Rethinking Learning
conversations about the future of teaching and learning
Barbara Bray
be creative, innovate, take risks, unlearn to learn
Oakland, CA

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New Learning Theory?
By Barbara Bray    July 16, 2007 -- 08:25 AM

One learning theory may not be enough for today’s kids. Schools are changing - especially public schools. I was advocating Constructivism as the theory of choice - learning for a purpose until I thought about kids today with video games. There usually isn’t a product yet the learning is exponential, interactive, and collaborative. Where does that fit with pedagogy and learning theories?

Constructivism suggests that learners create knowledge as they attempt to understand their experiences (Driscoll, 2000, p. 376). Behaviorism and cognitivism view knowledge as external to the learner and the learning process as the act of internalizing knowledge. Constructivism assumes that learners are not empty vessels to be filled with knowledge. Instead, learners are actively attempting to create meaning. Learners often select and pursue their own learning. Constructivist principles acknowledge that real-life learning is messy and complex. Classrooms which emulate the “fuzziness” of this learning will be more effective in preparing learners for life-long learning. [Source]

Some questions to explore in relation to learning theories and the impact of technology and new sciences (chaos and networks) on learning:

  • How are learning theories impacted when knowledge is no longer acquired in the linear manner?
  • What adjustments need to be made with learning theories when technology performs many of the cognitive operations previously performed by learners (information storage and retrieval).
  • How can we continue to stay current in a rapidly evolving information ecology?
  • How do learning theories address moments where performance is needed in the absence of complete understanding?
  • What is the impact of networks and complexity theories on learning?
  • What is the impact of chaos as a complex pattern recognition process on learning?
  • With increased recognition of interconnections in differing fields of knowledge, how are systems and ecology theories perceived in light of learning tasks?
Knowledge is changing faster today than ever. New information is continually being acquired. How can teachers be the all-knowing expert providing facts that are changing right before their eyes? The ability to draw distinctions between important and unimportant information is vital. The ability to recognize when new information alters the landscape based on decisions made yesterday is also critical.

Connectivism is driven by the understanding that decisions are based on rapidly altering foundations. Principles of Connectivism:

  • Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.
  • Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
  • Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
  • Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known
  • Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
  • Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
  • Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
  • Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision.
Interaction is important. Video games attract and engage learners better than any traditional school experience. How do school’s compete for their attention?

Friday’s headline article from Reuters, “Wii could top record-holding PS2″ and B. Joseph Pine and James H. Gilmore’s book “The Experience Economy: Work Is Theater & Every Business a Stage” - our economic landscape can increasingly be described as “an experience economy” where people are more likely to pay for an actual “experience” more than just a cheaper product or widget. The Wii and the iPhone both come to mind as products which seem crafted for the consumers of the experience economy. [How can schools join the experiential economy?]

So where are we? Experiential or Connectivism or a combination of the two.

Pedersondesigns blog: The amount of collaboration (read: different than coordination or cooperation) ... gathering 40 people around the world, dedicating 6 hours every Friday and Saturday evening over the span of 8 months, all with the goal of getting to see this guy get knocked over.

Why aren’t we taking advantage of this type of collaboration? How about kids creating study guides together about what they need to learn? How about letting them use cheat sheets they created as they demonstrate real learning? They do this with these games. I remember my son sharing codes and hints as if they were gold. The excitement was real.

Categories: "Change" "Learning Theory"

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