On Being Wrong

On Being Wrong:

We’ve been talking for the last week or so about learning from mistakes.

Maybe the first step is to, as Schulz says, “Step outside that tiny, terrified space of rightness and look around at each other.. and look out at the vastness and complexity and mystery of the universe and be able to say wow, i don’t know.  Maybe I’m wrong.”

I’ve Never Believed in Learning Styles

One of the discussion forums in my 3250 class has been devoted to learning styles… visual learners, tactile learners, auditory learners; what am I?

Sometimes I am one of them, sometimes I am all of them… mostly I think I am none of them.

Back when I was a student at SFU, I took a cognitive psychology class with Dr Bruce Whittlesea (Memory and Mind).  What I learned in that class, I’m now realizing, has helped to shape some of my beliefs in regards to learning.

Dr Whittlesea introduced us to the levels of processing theory of memory; essentially, if you process information at a deeper level, you are more likely to remember it.  Check this article out for a pretty solid summary:

Levels of Processing

How does this relate to education, and to my opinions on learning styles?  Well, if you think that the levels of processing theory makes sense, then trying to teach by putting information out into the classroom and hoping that students absorb it doesn’t.  Mode of presentation doesn’t matter so much as how deeply students work with the information.  Leaning on learning styles and teaching to them simply keeps us stuck in a world where the teacher is the holder of information, and the only way to take the learner into account is to alter the way information is presented.

I would actually argue that if a learner has a certain preference around how information is presented, maybe we should present it the opposite way and teach them how to take that information and then process it through their preference.  For example, I like diagrams.  I always want information in a diagram, but I understand content best when I draw the diagram myself – not when it’s presented to me.  So if you have a student that likes information presented visually, why not present it textually and get them to draw a picture of the information’s meaning?  That way you are acknowledging their preferences, but still getting them to work with or process the content at a deeper level.

How does that sound?

And if you like videos or Tedx talks… I agree with this one:

Learning Styles and the Importance of Critical Self reflection

Worth it!

So I seem to have come to a point in my life where I am doing more work than I need to.  By choice.  Occasionally for fun.  What. Is. Happening.

Of course this isn’t in every area of my life; in fact it seems to be only in relation to my PIDP classes, or maybe to my learning in general.  I am seeking out processes and resources that will likely add work, but will also increase my learning.

The first time I really noticed that this was happening was when I came across this lovely resource:

Using the Reader’s Guide to Increase Reading Compliance and Metacognitive Awareness

We had been discussing challenges around doing assigned readings – challenges of our own, as well as challenges faced when trying to get students to do readings as well.  I’m currently working on PIDP 3250 (Instructional Strategies), and a major part of this course (the online version) is an online discussion forum.

So anyway, we’d been talking about assigned readings.  As a student I’ve always struggled with readings, even though I love reading for pleasure.  I’ve always just forced myself to do them, as long as there was an assignment or exam connected to it.  Otherwise I skipped it.

Then I found this resource.  What a great guide!  It gives students clear steps and activities to follow when they are doing an assigned reading – activities that will build understanding and metacognitive skills, as well!

What’s weird to me about my excitement around finding this guide is that… I can’t wait to use it as a student!  I know that it will increase the work I need to do when completing an assigned reading but I actually think it is worth it.  What’s happening??  I am simply becoming a more self directed student in general?

And how can I use this as a facilitator?  Can I help them get to this place as a learner, as well?  I can’t wait to find out!

Learning How I Learn

So as I am now nearly halfway through the PIDP program at VCC, perhaps it’s time for another post!  I really can’t believe how much I have learned so far, and how much I now question because of this program.

As part of Media Enhanced Learning, we are required to engage in an online forum discussion (my nightmare, but, you know, I get it).  Someone started a discussion about laptops in the class, and most people agreed that it was distracting for students and teacher alike.

So I had to disagree.

I have always struggled to maintain my attention and focus in any situation where I have to sit still and listen.  I hate long meetings, used to fall asleep during any video presentations in classes, and simply wouldn’t go to lectures if I’d determined that I could get the same content out of the text on my own time.  I loved my chemistry teacher in high school because he would let me colour during class (like, I actually brought a colouring book and pencil crayons to class).  I contributed during discussions, helped other students, and had the highest grade in the class.  But while he was talking, I was colouring.

One thing that I’ve realized over time is that I work better when a little bit distracted.  What I used to do out of desperation to keep myself awake during class, I now do on purpose to help myself listen or learn.  In meetings at work I doodle:

http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1882127,00.html

http://nypost.com/2014/02/22/why-doodling-is-a-habit-you-dont-need-to-break/

When I’m working on administrative tasks at work, or a reflection (or this very discussion post) at home,  I listen to:

https://coffitivity.com/#research

My personal feelings on laptops/smartphones in the classroom is that – if people are facebooking or texting or whatever, it could be that they are just taking a short and necessary mental break or they are providing themselves with a distraction that actually helps them.

Or, maybe they are bored.  And isn’t chronic boredom in class a symptom of a bigger, but fixable problem?  On the flip side of classes that I fell asleep in, there were classes that I wouldn’t miss, that I loved so much – there was even one that I used to make sure I attended the lecture, and then I would listen to it again later on my ipod!  I think that if we do our best to create lessons that are genuinely engaging, issues with technology being distracting will be minimal.

I tried to find research that might explore whether the benefits of doodling might extend to other types of distractions in the classroom but couldn’t find anything.  Maybe I’ll go back to school and run that study.  But I did find this little blog post that I enjoyed (read all the comments too – what a battle of opinions, it’s really interesting to see all viewpoints!):

http://elearnmag.acm.org/archive.cfm?aid=1925038

This is one of the wonderful side effects of being in this program – I am learning how I best learn.  Now please, everyone – speak up, talk among yourselves… I have a paper to write.