Learning brief – Reflections and conclusions – version 2.0

This is version 2 of an attempt at the first assignment for the ICTs for Learning Design course.

Introduction

The following offers some reflections and conclusions on three learning activities: profile Wiki, learning theories Wiki, and mobile phones Wiki. The reflections and conclusions are based on a series of blog posts and subsequent comments summarised in Table 1. Initially these thoughts arose from a focus on a Year 11/12 course in Information Processing and Technology (IPT). Consideration was later expanded to include a Year 8/9 mathematics course. The reflections and conclusions are organised around three main components: learning theories, thinking routines (aka scaffolding activities), and e-learning spaces. The rest of this post is organised around those components and closes with some brief conclusions.

Table 1: Summary of reflective posts and comments
Post Description
Profile wiki (Jones, 2011a) Reflection on participation in the profile wikis activity
Learning theories wiki (Jones, 2011b) Reflection on participation in the learning theories wiki activity
Mobile phones wiki (Jones, 2011c) Reflection on participation in the mobile phones wiki activity
Learning logs for week 1 (Jones, 2011d) and week 2 (Jones, 2011e) Logs of thoughts and reflections during completion of regular course work.
A PMI of constructivism (Jones, 2011f) Initial individual thoughts for the learning theories wiki. Including comments from two people external to the course on the topic.
Similarity of knowledge question (Jones, 2011g) A discussion on the similarity of “neuronal” and “networked” knowledge arising from a post about another course. That post generated a question from a reader that lead to a response from Stephen Downes
Version 1.0 of this post (Jones, 2011h) The first attempt at a submission for this assignment.

Learning theories

Most courses in mathematics and IPT appear not to draw heavily on constructivist, let alone connectivist learning perspectives, and they appear to be the worse for it. In terms of mathematics, I am interested in how the “What Can You Do With This” (WCYDWT) approach might be applied. It is described as being “a design method for creating powerful, technologically supported and rich problem-solving experiences in math classrooms” (Meyer, 2010). It appears significantly influenced by constructivist perspectives of learning. I am also interested in Engagement Theory (Kearsley & Shneiderman, 1998) and its Relate-Create-Donate mantra in both mathematics and IPT. In terms of long-term goals, I have an interest in developing a senior IPT course based on students actively participating within the developer community of a specific open source tool such as Moodle or WordPress. Initial thoughts about this idea were informed by connectivism, however, Engagement Theory offers some additional perspectives.

At this stage, I do remain concerned about the limited depth of my knowledge of and experience in applying these learning theories. It did not take long for reflection and discussion around learning theories to delve into murky theoretical depths. A post (Jones, 2011g) posing questions about the similarity of neuronal and networked knowledge within a connectivist perspective arose from in-depth discussions around constructivism and connectivism. The initial PMI of constructivism (Jones, 2011f) completed as part of the learning theories activity also revealed a number of potential limitations of constructivism and literature undertaking more in-depth examinations of constructivism within education (e.g. Davis & Sumara, 2002). It also revealed research suggesting that constructivism may not always be appropriate. For example, the finding that explicit instruction achieves better outcomes for low-achieving mathematics students than constructivist approaches (Kroesbergen, Van Luit, & Maas, 2004).

Thinking routines

Both learning theories and thinking routines – such a Plus-Minus-Interesting – offer guidance or scaffolding for e-learning design. One advantage of thinking routines over learning theories is that they provide explicit guidance and are subsequently easier to adopt. These assignments were my first experience with thinking routines in formal learning contexts and the benefit was obvious. The subsequent interest in applying thinking routines led to a brief literature search which revealed publications such as Ritchhart and Perkins (2008). As with learning theories, it appears that we have only scratched the surface.

At the same time I see some dangers in thinking routines. One problem is what Snowden (2009) describes as the danger of creating recipe book users rather than chefs. A recipe book user can only proceed when there are ingredients that fit their collection of recipes. A chef on the other hand can create dishes with what is at hand. This connects with Mishra & Koehler’s (2008, p. 10) description of an expert teacher as someone who is able to “flexibly navigate the space defined by the three elements of content, pedagogy, and technology and the complex interactions among these elements in specific contexts”.

E-learning spaces

With a background in information technology and a long history in e-learning design (e.g. McCormack & Jones, 1997) I was perhaps most comfortable with this component. This allowed me to focus more on how to effectively marry technology, pedagogy (learning theories and thinking routines), and content. This has been the most useful aspect of this assignment. That said, this is benefit is mainly limited to the IPT teaching context. I am much weaker in mathematical content knowledge and it has been an obvious limitation on my ability to think creatively about e-learning design within mathematics.

