Monday, 25 February 2013

Learning Then and Now

I am a digital immigrant. So says Mark Prensky, internationally acclaimed educator, innovator and all around technology gaming guru.  The phrase “digital immigrant” first appeared in Prensky’s 2001 article “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants.” It refers to those of us who were born before the Internet and cell phone became commonplace.

So how did I learn? Throughout high school and two different rounds of undergrad training in the 80’s and 90’s my formal learning activities included listening, reading, completing assignments and doing tests as most of us digital immigrants did back then. Given that one of my focus areas was in Library Science (as it was called then) I was exposed to Cognitivist learning strategies such as rehearsing,  summarising, outlining, elaborating, etc. all under the guise of library skills. These skills did not transfer to my other areas because I could manage very well without them at that time. I am fairly good at listening to what professors or lecturers have to say, packaging it neatly into well-thought out sentences and regurgitating it on tests. This has worked well for me until now.

Let’s fast forward to today, the 21st century. What! I actually need to think about concepts, discuss them with other students and come up with my own ideas? Oh no! Yes. I do need to survive in this era.

I should say in all fairness to my former lecturers, some of whom I still maintain warm relationships with, that there were opportunities for Constructivist learning. I could, and did opt for an internship to complete my first degree and learned by observing and imitating others who were more knowledgeable in that area than I was. The internship was also an opportunity to practise the book learning in a realistic setting, solving problems in real time.

How am I learning today? I am currently enrolled in an online master’s degree programme. The very nature of such a programme means that Malcolm Knowles’ adult learning theory, Andragogy, which speaks to the self-directed, intrinsically-motivated nature of adult learning applies to me. I am selecting what to learn because as an adult I have evaluated my situation and interests to determine what additional skills I need as I strive for self-actualisation.

George Siemens theory of Connectivism which notes that today’s learner does not learn primarily from formal structured environments but from a network of connections also applies to me. Through connections via various technological tools I am able to collaborate with others to create products, e.g., presentations; glean and share useful information and tips, store and retrieve research articles and create personal artefacts to aid in retention, e.g. matrices and mind maps.

On my journey through learning theories over the last few weeks I have been reflecting on not only how to use the concepts learned but how they apply to me. Of all the things learned the most important for me so far has been recognizing and working on the affective areas of learning which include developing positive attitudes, instituting better time-management practices and creating a learning-friendly environment.  It is evident that incorporating these strategies will enhance my ability to learn.

The Clinical Educator's Resource Kit (Andragogy)   

Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age

George Siemens, December 12, 2004

Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants

© 2001 Marc Prensky

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