In different environments, as an instructor sometimes different learning theories apply. However, I lean toward “Constructivist” theory because it actively involves me as a facilitator and not an authority of knowledge. This theory also involves interaction activities and is “student-centered” resulting in outcomes based learning.
The Army training command (TRADOC) teaches with this same theory and also uses it throughout the United States at land grant ROTC colleges. A focus that requires student-centered objectives and conscious attention to how students react to the lessons taught. In an article about West Point the student-centered method is defined and supports my vision as an instructor. “We seek to add texture to the movement towards active learning, though opting for a slightly different terminology. In a “student-centered” approach to education, the student is at the center of attention while in the more traditional or “teacher-centered” model, the teacher is the focus” (Catalano & Catalano, 1999, p. 59).
The Army, as a whole, teaches with the foresight of both skills and ethics, depending on the individual soldier to foster in his/her own morals system. Army training is delivered, but not limited to reading assignments, lectures, or slide presentations. Active, student-centered learning, in contrast, is founded on the belief that interaction is central to the learning process. The student-centered approach spotlight:
- Readiness for and openness to the experience
- The experience itself
- Reflection upon the experience
- Analysis, application of theory, or additional explanation of information to clarify the relationship between theory and actions, with an understanding of lessons learning regarding needed changes
- The opportunity to re-experience (practice in new situations/practical exercises)
The “Constructivist” theory can lack structure if the course is not developed. Students can fall behind especially if they are unable to make a connection with the knowledge the process and their newly acquired knowledge. In reflection the importance is on the spotlights above and the instructor evaluating the process of learning with an evaluation or “check-on learning” both as this process is taught and the lesson is complete.
Two technologies that support my vision of learning and teaching (“Constructivist” theory) are augmented reality and game-based learning. With access to the internet augmented reality for the Army is provided with Virtual Experience Immersive Learning Simulation (VEILS), a new media technology and methodology for creating computer-based interactive movie virtual experiences that combine education, training and entertainment. In this virtual experience, cadets are challenged with real-life decisions, taking real-life risks and experienced the real-life consequences in the safety of cyberspace at the interactive website http://willinteractive.com.
Game base learning is taught from the beginning stages of joining the Army in recruiting stations with the video game American’s Army. “Soldiers at Fort Sam Houston and surrounding units are using the software at the Battle Simulation Center to help execute Warrior Task and Battle Drills” (Mendoza, 2008).
Formal learning is easily recognized as any scheduled, structured, or organized event. It is designed to achieve knowledge on specific learning tasks.
Informal learning is individualized, personal and contextual learning usually done outside of a structured learning environment. The learning is flexible and focuses on what an individual wants to learn thus the motivation to learn. In informal learning the goal is to gain certain knowledge on specific tasks as well. It all just depends on who is setting the goals and objectives.
Professors at the University of Calgary Selman, Cooke, Selman, and Dampier described what they call non-formal learning as “comprise all other organized, systematic educational activity which is carried out in society, whether offered by educational institutions or any other agency. It is aimed at facilitating selected types of learning on the part of particular sub-groups of the population” (as cited in Schwier, 2010, p. 90).
Informal learning is already included in many of today’s formal learning schedules. What drives this informal learning is the array of mobile learning tools available to students. The Internet alone extends information and is available on demand. Social interactions through weblogs, wikis, and twitter also extend the learning experiences. Peer-to-peer interaction helps give better understanding to what is being learned in the classroom. Learning happens anywhere and anytime.
I hope to take advantage of web 2.0 technologies to create communities of informal learning environments. This nurtures places where students can congregate and continue to learn from each other.
Formal learning is important as a foundation for learning and should not be replaced but rather supplemented by informal learning. Children still need structure and help in dealing with arising conflicts and without foundations we can’t support our walls of knowledge.
CoP’s and PLCs are communities created for people of similar interests to share ideas and provide peer feedback. In these communities these people are able to learn from each other as they examine day-to-day practices.
Communities of Practice allow students the opportunities to demonstrate their levels of understanding. When students really understand what they are learning they are then able to apply knowledge gained in a variety of contexts. Communities should be focused on student learning rather than just the teacher passing down facts. Students who are active in their learning become responsible for their own learning and retain more.
The Professional Learning Communities, if focused on student learning, can improve teaching practices. These communities give teachers a sense of belonging by giving them the power to take charge of and change curriculum to meet the needs of the students. There is collaboration where teachers can observe each other in the classrooms and generate ideas to help in problematic areas. PLCs also provide continuous learning for teachers. “PLC teams should view assessment data as a resource that allows them to intervene with a student who doesn’t get the material as soon as the problem starts. This shift from remediation to intervention is instrumental to a PLC’s success” (Adams, 2009).
Technology allows students and teachers to learn from people any time, anywhere. It gives students the opportunity to further their knowledge on most any subject they find of interest and do so at their own pace. “Social networking technology also presents the opportunity for learners to reflect on their ideas, organize resources, provide evaluative feedback to others, and build communities of knowledge. Our collaborative development of this paper in a wiki is an example of social networking that facilitates metacognitive development” (Gunawardena, Hermans, Sanchez, Richmond, Bohley, & Tuttle, 2009 pg. 11).
The only thing I could think of where technology may detract from CoPs and PLCs would be having teachers who lack sufficient training in using technology tools. I’ve known teachers who have refused to use the tools provided them simply because they don’t know how to use them. If teachers cannot use them effectively they can’t implement them for many of the activities for their students.
Adams, C. (2009). The power of collaboration. Instructor, 1(119), 28-31. http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=44074095&site=ehost-live
Catalano, G. & Catalano K. (1999). Transformation: From Teacher-Centered to Student-
Centered Engineering Education, Journal of Engineering Education, 59-64.
Gunawardena, C. N., Hermans, M. B., Sanchez, D., Richmond, C., Bohley, M., & Tuttle, R. (2009). A theoretical framework for building online communities of practice with social networking tools. Educational Media International, 46(1), 3-16. doi: 10.1080/09523980802588626
Mendoza, O. (2008). Virtual reality prepares soldiers for battle. Retrieved from http://www.samhouston.army.mil/pao/pdf/02_28_08.pdf
Schwier, R. (2010). Focusing educational technology research on informal learning environments. Contemporary Educational Technology, 1(1), 90-92.