 2007 Building Online Learning Communities: Effective Strategies for the Virtual Classroom by Rena Palloff and Keith Pratt.  I had read several “how-to” books like Susan Ko’s Teaching Online: A Practical Guide (now in its Third Edition), but Rena and Keith’s book solidified for me the learning community aspect of elearning.  I had just shifted from directing an online program at Gwinnett Tech (and teaching several business management classes) to faculty development at VCU’s Center for Teaching Excellence, so Rena and Keith’s book hit at just the right moment for me.

Using case studies, vignettes, and examples from successful online courses, Rena and Keith provided a mix of theory and practical ways to handle challenges such as engaging students to build an online learning community, establishing a sense of presence online, maximizing participation, increasing collaboration and reflection, and effectively assessing student performance.  During the four years in which I coordinated VCU’s Online Course Development Initiative, this was the book we gave all participants.

book_AndersonThe second book that comes to mind is Terry Anderson’s 2009 The Theory and Practice of Online Learning (2nd Edition).  This edited collection of chapters on theory, design, and support of online learning provides background and context around the Community of Inquiry framework, which Anderson and others developed. The Community of Inquiry framework was developed during a Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities research funded project which ran from 1997 to 2001. The framework focused on the social, technological, and pedagogic processes that could lead to collaborative knowledge construction in online learning environments. This framework was extensively researched over the past 15 years, exploring the three forms of ‘‘presence” -teaching, social, and cognitive presence.

I used Terry’s book as my textbook in my hybrid course on the Theory of Online Learning that I taught for VCU.  The second edition brought in the concept of connectivism as a theory, as well as the use of social media for networked learning.

The third book builds on this framework of the Community of Inquiry.

Garrison bookRandy Garrison, another contributor to the CoI, published his second edition of E-Learning in the 21st Century: A Framework For Research and Practice in 2010. Randy synthesized a decade of research into the Community of Inquiry model for online learning.  Our CTE team spent a semester reviewing this book and related research around the Community of Inquiry, such as an article by Karen Swan, Randy Garrison, and Jennifer Richardson in 2009 – “A Constructivist Approach to Online Learning: The Community of Inquiry Framework.” The CoI factored in to the design of VCU’s Preparing to Teach Online course back in the last decade, as well as their year-long Online Course Development Initiative.  From Randy’s perspective, learning is shaped by a collaborative constructivist view, with discourse inseparable from critical thinking.  Critical thinking is both highly individualistic and shared…we co-construct our knowledge with others.  This connected learner framework has certainly informed the design of my courses.

One aspect of Randy’s book I like is the holistic look at the interplay of all three presences together.  Not only does the influences shift between them, but they also shift over time within a course and beyond a course.  The “learning” might kick in two to three courses later as continued integration and resolution occur.

Clark Mayer bookMy fourth “go to” book is by Ruth Clark and Richard Mayer, who in 2011 published the Third Edition of E-Learning and the Science of Instruction.  This book not only looks at the science of learning, but it brings in Richard Mayer’s concepts of dual channel learning with multimedia.  Mayer has researched how our minds process information from both visual and audio channels.  He found that students learn better when material is presented with both words and images, when information is provided in smaller chunks to prevent cognitive overload, when words and images are integrated within a presentation, and when information is presented in a conversational style.  His work has informed much of our Online Course Design Orientation Program here at Northeastern University.

minds_online2My final go-to book is a recent addition that I have blogged about before – Michelle Miller’s 2014 Minds Online: Teaching Effectively with Technology.  Michelle’s book is one of the first books to tie what we know about how people learn to online learning.  I am currently using this book as the textbook in my latest online course – EDU 6323: Technology as a Medium for Learning.

There are a ton of other books and articles out on aspects of elearning (such as Tisha Bender’s (2012) Discussion-Based Online Teaching to Enhance Student Learning), but the five above are my go to volumes.  This is also does not begin to scratch the surface of books on learning science, such as Susan Ambrose’s How Learning Works.

It would be interesting to hear from you as to what you consider seminal works.  What would you add to this list?

 

 

First Week in EDU6323

It has been awhile since I blogged…but as I move into retirement from faculty development and spend more time teaching adjunct, my blog offers a place to reflect on my online teaching.

