Wednesday, November 21, 2012

My Philosophy of learning

           My learning philosophy is informed by the various learning theories I have studied.  I believe each theory has something to offer teachers as they endeavor to meet the learning needs of students.  Examples include the behaviorist’s drill and practice and chaining, the cognitivist’s rehearsal and chunking processes, the constructivists’ experiential learning experiences (Driscoll, 2005) or the connectivists’ networked learning (Siemens, 2008).  Teachers should locate, explore and practice innovative ways to meet the needs of learners, to inspire and motivate a desire to learn in any environment whether face to face or online.  While teachers should be conscious of students learning styles, they should teach not only to their strengths but also challenge them to learn in other ways as well since this will help develop well rounded individuals.  The teaching learning process should be learner centered and provide opportunities for learners’ active involvement with the environment and collaboration with others.  The learning environment should authenticate the everyday problem solving information seeking context in which the learner is able to build and expand their personal information network.  Teachers should be flexible, engaging students and embracing their ever changing roles (Siemens, 2008).

          It is critical that today’s learning environment allow the student to slip seamlessly from an everyday classroom into the digital world.  I believe that student’s should be comfortable in both spaces as teachers allow students to explore beyond the classroom.   I believe that a caring supportive environment should be established whether online or face to face.  I believe that the teaching/learning process is not only top down but also bottom up, that it is an interactive, collaborative process through which both teachers and pupils are changed.  While I do not embrace connectivism as the sole learning theory for this era I agree with Siemens (2006) that learning is not strictly linear but the learner now has the opportunity to learn beyond the bounds of the classroom.  I believe that one of the purposes of teaching/learning is to stimulate inquiring minds and develop independent, self-directed, life-long learners.  All of this I believe is critical and non-negotiable if we are to develop twenty-first century citizens.

Driscoll, M. P. (2005). Psychology of learning for instruction (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education.
Siemens, G. (2006). Knowing knowledge. A Creative Commons licensed version, Retrieved from  
Siemens, G. (2008). Learning and knowing in networks: Changing roles for educators and designers. Retrieved from

Thursday, November 8, 2012

New Technologies in the Workplace

Attitudes to computer use
When I was first introduced to the computer in the early 1990’s I refused to use it.  Accustomed to using the typewriter it was as if I was being asked to jump off a cliff.  No one had volunteered to teach me or give me an easy lead in to it.  Students were given the option to either type or word process their essays.  Of course I continued using the typewriter.  When automating the workplace my experience was foremost in my mind.   It was decided that the best approach would be to teach staff basic computer skills.  Those who were reluctant to participate in the training program proffered several reasons including the following:

1.       My religion does not allow me to use computers.
2.       I am too old to learn to use computers.
3.       I might touch something and damage the computer.
4.       I have never used a computer and I am afraid.

The apprehension and fear of the technology was clear.  What can a trainer do to motivate prospective learners like these?  Keller developed a sequential motivational framework (Driscoll, 2005) that can inform instructional design processes.  These motivational steps can be followed to help learners achieve success: Gain and sustain learner’s attention, make the content relevant to the learner, build the learner’s confidence, and generate their satisfaction.

To gain and maintain student’s curiosity.  I would share my personal experience and apprehensions about computer use with them.  To maintain their attention I would vary the practical exercises used in each lesson and vary the methods used throughout the course.

Enhancing relevance
Learners must feel that there is something in the lesson for them.  This must be a personal appeal that will stimulate a desire to learn the material being presented.  I would therefore give reasons why it is important for them to learn to use the computers.  These reasons would not only include its applicability in the workplace but how this knowledge and skill can benefit them personally.  Tie learning to use the computer to their need to serve clients well and show how they can then teach clients the skills they have acquired.    

Building confidence
Explain to students what will be expected of them at the beginning of each lesson.  Driscoll (2005) equates fear of failure with fear of the unknown and suggests that clarifying manageable objectives would help to alleviate fear.  Provide opportunities for practice and match tasks to students’ abilities.  As students advance in the course allow for their control of the learning process.  For example, give them several options for practice and assessment.  Also have them suggest additional learning experiences.   

