Thursday, November 29, 2012

Technology and Learning


That was one freewheeling session!  We covered a lot of ground from Bandura's self-efficacy to Vygotsky's scaffolding to Shirky's filter failure and finally to Seimen's Connectivism.
While we all would agree on the need to be life-long learners, it does not come easy.  The soccer coach who tells the wannabe soccer player to juggle the ball 100 times without letting it hit the ground risks creating a very frustrated kid.  Even the most passionate person needs to believe that s/he can achieve "mastery".  Telling the soccer player to instead count the number of attempts s/he took to reach 100 is a way to avoid that disappointment.  [Read here for a more on this story].

What has technology got to do with this?

When used appropriately technology can make the task just a little bit easier, a bit more efficient, (possibly) a bit more fun, just enough to overcome those doubts about self-efficacy.  So what do you think about using Google Reader to stay up to date with biomedical literature in your area of interest?  What about using Google+ or Twitter to create your personal learning network?
Do you see potential?  Anyone ready to bite the bullet?

What about connectivism?  How does it fit with your concepts of learning and knowledge?

19 comments:

John R. Nocero said...

Good Afternoon Dr. Mehta,

I agree with the central metaphor of the theory on connectivism especially with the thought of connections. One thing to me that I note that is that all connections are not of equal strength. I believe knowledge exists the world rather than in the head of the individual, but this phenomenon to me is the result of the interconnectiveness of simple, multiple units.

What are your thoughts?

Thanks and enjoy the day - JRN

Brian Johnson said...

I agree that technology could be avery useful tool in helping set up and make your life easier. The issue I see is that how do we get past the large initial time investment? I always wanted technology that would be helpful and time saving. While i see the usefulness and final time saving of these systems but it can alsobe a huge time drain.

Brian Burkey said...

I completely agree with your thoughts on connectivism, but am having trouble finding the improvement that Google+/reader may make in my life. I have joined one or two professional social networks and not found much inherent worth in them, versus the time spent looking at them. I do review journal online, so maybe that is the problem. Anyway, I am willing to try Google+ within a small professional organization we have and see if it works better. I'll let you know
By the way, I loved the post accompanying your comment. The "singing stairs" represent an intriguing idea.

Neil Mehta said...

Great comments and questions. I will try and get back to the connectivism issue later but here are my thoughts regarding @Brian Johnson's real concern re' the initial time investment in adopting technology.

One has to agree that learning something new (Web 2.0 tools or swimming or driving a car) will take an initial time commitment. To some extent it is a person decision whether we learn these or not e.g. someone may not learn swimming because he is afraid of water or because he does not think he will ever need it or does not have the time to learn it. We make these choice all the time, hopefully these are informed choices!

How about the "driving the car" example? How would you try and "inform" someone that they might want to try and learn how to do it? It depends a lot on opinions on environment, exercise etc. but also a lot on whether you live in the US vs in a place like London or Paris.

My humble opinion is that as far as technology is concerned, we live in the "US" where it may be very difficult but not impossible to survive without it. Also it can potentially be time saving once you learn it. If so it is truly an investment as @Brian says not not just a loss. You might want to wait for the driverless cars zero emission cars to show up or you might want start driving now... again the choice is one's own. It is possible that the longer one waits, the gap may be so large that it might be insurmountable OR technology might become so smart that one might need less time to learn it. Difficult to predict!

Anonymous said...

Kathy Baker

I agree that technology can make things a bit easier at times, but it can also be very time consuming when trying to teach others how to use various programs. I think Google+ could be useful for me, but not in an everyday setting. Regardless, I am one who prefers to read things on hard copy so I can make notes or highlight important things. I have never been a fan of twitter due to my age and the things that people divulge on there as opposed to useful things...maybe it's a generational thing on my part. Yes, I agree that learning is based on knowledge that exists in the world, but I also would have to disagree because there is knowledge that exists in the mind of some. Take those that are inventors-if they did not imagine things and apply their principles, how would they invent things? The idea of a coffee mug did not appear based off of a worldly knowledge; it was imagined and implemented by someone’s mind.

