Thursday, May 3, 2012

Distance Learning Introduction

Distance learning introduction:

It is amazing how education has evolved due to societal changes especially as a result of technological advances.  I still remember when study options were limited to face-to-face learning, paper and pencil, and chalkboards.  I also recall the first time I saw a computer and how difficult it seemed to use it.  However, as an educator I felt the need to become part of the evolution and progress of education.  Now I see how I manage and utilize technology every day with such ease that I sometimes cannot believe how times have changed and how I have been able to adapt my life and my work so rapidly to these changes.   Nowadays, there is a wide range of technologies used in numerous sectors such as education, workplace, socially, personal, etc.  Technology presents the biggest paradoxical idea of time and distance as it moves us farther and closer to each other simultaneously.   

This blog is dedicated to distance learning and how it relates and impacts various fields regarding teaching and learning.  I hope we can share our ideas on the subject making this interaction a truly remarkable learning experience. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Learner Motivation: Reflection

In this course I had the opportunity to refresh existing knowledge and learn new information that has opened my eyes to how people learn in a more effective manner.  For instance, this is not the first time I have studied the learning theories; however, through this course I had the chance to review that prior knowledge and update it.  One thing that surprised me was the connectivism theory.  The extent of my knowledge was only to constructivism and reconstructivism, so I had no idea this theory existed.  It was amazing to find out that people not only learn by personal experiences and their zone of proximal development, but they also acquire knowledge throughout the social connections they make on site and from a distance using technology.  Based on this information, I was able to relate the Ecological Theory of Urie Bronfenbrenner to this social learning.
The resources provided in the course also made me think about how the learning philosophies and theories have evolved.  For example, in the past theorists were able to list without doubt the information that should be learned and how this data was exact.  Now, the information is too much for people to control and process as irrefutable facts because it is in constant change.  In addition, no one holds the truth and everyone is an expert.  Additionally, everyone has access to it anywhere and anytime.  As a result, knowledge becomes a common asset for everybody which takes the learning task to a new level.  As learning becomes accessible, it changes the way we work with the information in terms of handling and interchanging data.  By this I mean how the information is access, processed, attained and passed on to others as a never ending cycle that grows and shrinks constantly being modified by each person it encounters.
To illustrate, I need to do a paper on the Spanish-American War.  I search the information in the net to do my paper but I already have first hand information about the war because my great grandfather was a participant.  The information I search contradicts some of the information I already have.  I log in to a blog of people who are experts on war conflicts.  From this site I am able to write a paper that is the product of the combination of information that I found about this particular war.  At the end, I will have a paper that was not only based on my knowledge and experiences, but it will be the result of all the knowledge and experiences that others had in my search for the truth.  At the same time, it will be difficult for me and the readers to determine the accuracy of my words and how skillful I could be to include or exclude what might be useful or not useful information.  In other words, this example shows how difficult the learning tasks have become with the overload of information and the presence of technology in the process.
The previous example demonstrates how this course has deepened my learning process.  I am aware now that learning has become more accessible, but at the same time more difficult.  Knowing this, It had made me reflect that I need to be more prepared to design learning experiences for others in order to guarantee learning.  With the intention of designing effective learning experiences, it is imperative that I have knowledge of the different learning theories so that I can understand how people process information more effectively thus they could achieve the proposed objectives. Furthermore, I also need to have a deep understanding of the different learning styles so I can pair up the way people learn best to the way I present the learning material. 
One way of presenting the learning material is using the numerous technologies that exist and that can be positive and useful tools for learning.  In the same way, I recognize that motivation in learning is the key to success.  Regardless of the environment where learning is taking place; in a classroom or online, motivation is the drive that moves people to acquire knowledge.  I need to pay close attention to the things that motivate learners internally and externally.  As an instructional designer, I can create a motivating environment for learners to feel comfortable enough affecting their readiness to learn.  Correspondingly, I must provide learners with enough external stimuli to feel satisfied with the learning experience influencing the way see themselves achieving their goals. 
This course has helped me make all these connections such as the links between the learning theories and styles, technology, motivation and how I design learning experiences.  I understand that the planning, designing, development and evaluation of learning experiences for learners have to be linked to these factors in order for learning to take place and that these factors are the foundation for learning to be effective furthering my role as an instructional designer.   

