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. 

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