Anonymous said...

David Wheeler
It is essential that we recognize that the incredible learning technology we employ on a daily basis is an extension of our ability to communicate and organize our thoughts. Knowledge exists in the abstract as truth in the world however; our encounter with knowledge resides in the mind of the individual or the collective. If the tree falls; that is the truth, yet if we have no knowledge of it, it remains a truth that we do not care on know about. Connectivity is essentially about disseminating the encounter with knowledge. These tools are, at the end of the day, simply tools and they cannot replace authentic creativity or a personal sense of intellectual curiosity. I think it is in our best interest to master these tools and yet we must not let the ability to utilize the tools that connect us pass for anything more than what it is; the ability to use the tool. Authentic learning takes place within the individual. The type of learning is of interest but not necessary for learning to take place. One can have a transformational experience and through that experience construct meaning in their lives and this can take place solely within the individual. The utilization of technology to categorize, chronicle and communicate the manifestations of learning within a group or an individual is something we value yet human beings have been learning since the dawn of man. I find it interesting that the proliferation of the technology to disseminate knowledge is inversely related to the quality of the information. We are inundated with blogs, tweets and personal homepages that seem to scream for a major investment in adult literacy. I am extremely interested and fascinated by the creation of educational technology and I plan on utilizing as much of this technology as I can to enhance the learning experience. I am however concerned that there is a tendency to confuse technological savvy with authentic intellectual capacity and this I fear would take us, as a community of educators, in the wrong direction. We must have patent awareness that each learner has a highly context specific milieu within which they operate and learn. It is incumbent upon the educator of adult professionals to engage in meaningful dialogue with the learner and establish which technology is most appropriate for their learning goals and needs.

Karen George said...

David Wheeler I agree with your comments and too am fascinated with educational technology but have reservations. I feel we are bombarded with information daily and the ability to filter this information is causing stress and perhaps an inability to focus.The google reader was interesting and I hope to use it. I see the multitasking learner as not always a particularly-focused in the present-learner. How do we get our learners off facebook, to stop tweeting or looking obsessively at their cell phones while we are trying to educate? Or should we?

R Prayson said...

Technology is certainly a tool that can be employed in the appropriate venue for teaching/learning either as an individual or in a social context. Having been schooled at a time when such technology did not exist, my personal comfort level with it is not as great as the currently schooled students, who have had access to computors before starting school. There are advantages in some instances for those who are willing to spend the time and effort to utilize the technology. Those who use it, find it easy and useful; those who don't, often find the hurdles and frustration of trying to use it a significant impediment. Granted, a certain comfort level with technology is important in the current age and at least an awareness of what's out there is important. In employing it as a teaching tool, I believe it is important to be able to walk the learner through the process of utilizing the technology. In my experiences, the instructor presumes the learner is able to easily figure out the technology by trying it (after all, it's easy for them). Like anything else, being able to go back to the basics and remembering what's it's like to be learning something for the first time is a useful approach. Many of my experiences with computor technology have been frought with fumbling around for excessive periods of time trying to figure it out and eventually giving up or having to find someone else, who is often not involved with the project, to help work me through it. If one's goal is to "connect" with others who have similar interests or expertise, the computor affords one opportunity, but not the only one, to do so. But just because technologies exist, it doesn't mean they are always worth the effort. Our department is in the process of implementing a program to start looking at outside consult slide review cases using a virtual microscopy technology. The amount of additional time it takes to look at a microscopic slide using this approach is significantly greater (as much as 10-15 times longer, even with experience)than if one were to look at the slide using a conventional microscope.

Anonymous said...

Felecia:

Here, we go back to the question, just because the technology is out there do we need it? Some would answer yes and some not. I beleive we all have to look at what we feel is usefull or will be useful to us now and in the near future. I personally believe at some point we will "have" to make use of the technological advances. As technology advances, what many are used to using disappears; there are more people who flock to technological advances than not. I personally am not a subscriber to any of the social networks available on the internet. I found Dr. Mehta's presentation of these networks most interesting. I never thought these avenues (Twitter, Facebook) could be useful inside the arena of education. Dr. Mehta presented to us how to make these sites useful in forming connections that would be useful in helping us gain needed information and solve problems.