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Integrating Technology into Instruction

As I study the different learning theories and learning styles, I come to understand how I learn best.  There are four major learning theories: behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism and connectivism.  Behaviorism operates under the principle that learning is the result of stimulus response and that learning takes place when the intended behavior is observed.  On the other hand, the cognitive theory of learning views the learner as an information processor and emphasizes on the mental processes that take place in the learner’s brain in order to understand how learning is achieved.  Furthermore, constructivism is based on the assumption that learning is an active and constructive process whereas the learner builds up learning based on his/her own previous experiences (Learning theories knowledgebase, 2011).  Moreover, connectivism theorizes that learning takes place by the social network connections that the learner has in a undefined time and space and where the information is unlimited and in constant change (Siemens, 2004).  At the same time there are numerous learning styles that help people approach learning in most effective and productive ways.
After reviewing the different learning theories, I am able to look back and analyze some of my learning experiences, as well as understanding how I learn.  Although my first learning experiences were based on a behaviorist approach to learning, I had a great deal of learning experiences based on a cognitive and constructivist approaches to education since I have been a formal learner for many years.   
I consider myself a linguistic, visual and hands on learner.  I’m definitely not an auditory learner.   I learn best by reading and writing, viewing and doing. I believe that the fact that I love to read and write, makes the learning task easier.  When I need to memorize something I write it, read it and record it.  In addition, I tend to remember pictures better than spoken words.  I also benefit when I can do the things I’m learning. 
I remember than in school it was hard for me just to sit there and listen to the teacher talk and talk with no visual representation whatsoever, especially in the history class.  I remember I used to hate this class, but now I love it.  The emergence of technology has provided a variety of ways to teach and to present pedagogical material to students in multiple interactive and non traditional ways considering the different learning styles of the learners.  Some examples are videos, picture stories, songs, interactive activities, etc.  As a result, teachers are provided with numerous tools to enhance the class and pair up their teaching with students’ multiple learning styles.
My teaching and learning are greatly influenced by technology.  I use technology for most of the things in my professional and personal life.  For example, I work as an academic chair at a technical college in charge of an EFL program and the faculty’s professional development.  In order for me to provide the needed professional development to the faculty, I need to be up to date in the latest educational trends.  I take advantage of technology in terms of performing the necessary research to keep the faculty informed.  I also use a WIKI as a learning community platform to share and communicate materials, activities, events, news, etc., among all the faculty members from the all the different programs we offer.  This example shows that technology plays a very important role in my professional life and that my work would not be as effective and time saving as now if I would only relied on only one theory of learning or learning style.   
Knowing there are different learning theories and learning styles, I realize that instructional designers and educators must keep up with changing times in terms of teaching, learning and technological advances that would boost their job performance and the way they relate to others.  Just think about how would we be able to multitask and reach many people at the same time if technology was ignored?   
Learning Theories Knowledgebase (2011, August). Constructivism at Retrieved August 14th, 2011 from
Siemens, G.  (2005).  Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age.  Elearnspace.  Retrieved from

Sunday, July 31, 2011


I remember how I was taught in school.  Everything was memorized and drilled.  I remember I hated the history class because it was extremely boring; especially when my teacher made me memorize a whole bunch of dates that did not have any meaning in my life. 
Now I that I am an educator, I understand the difference between education in the past and now in the 21st century.  I understand that I was taught using a behaviorist approach.  Boghossian (2006) defines behaviorism as the acquisition of knowledge based on external observation of relations between observable stimuli and the responses that follow.  As I began to study at the college level, I could see how the paradigm shifted from memory to critical thinking to reflection and finally to social learning networks. 
In my BA studies I experienced the importance of answering why in class discussions.  This was the result of a cognitive approach to teaching and learning.  Nagowah (2009) defines the cognitive learning theory as the active mental processing of the learner.  It was important for the professor to know what was going on in my mind, rather that the ability to memorize the proposed lesson.
In my MAED and ED. D. studies, my professors were very interested in the experiences I had related to the given material.  Critical reflections were the order of the day.  Their teaching relied on a constructivist view of education.  Nagowah (2009) defines constructivism as a learning theory where the learner actively constructs knowledge out of their experiences in the world.  Each learner generates their own rules through the experience and reflection of things.
In the present, I decided to study online for the first time.  I just found out that connectivism is considered a form of viewing and experiencing learning.  Kop & Hill (2008) define connectivism as a theoretical framework for understanding learning.  According to this theory, learning begins to take place when the learner connects the knowledge to a learning community and feeds information to it as well.  In this same line of thought, a learning community is the relationship between learners of similar interests in which they interact, share, talk, and think together. 
Now I realize how my learning networks (see mind map) have changed.  In the past I needed to be sitting in a classroom in order to learn.  Now with the nonstop evolution of a variety of technologies, I have learned how to access knowledge breaking the barrier of time and space.  I have incorporated these technologies in all aspects of my life such as, work, family, home, community and studies.  Every day I use technologies such as the cell phone, computer, internet, Ipod, among other advances that make my life and my learning easier to achieve. 
The technology that I use the most is the internet incorporated in my cell phone.  I am always connected to my job and my studies through this technology.  If I have any questions about how to get to some place, how to pronounce a word, the meaning of a word, anything that I need to know, I just search the internet and find a body of knowledge from different perspectives to answer any question I might have. 
Connectivism depicts how I and many people learn constantly, anytime and anywhere.  I relate the connectivism theory and my learning networks (see the mind map above) to Bronfrenbrenner’s Ecological Theory.  This theory states that a person learns and develops through his or her social and cultural interactions through five main environmental systems: microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosytem, and chronosystem.  In other words, learning and development is the result of internal and external relationships that extend to all that relates to each of these relationships; individually and collectively.
In conclusion, it is imperative that educators and instructional designers become aware that there are many ways to approach learning and using an eclectic method that combines many forms would be the most effective way to create successful learning experiences. 
We learn from everything and everyone anywhere and anytime.           
Boghossian, P.  (2006).  Behaviorism, constructivism, and socratic pedagogy.  Educational Philosophy and Theory 38 (6). 
Kop, R.  & Hill, A.  (2008).  Connectivism: Learning theory of the future or vestige of the past?  International Review of Research in Open & Distance Learning (9) 3.   
Nagowah, L.  (2009).  A reflection on the dominant learning theories: Behaviorism, cognitivism and constructivism.  International Journal of Learning 16 (2).  
Oswalt, A.  (2008).  Urie Bronfrenbrenner and child development.  Mental Help Net.  Retrieved from  