Generating satisfaction
Ensure learner satisfaction through application of the three categories of strategies proposed by Keller (Driscoll, 2005).  They are natural consequences, positive consequences and equity.  Trainees can practice using the automated loan system, the library’s online database and inputting cataloging data.  The positive consequence component will be met since the basic computer skills course is built in to the organization’s library assistants’ training program.  At the end of the course trainees will receive a certificate and satisfactory completion of the training program will lead to promotion and change in remuneration.  Consistent standards will be set and maintained throughout the course to ensure equity, since learners must feel that they are being treated fairly (Driscoll, 2005)

Driscoll, M. P. (2005). Psychology of learning for instruction (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Connectivism: My Learning Connections

Dorothea's Mind Map

How has your network changed the way you learn?
My learning has magnified.  Whereas in my previous learning experiences information was located in a library or bookstore and bound between the pages of a book, I now access a wide array of knowledge through the World Wide Web.  I locate information and the opinions of others as far away as the Middle East, Asia, and Australia.  No longer bound by time and space, my class can be anywhere, at any time.  My peers and instructors spread across the globe.  Even though we have not physically met, I sense their presence and interest through our communications and various interactions.  I no longer hold a pen and pencil; rather, all my assignments and most of my course readings are done through my laptop.  In fact my laptop is the interface between me and the world. 

Which digital tools best facilitate learning for you?
Heading my list would be Google search engine.  It keeps me in touch with the university, my instructors and peers, and the resources offered by Walden.  Most of my research is done using Google as well.  To avoid long delays in the receipt of textbooks, e-books are a viable option, so, second on my list of priorities are e-readers, especially Foxit Reader.  Most of the papers are Pdf files and Foxit Reader facilitates my “reading a book” sensibilities.  To assist my memory, I take notes, highlight, underline, and italicize and so on just as I would a book.  I also use Kindle, Adobe Digital Editions, and Vital Source Bookshelf .  The online dictionaries are indispensable.  As I read, the meanings of unfamiliar words are checked and noted in the e-reader for clarification and future reference.  The Internet is critical to my studies.  Whenever I need clarification of a concept I seek simplification using general searches on the web.    These digital tools are definitely part of my entire learning process.

How do you learn new knowledge when you have questions?
My general approach is to find out as much as I can about the topic before attempting to answer any question.  Siemens (2006) suggests several pre-learning activities that include exploration, inquiry, decision making, selecting, and deselecting.  Learning occurs when the individual actively acquires the knowledge that is needed to complete tasks or to solve a problem.  My exploration begins with the digital tools at my disposal.  Of course information found in Walden’s library and online is exhaustive, so I refine the searches to more accurately represent what is required.  Even though some of the information received might be repetitive that helps me to remember.  It is impossible for any student to remember everything so I store material for future use in Google docs, on flash drives on my laptop and external hard drives.  Strong and Hutchins (2009) note that given the speed of change in information and the enormous volume of information available no one person can know all there is to know about any particular subject, so we tap into information stored not only in our minds but also in the minds of others; as we learn from our own experience and that of others (p. 59).  This gives credence to Siemens’ proposition in "Connectivism: Learning and Knowledge Today” where he posits that learning is the process of creating networks both internally in our minds and externally, linking nodes which may be people, organizations, libraries, web sites, books, journals, databases, or any other source of information.  

Siemens, G.  (2006).  Connectivism: Learning and Knowledge Today.  Paper delivered at the Global Summit 2006: Technology Connected Futures.  Retrieved from
Kay Strong and Holly Hutchins.  (2009).  Connectivism: a theory for learning in a world of growing complexity.  Impact: Journal of Applied Research in Workplace E-Learning.  1(1), 53-67. doi: 10.5043/impact.18

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Collaboration, Technology, and Constructivist Learning

Do humans innately work as a group?
Humans have derived from their experience the understanding that if they collaborate they would accomplish more than they would alone.  If there is an innate drive to “interact and work as a group” there is also the counterbalancing drive to survive.  And many decisions are made based on this will to survive.  As Rheingold points out in his examples of various businesses that have achieved success through collaboration, their desire to collaborate was not altruistic, but they learned that there is more to gain from working together than from going it alone.
Technology, collaboration and constructivist principles
Constructivists believe that learners construct knowledge, reflect on content, and share their knowledge with others (Solvie & Klock, 2007, p.8 ) as they actively learn through experience and interact with their environment.  Teachers become facilitators and coaches as students engage with the teacher, the task and other students.  Students become more independent as they are allowed to collaborate and explore in a context in which they are given the power over their own learning.  Technology provides the supportive media rich environment in which this type of learning can take place.  Driscoll (2005) points to the value of hypermedia through its support of graphics, text, audio, video and hyperlinks that encourages exploration and opens the door to a wide array of information that learners use to broaden discussions.  Other media include discussion boards, wikis, and mobile technologies such as cellular phones and ipads.  These allow students to continue the conversation beyond the classroom since they support access at anytime from anywhere.
What the research says
Solvie and Klock (2007) investigated the value of technology in supporting constructivists' theories of how individuals learn.  They used technology during class to communicate, provide information for students, scaffold, and clarify.  Outside of class, learners used technology to further collaborate with each other and with their teacher.  The researchers observed that if technology tools are chosen to match students learning needs and learning styles they have the ability to facilitate learners’ need to work individually and in groups to construct knowledge.  They also found that technology encouraged individuals to explore other learning styles (p. 23).  Qureshi and Stormyhr (2012) developed a model for collaborative learning and team work.  They suggested that collaborative/team work was especially suited to the diverse higher education community (p. 119)

Driscoll, M. P. (2005). Psychology of learning for instruction (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education.

