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