Saturday, February 11, 2012

What learning must be achieved before Technology can become effective in a lesson.

What learning must be achieved 
before Technology can become effective in a lesson.

Here are four basic items that are needed to help student learn and how technology can be used to achieve these goals. If we use technology without keeping these four thing in mind when using technology, we mostly will miss the goals of students learning.

  • Learning occurs in context. 
  • Learning is active. 
  • Learning is social. 
  • Learning is reflective.

Learning Occurs in Context:

Read the following sentence: "The notes were sour because the seams split." What does it mean? Chances are that you found the sentence confusing, even though all the words are common and familiar. Now consider that the sentence is describing bagpipes and read it again. I suspect it makes much better sense now.

Without an appropriate context, comprehension and learning are difficult and unlikely to succeed very well. Keep in mind, however, that learners will attempt to make sense of anything unfamiliar, just as you attempted to make sense of that sentence. When they do so, they draw upon prior understandings and experience, but the meanings they construct may be quite different from what was intended if they cannot activate an appropriate context for learning. "Children are ignorant but not stupid: Young children lack knowledge, but they do have abilities to reason with the knowledge they understand" (National Research Council, 2000, p. 234).

Learning is Active:

Tell me, I forget.
Show me, I remember.
Involve me, I understand.
~Chinese proverb

This proverb illustrates well the importance of getting learners mentally involved in learning activities, generating connections between what they already know and what they are being asked to learn, and constructing meaning from their experiences. When students become active participants in the knowledge construction process, the focus of learning shifts from covering the curriculum to working with ideas (Scardamalia, 2002). And using technology tools "to think with" facilitates working with ideas and learning from that process.

Technology tools provide "the means through which individuals engage and manipulate both resources and their own ideas" (Hannafin, Land, Oliver, 1999, p. 128). Some kinds of technology tools can extend memory and make thinking visible. Good examples include brainstorming and concept mapping software such as Inspiration®. Others help to represent knowledge and facilitate communication. Finally, some tools enable learners to experiment with modeling complex ideas. NetLogo, for example, provides a programmable modeling environment for simulating natural and social phenomena, such as how segregated neighborhoods can arise, not from any specific bias, but from the simple desire of people to live near others who are like themselves.

Learning is Social:

Teachers have long recognized the value of having students work together in a group to accomplish some types of learning tasks. Students benefit from hearing perspectives other than their own, and they may bring different strengths to a complex and lengthy activity. 

On the other hand, a social theory of learning reflects a fundamentally different view, where knowledge "is a matter of competence with respect to valued enterprises" and knowing "is a matter of participating in the pursuit of such enterprises" (Wenger, 1998, p. 4).

Learning, then, amounts to increasing participation in and contribution to the practices of a social community. Concepts such as knowledge building, apprenticeship, and mentoring become paramount, as learners are conceived to be under the tutelage of more experienced peers or instructors.

A social view of learning focuses attention on making connections among students within a school and between students in the school and the broader community. The Internet plays a vital role in this. Students can now have "e-pals" around the world. Blogs and wikis have created enviornments for online student collaboration. With there smartphone they can video conference with tools like Skype any where in the world. The world has become a very small place. No longer do we need to get on a plane to have a face to face conversation with someone. We can do it from home or school. Learning is becoming 24 hrs a day 7 days a week,

Learning is Reflective:

we want students to experience the implications of the ideas they are studying. Thus, they might be required to work in a group, participate in a class project, contribute to a knowledge-building enterprise, and so on. We should ask students to reflect on their own learning, the functioning of their group, and the operation of the class.

Learning is facilitated when students get feedback about their thinking, whether that feedback comes from within, a teacher, or a peer. Then provided with the opportunity for revision, students can achieve at higher levels and reach deeper understandings. Technologies that promote communication within and outside the classroom make it easier for feedback, reflection, and revision to occur. Many of the technology examples presented above facilitate reflection in the dialogue that they promote among learners. Where dialogue or discussion is not inherent in the tool, teachers bear the responsibility of initiating and guiding it. Frame works of learning are important to keep the learning on track and guided.

A Few Parting Thoughts about Technology and Learning

Technology by itself does not guarantee learning. Rather, it is in how teachers and students use available technologies that determines whether transformative learning happens. Or they can explore the power of technology to help learners achieve important outcomes. Understanding principles of learning is a good way to begin. Technology needs to be integrated as a simple tool, Nothing more then a pencil. Students don't have to have a week long lecture on how to use a pencil. They pick it up and write with it. So is the same with effective technology it become so simple and integrated in to the systems that you just pick it up and use it. If it is to complex in gets in the way of the learning.

References and Further Reading

Alliance for Childhood. (2000). "Fools' Gold: A Critical Look at Computers and Childhood."

Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt. (1992). "The Jasper Experiment: An Exploration of Issues in Learning and Instructional Design." Educational Technology Research & Development, 40, 65-80.

Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt. (1997). The Jasper Project: Lessons in Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment, and Professional Development. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Driscoll, M. P. (2000). Psychology of Learning for Instruction (2nd ed.). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn Bacon

Duffy, T. M., & Cunningham, D. J. (1996). "Constructivism: Implications for the Design and Delivery of Instruction." In D. H. Jonassen (Ed.), Handbook of Research for Educational Communications and Technology. New York: Macmillan.

Hannafin, M., Land, S. Oliver, K. (1999). "Open Learning Environments: Foundations, Methods, and Models." In C. M. Reigeluth (Ed.), Instructional Design Theories and Models: A New Paradigm of Instructional Theory (Vol. II, pp. 115-140). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Honebein, P. C. (1996). "Seven Goals for the Design of Constructivist Learning Environments." In B. G. Wilson (Ed.), Constructivist Learning Environments: Case Studies in Instructional Design. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.

Jonassen, D. H., & Land, S. M. (Eds.). (2000). Theoretical Foundations of Learning Environments.Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

LaJoie, S. P. (Ed.). (2000). Computers as Cognitive Tools, Vol. II. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

National Research Council. (2000). How People Learn. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
Pea, R. D., Gomez, L. M., Edelson, D.C., Fishman, B. J., Gordin, D. N., O'Neill, D. K. (1997). "Science Education as a Driver of Cyberspace Technology Development." In K. C. Cohen (Ed.) Internet Links for Science Education: Student-Scientist Partnerships (pp. 189-220). New York: Plenum.

Scardamalia, M. (April, 2002). "Creative work with ideas: A luxury?" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, New Orleans, LA.

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity. New York: Cambridge University Press.

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I am the Director of Technology at a K-12 School system.