Learning Theories

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Learning Theories by Mind Map: Learning Theories

1. Media Ecology

1.1. Main idea: The different stages of human history can be defined by their media environment, which is characterized by the culture of technology and symbol systems used. We now live in an electronic environment, which means that our circumstances are unique in terms of technology and communication.

1.1.1. Implications for teaching: It seems self-evident that as we are all citizens of a digital world, teachers are responsible for helping students survive and thrive in the digital environment. The challenge here is that all the rules are still being created, and that they are being created by an amorphous and diverse collective. Connections: Media ecology fits in nicely with connectivism. Connectivism is all about knowing where to go, media ecology is all about imaging the digital world as an environment, a place. The role of teachers is to help students "map" their digital environment and teach them to participate in creating it.

2. SCOT: Social Construction of Technologies

2.1. Main idea: SCOT theory is framework that looks at the evolution of technological development as a way to study culture and society.

2.1.1. Implications for teaching: SCOT theory's insistence on scientific impartiality in considering technology is a useful way for educators to consider how to use technology in their classrooms. We easily fall into habits of thinking that "newer and faster is better"...thinking like SCOT does forces us to ask if this is true and why. For teachers it is crucial to remember that technology must serve a pedagogical purpose: possibly this outdated technology is a better tool for such-and-such activity than this fancy new-fangled technology. For example, I find that free-writing exercices are best done with pen and paper (outdated tech), that using a computer can actually disrupt the process and undermine the effectiveness of the activity (something as simple as the spell-check squiggle can throw off a person's train of thought). Another example: this website stupidly uses a font that doesn't adjust the spaces between letters (called "kerning") and won't allow me to italicize or bold one word in each note. These are small, nitpicky factors which interfere with the way I want to present my information, factors I would have greater control over if I was using markers and a posterboard. Technology, while often great and exciting, can also be limiting. Just as we look at our resources with a critical, evaluative eye, teachers need to use technological tools mindfully. Connections to other theories: SCOT theory might be an interesting way to begin a discussion about technology with older (high school) students. It would be interesting as a constructivist-type project.

3. Behaviourism

3.1. Behaviourism, in comparison to the other theories we have looked at, seems reductionist. I've always thought that behaviourists view human learning in the same way we think about dog training, which is at least a little offensive! However, for some instructional goals (memorization and most social skills) are best learned through repetition and shaping. Also, I suppose it is always good for teachers to remember that we are the defining elements of the learning environment in our classroom--that along with everything we are deliberately teaching, we are also always teaching unconsciously by the ways we act and react.

3.2. Implications for Education:The teacher's role in behaviourist theory is similar to a scientist in a lab--controling variables and planning that each action/stimulus leads to an appropriate and consistent consequence. The focus of this theory is on the external environment. The presumption is that the brain is a blank slate which is imprinted with the connections and associations of the external environment. As far as Behaviorism is concerned, pretty much anything can be learned by drill and practice.

3.3. Main idea: Individuals learn from the reinforced connection between a stimulus and a consequence.

4. Cognitivism

4.1. Main idea: Essentially building on behaviourism, cognitivism puts the mind back in the machine. The belief is still that learning is conditioned behaviours, but focuses on what is going on inside the brain as learning occurs. According to cognitivism, all learning takes place in the context of all previous learning--information and memories are not just stored in the brain, they are organized into schemas which can be changed and manipulated.

4.2. Implications for Education: Cognitivism in educational contexts places more importance on the existence of mental states. Teachers can learn from cognitive psychology how to "tap into" prior knowledge and emotional connections to further strengthen student learning. Teachers can help students strengthen their metacognitive skills, teaching them an increased awareness of their mental states and the ways they organize information. Teachers build each lesson carefully, deliberately introducing information in a logical and sequential way, and in "chunks" that are appropriate to cognitive load.

4.3. Cognitivism is essentially a fleshed-out and more effective version of behaviourism. On the Bloom's taxonomy ladder, it is moving the focus away from 'remembering' and towards 'analyzing' and 'understanding''. The aim of learning, the proof that learning has happened, for both behaviourism and cognitivism is that students retain information. Cognitivists realize that retention occurs more effectively when students are actively integrating information into their memories.

5. Constructivism

5.1. Main idea: Constructivism views the brain's storing of information as an elaborate, interconnected network. Philosophically, constructivists see learners as doing more than receiving, interpreting and retrieving information; learners are actually co-creating what they are learning.

5.2. Out of all the learning theories I have seen so far, Constructivism makes the most sense to me. Like cognitivism, constructivism acknowledges that students learn best when they are active and engaged in their learning. Constructivism goes a step farther and allows learning to be about creativity and discovery. Teaching with this approach (and doing it well) is a great way of empowering students to become life-long, self-motivated learners. I think it's perfectly suited to diverse learner needs and would help all young people develop resiliency and strength of character.

5.3. Implications for education: Teachers in the constructivist view are not the generous bestowers of all knowledge and wisdom, they are guides and facilitators. The constructivist approach is student-directed, creative, and hands-on. Students tackle complex problems and authentic (real-life) tasks, figuring it all out as they go.

6. Connectivism

6.1. Main idea: In Connectivism, "knowing" is less important than in all the other theories. According to connectivism, it is essential for students to be able to find and access information as they need to. It doesn't matter, as in other theories, whether or not they store any information internally, so long as they can remember how to retrive the information from an external source.

6.2. Implications for education: The focus in connectivist views is to teach students the skills to look for whatever information they need for each task. Learning is seen as a continual processing of information and different perspectives. What is considered most important is having current and up-to-date information.

6.3. Connections to other theories: Thinking about cognitivism, it seems to me that connectivists see learning as inundating the working memory with information that may only be vaguely retained. The connectivist approach reminds me of writing research papers last-minute: skimming a huge variety of resources, only picking up what I'm already looking for, cobbling it all together in a somewhat cohesive way, and ultimately not having a very meaningful learning experience. I think this theory of thinking is best suited to people who follow the stock market, or people who join hockey pools.

7. Technology Theories

7.1. Technological Determinism

7.1.1. What we do is determined by the technology available


8.1. Main idea: Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge. TPACK is a framework which refers to the dynamics between three different areas of teacher knowledge: Technological, Pedagogical and Content. Ideally, teachers should have mastery in all areas. The process of getting there isn't a steady progression, it's gradually incorporating different ideas, trying new things, and learning along the way.

9. Teachnology

9.1. Each teacher's personal philosophy of technology in teaching is called "teachnology'. Each teacher makes his/her own decisions about the who/what/when/where/how/why of integrating technology into their teaching--these decisions should be based on the teacher's values and philosophy of teaching, not defined by an ignorance of (or infatuation with) technology.