Qureshi, M. A. and Stormyhr, E.  (2012).  Group dynamics and peer-tutoring a pedagogical tool for learning in higher education.  International Education Studies.  5(2) 118-124.  doi:10.5539/ies.v5n2pll8

Rheingold, H. (2008).  Howard Rheingold on collaboration [video file].  Retrieved from

Solvie, P., and Kloek, M.  (2007).  Using technology tools to engage students with multiple learning styles in a constructivist learning environment.  Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 7(2), 7-27.  Retrieved from

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

10 Reasons Why Our Students Fail

An opinion paper
The nation is distressed about the results of the CXC exams.  We are especially appalled about the percentage who failed in mathematics and English Language.  We need to take a good look at the sciences and foreign languages.  Where exactly are we heading?  How are we preparing our children for life in the 21st century and beyond?  Why exactly do our children fail?  I could go online and research reasons for failure and find many, but I want to make my response local.  Sometimes self-assessment is critical if an individual or institution is to improve.  So let us examine ourselves.  The process has to begin somewhere.  This is my attempt.

1. Lack of clear policies from the ministry of education   
    There is a lack of clear plans emanating from the Ministry of Education to assist teachers to maintain skills in a changing environment.  Research in education is an ongoing process.  It is useless then to train teachers, return them to the classroom and have no clear policy to ensure that teachers keep abreast of what is happening in the learning community that can impact their classroom.  Workshop attendance is insufficient.  The Ministry of Education should have clear policies regarding the renewal of teacher certification at specific intervals through participation in specific education courses.  Policies are needed to respond to questions such as: What is expected of teachers? What is expected of students? What is expected of parents? How does each stakeholder in education deal with grievances? Not only should these questions be answered, but the answer should be made public on the ministry’s website and through white papers and brochures.  Antigua is the only place I know where you are given a job and not advised about your rights and responsibilities.

 2. Poor environment
     Time has moved on, but we have not changed with the times.  As a result we find ourselves left further and further behind.  We open new schools repeating the same old problems.  There is not one government school in Antigua that has been designed with the comfort of teachers and pupils in mind.  If I am incorrect and comfort was the original intent, then we have strayed from that intent.  All are utilitarian.  So we herd our children into overcrowded classrooms where there is barely room for the teacher to stand in front of the class and expect them to perform.  Are we crazy or what?  This is especially true in our secondary schools.  We send a steady stream of teachers to the Teacher Training College where they learn about the various theorists and new methodologies.  Then they return to the same old congestion and feel impotent to try anything new.  What have we given the schools to support these new methodologies?  The schools lack equipment and material to teach the subject in new and meaningful ways.

 3. Improper Use of Technology
     For years each secondary school has had a computer lab.  To what end?  The labs are only used to teach information technology.  Technology has neither been integrated into the curriculum nor into actual classroom practice.  Now we have given each teacher a laptop and plan to give fourth and fifth formers ipads.  Can all teachers use the laptops efficiently and effectively?  Do all teachers know how to use technology to facilitate student learning?  If not, what use will be made of the laptops and iPads?  Decisions about education are too serious and have too lasting an effect for them to be made in a frivolous off-hand manner.  Where's the research into teachers' and pupils' technological skills before making the decision to introduce these modalities?  Don't get me wrong.  I am a firm believer in the use of modern technologies in the teaching learning process, but have preparations been made to ensure their effective use? 

 4. Waning interest
     There is declining participation in subject areas such as foreign languages and the sciences.  I have only one question to ask.  Why is it that all children study at least one foreign language and the science subjects in secondary school, yet when they get to fourth and fifth form only a few opt to write these subjects and many fail?  This area requires thoughtful examination into content, methodologies, and student and teacher approaches and attitudes to the subject.

  5. Lack of parental support
     What exactly is the role of the parent in this equation?  Many parents are not there for their children.  Many do not ensure that they are properly fed, that they are appropriately attired for school, that they have the necessary material as requested by teachers to facilitate participatory learning activities, that they do their homework and allocate study time.  You might ask, what does being correctly dressed have to do with failure?  Some schools (and rightly so) have a dress code and will send children home for incorrect uniform.  That means the loss of valuable contact time.  Some parents just do not care.  If the Ministry of Education had strict well known policies concerning these matters some of these issues would not be encountered.  

