I have been working on the 3rd assignment for PIDP 3100, researching a variety of topics associated with the science of learning. The article I chose for my assignment was “Four Principles of Memory Improvement: A guide to Improving Learning Efficiency” Schwartz, Son, Kornell and Finn. You can find the article here. A core element I selected in this article dealt with the use of distributed practice. What does that mean?
Distributed practice speaks to the difference in depth and retention of learning when information is studied in chunks, over time — in other words not in a constant drill, or in a cramming study session prior to an exam. After I finished working on my paper it got me to thinking about the efforts made by people who are learning how to dance, and how basic steps are learned, practiced, then combined and built upon to make up the wonderful expression of movement in the form of dance.
In my review of videos to capture what I was thinking of I found this mashup of black and white dance segments put to contemporary music — Bruno Mars, to be exact. It is interesting how the movement can mesh with the right rhythm, and if you watch some of the steps, how you can see the simple steps combined in a complicated fashion to craft the full dance movement. There is a snippet of Shirley Temple and Bojangles Robinson, which resonated for me as I included an example of moving up and down using stairs as a metaphor for stages and steps up and down that an instructor takes to provide a rich learning activity that spaces certain elements of the subject being covered during the learning activity. And, consider when you watch the dancers how there are a finite number of dance steps — it’s all in how you combine them with the movement of the body.
And so…..out of all the new things I learned, what topic or point caused me to reflect the most…….change can be scary, fear inhibits learning and feeling safe and comfortable is important to establish a meaningful learning environment. Lots of words, I know, but really where I go with this is that new technology can be intimidating, particularly for some adult learners who may have lower levels of competency when it comes to using computers. This demographic group is ageing, however they will continue to be impacted by technology, need to continue to learn.
As an example, when I consider use of debit card machines, during the days of my youth we just waited in line at a grocery check out while the clerk manually punched in the prices, pulled up a receipt and waited for you to write a cheque (or pay cash).
Debit machines were a dream in someone’s head at that time. Now everybody uses debit machines — the thought of standing in line waiting for someone to write a cheque today seems almost absurd.
Yet, everyone who uses a debit machine, whether you are the clerk behind the counter or the customer making a purchase had to learn to use that technology as it became mainstream. It was and is the way business is conducted. The level of “comfort” or confidence in the technology took some time for people to build confidence in — just like using bank machines. It took time, practice and as it was used people became more competent and comfortable. That example can be used in any learning environment — whether the subject at hand be technical based or any other, but if it is a foreign concept for the learner they need to build and have their comfort and confidence with the subject grow over time — and experience.
So, when using new technology in an educational setting we need to make sure it “works” — meaning that it is functional, and that the end user (learner) is in a comfortable and somewhat predictable environment so they feel safe and secure. In otherwords, using that new “app” they may be using to learn isn’t going to break your phone, send out spam or otherwise create any damage. One example of a great mobile learning app that is easy to use, highly functional and allows the learner to revisit material or move forward more quickly is “Duolingo” — just one example of a well designed and implemented learning tool and mobile app for learning a new language.
As an instructor, this means — to align with Wlodkowoski’s Integrated Levels of Adult Motivation — I advocate taking the fear out of learning for learners…..by making it ok for them to ask for help (which could be done with a variety of messaging or course delivery apps), …..and “creating a safe learning environment that is free from humiliation or shame when students do not know the answer or are unfamiliar with the subject”. (Merriam, 2014)
I met up with my learning partner this week and we compared notes on the articles we had selected for discussion for Assignment 2. We both had focused on some area of technology — she on mobile apps, and I chose 3D technology and experiential learning through virtual environments. I looked through the “50 of the best teaching and learning apps for 2016” on her blog post and liked the variety of apps that were being showcased. Many of them, although more suitable for young learners could be used in an adult learning situation. Some are now mainstream like Evernote and Google Drive however a few like Color Uncovered piqued my interest — hadn’t see that before. As an artist I am interested in colour theory and impact of colour in our everyday environment, so I will be looking into this app and others like it. It was great to compare notes with my partner and discuss both the course work and the details of this assignment. We both agree that the digital world is where it’s at when it comes to leveraging teaching situations and communicating with students, without losing sight of the value of in person discussion. We also discussed the ease with which an instructor can send out a broadcast message to students, then provide feedback and dialogue with the student when they are seeking clarity on a piece of information or area of study — this can provide privacy to the student, so if there is discomfort asking questions “out loud” they can do so just with the instructor as the audience. That said, to provide a richer experience for the rest of the group sharing of questions being asked is the best idea in my opinion — so doing something that provides perhaps some anonymity– like an electronic bulletin board, will allow the questions to come forward, be viewed by all, generate more conversation and provide a richer learning experience. It does seem in many ways much of our current technology can provide a comfort level that is accessible and “one size fits all” — ‘cept for the differences between android and apple 🙂
All this said, content trumps everything — so if the material in the app isn’t rich enough, agile enough and easy to navigate it will be tossed aside as quickly as yesterday’s news feed. This reinforces the need for using a critical eye, evaluating your sources (integrity/validity) and make sure what you provide students is value added.
How will we as current or future instructors or facilitators for adult learners prepare for and manage the impact of technology on ourselves and our adult learners?
There are a few key points about technology particularly with mobile learning apps or 3D learning environments and learning that I think need to be considered. My learning partners is exploring mobile apps and cell phones as educational tools. I focused on 3D technology along with Dale’s Cone of Experience and impact to the adult learner.
What do I know about the impact of technology? What do I need to do to prepare for these trends?
Technology is not going away any time soon. Barring a huge catastrophe, technology is here to stay. We need to “get with the program”.
Use of a critical eye — is the content valid, useful, and basically good or is the app or venue being used as a channel for advertising, rather than having the objective of sharing information that is accurate and providing an enhanced learning experience? Just because someone hit “publish” on their blog doesn’t make the content appropriate, accurate or relevant. A “flashy” webpage (no pun intended) does not necessarily mean valuable content.
Currency. No, not money — although for some of the latest gear and widgets money can help, I am talking about keeping up to date. On a personal level, I have my hands full just using facebook and Whatsapp and my confidence with other social media channels such as twitter are outside my comfort zone.
Speed of change. Yes, technology keeps evolving at what seems like the speed of light, however there are some core pieces that as educators I expect we will continue to use – regardless of platform, mobile or otherwise:
After all is said and done, not leveraging cutting edge technology to aide in learning can be short sighted. We are gradually moving away from a generation that did not experience the development of computers as part of their “growing up”. My first exposure to computers was when my son had access to an Apple2 computer as a learning aide in elementary school. I date myself by admitting this was in the late 80’s. Intrigued by this new technology I checked out a book from the local library and took out a book on Basic computer programming. I was hooked. Later with my trusty 286 with a dot matrix printer I was well onto my way to computer literacy – bring on WYSIWYG Excel!!!. Then came the web. ….. oh my. Morale of the story, you just need to keep on keeping up….or risk getting left behind.
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