Sunday, February 28, 2016

Reflection on Learning Theories Class

This Learning Theories course has been a pleasant surprise.  At the beginning of the class, we were reading about the brain and just the basics of the leaning theories.  My first thought was that this class was going to be very boring and very philosophical.  There is a lot of gray area in theories, it is not like science or math where it is very black and white.  I enjoy science and math because there is instant feedback on how you are doing and if you are learning the concept.  With learning theories, there isn’t one correct learning theory and there are many that have valuable uses as an Instructional Designer. 
As the class progressed, I started to see that having multiple learning theories is a good thing because everyone learns differently.  Some people can relate more to Behaviorism and Cognitivism, while others relate more to constructivism and social learning.  What I found to be very surprising about learning theories and how people learn is that there is very little specific information about how people learn.  With how technology has advanced, I thought that the science of learning was a little more exact.  It was very shocking to hear that scientists are still a little unsure how the brain exactly works while we are learning.  Over the years, I just assumed that science was so advanced that they were exact in knowing how this happens in our heads.  Another thing that I found to be rather shocking was the myth about people being right and left brained.  That was surprising because you hear about this all the time in the news, social media and through teacher trainings.  I have heard so many justifications about students from other teachers or their parents saying, “Oh he is just right brained and has a hard time grasping math concepts.”  Another thing that was surprising to me was that there is now a new learning theory to go along with the advancement of technology.  It is good to see that theorists are taking technology into consideration because I see students in 4th grade who learn better when technology is involved.  I can see why there are skeptics to Connectivism, but I don’t understand how rigid some theorists are in an intellectual field that is so fluid. 
Reflecting on my learning preferences was refreshing and eye opening.  For many years, I found myself to be a very visual learner who was a very diligent rule follower.  But, as I’ve gotten older, I have seen that I am a social learner and can relate to connectivism.  The use of technology in my daily life has made it a very relevant piece of my learning.  Social media websites and blogs are now a very important part of how I learn.  The thinking web we created in this class helped me see that my learning is done a lot through technology.  Over the past ten years, I have become very kinesthetic in my learning preferences.  There are many professional development classes that are just a traditional sit and get type environment.  I really struggle with these and have a hard time staying focused.  Classes that have movement incorporated into the class help me stay focused and show that the instructor is making an effort to meet every person’s learning preference. 
This class has also helped show me the importance of connecting learning theories, learning styles, educational technology and motivation.  As an effective Instructional Designer, it is extremely important to hit multiple learning styles and theories in every lesson that you create because every person learn differently.  Technology is a tremendous tool that can help you meet those learning preferences, but isn’t going to happen by just having new iPads.  Your lesson design is the most important part and technology can just help make it that much better.  There have been amazing teachers for years without the use of great technology.  I can see now that it is because they focused on their lesson design and saw that being the most important.  Motivation is also an important part of learning for students and I now have some great tools to help build intrinsic motivation.  Extrinsic motivation has been a strength of mine, but I have struggled to try and improve my students intrinsic motivation.  Students sometimes have little motivation on their own to learn and work hard, and I always thought it was just their attitude and I could do very little to help improve that.  Now I see that I can have a big impact on each student’s motivation with making little adjustments to my designs. 
This class will have a great impact on my Instructional Design career.  It has reminded me that every student learns differently and as an Instructional Designer, I need to cater to each of these styles.  It has also shown me that brain research on how people learn is still unclear and I need to keep up on this research to help me as I move forward in my profession.  I have started doing some research for some blogs that I can put on my RSS reader to help keep me in the loop in this field.  Finally, this class has given me the tools to see that the lesson design is most important over the use of technology.  There are many people out in the world of education that feel that giving each student a laptop or iPad will help create great teachers.  But it is important to remember that at the foundation of teaching is your lesson design.  And as an Instructional Designer, focusing on your lesson and then incorporating technology to improve the lesson is the best way to have a lasting impact with each student.  I can relate to this through my favorite sport; golf.  In golf, technology has improved the game immensely.  But at the foundation is your golf swing.  Just getting a new driver isn’t going to make you a better golfer.  Focusing on your swing and technique will improve your game.  Add the new driver after the improvement of your swing will help make you the better golfer you want to become. 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Reflection on Learning Theories

Looking back at what I wrote in Week 1 allowed for some interesting reflection.  At the beginning of this class, I felt like I related more to the cognitive learning theory.  In the Week 1 discussion I said, “I feel like I am more successful in a cognitive learning environment.  I realized how I have learned in the past.  Everything for me needs to make some kind of connection to an example of something I can relate to. At the time, I had little experience with Learning Theories and how they worked.  I still agree with my statement there, but I feel like I make a stronger connection with another learning theory.  The past six to seven weeks have helped show me that I relate more to the social learning theory.  As I look back at all of my positive experiences in school, it has always been when I have interacted with people in a group setting.  My favorite education experiences in the past were in the form of class discussions or group projects.  I still feel that I favor the kinesthetic and visual learning styles.  But what has been a great new tool for me with this class is the importance of learning strategies.  This class helped show me that there is a difference between learning styles and learning strategies.  It took me a long time as a student to use good learning strategies to make sure I was grasping the concepts during school.  Now I can help my students succeed by teaching them multiple learning strategies to ensure they are successful in my class.  One in particular that I didn’t learn until much later in life was the importance of comprehension monitoring.  There were many times in high school and even college where I would read a text passage without making sure that I understood the text I was reading.  Helping my students learn this valuable learning strategy should help them be successful students in my class and down the road in the educational career. 