I am currently teaching a graduate course for Northeastern University – Technology as a Medium for Learning (EDU6323).  I was asked to completely redesign this course to add more learning science to the course flow.  As the course objectives aligned with a course Jeff Nugent developed several years ago, I took the basic flow from Jeff’s course, but added Michelle Miller’s book as the course textbook, so that we would examine the various digital technologies through the cognitive lens of Attention, Memory, Thinking and Multimedia.

EDU6323coursemap

To start the course off, the students read Mike Wesch‘s From Knowledgable to Knowledge-able, The Next Generation Digital Learning Environment, and an interview by Mary Grush on moving from course management to course networking, all within the context of learning in a networked environment.  They also viewed the Networked Society video:

The students are tweeting to hashtag #EDU6323 weekly, as well as analyzing the readings and discussing their insights in our Blackboard discussion board.  My students span the country.

6323maptweet

Some are in K-12 as teachers or coaches, some are in community colleges, and some are in higher education administration or educational technology. Yet it was interesting how these readings and video in some ways overwhelmed my students.  While living in it, they had not reflected before on the pace and magnitude of change occurring in learning environments.  Some questioned who was ahead in dealing with this change – higher education or K-12?  There was some discussion on the potential gap that can exist between haves and have-nots, but also a recognition that in some ways, developing countries now have access to learning – leading to the question as to whether it is the middle that is being squeezed.

What is gratifying is that my students appear focused on student learning, not tools and technology.  There was discussion as to whether more or less technology in the classroom was the answer, but they kept coming back to the affordances technology “could” give for learning.  One student summarized:

“E-learning empowers the individual by putting information in the hands of everyone, not just the elite.  It affords everyone, even those in the remotest of regions and in the most un-institutional places, the invaluable advantage of learning, of being both the holder and creator of knowledge.”

Given that I have several students in health care education, there was some push-back on Mike’s article.  These students teach in programs that lead to students taking national certification exams, so “teaching to the test” is a bit of the norm.  We had some good discussion in both Twitter and Blackboard around assessment of learning.  As one student noted:

“With all of the personalization and every aspect being chosen for the learner (ie review questions, etc), how does this bolster dedication, motivation, perseverance, and most of all organizational skills?”

Some questioned whether the concept of “learning management systems” is an outdated concept.  We will dig deeper into this in a few weeks.  There was comfort in the structure that LMS‘s provide, but recognition that they also limited both teaching and learning.  Some noted that this comfort has more to do with teachers than students, and that fear of change may keep teachers from experimenting.

It was nice to see the concept of “free” surface in the first week.  There are many free apps and softwares available for teaching and learning – but there are “costs” associated with the selection of these free apps, particularly when it comes to time for teachers to tinker and play.

Please join us at the Twitter hashtag #EDU6323 in the coming ten weeks as we explore digital technologies for learning.  Next week, my students will be exploring educational blogs and trying to answer the two questions – Should students blog? and Should teachers blog?

How would you answer that question?

 

Blimage Challenge: The Rock Arch

Bending

A new blogging challenge has emerged called blimage – a “blog image” challenge: You must use an image sent to you and “incorporate it into your blog, and write a post about learning based on it…Then pass an image of your choice on to someone else so they can do their own #blimage challenge.” Read about the original idea here.

I challenged my colleague Enoch Hale with an image of a hand holding chalk that was about to write on a blank blackboard…and he responded with this wonderful post.  Now I get to try it with the image above that he sent me and others via Twitter.

What a great image!  My wife and I just returned from a week spent on the Carolina coast, so seeing the ocean in the background really resonated with me.  But in the spirit of #blimage, let me concentrate on the rocks in the foreground.

The first obvious point for me is “balance.”  We know from the learning sciences that students (and faculty) are not only intellectual beings, but social and emotional ones as well.  In How Learning Works, Susan Ambrose states that students’ level of development interacts with the social, emotional and intellectual climate of the course to impact learning.  As one who teaches online, I strive to build relationships with my students, to understand better their unique social, emotional, and intellectual drives.  I also work to balance the passion I bring to the course with realistic and practice-based applications that student can take away from the course.

Keeping with principles from Susan Ambrose’s book, the image also suggests to me a knowledge organization.  As faculty, we work with students to help them make connections between topics and see the “big picture”.  Focusing only on the top rock…or the yellow one…misses the conceptual knowledge one can take away from the whole.

