Tag Archives: Online Learning

Lipstick on a pig? Learning Theory and Instructional Design

Tonight I have learning theory on my mind.  In particular this involves learning theory as it is applied to instructional design.  I have just read  from Carr-Chellman (2010) that instructional design, “does work on the whole within a behavioral framework, meaning that the underlying notions of learning are those of information transmission rather than learner construction” (p.8).

This quote sits uneasily with me as I wrestle with unpacking its implications. I personally believe in the need to design learning experiences and opportunities for students that allow for co-construction of knowledge through constructivist and connectivist principles.  In this approach knowledge is co-created by students and teachers through a community of inquiry (Garrison, Anderson and Archer, 2000).  The implication is that teachers are not only content experts but, more importantly, they must help students to understand that the “capacity to know more is more critical than what is already known” (Siemens, 2005, p.4).  Knowledge is created by making connections through personal learning networks. This social constructivist or connectivist approach is somewhat counter to behaviorist learning theory that works on knowledge as directional transmission from teacher to student.

COI

My question is, how do we or even yet should we marry these approaches to learning?  Carr-Chellman stresses that instructional design can be used to, “alter the model and work a constructivist solution within the behavioral model” (p. 9).  In my current work I find teachers who are tied to behavioral learning theory find it difficult to move into constructivist and even further into social constructivist or connectivist approaches to teaching and learning.  Is this altering of behaviourism, as suggested by Carr-Chellman, the best approach or do we need to approach instructional design from a more emergent and contingent model that leaves behaviourism in the past?  I worry that this altering approach may be as Bates (2015) describes, “old wine in new bottles” (p. 145).  This is just one of many questions that I lose sleep over and have yet to find the answer to.  I cannot wait to hear your thoughts!

Reference:

Bates, A.W. (2015). Chapter 5: Chapter 4.2: Old wine in new bottles: classroom-type online learning, in Teaching in a Digital Age: Guidelines for Teaching and Learning (pp. 145-182), Contact North.

Carr-Chellman, A. (2010). Instructional design for teachers: Improving classroom practice. Florence, KY: Routledge. eISBN: 9780203847275

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105.

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: a learning theory for the digital age. Elearnspace. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm.

 

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The Future of Blended Learning is…

The future of blended learning is that it is just learning.

The future of blended learning will not confine students to one platform, LMS or digital tool.  According the George Siemens in Learning Management Systems: The wrong place to start learning, “Essentially, most LMS platforms are attempting to shape the future of learning to fit into the structure of their systems, even though most learning today is informal and connectivist in nature” (2004).  As on online teacher and online graduate student, I have been able to experience firsthand the way in which various learning management platforms shape dialogue and discussion.  It is true that the future of blended learning will be defined by “our ability to capitalize on technological developments will most assuredly be founded on our understanding of a worthwhile educational experience” (Garrision, 2008, p. 1). Ultimately learning that is placed in a real context, that encourages critical discourse and that allows for continuous reflection facilitates deep and rich learning.  Therefore it is the role of educators to access a variety digital tools in order to design learning tasks and experiences that allow for deep and rich learning to take place (Garrison & Cleveland-Innes).

Recently, at the ULead Conference, I had the opportunity to hear Abdul Chohan speak about his school Essa Academy in the UK, a school that could be considered on the forefront of the future of blended learning.  According to Bonk, Kim, & Zeng (2006) the future of all learning will be strongly influenced by mobile devices, ubiquitous access to connection, and a demand for learning at any time, any place and any pace.  At Essa Academy we are given a glimpse of this future as students access digital tools that are simple and reliable to both access content, explore ideas and to demonstrate their understanding.  The key to this approach is that the school offers students access to or allows students to bring their own devices that are mobile, not just portable.  The differentiation between mobile and portable devices is an important one.  At Essa, all students are given an iPad to be used both at school and at home.  The school uses both a flipped classroom and a blended learning approach, offering students access to their course material online at any time through iTunesU and allowing them to take their mobile devices home with them so that learning can continue beyond the school hours.  According to the department of education who audited Essa, “teachers use well students’ access to hand-held technology to promote investigative skills and to ensure that students reflect on their learning” (Ofsted).   Essa Academy offers us a glimpse into the future of learning.  When asked if he considers his school to be a blended learning school, Chohan replies that Essa is “just a school where learning happens, blended or flipped.” Garrison and Vaughan agree with Chohan that in the future “there will come a time when the blended learning distinction will dissolve as a useful label.  The reason is that all learning will be blended to some degree” (Garrision, 2008, p. 15).  I think schools like Essa Academy and many others show us that the time has come.  The future of blended learning is that it is just learning.

Reference:

Bonk, C. J., Kim, K., & Zeng, T. (2006). Future directions of blended learning in higher education and workplace learning settings. In C. J. Bonk, & C. R. Graham (Eds.), The handbook of blended learning: Global perspectives, local design (pp. 550-567). San Francisco : Pfeiffer. Available online from http://www.publicationshare.com/c083_bonk_future.pdf

Drysdale, J.S., Graham, C.R., Spring, K.J., & Halverson, L.R. (2013). An analysis of research trends in dissertations and theses studying blended learning. Internet and Higher Education. 17 (April), 90-100. PDF Format

Garrison, D.R., Cleveland-Innes, M. (2005). Facilitating Cognitive Presence in Online Learning: Interaction is Not Enough. The American Journal of Distance Education, 19(3), 133-148.