 6. Culture
     We are a nation at risk for our children are ill-prepared to meet future challenges.  We have nurtured a culture where for the most part little value is placed on education.  Sure, we are happy as a nation where we see our children succeed, but what are we doing to ensure success for all?  Indifference has set in.  Many children go to school for lack of anything else to do.  The intent is not to learn.  Efforts should be made to get us back to the place where we value and nurture education.

 7. Lack of motivation
     Students need to be motivated to learn.  They have to desire to succeed and to overcome in spite of all the negatives.  A program should be started in every school where individuals in society who are successful, mentor students.  It takes a village.

 8. Peer Relationships
     Children should choose friends carefully since that can have a positive or negative impact on their lives.  Time should be devoted to new first formers to attempt to break the cycle.

9. Failure to Communicate
     Students who fail sometimes do so because they do not reach out to others.  Sometimes, they do not understand a crucial concept and they do not ask.  Maybe they are embarrassed and do not want their peers to know for fear they will be ridiculed.  Students need to be encouraged to voice their opinions and seek help when needed.

10.  Failure to Plan 
     Students will not succeed unless they plan to succeed and teachers are a part of this process.  As teachers plan their work this should be shared with students.  They should know what will be covered each term.  The Ministry of Education should make all syllabi available online and have hard copies for purchase.  This will facilitate student planning ahead.  They will be able to start to research topics teachers plan to cover and also to have an input into their own learning.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Do Theories Influence What We Think and Do?

Bill Kerr states that “Learning theory, like politics, is full of _isms: constructivism, behaviourism, cognitivism and now a new one, connectivism”, and asks, “What should we do about these _isms? Are they a useful guide to what to think and do?”

Each “-ism” is important in terms of what it brings to the classroom teachers’ toolkit.  Teachers learn so that they can teach and teachers learn how to teach.  The greatest impact of learning theory is in the classroom.  I remember my first teaching practice as a student teacher.  My assessor asked me (after a dismal performance) what had happened.  Wish I knew then what I know now.  It’s not only knowledge of the theory that matters, but how it is operationalized in the classroom to help students learn.  Theories guide teachers’ thoughts and actions.  When practitioners use the methods formulated out of these –isms, do they work?  How often have you read a theory and said “Aha”, or tried a new approach and gotten through to a student?  As long as the methods continue to be effective in the classroom, the –isms will not die.  Dr. Nancy Casey discusses this interaction between learning theory and classroom practice in the video “Learning Theory’s Impact on Teaching”.  

I like Kerr’s description of the interaction of theory and practice as a “continual spiral development” constantly changing, forever evolving.  I would like to add that in that spiral is a place where theory interacts with theory and both change.  A teacher might begin a lesson using cognitive theory and end it with the behaviorists’ repetition/drill and practice.

The cognitivist’ conception of the brain as a computer underlines the fact that we have not yet exhausted research on the brain.  We do not yet know the limits of either.  Theories about the brain and learning will continue to evolve and impact what we learn, how we learn, and what and how we teach.  

The learningdctr effectively captures the importance and value of theories which he describes as windows in a house through which we can look and see the inside from different perspectives.  What a beautiful metaphor.  Individuals have come to hold a pejorative view of words like rote, drill and practice, and repetition that have become attached to behaviorist theories.  Maybe the view is deserved if we think of traditional practice, but maybe practitioners should explore the new methodologies connected with behaviorism and see that methods like drill and practice does have a place in the learning environment.  I am now convinced (tentatively) theories and their methodologies offer teachers a smorgasbord of ideas that will always inform their practice.

Kapp, K.  (2007) Out and about: Discussion on educational schools of thought [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Kerr, B, (2007). _isms as filter, not blinker [Web log post].  Retrieved from

