Saturday, June 23, 2012

Module 2: Cognitivism, Learning Theories, and _Isms... Oh MY!

Being a student of education, I have taken more than one class on learning theories. At every institution I have attended from community college to ASU to NAU and now Walden, I have had at least one class dedicated to this subject. And I have groaned more than once in regards to having to read and learn about learning theories again. I have been teaching for the past seven years. My classroom experience ranges from grades 4th - 8th. I have taught general ed, ESL, ELD, and dual language classes. I have written and planned lessons for a variety of different subjects and classes. And never once in my experience in the classroom did I stop and ask myself is the a behaviorist, cognitvist, or constructivist approach? And here I am after eight years of higher education and seven years of teaching, asking myself why are learning theories so relevant as I try to comprehend Marcy Driscoll'Psychology of Learning for Instruction.  See the ironic thing is that after having taken multiple classes on learning theories, my grasp and understanding for them is minimal at best.  The congitivist frame of thought would explain this phenomena to the fact that I have failed to find learning theories relevant.  Without relevance, I have not given anchors to true learning and understanding.  So I took a break from Driscoll's book and began to read blog posts by Bill Kerr and Karl Kapp. After reading Bill Kerr's post, "_isms as filter, not blinker" the importance of learning theories began to make sense to me.  He states, "How else could we have a big change without a theory to justify it and help us think about it?" (Kerr, 2007, pp. 2).  Learning theories are externalization of our thought process and how we learn.  We need those learning theories to justify, support, revamp, reform, and change the way we teach. For example, Kerr referenced a comment that Stephen Downs made stating that "much of the instructional design community remains rooted in behaviorism" (Kerr, 2007, pp. 5) and then goes on to make the statement that behaviorism was a theory that the majority of people had left behind decades ago (Kerr, 2007).  I had made the realization last module that the high stakes of standardized testing keeps behaviorism to be an approach that most teachers utilize, even though best practices show that there are other, more effective approaches to teaching.  Without learning theory to support what best practices are and what type of teaching is most effective, we would be blindly picking at what the best thing to do is.  Kerr and Kapp both agree that one learning theory does not completely explain every aspect and every situation in regards to how we process information.  Instead of subscribing to only one form of thought, they propose taking pieces of multiple different learning theories and "apply it effectively" (Kapp, 2007, pp. 3).  I like this idea because while I see the problems with taking solely a behaviorist approach to teaching, I also see that it has its place.  The whole concept of a grade system seems to be a behaviorist concept.  As I continue to contemplate the meaning and significance of learning theories, I am beginning to realize that "learning theory is indispensable to the curriculum reform effort" (Kerr, 2007, pp. 2). And for some additional food for thought, I came across an excellent four minute video by Dr. George Siemens as he speaks about the conflict of learning theories and human nature.


Kerr, B. (2007, January 1). _isms as filter, not blinker [Web log post]. Retrieved 

Kapp, K. (2007, January 2). Out and about: Discussion on educational schools of thought [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Comments Left at:

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Module 1: The Role of Teachers

The Changing Role of Teaching: Four Metaphors 

As technology continues to develop and evolve, it is crucial that our teaching styles and the roles we play need to develop and evolve.  In the article, Learning and Knowing in Networks: Changing roles for Educators and Designers, Siemens talks about four metaphors of teaching: educator as a master artist, educator as a network administrator, educator as a concierge, and educator as a curator (Siemens, 2008).
Using the metaphor of the educator as a master artist, than the classroom would be an art studio.  Students would be creating and working on their own pieces of art, as the educator is an observer who draws attention to innovative techniques.  The students learn from the educator's expertise as well as from their peers (Siemens, 2008).  In this metaphor, it seems to me that the students are given a lot of freedom to explore and utilize the resources available to them. I wonder about the amount of guidance the students would receive.  Would it be more limited in this metaphor in an effort to let the students explore?  I see this metaphor being more effective at the high school or college level.
With the metaphor of the educator as a network administrator, the role of the educator becomes one where the educator guides and aids students as they make connections and form learning networks.  Students spend time reflecting in where gaps in their learning networks may be and addressing them. The educator provides guidance through evaluating the quality of the learning networks (Siemens, 2008).  This metaphor of an educator is one that has a lot of value today in a world of social networking with Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Students need to learn the value of networking and that it is more than just seeing what your friends are up to and how many "likes" you can get on a status update.
Traditionally a concierge assists people by providing information and help to people. They have a lot of knowledge about a vast number of topics.  In education, the educator as a concierge, would play a similar role providing students with information and showing them things that they may not discover on their own.  In the classroom this style may include traditional lectures along with time for independent exploration (Siemens, 2008).  This concept appeals to me a lot because it incorporates aspects of teaching that I accustomed to (lecture-style) and other aspects that I value (student exploration).  When done right, I can see this being highly effective.
The metaphor that appeals to me the best, however, is the educator as a curator.  One of the main reasons being that the curator is considered an expert learner and I am one that loves to continually learn.  According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a curator is one who has the care and superintendence of something.  Siemens talks about how the educator would play dual roles in order to balance "the freedom of individual learners with the thoughtful interpretation of the subject being explored" (pg. 17).  The educator would create a learning environment where students were free to explore, create, and express their ideas, but would also receive the guidance and support needed (Siemens, 2008).  In the digital world that we are in today, educators need to be expert learners who are thirsty for new knowledge that they can share with their students.  Educators need to be flexible in the roles that they play with their students.  There are times when students need direct instruction and there are other times when students need to have the freedom to explore on their own.  If more students were given freedom in the classroom, we would be amazed with what they are able to do and create. I have a student who I found out has his own YouTube Channel where he posts videos that he makes.  He has created two different TV shows each containing several episodes.  All of this he does in his free time at home with the help of his sister who records him.  I learned for the first time this past year how to create video and use YouTube.  Students know more than we think and given the right freedom and parameters, can amaze us with what they are able to do.  High levels of learning can occur with the educator playing the role of a curator.