Wiki task 3: What theories and literature exist that explain, predict, and/or guide the development and use of TELEs?

I need structure. I also mentioned it to Meri during a skype call. It approaches autism. Whether I teach a class, present stuff or learn: I need to structure things. My performances are also strongly determined by the amount of arousal (Yerkes and Dodson, 1908). The fact I’m INTJ (Introvert – iNtuition – Thinking – Judging) in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (Myers, 1962) reveals I plan work to avoid rushing just before a deadline. Before studying TELEs, I need to bring some structure in the concept op “learning”, so I’ll take off from the starting point of “what is learning” and pedagogy, the different learning theories and the question “Does technology enhance learning?” before studying TELEs.

1/ Learning

During our first session, Guy mentioned very quick ”Incidental learning“. In fact, there are two kinds of learning: task-conscious or acquisition learning  and learning-conscious or formalized learning (Alan Rogers, 2003).  Task-consious learning is not being conscious of learning. It would contain in my case parenting, social media, activities, gamification. To me it is also pragmatism, which increases with age. On the other hand learning-conscious covers the regular education system. A tele takes part in both kinds of learning. With Gees (Gee, 2003) principles it might be directed to task-conscious – having fun while learning but not being aware of it – learning.

Säljö (1979) abstracted 5 kinds of learning:

  1. Learning as a quantitative increase in knowledge. Learning is acquiring information or ‘knowing a lot’.
  2. Learning as memorising. Learning is storing information that can be reproduced.
  3. Learning as acquiring facts, skills, and methods that can be retained and used as necessary.
  4. Learning as making sense or abstracting meaning. Learning involves relating parts of the subject matter to each other and to the real world.
  5. Learning as interpreting and understanding reality in a different way. Learning involves comprehending the world by reinterpreting knowledge.

The first three kinds imply a less complex view of learning. The fourth and fifth look to the personal aspect of learning. Implementing all five kinds of learning in a TELE will be a challenge (and might be impossible). The combination of asynchronous (course ware, tutorials, screencasts, etc) and synchronous (distance learning, f2f) is mandatory to cover many aspects.


2/ Learning theories

Hung (2001) states that there are four manor models of learning: behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism and social constructivism.

Some resources also mention design based, humanism (May et al 1984) and connectivism.

Behaviorism (stimulus and response)

Behaviorists claim that it is the observable behavior that indicates whether or not the learner has learned something, and not what is going on in the learner’s head.

 Cognitivism (information transmission and processing)

Cognitivists claims that learning involves the use of memory, motivation,  thinking and that reflection plays an important part in learning. Learning in that context is an internal process.

Hollan et al responded to this with their Distributed Cognition Theory. “Unlike traditional theories, however, it extends the reach of what is considered cognitive beyond the individual to encompass interactions between people and with resources and materials in the environment.” (Hollan et al, 2000).

 (social) Constructivism (personal discovery of knowledge)

Theorists claim that learners interpret information and the world according to their personal reality, and that they learn by observation, processing, and interpretation, and then personalize the information into personal knowledge (Cooper, 1993; Wilson, 1997).

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Figure 1 – Hung (2001)

Combined with Connectivism, which I studied in IC1, this leads to an interesting diagram which shows 4 perspectives on learning:



When the behaviorist, cognitivist, and constructivist schools of thought are analyzed closely, many overlaps in the ideas and principles become apparent. The design of online learning materials can include principles from all three. According to Ertmer and Newby (1993), the three schools of thought can in fact be used as a taxonomy for learning. Behaviorists’ strategies can be used to teach the “what” (facts), cognitive strategies can be used to teach the “how” (processes and principles), and constructivist strategies can be used to teach the “why” (higher level thinking that promotes personal meaning and situated and contextual learning). To me a combination of different learning theories is key.


3/ Technology Enhanced Learning

Is it the use of a particular delivery technology or the design of the instruction that improves learning (Clark, 2001; Kozma, 2001)? In an interesting debate claims Clark (1983) that technologies are merely vehicles that deliver instruction, but do not themselves influence student achievement. As Clark notes, meta-analysis studies on media research have shown that students gain significant learning benefits when learning from audio-visual or computer media, as opposed to conventional instruction;however, the same studies suggest that the reason for those benefits is not the medium of instruction, but the instructional strategies built into the learning materials.