The assignment has also highlighted the negative impact on learning from two sources related to technology: poor quality technology and limited user knowledge of technology and its mores. Problems with the Moodle wiki in the profile activity had a negative impact on the attitudes and perceptions of many students, and as Marzano & Pickering (1997, p. 13) suggest, when attitudes and perceptions are negative, learning suffers. Second was the limited technical knowledge of some students or staff with ICTs. In staff, this limited knowledge prevented the ability to provide quick resolutions to student problems and lead to further negative attitudes and perceptions.

As described in my reflections on the mobile phone wiki activity (Jones, 2011c), the limited experience amongst students with collaborative authoring on a Wiki led most to adopt approaches that limited the benefits of the technology.
Mishra and Koehler (2008, p. 2) argue that designing “solutions that honour the complexities of the situations and the contexts presented by learners and classrooms” is an important factor in successful e-learning design. At this point in time, I have very limited knowledge about the contexts within which I will be teaching. My use of e-learning design needs to be constrained by this limited knowledge and designed to help me develop greater insight.

Conclusions

For Mishra and Koehler (2008, p. 2) an expert teacher has a “deep, pragmatic, and nuanced understanding of teaching with technology” that enables them to effectively solve the wicked problem of teaching with technology. This assignment has identified the importance of learning theories, thinking routines and scaffolding to effective e-learning design, both individually and in combination.

From this assignment I’ve identified a number of future tasks, including a need to:

    Develop more effective methods for gathering, evaluating, using, and reflecting upon TPACK associated with my teaching areas.

  • Improve my level of mathematical content and pedagogical knowledge.
  • Spend more time thinking about learning theories and thinking routines.
  • Learn more about the specifics of the learning contexts in which I will teach.
  • While learning about these contexts adopt a more exploratory approach to my use of e-learning.

References

Davis, B., & Sumara, D. (2002). Constructivist discourses and the field of education: Problems and possibilities. Educational Theory, 52(4), 409-428.

Jones, D. (2011a). Reflection on the profile Wiki: ICTs for Learning Design. Retrieved March 18, 2011, from https://davidtjones.wordpress.com/2011/03/07/reflection-on-the-profile-wiki-icts-for-learning-design/.

Jones, D. (2011b). Reflection on the learning theories wiki. Retrieved March 18, 2011, from https://davidtjones.wordpress.com/2011/03/07/reflection-on-the-learning-theories-wiki/.

Jones, D. (2011c). Reflection on the mobile phones wiki. Retrieved March 18, 2011, from https://davidtjones.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/reflection-on-the-mobile-phones-wiki/.

Jones, D. (2011d). ICTs for learning design – the first week. Retrieved March 18, 2011, from https://davidtjones.wordpress.com/2011/02/28/icts-for-learning-design-the-first-week/.

Jones, D. (2011e). ICTs for Learning Design: Week 2. Retrieved March 18, 2011, from https://davidtjones.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/icts-for-learning-design-week-2/.

Jones, D. (2011f). A PMI of constructivism. Retrieved March 18, 2011, from https://davidtjones.wordpress.com/2011/03/03/a-pmi-of-constructivism/.

Jones, D. (2011g). A question (or two) on the similarity of "neuronal" and "networked" knowledge. Retrieved March 18, 2011, from https://davidtjones.wordpress.com/2011/03/05/a-question-or-two-on-the-similarity-of-neuronal-and-networked-knowledge/.

Jones, D. (2011h). Reflection and conclusions: Learning brief. Retrieved March 18, 2011, from
https://davidtjones.wordpress.com/2011/03/15/reflection-and-conclusions-learning-brief/.

Kroesbergen, E. H., Van Luit, J. E. H., & Maas, C. J. M. (2004). Effectiveness of Explicit and Constructivist Mathematics Instruction for Low-Achieving Students in the Netherlands. The Elementary School Journal, 104(3), 233–251. JSTOR. Retrieved March 3, 2011, from
http://www.jstor.org/stable/3202951.

Marzano, R. J., & Pickering, D. J. (1997). Dimensions of Learning (2nd ed., p. 352). Aurora, CO: McREL.

McCormack, C., & Jones, D. (1997). Building a Web-Based Education System. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2008). Introducing technological pedagogical content knowledge. Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (New York, New York) (pp. 1-16). Retrieved March 14, 2011, from
http://punya.educ.msu.edu/presentations/AERA2008/MishraKoehler_AERA2008.pdf.

Ritchhart, R., & Perkins, D. (2008). Making Thinking Visible. Educational Leadership, 65(5), 57-61.

Snowden, D. (2009). The chef and the recipe book user. Retrieved March 14, 2011, from http://www.cognitive-edge.com/blogs/dave/2009/11/the_chef_the_recipe_book_user.php.

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