Course Reflections-Learning Theories and Instruction

•February 28, 2010 • Leave a Comment

As with all the Walden courses taken over the past 4 years, I have discovered some wonderful new tools, reinforced the need for many of the techniques I currently use, and gained a great deal of confidence.

Interestingly, I have the advantage of already being deeply involved in the instructional design process.  This focus has been more specifically from the technological side and how best to implement current technology into existing traditional courses and to also enhance online curriculum.  Therefore, my knowledge that an effective instructional design model is both flexible and adaptable was strengthened by the course materials presented.  The discussion with my classmates confirmed my belief that there is never one perfect approach to solving an instructional design challenge or problem.

One major lesson I reaffirmed from the readings and discussion of the past 8-weeks is that the goal of instructional design is to make learning more efficient and effective and to make learning less difficult.  Although I am also considered a subject-matter expert, the course helped to distinguish between the instructor side of my life and instructional design.  An instructional designer approaches the task from a content perspective but by first defining the problem and then determining what knowledge and skills are needed to solve the instructional problem.  My main reason for pursuing this Master’s certificate is that I will work in both worlds, and assist student success from each venue.  My major focus will, of course, be distance education.

While the course did not specifically deepen my understanding of how I personally learn, it did assist in enhancing my awareness of how my students learn.  The information presented will certainly enable me to be more tolerant of their unique abilities and how to handle those individuals that sometimes seem to struggle.  The discussions also provided me with some excellent examples of real-world issues and I will most definitely incorporate them into my current and future courses.

While I have never been very fond of studying theory, the focus on learning theories did supply me with a link to how students learn and process information.  These concepts also gave me a better foundation for working with various learning styles.  I found the review of multiple intelligences most helpful.  By combining all 3 of these areas, I am now equipped to more fully adapt technology into my existing courses; thus applying both theory and real-world models.

Few things are more important in education than motivation. Teachers must be motivated to teach well. Students must be motivated to learn.  This topic will continue to be one, if not, the most critical issue facing both instructors and instructional designers.   I believe the future lies in technology to challenge students and keep their interest and desire to learn.  However, many faculty and trainers must first overcome their own insecurities about incorporating all the wonderful tools we have at our disposal.  Yet, designers must also remember that nothing take the place of direct contact in some manner.  This feature must also be a key part of our repertoire.

In closing, I am truly looking forward to implementing many of the topics discussed in this course and also the next three courses that will give me the total set of tools for excellent instruction design.  Hopefully, this exposure to all the facets of this terrific profession will also make me a better teacher in the process.

Reflections on Fitting the Pieces of the Learning Process Together

•February 22, 2010 • Leave a Comment

The major revelation I encountered as I researched and discussed the array of learning theories and styles presented, it that I learn different subjects using different styles-sometimes I am a visual learner and sometimes I am tactile-kinesthetic.  However, I do for the most part, follow a social constructivist theory. Quite honestly, I did not know what that theory entailed until taking this course.

Further I discovered that the instructional design work I have done to date, using group hands-on projects from real-world situations and developing hybrid online courses, certainly meets the focus of the social constructivist theory.  When I teach I naturally take the role of a facilitator rather than a traditional instructor.  Furthermore, I  tended to view behaviorist theory components, which involve a wealth of memorization techniques, as a way to create a classroom full of robots. I now understand the need for this approach in learning basic skills. In addition I was fascinated by the concepts of multiple intelligences and how they can be applied to instructional design.  However, as I noted in our discussions, I have deep concern for over-labeling students.  This course of action can only limit their abilities to learn, as it did for me in grade school.  We must continue to realize that humans are quite diversified in how we process information and retain knowledge.  Thus, instructional designers and educators must be diligent in how we view our students and present our courses.

Technology is my specialtyand my passion so I use as many sources as possible to learn any subject.  I love having the ability in any course I take to use resources such as voice threads, blogs, mobile devices, online collaborative workspaces, games, eBooks, audio and video clips, GPS systems, interactie web sites and social networking tools.  I would be very bored with just one aspect or a completely text-based course, even if the course is a traditional ground class.  Of course, online education is the continued wave of the future and I truly look forward to using all the technological capabilities available to me to learn, create and disseminate information and knowledge.

Connectivisim-Reflections on My Learning Connections

•February 7, 2010 • Leave a Comment

My current learning and knowledge network has changed dramatically in the last 3 years. (See my posted mind map below).  Prior to my full immersion in technology as the primary means of acquiring expertise and proficiency in all aspects of my life, I used social networking and hands-on library research.

Interestingly, of all the digital environments I have at my disposal, the most effective and efficient tools for me are ITunes University and my own college’s ITech Lab.  (They are both free and readily accessible.) These instruments are where I go first to discover new information and techniques for both teaching and learning.  However, I am back at Walden because this network has been, and continues to be, incredibly beneficial to me.