Similarly, Schramm (1977) suggested that learning is influenced more by the content and instructional strategy in the learning materials than by the type of technology used to deliver instruction.

These resources give better insight into the use en development of courseware and TELEs.

4/ Critical Readings

During TEL2 we were confronted to four critical readings. These readings gave good insight, frameworks and theories useful to the search to, usage and development of TELEs.

James Paul GEE (2003): Learning by Design: good video games as learning machines

As mentioned in this post, Gee starts from the point of view “How do good game designers manage to get new players to learn difficult games”. It’s not about implementing games in the classroom (gamification) – although that can also have its positive effects – it’s about implementing the principles of video games into the learning proces which motivate learners.

An overview of Gee’s principles in this post. These can be implemented in TELE’s and into courseware.

Some examples:

  • Customize: the learning can be offered different choices: learn by written courseware, by screencasts and can be offered extra references.
  • Manipulation and distributed knowledge: by doing the right settings in Moodle, students will have access to new chapters after handing in assignments.
  • Pleasantly frustrating and Cycles of expertise: this comes in a natural way. In the curiculum, the examples and excercises become automatically more difficult. Previous items will be return in the new ones.
  • Sandboxes: sandboxes are literally built-in in Moodle. Students can hand in exercises and re-hand in new versions.

Jean LAVE (1996): Teaching, as learning, in practice

Lave’s Social Practice Theory is a basis for analyzing learning in different context. She advocates a social theory rather than a psychological one. With 2 cases of apprenticeship, she highlights the importance of learning as a part of practice.
Read more.

Her quote “teaching is neither necessary nor sufficient to produce learning” was an eyeopener. Indeed, many research has been done on teaching, instead of learning. It brought me to the idea that the goal of any instructional system is to promote learning. This paper will help one to think on the pedagogical values of a TELE.

Bruno LATOUR (1988): Mixing Humans and Nonhumans Together: The Sociology of the Door-Closer

Latour mixes humans and nonhumans in his Actor Network Theory and let them interact with each other. The ANT can be an extremely effective tool for describing the processes in TELEs and thus can be at use to find or develop a good TELE.
Read more.

I made the exercise by pouring the data of our TELE webex into ANT. It can be interesting to do this exercise while using the system, but can be very important before implementing the TELE.

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James HOLLAN and co: Distributed Cognition: Toward a New Foundation for Human – Computer interaction Research

Cognitions isn’t limited to be happening inside humans. It also happens outside humans. The Distributed Cognition Theory describes that “cognitive activity is constructed from both internal and external resources, and that the meanings of actions are grounded in the context of activity”. “well-designed work materials become integrated into the way people think, see, and control activities, part of the distributed system of cognitive control”. Hollan et al argue that the theory of distributed cognition provides an effective theoretical foundation for understanding human-computer interaction and a fertile framework for designing and evaluating digital artifacts. Read more

This paper had great values. It helped me to see limitations of cognitivism but the different cases (beyond direct manipulation, history-enriched digital objects, etc) were great and could be directly related to my workplace. They also give good ideas for developing TELEs and courseware. By understanding the interaction between students and TELE, I got better insight. Last but not least, I was glad to be introduced into the concept of ethnographic observation and controlled experimentation. As Dave mentioned during our collaboration, technology (smartphones and social media) can stimulate students to learn. TELEs can have the same function.


Remarks and questions

Clark’s remark gave me the idea to start listening to papers by iPhone. After installing an app on iPhone which reads out PDF files and connecting it by USB to my car, I can save time (4×20 minutes a day) and start m-learning.

During the last ten years I tried to do as much on my computer. I try to read, write and save in a digital nature. Mobile devices facilitated this proces. I also try to stimulate my students to do things digital by offering them digital courseware, exercises, etc. instead of paper versions. There is just one problem: it’s difficult to keep a good overview. Different places (school, home), devices (laptop, smartphone, tablet and desktop) and storage (hard disk, memory sticks, dvd, cloud) make it different to find back documents. But Hollan et al (2000) gave me better insight by the lack of the possibility to use space. There is no possibility to pile documents on your desk.

Some anecdote: while I was researching learning theories, I stumbled upon a relevant paper from Schreurs (2009) at  http://www.editlib.org/p/44824/, a professor for whom a designed a website and also the boss of my wife.

I wonder whether references can be outdated because the rise of new technologies.


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