Connections also raises the methodology of connectivism as a learning process.  Learning is an active, social process that involves change in knowledge, beliefs and behaviors, done not “to” students…but done by students. The online environment supports a learning-centered approach, providing a vehicle by which interested scholars can exchange and refine ideas via discussions and/or reports. That is the premise upon which my courses are constructed, and it aligns with the evolving digital world.  A constructivist and connectivist approach can be used to guide participants on a journey of discovery, sharing of learning, and building of community. Constructivism suggests that learners create knowledge as they attempt to understand their experiences. Connectivism looks at how individual knowledge is shared in a social environment. Learning, especially learning in a fully online “course” in the digital information age can look very different from learning face-to-face in earlier days. George Siemens suggested that connectivism is relevant to online learning.

The starting point of connectivism is the individual. 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 individual. This cycle of knowledge development (personal to network to organization) allows learners to remain current in their field through the connections they have formed (Siemens, 2004).

Finally, the image brought to mind Garr Reynold’s book Presentation Zen – as he has similar stacked rocks on his cover.  Garr quotes Leonardo DaVinci:

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

A lot to pull from one image – but at its core: Balance, Connections, and Simplicity.

Thanks, Enoch, for the challenge.  I’ll have another image shooting your way tomorrow!

{Graphic: Mary Roy}

Direct Instruction and Learning Science

icon-e-learningKristi Bronkey had a nice article in Faculty Focus yesterday entitled “Re-Thinking Direct Instruction in Online Learning.” She noted that while direct instruction had a bad reputation associated with passive learning, it did not have to reflect passivity. She suggested a model framed around the notions of “I Do, We Do, and You Do.”

  • I Do – Direct instruction by faculty using screencasts
  • We Do – Faculty guided student processes with frequent feedback
  • You Do – Students working together in authentic group processes

Kristi noted:

“Direct Instruction should be an ongoing exchange between professor and students. With effort, creativity, and the intentional use of the I Do, We Do, You Do structure, we can present new information in engaging ways, provide guided feedback as students strive to draw meaning from their new learning, and allow students the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues before independently reflecting on their own learning.”

How Learning WorksI was struck by the parallels between Kristi’s article and the research Susan Ambrose and her colleagues published (2010) in How Learning Works: Seven Researched-Based Principles for Smart Teaching.

Kristi noted that for “I Do”, faculty could use short screencasts to help students make connections between the reading assignments and bigger picture aspects of the topic being discussed. She noted that this allowed students to “hear our thought processes.” This aligns nicely with the Knowledge Organization principle:

“How students organize knowledge influences how they learn and apply what they know.”

Students do not have the rich knowledge structure and associated connections of facts that faculty experts draw on when conceptualizing a topic. Articulating these connections can aid student learning.

Faculty screencasts can also help guide the students in both procedural knowledge and the knowledge of how to employ them – steps towards mastery. Developing a concise screencast can help faculty push past their own “expert blind spot” by clearly identifying skills needed and steps for applying these skills.  This aligns with another principle noted by Ambrose:

“To develop mastery, students must acquire component skills, practice integrating them, and know when to apply them.”

Facts can be dry…but rarely come across as dry when a passionate expert discusses them. Screencasts can provide avenues in which this passion of the faculty becomes evident, and that links to student motivation for learning. As Ambrose noted:

“Students’ motivation determines, directs, and sustains what they do to learn.”

Two more principles can surface in the We Do area of learning processes. Students come to our courses with a wealth of knowledge already, and helping students surface that prior knowledge influences how they filter and process what they are learning. If they lack sufficient prior knowledge, learning can be negatively impacted. The facilitative nature of We Do can help engage prior knowledge.

“Students’ prior knowledge can help or hinder learning.”

Kristi’s article also discusses the use of frequent feedback. Ambrose noted that learning is best fostered when students engage in practice that is directly linked to learning outcomes, set at an appropriate level of challenge, and is linked to specific and explicit feedback.  As Kristi noted, feedback does not simply have to summative – it can be used formatively during learning processes to guide students to higher levels of achievement.

Goal-directed practice coupled with targeted feedback enhances the quality of students’ learning.”

