Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Psychology of Learning Environments

Nowadays there are many devices that can deviate students’ “attended input” from the teacher to any of the features on their computers such as instant message, e-mail, videos, etc. The answer to this situation can be found on this phrase that caught my attention from chapter 6, “If anything, these students may find themselves distracted by the instructor”. Why can’t the instructor become the primary target of their attention then? To do this teachers have to design classes in which they really have to use technology for meaningful purposes related to the subject matter; something in which students really find a practical use. Otherwise they will keep on putting the instructor as the “unattended input”. I have experienced this for example, when I have had the chance to take my little students to the computers classroom. I must make sure that they understand what they have to do before hand; because once they start working with the computers it is almost impossible to have the whole group’s attention back to give further explanations or instructions.

Consequently, those technological devices do not match with the traditional classroom where the teachers transmit knowledge and the students receive it.
Today students can have access to any kind of information in a better format that the one employed by the teacher in the classroom. Therefore, the classroom should become a place where interaction is promoted at all times, where cooperative work is a common strategy, where students contribute to the construction of knowledge through critical thinking; all of this achieved through the use of technology for meaningful purposes with practical outcomes.

Additionally, when courses are completely virtual, the instructor ought to consider that the main feature of an e-learning course should be “interactivity”. This means that it should contain varied activities such as sound, images, video, games and exchange of ideas with e-learning classmates. For example, they should consider the possibility of including a virtual world where students can negotiate meanings through a variety of possibilities. In other words, it has to be one that fulfils the main characteristics of usability: Coherence, Complexity, Legibility and Mystery. These might guarantee that students feel at ease and demonstrate willingness to learn and make a better use of the virtual environment.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Role of Community

To start with, it is imperative to define a learning community as a nurturing environment in which a person can learn assisted by other members and by a leader who guides the processes. The most important here is not the transmission of knowledge but the generation of knowledge through interaction. This is because knowledge changes so rapidly that what you know today may be obsolete tomorrow. Therefore, long life learning should be promoted from the community.

In a learning community there should be a variety of spaces which guarantee that everyone has the opportunity to share and expand their learning strategies. As mentioned before, the learning takes place more from interaction than from the teaching practices. From that perspective, the teacher is more a facilitator and a guide. In a virtual community, the teacher should design the appropriate spaces for learners to interact meaningfully and express their ideas in a critical way.

Despite all the benefits offered by a learning community, it is important to take into account the possible disadvantages presented by them so as to avoid that some members lag behind. Among these factors is the possibility that not all members have the same opportunities to participate, the lack of direct feedback, students with low motivation may not be taken into account, lack of an appropriate follow up process and so on.

In sum, learning communities represent a great opportunity for the generation and exchange of knowledge in a “safe” environment as long as it provides the suitable conditions that ensure the advancement of every learner.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Modern Learning Spaces

The advent of technology has generated new learning spaces additional to the traditional classroom. These spaces are dynamic and interactive and foster a variety of learning styles and strategies. Nowadays students can connect with the world at the “drop of a hat” and the classroom setting cannot limit this possibility. It has to support students in developing criteria to optimize their communication abilities. Additionally, the learning that takes place in those spaces is asynchronous and not static as in the classroom.

Another conclusion is that teachers have to shift their roles and be open minded so as to cope with the demands that the new learning spaces imply. In modern spaces students’ participation is vital and teachers have to create the opportunities for reflection, interaction and continuous exchange of information. This assertions align with the words of Reynard (2009) , “As educators, we don't want to focus on developing test takers and rote repeaters of information; we aim to develop individuals who can think for themselves”

In sum, modern spaces represent a challenge for teachers and students since they require changing roles in traditional ways of thinking as well as teaching and learning practices.