Posted by: Design Instruction | June 20, 2010

Fitting the Pieces Together

Now that I know a little more about learning theory, I can better understand my own learning.  In week one, I reflected upon how I learn.  First I break the entire topic down into each of its components and try to understand it.  Then, I reassemble the whole and can understand it as well.  In week one, I thought that made me a cognitive learner.  I now know that my learning style actually aligns more with the constructivist theory.

I have also learned how connectivism plays a major role in my learning.  I have a vast learning network that I never really considered before.  I learn from other people, be they teachers, co-workers, fellow students, family, or even strangers.  I also learn from the vast amount of printed material that surrounds me every day, as well as from radio and television. Like many people today, I also learn from the internet.  Between my online class, Google searches, news sites, and more, there is a wealth of knowledge to be gained online.

During the course, we learned about learning strategies and styles.  The strategy that I prefer is elaboration.  I learn better if I take new information and try to integrate it into what I already know and then see how it fits into different scenarios.  We also learned about other strategies that don’t work as well, such as verbatim learning and mnemonics.   I personally have never found either of those to be very helpful, so my own learning actually aligns with current learning theory.

We also learned about that there are different learning styles.  Concrete perceivers learn through direct experience, while abstract perceivers learn through analysis, observation, and thinking.  I believe that I am an abstract learner.  Learners can also be active processors who make sense of an experience by immediately using the information, while reflective processors need to think about new information for a while.  I would be a reflective processor.

Learning styles can also be classified as visual, auditory, or kinesthetic.  At one time, I trained to show horses in competitions.  Even though one would think that riding would be best learned through kinesthetic learning, I relied heavily on visual learning by watching other riders.  I’ve always known that I learn “through my eyes”  better than “through my ears”.

Years ago, technology did not play a major role in my learning because it simply was not available.  Today, it is a pivotal component because so much of my knowledge comes through the internet.  Whenever I want to explore a new topic, my first course of action is to search the web.  I have not been to a physical library in years.  If I decide I want a paper book, I use technology to purchase it online and pay for it electronically with my credit card. If I want to store collected data, I can manage it on an excel spreadsheet.  I also use the technology of television for a lot of my “fun learning”.  I am a regular viewer of the History, National Geographic, and Discovery Channels.  I am using technology right now to learn from my reflections about this class.  And, as much as I enjoy being in a traditional classroom, the opportunities available through online learning assure that I will learn as long as I live.  My 83 year old mother passed away earlier this month.  The weekend before she died, she worked on the online class we attended together.  I know that technology will allow me to continue learning to the end as well.

Posted by: Design Instruction | June 6, 2010

Connectivism and my Learning Network

Almost 600 years ago, the invention of the printing press made knowledge available to more people than ever before. Seekers of knowledge could go now out into the world and find the information they were looking for. Over the years, printed material became easily available in libraries, book stores, home encyclopedias, and magazines. When I first started college, way back in 1974, that is how I learned about the world around me. I also sat in class rooms where much of the communication was one way – the teacher lectured and I took notes. We had five television channels that were on the air from 7:00 am until they signed off at midnight. We had the news and occasional documentaries, but mostly we were just entertained for a few hours in the evening. We could also learn from family, friends, and church. The knowledge was there for us, but we had to go out and find it. I still remember the paper cuts from fingering through those tightly packed card catalogs in the library and the frustration of trying to find articles on the microfilm machine.

About 20 years, that all changed. Today, all we need is a connection to the internet and a computer, and much of the world’s knowledge is available to us with just the click of a mouse. Although I still learn from the other elements in my learning network, I would have to say that much of my learning comes from the internet. If I am curious about anything, my first response is to “google it”. The time and effort of finding information the “old fashion way” have been replaced with the need to filter through enormous amounts of information on the web and select that which is most useful and relevant.

I still do a lot of my learning in a school environment, but that has changed as well. Instead of sitting in a class room at on a prescribed schedule, I can to my home office anytime of the day and night and be “in class”. And now, instead of listening to a lecture and being a mere receiver of knowledge, I am an active participant – in fact, I am a self-directed learner who has the liberty to choose many of my resources and discuss my new knowledge with my class mates.

My personal learning supports the central tenets of connectivism in that I am constantly integrating new knowledge from an ever changing learning network. I try to verify and compare what I have learned from one part of my network with other parts, in order to create a more balanced and accurate knowledge.

