How do we learn…so what about technology man?

My company host brown bag lunch sessions where we all come together and talk about a theme or two. We use articles we read to help foster ways of improving our work-flow and management. This past week, we focused our discussion on how Moodle’s tools can help our faculty facilitate teaching and learning. The read was from Karl Wirth, a faculty member at one of our beloved institutions, Macalester. The paper was titled, “Learning to Learn.” Wirth’s approach simply states that the current affairs of how we educate is in dire straits. With the traditional roles of educator disseminating knowledge through lecture with the student acquiring said knowledge through receptive means is a bit over done and a bit of a failure. There is a particular section I would like to quote from this paper that I found intriguing:

Modern cognitive psychology tells us that learning is a constructive, not receptive, process (Glaser 1991). This theory of learning (constructivism) holds that understanding comes through experiences and interaction with the environment, and that the learner uses a foundation of previous knowledge to construct new understanding. Consequently, the learner has primary responsibility for constructing knowledge and understanding, not the teacher. In a constructivist classroom, the teacher is no longer the “authority” but instead is a guide or facilitator who assists students in learning. (p. 10-11)

This quote hit me at the core. Educators must become a facilitator to knowledge. Engage the student to expand beyond core understanding and provide a guided path of sorts to ensure the direction attempted is true to the sum of the knowledge obtained. Engagement is the key, no longer are notes from the board or reviewing audio transcriptions of lecture suffice. Actually, did these methods ever worked? One must assume so as we look back at the many scholars that were created from such institutions but for the masses, I think not. Looking back at my college experience taught me one thing, large classes are useless. My undergrad work for the first couple of years was not by far my best and truth be told, much of what I learned has faded. (Like the youthful spring in my step [oh Hallmark, you would be so proud]) It was only during my later years in college did I retain knowledge requested and in fact continue expanding upon such endeavors. Smaller class size, discussions and access to faculty was the key. But it was the faculty that lit a fire from within me to keep exploring. It was not an issue of grades nor requirements for graduation. (Hell, I had roughly 90 credits that were useless to my degree) It was for the sheer glee of finding answers. This emotional attachment was also discussed in Wirth’s paper, a reflection of the affective domain (one of three) as described from Bloom’s taxonomies of learning. (p. 5)

I could go on as this is a wonderful paper to spark conversation on the cognitive and social consequences of learning, but my focus is this, what can technology do to assist? There are just countless number of tools out there to assist with every facet of your life but do you need them? What I am saying is this, a technology solution is the cumulation of a social problem requiring a solution of greater ease. Technology should never come first. In other words, when you find a cool tool, you should NOT start a conversation with, “damn where can we use this thing?” But that is where we are a times. We (meaning my company) are a think tank of brilliant individuals that spend time finding better ways of helping our colleges. We forge ahead at times without reflection and look upon solutions that seems to work very well from our point of view. Faculty that are engaged also find benefits to our custom tools, but then it dies. The emotional attachment to our work from others is just not as strong as it could be. But see the paradigm shift with teaching and learning; solutions with regards to pedagogy should not, NEVER EVER, begin with us. It should be with our faculty and their methods of teaching. We are the execution arm of such implements. But we too fall into the roll of a classical educator with authority and notions that this is what we can do and you must learn from such models. Not really a reflection of the constructivism thought discussed above.

As my company moves forward, the way we approach technology needs to change. We are amazing with research and development. We can turn on a dime and forge ahead in any direction with confidence but this comes at a cost. The cost is an intellectual chasm we create with faculty. We need to connect with them and understand how they teach. Use our amazing ability to perform research and find ways to alter methods of teaching. THEN build technical solutions when the desire to do so makes sense.

Whoa, I have to go! But anyways thanks for reading one of my random thoughts.


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