Unit 2 | How do people learn?

(2 weeks)

In this unit, we explore a number of educational theories to answer the following questions: How do people learn? How do people learn in different contexts? How do they learn from and with technology? As we delve into the concept of learning, we realize that we cannot get very far without beginning to question what we mean when we say we know something. We will explore some of the key learning theories that are discussed in the educational literature, their interconnections, their merits, and critiques against them, and how they apply to educational technology in particular, and digital learning environments more broadly. Watch my introductory video below. If you can’t see a video embedded below, view it on YouTube.

If I were to ask you, “how do people learn?” what would your answer be? Pause and think about this question for a few seconds.

Even if you haven’t formally studied theories of learning, you will be able to venture a guess. You might say: Children learn by imitating their parents or each other. Or you might say, children learn by being rewarded for appropriate behavior. Or, you might say, people make sense of new information by comparing and contrasting it what they already know. In all of these instances, we are referring to theories of learning, to a set of principles that we believe explain how human learning happens.

Historically, three theories of learning have influenced the field: behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism. To investigate the relationships between learning theories and technology, I am asking you to read four papers. Some of them deal with foundational elements of learning and others deal with how technology may be impacting the ways we learn. There are hundreds of articles available on these topic, but I chose these because they are relevant, insightful, and precise.

Learning Activities and Assignments


Activity 4 | Reflect on your theoretical and pedagogical stance (Blog)

After reading Ertmer & Newby and Merrill, I’d like you to take some time and reflect on how these readings apply to your own work. This task asks you to take a stance. It asks you to (a) align yourself with one of the theoretical positions described in these two readings, (b) explain why, and (c) describe how these perspectives can be applied to your day-to-day work. Reflections should be blogged and should be at least 500 words. Please make sure that you support your claims and arguments with evidence. Be sure to put your post in the ‘LRNT 523’ category. After you write your own reflections, I  would like you to read the posts of at least 2-3 of your colleagues, and respond to one other person.

Activity 5 | In pairs, explore the implications of abundant content for lifelong learning (Blog)

This activity is designed to help you explore the implications of abundant digital content for teaching and learning. Weller’s paper is central to this activity, though it builds on Anderson’s work, so make sure to read both. Anderson’s work investigates a number of theories for the digital age, building on Ertmer and Newby.

Here’s your task: Partner with one colleague. Identify a topic that both of you are currently unfamiliar with and would like to know more about. Perhaps you want to learn how to create simple video games for learning. Or, you’d learn how to make your own soy milk. Or, you heard people mention bitcoin, ethereum, and other cryptocurrencies and want to learn more about them. Or, perhaps you want to learn how to create a video tutorial or grow your own rose garden. The possibilities are endless. Once you pick a topic, individually spend a couple of hours investigating resources to help you learn about the topic. Then come together, discuss your findings (synchronously or asynchronously), and write a short report around what you investigated, what you found, and how confident you are in whether abundant content around your topic exists to enable you to learn about it. Post the same report on both of your blogs Be sure to put your post in the ‘LRNT 523’ category. Some further prompts to consider are: Is abundant content enough? In the words of Weller, what do you need to be equipped with to make use of the abundant content that you discovered? Imagining yourself as the instructor of said content, in what ways can you make use of this content?

To complete this assignment, individually respond to one other blog post.