Posted by: Design Instruction | June 2, 2010


Posted by: Design Instruction | May 16, 2010

The Role of Emotions in Learning

Click here to view the article

In this article, Priscilla L. Vail explains how emotions affect learning, memory, and performance in children.  Although it is written as a guide for parents to prepare their children for learning at school, it provides insight into positive learning environments that can be created for teaching anyone.

She begins by sharing a personal experience in which she was home alone and heard loud noises coming from her basement.  She feared that someone was breaking into her home, and in her panicked state was unable to find the number for the police department in the phone book.  At that moment, she could not remember the alphabet.  Her story turned out well.  She remembered how to dial 911, the police arrived, and the intruder was a family of deer that was banging against the metal door of her basement.

Vail refers to emotions as the on/off switch of the brain and provides some helpful hints for reinforcing positive emotional habits.

  1. Prompt motivation by breaking down challenges into manageable components, monitor progress, and provide support and praise.
  2. Spark curiosity by providing opportunities to take chances on ideas.
  3. Nourish intellect, talent, and power by finding the things the student does well and support them.
  4. Encourage connections by helping the student relate experiences to each other.
  5. Monitor growth and highlight accomplishments.
  6. Accept special considerations by providing support for weaknesses, humor, organizational help and opportunities to grow.

Click here to view the article

I found this article to be a valuable bridge between the theories we are currently learning and their future application in designing materials.  Intuitively, I think we all know that the emotional state of a learner strongly influences how he/she will learn.  Most of us have experienced learning environments in which we felt uncomfortable or emotionally unsafe and were, therefore, unable to take full advantage of the experience.   This article provides us with a structured explanation of why this is so.

Learning is a primal instinct that has as its core our very survival.  We human seek to make meaning out of what we have experienced to continuously adapt to our environment.  These experiences are not isolated, but are connected to those we have encountered previously.  Those previous experiences are often associated with emotions that shape and effect our ability to recall them.  Emotions can either motivate or impede the learner.

According to Constructivist theory, cognition evolves in order to reach equilibration through both assimilation and accommodation.  Assimilation is the act of organizing experiences, while accommodation reflects upon and integrates behavior.  Mental structures are created to organize knowledge and provide a framework for understanding.

Applying these theories to an educational settings implies that the student will only learn what he/she deems necessary for survival.  Learning is valued in relation to the student’s experiences and construction of reality.  This acts as a filter for understanding what is being taught.

Emotional response to stimuli is governed by the amygdala which prepares the body for fight or flight responses.  We react emotionally before we are cognizant of our emotions.  These emotions will either impede or aid in the learning process.  However, emotions do not only occur biologically, they emerge from how we process information and the context we in which we find ourselves.  This cognitive construction of emotions drives our understanding of the world.

Educators can use the power of emotions to affect positive learning experiences by building an emotionally safe learning environment.  By creating this safe environment, they will allow learners to interact, experiment and explore new constructs.

Posted by: Design Instruction | May 9, 2010

Hello world!

My name is Evelyn Hargis and I have just begun a program at Walden University to learn how to become an instructional designer.  Many years ago, I completed a certificate program to become a German teacher.  Although I have never actually taught German, I have taught ESL to adults.  My goal is to eventually learn how to design computer based learning for adult ESL and GED students.  This is my first blog ever, so let’s see how it goes!

“How should adult learners learn?” is a blog that is not for instructional designers, but rather for adult learners.  It could be a useful tool for understanding the target audience that an ID might have in mind when designing instructional materials.  The blog is based on helpful hints that an adult learner should keep in mind while learning something new.  Incorporating these tips into instructional materials could help facilitate a better learning experience.

How Should Adult Learners Learn? (click on link to open)

In “Reflections on Learning Theories and Instruction” an instructional design student shares her journey in her new field.  I found it helpful to read the experiences and thought of someone who is a few steps ahead of me on my own journey into this new field.

Reflections on Learning Theories and Instruction (click on link to open)

“Learning Theories – 3 Perspectives” provides a succinct recap of what we learned this week about Behaviorism, Cognitivism, and Constructivism.  The more often I read about them in different contexts, the more I understand them.

Learning Theories – 3 Perspectives (click on link to open)