Yes, I still do an inordinate amount of research online via Google and Bing, but I do not truly view those tools as a network.  I still believe a true network must have some type of social aspect to it, such as audio and video, not just written words. For me, in order for a technological device to have a true connectivism component, there must be interaction.  This is the main reason I did not include the Internet by itself as one of network connections on my mind map.

My own personal learning networks support the main principles of connectivism.  These include the key concept from my in-depth technical perspective that while there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision.  Further, currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities. Lastly, I believe nurturing and maintaining connections are needed to facilitate continual learning; and learning may be found in non-human applications.

Thus, my networks are definitely from the viewpoint of learning in the digital age, and connectivism is the best theory of learning for online education.  The world is more networked; hence, our learning and educational methodologies should also follow this path to ensure success.

Connectivism-Mind Map

•February 7, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Two Fascinating Resources on Problem-Solving Methods and Information Processing

•January 18, 2010 • Leave a Comment

http://www.asa3.org/ASA/education/think/methods.htm

I thoroughly enjoyed this site for many reasons and highly recommend it for anyone interested in problem-solving methods.  What really caught my attention was the focus not just on education but also on applying these principles in life.  One of the most important outcomes of both teaching and instructional design is to provide our students not only with knowledge but the ability to think critically and to apply that knowledge daily.  The other excellent feature of this site is the plethora of links to other articles and web sites.  One article in particular that is exceptionally relevant to our studies this week is entitled: “What is a Thinking Curriculum.”  The authors, Fennimore & Tinzmann, discuss both theory and application as it relates to instructional design.

The site is divided into three key sections: 1-Creative Thinking (not taught enough these days, in my opinion); 2-Critical Thinking and 3-Problem-Solving Skills.  All three of these subjects are directly tied to the topics this week on Information Processing and the Brain.  I will be referring to these references and articles throughout the remainder of my instructional design education and beyond to enhance my own knowledge base.

http://chiron.valdosta.edu/whuitt/col/cogsys/infoproc.html

What I really liked about this link is that it is an educational paper rather a web site to more information.  The presentation is titled “The Information Processing Approach to Cognition” and is associated with Valdosta State University.  A great deal of the data provided was academic in nature and helped to reinforce the more technical psychological aspects of this topic.  The flow chart diagram included was very beneficial and directly related to the information given in our readings this week from the Ormrod, Schunk and Gredler text chapter.   The other feature that was extremely construction to me, regarding instructional design,  was the table incorporated into the documentation that shows how to use the Information Processing Approach in the actual classroom.

Three Excellent Links for Instructional Design Topics

•January 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Below I briefly review three extremely informative blogs/sites on unique instructional design tools and techniques. I highly recommend anyone involved in technical writing, instructional design, training and teaching to visit these valuable resources.

1.  http://blog.cathy-moore.com/category/instructional-design/#SlideFrame_1

As a community college teacher, I have learned quickly the value of developing real-world scenarios as an invaluable tool for effective learning.  The one question I hear time and again from my student’s is “How does this apply to me?” This focus is even more critical in online education.  Cathy Moore’s blog provides excellent examples of ways to create useful scenarios.  Thus, keeping students engaged in their own learning process.  The presentations included gave an added edge to the subject matter.  Text-only projects have proven not to be as successful as those that incorporate visuals and other tools for interaction. I also applauded the discussion on the overuse of animation in creating presentations. It is a technique I enforce with my own business students. Lastly, I thoroughly enjoyed examining educational perspectives from outside the US–in this case, Australia, in particular.

2.  http://www.langevin.com/blog/tag/instructional-design/

This blog was extremely helpful to me because it not only included many different instructional design topics, but also discussed the planning aspects of an instructional design project.  I have personally experienced too many times when designers created their course materials just “by the seat of their pants.”  Then they wondered why their success and retention rates were so poor.  This is especially true in online course design.  The use of asking questions “Who, What, Why, What and How” in the instructional design forum was a terrific outline of the planning process which I intended to use immediately for my own course design work.

3.   http://technoscribe.wordpress.com/2009/07/14/instructional-designing-id-simplified/

I totally enjoyed the minimalist approach in this article.  I agree that we as teachers and designers must not overload our students with information.  Rather, we need to provide quality over quantity.  By focusing on learning styles, the author, Eric Loder, communicates ways to create materials and projects that students will actually read and remember.  I can relate to this issue personally. If I am given too much to read or absorb at one time without the necessary chance to practice and apply, I will skip it or gloss over the materials.  Furthermore, this article presents critical information on the research (“know your audience”) required before proper design can occur.  I believe all designers and teachers should read this article as a reality check.  Many of us fall into a number of bad habits when we do not allow for the necessary background and planning so crucial to successful instructional design.

 
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