Garrison, D. R., & Vaughan, N. (2008). Chapter Eight: Future. Blended Learning in Higher Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. PDF Format

Siemens, G., (2004) The wrong place to start learning.  Available from: <http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/lms.htm [Accessed 17 July 2014]

Essa Academy:

http://www.essaacademy.org/vision-and-ethos.html

https://www.apple.com/ca/education/real-stories/essa/

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Special Education at a Distance

UDL

– Excerpts from ADLC AISI Cycle 5 Project

When teachers traditionally think about supporting our most at risk learners, those with various learning needs such as learning disabilities (LD), English language learners (ELL) and First Nation, Metis and Inuit (FNMI) students, it is unlikely that we think about teaching them at a distance.  It is true that some of the best interventions and supports that schools have for students with special learning needs involve proximity to a caring adult.  Schools often focus on providing specific, one-to-one interventions designed to close the achievement gap and promote academic growth. The traditional correspondence method of distance education may have lacked support for some of our most at risk students.  Fortunately, times have changed for the better in distance delivery and in the best interests of all unique learners.

Over 90 years ago, Alberta Education entered into a service agreement with The Alberta Distance Learning Centre to serve the distance education needs of the students and teachers of Alberta. Over the years, this service agreement has taken on many forms. However, the mandate remains the same: to provide high quality learning resources and services to the students and teachers of Alberta.  This includes students with exceptional learning needs and learning disabilities.  ADLC registers students from urban, rural, and remote community schools from across the province in facilitated or independent learning programs. ADLC students may also be homeschooled. ADLC’s students are as diverse as Alberta’s populations with various learning needs including FNMI, ELL, Children in Care, and Learning Disabilities.  When thinking about distance education as a means to meet the needs of learning disabled students, it is important to examine four core factors: the universality of online course offerings; the ability to differentiate instruction; flexibility in time, pace and place; and online supports for skills remediation including specialized online courses.

Universally Designed Online Courses

UDL

Over the past ten years, many students accessing distance learning resources have made a shift from traditional print correspondence to online learning. As a result, the opportunities for creating universally designed, online learning resources increased. This became the mission of ADLC; to design courses and learning opportunities that are universal (providing access to all learners) and that engage students in authentic learning experiences. Many students have difficulty understanding concepts that are presented primarily in text and may benefit by online course materials that consider different learners, using the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles. Visual and auditory supports implemented in the ADLC online courses aim to provide students with opportunities to learn using lesson materials incorporating audio, video, imagines and text-to-speech software. As well, an additional UDL strategy of providing students with options to express their understanding from various alternative assessments in a benchmark of all new ADLC courses.  By implementing UDL, instructional materials and processes ADLC courses and resources are designed to allow students with diverse needs to engage, interact, and learn from them (Abell, Jung, and Taylor, 2009).  The UDL learning principles frame ADLC course design by providing choice of alternative assessments and assistive technologies, such as video and text-to-speech software, in online courses for all learners. “The UDL perspective looks to create flexible instruction, engagement, and assessment options that reduce barriers at the outset of the learning process” (Messinger-Willman and Marino, 2010, p. 9).

Differentiation of Instruction

Differentiated instruction essentially is the understanding of the learning needs of our students and differentiating content and process to support those needs. To differentiate, teachers must be able to pick and choose from a myriad of tools to support student learning.   Alberta Distance Learning Centre resources provide classroom teachers with supports to meet the needs of their diverse learners. Teachers have the ability to make strategic choices as to how content will be delivered, what process students will come to understand and make sense of this content, and how the students will be required to show what they know (Tomlinson, 2003, 2005, 2012; Turville, 2008, Strickland, 2009).  Teachers can differentiate ADLC content and assessments that are already created to curriculum standards and with UDL principles in mind.  ADLC course content also contains assistive technology such as; engaging videos that have both captioning and transcripts, font can be easily changed and enlarged, audio and text-to-speech tools. Most importantly, the content and assessment can be self-paced to go as fast as students can but as slow as they must. This is the essence of differentiation. Teachers and students working with ADLC resources do not have to proceed in a lock step, group fashion. There are multiple entry points for students to receive the appropriate pacing and interventions required to promote learning.  ADLC course materials support differentiated instruction and personalized learning.

 teacher

Flexibility in Time, Pace and Place

Many of our most at risk learners seek to be at a distance: at a distance from peers who may not accept their differences, at a distance from teachers who are overwhelmed by the demands of our classrooms, and at a distance from those very supports that schools work so diligently to provide.  Many students in distance education programs self-identify as having a learning disability.  As students become aware that the ways in which they learn may be different or unique to their peers, many students realize that they need flexibility in time, pace and place in order to effectively learn.  In our busy, full classrooms, providing this flexibility is difficult.  Students come to the Alberta Distance Learning Centre in order to meet their learning needs.  Whether it is to upgrade or accelerate, to access courses that are not offered by their community schools, or to allow for flexibility in schedules, ADLC provides students with the access they need.  Students who choose to take ADLC courses benefit from student-centred programs and customized instruction to meet their individual needs, where learning can happen at any time, at any place, and at any pace.