Technology plays a very large role in my daily life as a learner and as an instructional designer.  Weather sitting on my couch streaming a television show from my phone or gathering information for my next lesson plan though Google at school; technology has become a pillar in my life.  Creating my learning Mind Map a few weeks ago showed me how important technology is in my learning.

Obviously, it is currently helping me receive my master’s degree.  I am able to get the information I need to be successful in my classes and to complete my work on time.  Without the technology, this program wouldn’t be an option.  Digital textbooks, online discussion, virtual mind maps, RSS Blog feeds, learning theory matrix and online videos are just a few of the ways I have learned in this class.  I also use it to do professional development on my own time.  Using social media and other platforms to build my skills has increased over the past six to ten years.  Finding new websites or technology tools that will help my lessons has become a new obsession as well.  

My Mind Map also showed me that I use technology in high amounts to create my daily lessons for my 4th grade students.  My flipped classroom wouldn’t work without technology, for me or my students.  I wouldn’t be able to make the videos and my students wouldn’t be able to watch my videos.  I use a Mobi board in my classroom to help present the instruction during class time.  My website is another piece of technology that helps me communicate with my parents on a regular basis.  I could keep going and listing more technology uses in my class, but it would take up so much space.  Needless to say, it is very obvious that I use technology as a student and an instructional designer.  

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A Mind Map of My Learning

For my Graduate Level class, I was asked to make a mind map showing how I learn as an adult.  With some reflection, I came up with the following Mind Map.  I broke my learning into three categories:  Schooling, Professional Development, and Social Networking.  I then broke those three categories into more categories with more detail.

Here is the Mind Map:

After creating my mind map, I took some time to reflect on how I learn as an adult compared to how I learned as a child.  My network on how I learn has changed over time.  As a child, the three branches were a little different.  I would classify the three branches as schooling, family and friends.  Those three branches have changed and been modified over the past 34 years.  The map has morphed into a bigger version of the original and changed because of the learning I have done since I was a child.  The three main branches of my mind map now as an adult are schooling, professional development, and social networks.  Those three branches have changed over time as an adult and have become bigger over time with many new branches growing and old branches falling off or being replaced. 
My network right now as a teacher has really changed the way I learn.  As I child, I was learning to become a professional.  Now as an adult, I think I have been learning to become a more experienced professional.  A lot of my learning now is done to hone my craft as a teacher and to make sure my students are getting the best lessons possible.  Another thing that has caused my learning to change has been the increased network of teachers that I have at my finger tips.  With the help of social media and professional development, the amount of information out there is astounding.  Let’s say I want to learn new techniques for teaching a math lesson for 4th grade, I just have to spend about an hour doing research online and will find plenty of new strategies for that lesson.  It takes some time to get used to finding this information, but once you become comfortable, it can make a huge difference in your effectiveness. 
For me, the best digital tools that help facilitate my learning right now are social media websites and The Khan Academy.  These digital tools really help me answer any of the questions I have about teaching 4th grade.  This is a new curriculum for me this year and I have had to use a lot of support to help me teach the new concepts.  The social media websites really help me stay in the loop with different teaching strategies in next generation learning.  There are many teachers out there doing innovative things and lots of them are shared on social media.  It has taken some time and effort to find worthwhile companies and organizations to follow.  But I think it has helped me learn about things that have an immediate impact on my profession.  Facebook, Twitter and Pintrest are my three most used social media networks.  Another one that is becoming a quick favorite because of this class is my RSS feed.  There are so many blogs out there that can help me learn as an adult.  It has been a learning process to figure out how it works, but I think it is a great way to make your professional development more personal.  The Kahn Academy has helped me so much as a math teacher over the last four years.  I make videos of my math lessons and the students watch them at home for homework.  For each math concept, I go onto the Kahn Academy to learn how to make the lesson friendlier for children and to pick up on any tips for teaching that specific math lesson. 

There are many ways that my learning as an adult now supports connectivism.  My learning is done from non-human appliances like computers and smart phones.  Apps on my phone help me access the information quickly and wherever I might need it.  I am always looking to learn more because of teaching a new grade level this school year.  I have taught 3rd grade for the past five years and am new to teaching 4th grade.  This has required me to know more about these new concepts I am trying to teach.  Finally, I have desired to try out the newest teaching strategies since I got my teachers license in 2009.  I have wanted to make sure that I am teaching something that is up to date and not 10 years old.