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Brain Based Learning

Worden, Hinton & Fischer (2011) indicate the dangers of ignoring neuroscience studies regarding the brain and learning.  According to these authors, there is an emerging field of Mind, Brain and Education also known as MBE which dedicates its efforts in studying the relationship between the brain and leaning separating myths from facts in these areas of study.  
These are the most common myths about the brain and learning:
1)       The brain is irrelevant in learning.
2)      Neuroscientists know it all and teachers don’t understand research.
3)      Johnny is right brained and that is why…
4)      Everyone knows you can’t learn a language after age _____.
5)       Girls are better at reading, but boys dominate math and science.
These are common myths that transfer to education practices affecting the teaching and learning process.  Various educational fields such as instructional design need to pay careful attention to brain-based research in order to design appropriate lessons and experiences that match with the most effective ways of learning.    It is clear that the brain has much to do if not everything to do with learning, but there are also many misconceptions about this relationship which need to be cleared before integrating this science into the teaching and learning process.  It is our task to be up to date with neuroscience research. 
Worden, J. M., Hinton, C & Fischer, K. W. (2011, May).  What does the brain have to do with learning?  Kappan Magazine Org.    Phi Delta Kappan.

Problem Solving Skills and Transfer of Knowledge

Bagby &  Sulak (2009) investigated the importance of integrating strategies to promote problem solving skills in education scenarios today through the evaluation of the Montessori learning model.   Today, students not only should master the knowledge provided by the traditional curriculum, but should also learn how to solve problems and transfer the solutions to new situations.  In short, memorization and concept learning are not enough to develop the necessary skills to be functional in society.  The need for a deeper knowledge of skills and the ability to apply this knowledge in real life situations is a must in educational scenarios today. 
Problem solving skills become the higher thinking element that students need today in order to become functional members of society.  For example, there are many jobs today that will not exist in the immediate future, which makes it necessary for students to learn a body of knowledge that involves the ability to solve problems which they may encounter in the workplace and in life.  Students must learn to be able to function in unexpected situations non dependent from mechanical operation, but rather be able to apply of critical and creative thinking skills to deal with unpredictable situations.  This requires that the teaching and learning process moves away from rote learning and moves closer to a depth of understanding in order to judge, evaluate and make decisions about presented issues.  Similarly, the teaching and learning process must be oriented towards the transfer of these problem solving skills in new situations due to the unexpected nature of situations in the present.  Some of the strategies mentioned in the study are the importance of providing students with meaningful and real life experiences leaving space for discovery learning. 
I believe this study is of outmost importance for educators and instructional designers today.  The way we view education and its importance, is the way we will impart it.  I encourage you to read the study and internalize this knowledge into your instructional practices. 
Bagby,  J & Sulak, T.  (2009).  Strategies for promoting problem solving skills and transfer: A qualitative study.  Montessori Life (4), 38-42.        

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Instructional Design Tips

Just after you get your instructional design assignment, there a few questions that need to be answer before getting to work. MaryAn klein instructs us how to prepare for design by answering five essential questions. These questions will facilitate the instructional design task by providing the framework of the organization in order to understand and anticipate the possible change process and resistance to change.  As instructional designers, getting to know the ground before making any decisions is extremely important.  For example, one of the questions addresses the purpose of the solution; is it short term or long term?  Knowing the answer to this question could give us a starting point on how to initiate the change or modification process in the organization.  In addition, it could provide us with some background information and the type of commitment the leaders and the members of the organization have with the company and its future.  Check out this blog for more on instructional design tips or informative and useful articles.