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

How People Learn

What are your beliefs about how people learn best? What is the purpose of learning theory in educational technology?
My personal beliefs about learning are continuously informed and shaped by theory, research and practice.  Learning is indicated when there is a continuous change in behavior.  An individual might have several hypotheses about learning, for instance, I believe that the more involved students are in the learning process the greater the possibility that learning will take place.  I also believe that holding exclusively to one theory prevents the exploration of others through research and inhibits their application in the classroom.  I believe that for the teacher instructor there is a smorgasbord of theories with which to engage depending on the individual, the content, and the context.  If there is to be an understanding of how people learn there has to be an understanding of theories of learning which has evolved from research. 
How do theorists say people learn?
Siemens (2008, p. 9) saw linkages between theories and noted that theories form a progression with new ones building on previous ones. He advised that any discussion of learning must include a revision of learning theories.  Learning theory has evolved from three basic epistemological philosophies: (a) Pragmatism which is the belief that neither knowledge nor reality can be definitive or absolute but is dependent on empirical or rational processes.  (b) Interpretivism states that reality is shaped within and thus individuals construct their own knowledge.  (c) Objectivism states that reality is external and perceived through the senses and has nothing to do with the individual’s consciousness (Siemens, 2008 & Driscoll, 2005).  These epistemologies underpin three broad learning theories –behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism. 
Behaviorism traces it origins in objectivism.  Behaviorism argues that it is impossible to observe what occurs within the learner.  Behaviorists proffer that learning occurs as the individual responds correctly to external stimuli offered in the form of reward or punishment (Driscoll, 2005 & Siemens, 2008).  Behaviorist theory is useful in educational technology when the aim is to help students learn a concept or skill through repetition. Programs have been devised which provides drill and practice.  For examples of these programs see: 

Math Practice at located at, and 
Chemistry Drill and Practice Tutorials at     

Cognitivists focus on the individual’s mental processes.  This involves insight, memory, perception and the way information is processed.  For the cognitivist learning is a change in what we know.  Learning occurs when information is organized internally (that is, in our memory) in a meaningful way.  Connections can be made between cognitivism and pragmatism.  Education technology connects with cognitivism with programs that target a range of knowledge and skills.  Comprehension programs whether in the form of interactive games or simply programs that offer a passage followed by comprehension questions are a good example.  Challenging Our Minds at,  is a program that can be used to develop cognitive skills.

For the constructivist learning is an active process in which the learner constructs their own knowledge as they interact with and seek to interpret the world around them.  In the constructivist classroom educational technology allows the teacher to be a facilitator The teacher provides material with which the students can interact and explore.  For example a geography class might explore a country’s topography online.  History and language students can participate in museum and archive tours online.  Students can create online journals.  These are just a few of the activities the constructivist teacher can do.
Siemens (2008) briefly examined connectivism, another learning theory.  In “Connectivism: A Theory for the Digital Age” (Siemens, 2005) he describes the limitations of behaviorism, cognitivism and constructivism and argues for connectivism as an alternative learning theory appropriate for the digital age.  Connectivists see knowledge as constructed of connections and networks.  Learning occurs in changing environments over which learners do not have complete control and in which they seek to make connections between specific types of information and so increase their knowledge (Siemens, 2005).  Classroom 2.0 provides a video discussion of connectivism and networked learning titled “Connectivism and Networked Learning” at  
How do people learn?
This discussion would be incomplete without noting the importance of learning styles.  It is important that practitioners are aware of the various learning styles since this can affect the learning process.  Visual learners favor using pictures or images; aural learners prefer sound; verbal learners use words both oral and written, and physical learners favor using their bodies.  Learning styles connect with educational technology.  There are tools available that can meet the needs of each type of learner.  For example, for the physical/kinesthetic learner can access word rocessors, music synthesizers, video cameras, and computer simulations to actively involve themselves in the learning process.

Driscoll, M. P. (2005). Psychology of learning for instruction. Boston: Pearson.
Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: a learning theory for the digital age. Retrieved from
Siemens, G. (2008, January 27). Learning and knowing in networks: Changing roles for educators and designers. Paper presented to ITFORUM. Retrieved from

Additional Resources
How people learn: The National Academies Press
Technology Alliance found at scroll down the list to: December 8, 2006 - Dr. John Bransford, Professor of Education and Psychology, College of Education, UW, talks about how people learn. DOWNLOAD MP3 (30MB)
The Learning Theory Podcasts
A series of podcasts dealing with learning theories done by De. Daniel J Campbell found at
George Siemens on Social Learning Networks: From Theory to Practice
George Siemens argues for using social networks in the learning process in an interview found at Xyleme Voices: A Podcast Library on the Evolution of Training  
How Students Learn; How We Should Teach. Learning Theories
This site offers insights into the various theorists and their theories through brief articles and podcasts, together with suggestions for how these theories apply to goals and objectives, individual differences, motivation, teaching methods and evaluation
Tomorrow’s Professor Blog
This blog is sponsored by Stanford Center for Teaching and Learning. TP Msg. #1180 Learning Theory and Online Instruction, examines behaviorist’s, cognitivist’s, and constructivist’s learning theories.  It can be found at
E-Learning Provocateur: Provoking Deeper Thinking

In this blog located at the writer presents “A Taxonomy of Learning Theories” at