In the final section of Kristi’s post, she discusses the independent nature of You Do in online learning, but advocates for a mix of group activities and independent metacognitive reflection.  Tackling the potential for isolation addresses another principle noted by Ambrose:

“Students’ current level of development interacts with the social, emotional, and intellectual climate of the course to impact learning.”

The reflection on their own contribution to the progress of learning also aligns with the final principle noted by Ambrose:

“To become self-directed learners, students must learn to monitor and adjust their approaches to learning.”

learning_graphicI like Kristi’s call to action for online professors.  We would not want passivity in our students, and we should not allow our delivery to be passive.  Incorporating the concepts of I Do / We Do / You Do as a mindful approach to course design can not only help keep students engaged, but also better incorporate aspects of learning science that we know from research lead to more effective learning.

{Graphics: EuroMedia, Jossey-Bass, John Hopkins University}

Cognitively Optimized Online Course

active-learning-stratsMonday, I attended a regional conference hosted by the Harvard University Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning on active learning.  It was a good day of conversation with colleagues from some 35 institutions in the area.  I met Jim Lang of Assumption College, and he pointed out that “active learning” is a potential active learning problem for faculty in general.  Totally agree.

During the morning, we worked as small groups to identify both barriers to adoption and solutions:

Some barriers:

  • Faculty personal identity as “one who lectures”
  • Loss of control
  • Fear that experimentation will impact student evaluations
  • Classroom spaces not conducive to active learning
  • Lack of faculty knowledge as to active learning techniques

Some solutions:

  • Creating culture of active learning
  • Sharing of practices … and sharing evidence of efficacy
  • Spotlights on faculty doing it
  • Discipline journals including SoTL in addition to discipline research
  • Convene faculty development around shared problems
    • Start with small teaching activities
  • Understand the difference between “starting” versus “sustaining” active learning

minds_online2Yet, my best take-away from the conference came when Jim mentioned a new book he was reading on the train that morning:  Michelle Miller’s (2014) Minds Online: Teaching Effectively With Technology.  I immediately went online and ordered my own copy, which arrived last night.  The book starts with the cognitive principles that could be applied to improved learning through technology, focusing on attention, memory and thinking.  It then provides practical applications of these principles to provide a “cognitively optimized, fully online course.”  That intrigued me!  Sixty-five pages in, I am excited enough to post this preliminary reaction.

Michelle noted in the preface that this book “…explains how principles of human cognition can inform the effective use of technology in college teaching”, noting:

  • “Technology enables frequent, low-stakes testing, an activity that powerfully promotes memory for material
  • Technology encourages better spacing of study over the time course of the class and helps prevent cramming.
  • Technology facilitates presentation of material in ways that take advantage of learners’ existing knowledge about a topic.
  • Technology facilitates presentation of material via multiple sensory modalities, which, if done in the right ways, can promote comprehension and memory.
  • Technology offers new methods for capturing and holding students’ attention, which is a necessary precursor for memory.
  • Technology supports frequent, varied practice that is a necessary precursor to the development of expertise.
  • Technology offers new avenues to connect students socially and fire them up emotionally.
  • Technology allows us to borrow from the techniques of gaming to promote practice, engagement, and motivation.” (p. xii)

She noted that technology does not promote learning by its mere presence … learning requires focused attention, effortful practice, and motivation (concepts that align with Susan Ambrose’s (2012) How Learning Works).

Michelle’s first chapter deals with whether online learning is here to stay.  She suggests factors such as economics, student demand, calls for measurable evidence of learning, new technologies and a drive to innovate as reasons why technology in higher education is now a given … and that we should invest in using it well.  She then looks at whether learning online works (noting that just by asking the question, we are holding technologically aided teaching to a higher standard than classroom teaching).  She charts out principles for optimal college teaching excerpted from four “best practice frameworks:

These best practices do suggest that online learning works…and some of what makes it work is active learning.

In Chapter 3, she tackles some of the prevailing myths about the psychology of computing:

  • Use of the web “rewires” the brain
  • Students today are “digital natives”
  • Social networking destroys real-life social relationships

RewireYourBrain

While there are grains of truth, she provides some interesting analysis of the realities behind these myths and what that might mean for teaching.

