Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Learning Theories and Implications for Teaching With Technology

The following was originally written as a reflection assignment for week 1 of a graduate course I am currently taking called Teaching With Technology. Upon re-reading it, I decided I needed to preserve it here on my blog, because it documents a shift I see myself making in my philosopy of edtech.

November 22, 2009

After completing the readings, videos, and discussions this week I find I have a much better understanding of the constructivism and connectivism learning theories. I have been exposed to constructivism before, but the Learning as a Personal Event: A Brief Introduction to Constructivism (SEDL 1999) and the How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School (Bransford et.al. 1999) readings and the specific classroom and instructional examples they gave in addition to describing the theory of constructivism really helped me get a better grasp on the approach. I now clearly see the progression from activating each student's unique prior experiences with a subject, to placing them in situations where they can collaborate to share their current knowledge and expand their learning, and then giving time to reflect on and share their learning in a way that makes sense to the learners. I had not heard of connectivism before, but I see it as a logical addition to constructivism where "Including technology and connection making as learning activities begins to move learning theories into a digital age" (Web 2.0 New Tools, New Schools, Solomon & Schrum, 2007). The collaborative nature of constructivist learning can only be enhanced by the digital tools and continuous learning advocated for in the connectivist approach. As I was responding to a classmate's post on the discussion board, I was reminded of a video from Edutopia which demonstrated the use of virtual environments in K-12 teaching, but after viewing it again, I believe Harness Your Students' Digital Smarts (see below this paragraph) is also a prime example of constructivist and connectivist learning and teaching with technology in action.

As we finish this week, I am struck in particular by two thoughts. The first one is a shift that is occurring in my own philosophy. As I posted in a response to another classmate on this week's discussion board: Through readings we've been assigned in some of our classes as well as professional reading I do on my own, I am beginning to experience a philosophical shift in my approach to educational technology from the basics of "just getting tools into the hands of teachers and students" to actually seeing a need for redesign of instructional practices which better meet the needs of 21st century students while harnessing the power of technology. What I find ironic as I begin to experience this shift is that the ideas behind it are not new. The two readings which most impacted me this week in this vein were written in 1999. So my second thought is, "Why? Why is the implementation of something that was evident ten years ago taking so long?" Especially since the constructivist and collaborative examples of classroom practice given in those two readings are so much more easily accomplished today in the era of Web 2.0. On page 41 of the Web 2.0 New Tools New Schools book, the authors address the fact that the climate for such change is not optimal due to the high stakes testing that has been implemented in the last ten years. Is high stakes testing the only or primary roadblock? Probably not. Whatever the roadblocks are, it would benefit us to identify them and begin to find ways to conquer them before our educational system falls further behind.