Unit 2 Week 1: Weekly Reading
September 20, 2014
Ally discusses and offers recommendations for best online teaching practices based on several schools of learning: Behaviorist, Cognitivist, Constructivist, and Connectivist. Ally’s article focuses on ensuring the reader is able to understand the importance of each school of learning as well as functionality in online learning communities. I appreciate the connection to valid theoretical approaches and the importance of application. His discussion is meaningful and timely. For some time, concerns about the validity of online teaching approaches and strategies have been worrisome to me. I see myself as a true novice in terms of online course development and teaching, hence the reason for my engagement in this course.
My teaching experiences are generally through face to face modalities: classroom semester-based courses, community workshops, seminars, intensives, and coaching. It is easy to relate to Ally’s differing schools of learning utilized in classroom-based teaching and learning. I teach each of the schools of learning to students in the Early Childhood Education degree. I use parallel process as a learning strategy when teaching adult students. Since children learn best by constructing their own knowledge, I use constructivist approaches when designing classes and assignments in hopes that the students will use similar approaches when teaching children. We discuss how behaviorist principles are employed in their learning as well as the children in early childhood classrooms. We weave cognitivist philosophies into all courses to emphasize the importance of assimilation and accommodation. I have no argument that these schools of learning are appropriate, equally useful and necessary for both online and classroom-based learning.
After reading the final school of learning, Connectivist theory for online learning, I concluded that the title is limiting. Since students are utilizing technology both in and outside the classroom setting, the principles are current and useful for classroom-based learning. So much so, I would advocate for a titled change from Connectivist Theory for Online Learning to Connectivist Theory. Ally describes these guidelines in terms of rapid information dissemination and evolution, innovative and globally influenced, learning in peer to peer and social constructs, and finally multidisciplinary. In my experience, classroom-based teaching and learning not only does not preclude such characteristics but are common inventions.
It seems reasonable to question the ability of students to embrace each guideline. For example: Connectivist theory supposes the rapid changes to and addition of information and knowledge. “The rapid increase of information available from a variety of sources means that some information is not as important or genuine as other information. As a result, the learner must be able to identify important information from unimportant information. (Ally, 2008, p. 34) While this is true based on the sheer number of available periodicals and technology resources, that information is not always accurate, valid and reliable. I find myself regularly helping students understand and navigate toward valid and reliable sources of data. Since this type of discrimination is taught as a pre-requisite at the B.A. level, but not for 100 and 200 level courses, students do not have the necessary skills to determine appropriate web-sources or peer-reviewed journal articles. Many want to use sources that are questionable, not because they know the difference, but because they think if it is published on the web or is found at the local library, it must be good enough to use in course assignments.
As well, I see another challenge to the current University degree structure. Ally speaks to the need for students to become more multidisciplinary, “Learners must be exposed to different fields so that they can see the connections between the information in the fields.’ (Ally, 2008, p. 35) After reading this guideline, I smiled. Finally, research that validates what I have long known, that it is more meaningful to integrate knowledge from other disciplines to help students understand foundational concepts. I use knowledge from family studies, psychology, human development, and brain research to explain common principle of child development. I am fortunate that my educational curiosity helped me to explore other disciplines, in turn, offering this knowledge to get students excited about cross-discipline study. In recent month, it seems that universities struggle to ensure timely completion and minimal expense to students. While, this awareness is valid both in terms of outcome measurement and affordability, inspiring students to go beyond the degree requirements to explore related disciplines will be a challenge.
Despite challenges, both online and face to face classroom learning experiences include many more similarities than differences in terms of applying school of learning theories outlined in Ally’s article. The more I think about the differences in each modality, the more I embrace what Ally describes as “the goal to any instructional system is to promote learning’. (Ally, 2008, p. 18) Ally goes on to indicated that “strategies should be selected to motivate learners, facilitate deep processing, build the whole person, cater to individual differences, promote meaningful learning, encourage interactions, provide relevant feedback, facilitate contextual learning, and promote support during the learning process. (Ally, 2008, pp. 18-19) Isn’t that a true statement no matter a student’s choice in learning environment?
Ally, M. (2008). Foundations of educational theory for online learning. In Anderson, T., & Elloumi, F. (Eds.). The theory and practice of online learning (2nd ed.) (pp. 15—44). Athabasca, AB, Canada: Athabasca University.