So … I am through the first three chapters and stoked!  I will continue this as I move further through the book, and I will continue to find connections with the active learning session I attended this week.

If you are looking for a good book that applies the learning sciences to online teaching, I would recommend this book.

(…and thanks again to Jim Lang for the suggestion…)

{Graphics: Kenny, Barnes and Noble, Vogler}

 

 

 

Some Gems from Week 1 Blogging

During the first week of ADLT 640 – The Theory and Practice of eLearning Integration into Adult Environments – we looked at the changing landscape of learning (with hat-tip to Jeff Nugent) and the Evolution of Elearning (with hat-tip to Ruben Puentedura)

A term that came up in class when defining “e-learning” was organic…a natural part of the learning environment.  I have never heard it described quite that way, but this really resonated with me.

You can check out their blogs here.  There were some interesting take-aways.

From Julia:

Is there a difference between “online learning” and “learning online”?  Online learning is the buzzword that we use to define an alternative and formal method to learning that is still evolving.  Learning online was what my sons did – fluid, organic, and not associated with school.

…and from another post by Julia:

However, nine minutes of conceptualizing about hybrid thinking in the next 20 years left me even more personally aware that this is truly the most intensely stimulating period in the history of the earth.  I am at the same time both excited and a bit overwhelmed by the prospect.

From abryk:

So to answer the question: YES! Online teaching is absolutely marked by practices that are different from face-t0-face courses. The two are not equal. I am not saying that one is better and the other is worse, but that the two are distinctly different settings that require distinctly different methods to facilitate learning and engagement. Unfortunately, I feel that many educators prefer the safety of classroom limitations than the risk – no, challenge – of seeking to successfully educating online. (Similarly, many of us learners fear the challenge of adapting to learning in an online environment.)

In a similar vein, Jennifer noted:

There seems to be this great divide between those who are against technology and those who are strongly for it. I personally feel in the middle.

Another student blogged:

Although in-person is preferred for lengthy or certification trainings, I would argue quick hit e-learning is the preference for many people. To increase the popularity of longer e-learning courses educators must figure out how to incorporate the cultural aspects of the classroom into e-learning.

Caitlin posted an interesting observation about elearning she had experienced:

I’ve taken other eLearning classes since.  One was an entirely online course in accounting, not my strongest subect anyway. It also wasn’t what I was hoping for:  I wanted a guide on how to use software to do small business accounting, and instead I was caculating payroll taxes with a calculator.  Bogus.  It gave me a bad impression of online courses because it used the pervasive “post an original post to blackboard, and comment on three other posts.”   The format was really foced and unnatural.  Plus, who wants to comment about accounting? … So now we’re talking about elearning, and I’m looking at it from the lens of an Adult Ed student, one who still has most of her professors use the post-one-comment-three method for most of our reflective blogging.  It begs the question:  who came up with that ratio?  Why is it so pervasve?  Sometimes it begets engaged comment threads, but a lot of the time there are three comments that say things like, “Yeah, great post, I agree!”   or some variation therein.  I think we can all agree, that’s not a conversation.

And from Mo:

The question that needs to be asked is: is technology changing/transforming/redefining how we think of education? The obvious answer is yes if we look at the trends in the use of technology in the classroom. Looking carefully at the current education, however, we can see that technology is used to replace the old ways of doing things in many educational settings. It acts as a direct tool-substitute with no functional improvement.

Lots to chew on….

This week, we explore the learning theories of behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism, and connectivism as they relate to elearning.

Thought Vectors Firing Up

A grand experiment is launching today at VCU – our first cMOOC.  As it notes on the About page:

Starting June 9, the official course opens for six sections taught at VCU, and the rest of the internet is invited to join along as open participants.

The official name of this course at Virginia Commonwealth University is UNIV 200: Inquiry and the Craft of Argument. Starting June 9, the official course opens for six sections taught at VCU, and the rest of the internet is invited to join along as open participants.

Our special digital engagement pilot name is “Living the Dreams: Digital Investigation and Unfettered Minds.”

thought vector rocketWith the awesome team of Gardner Campbell, Jon Becker, Jessica Gordon, Jason Coats, Bonnie Boaz and Ryan Cales, the course site launched today … with help from Tom Woodward, Alan Levine, and Patty Strong.  Enoch Hale posted on his blog about this experiment.

