As I mentioned in my last blog post, I have great flexibility in my course design. I’ve been taking advantage of that by incorporating aspects educational learning theories during my current teaching semester. When it comes to teaching about computers and technology, I know a lot. I’ve been working in the computer technology field since the 1970s and have witnessed firsthand the digital revolution. That being said, I’m modest enough to know that there are plenty of things I don’t know. I’m always open to suggestions and willing to try new things in my classroom. I like putting good ideas into practice and I’ve been doing that for the past few months. The more I do it, the more I realize that there isn’t one theory that works in all situations. My goal to be aware of learning theories, apply them, evaluate what works, make changes and re-evaluate. I see this as a process of continuous improvement. The right approach is a mix of my teaching style, the student aptitude and the material itself.
The readings and activities for module 4 were about connectivism and emerging theories. These have a common theme of student-centered learning environments. Connectivism shows how the three broad learning theories of behaviorism, cognitivism and constructivism move into the digital age (Siemens). In connectivism, the learner has more control over the experience, gets information from multiple nodes of information sources and needs the ability to see connections between these nodes (Siemens). But is this a new learning theory or one that just ties together the big three (Kop & Hill)? Connectivism puts the learner at the center where they direct their own learning and create knowledge by engaging in networks (Kop & Hill).
My classroom has become a laboratory for me to experiment with learning theories. I’m trying new things on a small scale by incorporating new activities into my existing curriculum. This week, I designed a jigsaw learning activity to bring in elements of connectivism. I re-wrote an assignment previously given as individual homework and made it a jigsaw team activity. The assignment is for my Web Design class where students are to build a 3-page web site from general specifications.
For my re-design, I split the class into four teams of three people. The specifications were changed to encourage connections to multiple learning resources. Two of the four teams were given more detailed written project specifications and specific team member assignments. I wanted to see how that would make a difference. It did. Both of these teams completed the project faster than the other two teams. The work for all four teams was good; I didn’t see a significant difference in the quality of the final product.
My purpose in creating two sets of specifications was to see how group dynamics affect people working together on a jigsaw activity. In my experiment, the teams given specific tasks within the assignment did the job faster. The other teams took more time figuring out what each member of the team was going to do. That is not necessarily bad; it just took a little longer. I draw a parallel to our EdTech Jigsaw discussion forum for module 4. As individuals, my Jigsaw team members each posted a key chapter point. One group member took the imitative and tied our thoughts together in a summary. On the due date, no one had stepped up to create a final summary and submit it for the group. So I did it. We really didn’t have much of a discussion between ourselves of our roles in the process. It wasn’t defined for us; we had to figure it out for ourselves. And we eventually did.
In my classroom experiment, two teams took longer because they first negotiated individual roles. I don’t know if this created a better learning environment for them or not. I’d like to repeat my activity and come up with a way of measuring the learning. I’m curious to see if a more or less directed jigsaw activity enhances learning.
Kop, R., & Hill, A. 2008. Connectivism: Learning theory of the future or vestige of the past? The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 9(3). Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.ph…w/523/1137
Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A theory for the digital age. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm
– Instructional Strategies Online