Neil Mehta said...

Re: Connectivism Click here for an excellent review of the article by George Siemens and some subsequent discussion of the theory in literature.

Re: technology - Think about what is "technology"? As some point in history even a printing press creating a book was considered technology.

Re: Constructivism vs. Connectivism each has its place. Even when one has fully internalized content in a specific area and feel that one has mastered it, is it possible that that is NOT the truth? Is it possible that depending on the content area, it has changed since we mastered it? Do you think you can feel comfortable in what you know and not need to refresh it? Do you think there are certain area of content that connectivism is a better fit than constructivism? Would love to hear your thoughts... This has been a terrific conversation.

Heidi Gdovin said...

With the wealth of information available it can be overwhelming to keep up and try to retain everything that is read! Articles are scanned and bits and pieces of information may be recalled but it can be challenging to remember the details. I think the use of technology as a tool can help with the organization of information, to connect with others who share similar interests as well as gather information from a variety of sources. I do believe the use of a new technology requires an initial investment in time to learn these products and because of that I honestly have not set this as a priority. It is one of those things that seems to move to the bottom of the to-do list because other tasks take precedence. I believe the use of technology could be helpful to me and have made it a goal to investigate and try to incorporate at least one of these technologies into my daily routine!

Anonymous said...

Matt Celmar said….

I agree with Brian in that the initial time commitment to a new technology forces me to make a value based judgment where I weigh the investment verses the believed outcome. Feeling overwhelmed with all of the life, school, and work commitments really forces me to weigh whether or not I want to make a time commitment in a technology tool. This has been a real issue at my work because of all the new technology that goes with the iPad and special education. New special education apps come on the market almost daily and I have a constant feeling of being overwhelmed to stay current. I often find myself weighing the time cost of investing in new technology with a student with my time to research and investigate said technology. This could be a scenario where connectivism would be of some use because I could draw on the knowledge of others in my field for assistance.

Neil Mehta said...

@Heidi congratulations on your resolve. You know where to turn if you need help..

@Matt, I think you hit the nail on the head. Education technology including apps are evolving at a very rapid pace. It is difficult to stay update with the best technology for each pedagogic project. This is an excellent example of content for using your connections to ask for advice and guidance. Hopefully you get directed to the right resource/app/technology that will help your pedagogic project. Once you have used it for a while, you become an important node for information on use of that technology for that type of project and may be able to return the favor in a "pass it forward" manner.

Miguel A. Morillo said...

Miguel A. Morillo

I tell you, I was a bit scary for me sitting through the lecture and thinking on how many things have been created to help people connect. I had no idea that all that could be done, and I bet it is probably the tip of the iceberg. I'll admit that perhaps by the time I get comfortable with this all that technology, there will be probably more thing being developed that I will not know about. Frustrating it is, but at least I had the chance to know about their existance. I hope we can get in touch again to go through the new technology as it comes out.

Neil Mehta said...

Thank you all for your candid posts. I have learned a lot about the hurdles that you perceive to using technology in education and learning. It seems that these range from concern about time required to learn these, some fear about ability to learn and keep up with these, doubt about the value of these tools for the time invested to learn them, questions about using these tools with our FB'ing and Tweeting multitasking learners.
These are all valid points adopting technology in your learning and teaching is a personal decision. The first step in the adoption journey is to be aware of what exists. If you can't see the mountain you don't want to climb it. Like the story of the soccer coach, it helps to think that about process goals rather than outcome goals. Don't worry about "can I get to the top". Think about how far up the mountain can I go in 15 minutes. You can climb down after 15 minutes and try again the next day.
The best part is that on the technology mountain you get to start from where you reached the previous day. Once you start and see the vistas (benefits) you may just decide to keep going on the journey.
The beauty is there is no top to this mountain.
All the best,

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