Fitting the Pieces Together
This week, we were tasked with going back to our first discussion post for EDUC 6115 (which I have linked here). Frankly, it was a bit embarrassing going back and rereading my post as at the time I felt confident in my understanding of my learning (“I understand my mind”, cue cringe), I now realise I was grasping at straws to put into words what I now appreciate is the complex process that is learning. I am thankful to our course for broadening my understanding, and, dare I say, shifting up my zone of proximal development.
Although I would not ay this course has changed my ties on how I personally learn, it has been humbling to come to the realisation learning trajectory is not an outlier, but rather, I am a pretty standard adult learner. I began my post explaining my “desire to try new things”; in fact, all adult learners are continually pursuing in their learning, most often outside of formal learning institutions and usually according to subjects immediately applicable to each specific learner (Foley, 2004). Most of my interests are geared towards helping me fit in more socially (salsa, language learning, fitness), which are important in helping me maintain personal and professional networks. I focused on my “hands on” experiences as experiential learning is one of the four main categories of adult learning (Conlan, 2003). Self-directed learning is another category, and I think can be captured in the attention I paid towards my anxieties and feelings towards learning in my initial post. Whether I was swimming alone on a deserted beach or dancing with my classmates, I took control of my learning and drove it towards the learning outcomes I sought to master.
In reviewing my post, I now appreciate how the various learning theories interact with one another; they are not hometown football teams one must zealously attach oneself to and cheer for, but are rather more like a symphony, which each theory complimenting the other. Cognitivism tells us each learning is unique to each learner, and when I said “learners come to [the] lesson with different experiences and opinions”, I should have said our prior knowledge is remixed, allowing us to construct upon existing schema and build out our multiple intelligences. My frustration towards failing to complete a three-quarter point turn is rather, as the social learning theorists would say, my performance of a “reflective abstraction” where I considered my flaws and retuned my thinking (Brooks, 1999). Señor Kevin was not a passive observer, but an active educator attempting to model proper dancer etiquette and behaviour when faced with a dilemma common to most students.
Finally, from connectivism I have gained a newfound respect for technology. Technology is notably absent from my initial post. I suppose at the time, I viewed it as a tool. Yes, I used my smartphone to search for the cheapest deals on plane tickets or to asks friends’ opinions on local swim teachers, but still, technology is just a tool—the real learning took place after I got off the plane or arrived at the gymnasium, no? Well, no. Technology allows me to “cross-pollinat[e my] learning environment”, access new knowledge, and build out and benefit from my networks (Davis, 2008). In looking up cheap tickets, I became aware of general trends in travel (or the lack thereof in Covid times, alas, an all too-real example of the half-life of knowledge), and gained insight from other learners’ experiences. Speaking of experiences, connectivism offers insight into my mad-dash to try new things; in connectivism, we assume learners thirst for new experiences, but as one learner cannot feasibly try everything, technology allows us an avenue to gain experience from others, and learn accordingly from the networks around us.
Perhaps you, too, dear blog reader, are also experiencing some connectivist, second-hand learning? If you are, please learn from my experience, you do not have to utter the words “I understand my mind” (sigh, cringe) in order to appreciate the wonderful—if occasionally contradictory—gift that is our brain and (multiple) intelligence(s). We are the black-boxes and the super computers; we are both the centre of our learning and but one cog in a network; we are products of and the influencers on our environment. We are learners.
Brooks, J., & Brooks, M. (1999). In search of understanding: The case for constructivist classrooms. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Conlan, J., Grabowiski, S., & Smith, K. (2003). Adult learning. In. M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from http://textbookequity.org/Textbooks/Orey_Emergin_Perspectives_Learning.pdf
Foley, G. (Ed.). (2004). Dimensions of adult learning: Adult education and training in a global era. McGraw-Hill Education.