student

Skills Remediation

As the composition of our classrooms change, to become more and more diverse with students not only with unique learning needs but also with English language gaps, ADLC provides options for skill remediation at a student’s own pace.  Many of these tools can be used either inside or out outside of a normal day of instruction.  Alberta Distance Learning Centre provides options for teachers, parents and students to remediate these skills at a distance.  Programs like Imagine Learning (for English Language Learners) and Successmaker (for skill development in numeracy and literacy) provide remediation in a way that supports both teachers and learners.

Alberta Distance Learning Centre offers Imagine Learning, an interactive ELL resource designed to teach English and develop language and literacy skills using an engaging and effective online software program.  With Imagine Learning, students complete activities focusing on phonological awareness, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. This adaptive program provides over 2500 engaging activities.  Ongoing assessments are provided throughout the program and can be printed for parents in the student’s first language.  Strategic first language support is also available to students within the program, with an option of fourteen languages.

SuccessMaker® is another interactive tutorial software used in over 20,000 schools throughout Canada, USA, Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand. The program presents new skills and concepts in small chunks that help build student confidence. Consisting of sophisticated multimedia mathematics and reading courses delivered through an online management system, SuccessMaker®: enhances math skills, develops elementary math concepts, and increases reading skills.  With Successmaker, each student receives an individualized program monitored by a supervising teacher as well as monthly reports that outline progress and changes made to accommodate the needs of each student.

Conclusion  

Implementing Universal Design for learning principles and strategies can make educational environments and materials naturally and seamlessly functional for learners with diverse needs by guiding the selection of flexible, usable, and accessible tools, materials, and surroundings, and the development of learner-centred collaborative and interactive curriculum (Curry, Cohen, and Lightbody, 2006). “By offering UDL-aligned instructional approaches and curriculum materials,… students might begin to show more interest and engage more fully with curriculum materials that are relevant and comprehensible given their own learning style, ability, and interests (Abell, Jung, and Taylor, 2009, p. 182). However, Edyburn (2010) asserts that to understand and meet the special instructional needs of all individuals, researchers and teachers must continue to “seek to understand the impact of various instructional designs on the success of diverse learners” (p. 36).  ADLC strives to determine and evaluate UDL instructional processes that increase student learning and performance through sustained engagement and development of expertise (Edyburn).

Resources

Abell, M., Jung, E., & Taylor, M. (2009). Students’ perceptions of classroom instructional

environments in the context of ‘Universal Design for Learning’. Learning Environments

Research, 14(2), 171-185. Retrieved March 23, 2012 from Eric Database.

Bennett, S. (2009). Including students with exceptionalities.(What Works? Research into

Practice: Research Monograph #16). The Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat, Ontario:

Ministry of Education. Retrieved March 9, 2012 from

http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/literacynumeracy/inspire/research/Bennett.pdf .

Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST). (2011). Universal design for learning

guidelines version 2.0. Wakefield, MA: Author. Retrieved February 17, 2012 from

http://www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/udlguidelines/downloads .

Chen, M. (2009). Influence of grade level on perceptual learning style preferences and

language learning strategies of Taiwanese English as a foreign language learners.

Learning and Individual Difference, 19, 304-305. Retrieved March 8, 2012 from ERIC

database.

Curry, C., Cohen, L., & Lightbody, N. (2006). Universal design for science learning. The

Science Teacher, 73(3), 32-37. Retrieved February 17, 2012, from ERIC database.

Resources

Abell, M., Jung, E., & Taylor, M. (2009). Students’ perceptions of classroom instructional

environments in the context of ‘Universal Design for Learning’. Learning Environments

Research, 14(2), 171-185. Retrieved March 23, 2012 from Eric Database.

Bennett, S. (2009). Including students with exceptionalities.(What Works? Research into

Practice: Research Monograph #16). The Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat, Ontario:

Ministry of Education. Retrieved March 9, 2012 from

http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/literacynumeracy/inspire/research/Bennett.pdf .

Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST). (2011). Universal design for learning

guidelines version 2.0. Wakefield, MA: Author. Retrieved February 17, 2012 from

http://www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/udlguidelines/downloads .

Chen, M. (2009). Influence of grade level on perceptual learning style preferences and

language learning strategies of Taiwanese English as a foreign language learners.

Learning and Individual Difference, 19, 304-305. Retrieved March 8, 2012 from ERIC

database.

Curry, C., Cohen, L., & Lightbody, N. (2006). Universal design for science learning. The

Science Teacher, 73(3), 32-37. Retrieved February 17, 2012, from ERIC database.

Toulouse, P. (2008). Integrating aboriginal teaching and values into the classroom.

(What Works? Research into Practice: Research Monograph #11). The Literacy and

Numeracy Secretariat, Ontario: Ministry of Education. Retrieved March 9, 2012 from

http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/literacynumeracy/inspire/research/Toulouse.pdf .

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