I am looking forward to observing this thought experiment unfold … and engaging with summer students in the process.  Join us as well!

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Online Learning Summit 2014

Online Summit graphicOver the next two days (thanks to a lot of hard work by Joyce Kincannon), VCU will host its third Online Learning Summit.  The Online Learning Summit invites participation from colleges and universities across the Commonwealth of Virginia, and at last count, we expect about two hundred to participate.  The Summit theme of “Connections and Community: From Course to Commonwealth” reflects the need to engage in critical conversations within Virginia (and elsewhere), and to debate the role of online learning and the future of higher education. This summit provides a timely opportunity to consider and share important ideas about teaching and learning online, as well as issues related to program development, strategic planning and institutional and state policy.

Alec Couros will be our keynoter.  He is conducting a workshop tomorrow morning and then delivering his keynote Wednesday morning.  We are looking forward to hearing his perspective the next two days!

Tomorrow, among other activities, I will be one of three panelists delivering short 10-minute presentations before our combined Q&A session.  My portion is “Discourse in the Open”.

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Looking forward to reconnecting face-to-face with good colleagues from around the state and hearing about experiments in learning that are occurring both on this campus and around the state!

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Connecting Some Dots

shallows…or maybe not connecting some dots…  Thinking about two blog posts this morning how they weave into thoughts about online teaching and learning.

The first was by Debbie Morrison – “What the Internet is Doing to Our Education Culture: Book Review of The Shallows“.  Debbie reviewed the book by Nicholas CarrThe Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.  She finds that Carr does not make a compelling argument that the internet makes our thinking more shallow, but she does find that the book suggests that we in education have turned to the internet for “efficiencies.”  Debbie stated:

“…the theme of efficiency as it relates to the Internet extends to our education culture—institution leaders, politicians and administrators seeking efficiency in practices and methods (automated grading, online courses with great numbers of students, etc.) Efficiency is not a ‘bad’ outcome to strive for, yet the idea of efficiency in education is frequently referenced in terms of increasing or maintaining education outcomes, with fewer resources…”

Now let me juxtaposition this with the other blog I read, from Gardner Campbell (…and in full disclosure, Gardner is my Vice Provost for Learning Innovation…and we in the CTE work for him).

Gardner has a thought-provoking post in “Understanding and Learning Outcomes.”  He discusses the historical shift from a teaching paradigm to a learning paradigm, and then adds:

“…Yet something is deeply amiss, in my view. As we seek to perfect the language and institutionalization of a culture of “learning outcomes,” it seems we are necessarily moving toward a strictly behaviorist paradigm of learning, away from what Jerome Bruner refers to as the “cognitive turn” in learning theory and ever more deliberately toward a stimulus-response paradigm of learning. This behaviorist turn can be very sophisticated and refined. The behaviors specified, measured, and tracked can be cognitively demanding “smart human tricks.” There can even be qualitatively measured learning outcomes, though it appears these are less frequent than quantitative metrics, for reasons I think are obvious. Yet these are still behaviors, specified with a set of what I can only describe as jawohl! statements, all rewarding the bon eleves and marching toward compliance and away from more elusive and disruptive concepts like curiosity or wonder…”

Gardner noted that no matter the taxonomy used, they all suggest that learning outcomes should use specific language and should clearly indicate expectations of student performance (…and I would add – “measurable” expectations of student performance).  Gardner pushed my thinking by asking how we get from
“students will…” to a valuing of our “students’ will”.

will

Gardner goes into further detail about learning objectives and how a focus on rigid taxonomies assumes a linear approach to learning, avoiding concepts such as “understanding” and “appreciation”…concepts at the core of what makes us human.  He asks “…does a learning paradigm that avoids “understanding” and “appreciation” reduce symbolic behavior to indexicality alone?”

I would add…does it devalue learning in favor of efficiency?

Gardner links to Chapter 6 in the 1974 Jerome Bruner book Towards a Theory of Instruction, in which Bruner discusses the “will to learn.”  In this digital age, this could be expanded to:

  • the will to create
  • the will to remix
  • the will to connect
  • the will to share

The question for me is how we provide open experiences for our students to co-construct knowledge (and wisdom) with us?  Is our teaching and learning “do to…” or “do with…”?

Thoughts?

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