Changing Learning through Critical Thinking and Technology
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  • Contrasting Two Psychologists

    Posted on August 8th, 2013 John No comments

    For a while I taught at a for-profit online university that insisted we use their prepackaged curriculum. One of the oddest part of this was their idea that both B.F. Skinner and Lev Vygotsky shared a behavioral orientation of mind. I never would have put Vygotsky with Skinner, and still cannot. The channel below was assembled to show videos about each as a contrast, and my students were asked to comment on the argument presented by the course.

  • ADDIE Backwards Planning Model

    Posted on November 23rd, 2010 John No comments

    This is from Downes. I have always thought the ADDIE model to be simplistic and wrong. The best version of it has been one that put evaluation (The “E” of the acronym) in the center of a flower. But in reality it’s all about how you are going to evaluate. There is also a nice into to ADDIE, but really let’s get beyond simplistic linear design of instruction.

    files/images/ADDIE_model.jpg, size: 64324 bytes, type: image/jpeg
    Donald Clark, Big Dog, Little Dog, November 22, 2010.

    For people who have heard of the ‘ADDIE’ learning development model, and wanting to know what it is, you would be hard-pressed to find a nicer concise description than this one. [Link] [Comment]
    [From ADDIE Backwards Planning Model]

  • Distance Learning as Learning

    Posted on September 28th, 2010 John No comments

    “All I needed was the Internet, a little bit of time everyday and priorities” – Delta Sky article about Distance Learning

    The act of defining distance learning as separate from learning is exactly the problem. It is this compulsion that will keep the model for distance education subservient to the classroom, or at least dependent on it for its models of operation and evaluation. So the learner quoted above is assumed to be seeking a more convenient virtual classroom that is open whenever the time presents itself.

    Usually, distance learning is defined as a physical separation of teacher and learner(s). Because of this separation there is a general feeling that the virtual classroom is inferior because of some lack; personal contact, individual help, a hallway to chat in, something. But this always leaves me to wonder about where the large lecture hall falls in this continuum. When I taught a class of 320, we were physically together, but were hardly present to each other. Yet somehow this is still a regular college class, while an online version teaching the same subject matter to 20 is virtual.

    Social and economic pressures are forcing the perceived need for education higher and higher. Yet job, family and responsibilities separate a class of adult learners from the regular student body that schools were designed to service. These non-traditional students are accommodated in community colleges and, often, for profit online universities. Here they attempt to duplicate the university credential by looking and actin like real school, even if the experience is vastly different.

    My point is that learning is learning, and where it takes place should not be an issue. But, as Illych pointed out 40 years ago, the institution of school has become synonymous with the act of learning. The real value of what we call distance learning is that it offers the possibility of another model for knowledge creation, education and evaluation. Yet as long as it is beholden to the institutional practices of the University, this potential will not be realized.

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  • Schools and Creativity

    Posted on April 21st, 2009 John No comments

    If there is one thing the schools do not do well it is prepare students for novel situations. Their plight is understandable; schools must educate a wide variety of students on little money with relatively small staffs. They are under pressure from society to do not only a good job but prove empirically that they are succeeding. Criteria for success are set by government agencies; No Child Left Behind on the Federal Level and, in Virginia where I live, Standards of Learning (SOL’s) which are in many ways more restrictive than the national standards. Schools are accredited, and must cover certain amounts of material. They may be neither too lenient (witness the illiterate high school graduate concern), nor so strict that no one graduates (thus no meeting their government quotas). In a system such as this things inevitably are reduced to “fill in the blanks” kinds of learning. The questions are measurable and the outcomes are defined. These are methods that are the exact opposite of what a creative education needs. Or a education for the 20th century.

    Creativity is not an objectively measurable commodity. In spite of Thorndike’s famous statement that all that exists can be measure, there is no reliable way to “grade” a student’s creativity without descending to the absurd. Ellen Longenman once summed up the history of education in America as “Thorndike Won and Dewey Lost.” Dewey, in his way, saw the role of schools to be primarily the creation of a child that is generative and self-sufficient, while Thorndike’s legacy is more aimed at transferring measured quantities of knowledge. Now I do not want to get into that popular game of creating the objectivist “straw man” that so often is a feature of educational critique. Thorndike was concerned with measures, and a grade-based system is prejudiced toward them. Dewey, on the other hand, saw a more fluid educational system.

    The basic point is that our system of school does not naturally seek to enhance creativity. It is taught, but only by dedicated teachers working under the radar in subjects that are not valued like the arts, language, even sports. Topics such as math, science and reading are vital, and so the system sort of “clutches” on something it can measure.