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EDTECH 504 Reflections Module 2 Reflection

I must admit, first of all, this module was a bit overwhelming to me. I do not have a background in education and all of what I know of the education world has been onthe-job training or information gained through my time in the EdTech program. These last 2 weeks I've spent a lot of time debating on learning theories and trying to figure out what theory I best align with. The word epistemology scared me a bit. It was overwhelming to think about studying knowledge. I am trying to imagine how I would put it into practice as a teacher or trainer. I have come to the conclusion that I would want to teach how I learn, and that is through what I now know is constructivism. I am a big proponent of student-centered learning environments. Throughout my entire school experience (K-12 & Bachelor’s Degree) I hated test taking, but loved projects. I could apply the knowledge but had trouble putting it into words. I’ve never been much of a writer and I don’t think I need to be. I’m not geared that way. I am a problem solver. I like to see a real-world problem and figure out how to fix it. I didn’t know until this course that I was a student who learns best in SCLEs. David Jonassen and Susan Land state in their book, Theoretical Foundations of Learning Environments, “the overarching focus is to support the learner to actively construct meaning. External learning goals may be established, but the learner determines how to proceed based on individual needs and questions that arise while generating and testing beliefs.” They go on to use the metaphor of a practice field to describe learning environments. I think this is where I would place my understanding of epistemology. In the article Epistemology, introduction by Author F. Heylighen, this development is called pragmatic. “According to pragmatic epistemology, knowledge consists of models that attempt to represent the environment in such a way as to maximally simplify problem-solving.” This practice field or test environment is essential to my personal learning and is perhaps why I best associate with SCLEs. This idea carries into the reading from Jonassen and Land, chapter two where the practice field is compared and contrasted against the communities of practice. This idea of a community of practice is my area of greatest comfort in education. As an undergrad, I did a lot of work in groups. That group work was designed around a community. We all worked together on class projects and extra-curricular learning opportunities. Perhaps this idea of communities of practice is why cohorts are so successful in many instances. It’s the idea of teamwork and community. We are all in this together. I think about the nursing program at our university. They are in simulations together. In these simulations many ‘curve balls’ are thrown their way and they must understand how to deal with them in a real environment. They must

work together in a hands-on way. I believe learning truly flourishes when it becomes hands-on and ‘everyday’ applicable. As I look toward moving into faculty development and training, I hope to implement training in such a way that faculty leave with both the knowledge and skills to practice the newly learned ability in the classroom. Faculty training should be a community of practice where they can test the features and put the technology into a real-world scenario with others who are on the same path as they are. That scenario should lead to exploration and innovation with the tools and skillset that are presented in training. I find that faculty members often have no desire to use a new technology until they see it and experience it in use. Every training opportunity should be a practices session where innovation flourishes.

Module 3 Reflection The subject of conceptual change is one that is new to me, in theory. I understand the process, as I have participated numerous times as a learner. However, the role of conceptual change is more evident to me now. As learners, we must be constantly moving, growing and adapting in our learning. That change might come an evolution of sorts, where we adapt to our learning context. It also could include radical change, where everything we have believed is challenged. Change is often supported and proven in practice, whether simulated or in model building. Both provide hands-on experience that helps the learner better understand the subject.

This week I also ready chapter 11, Learning Communities, as it is the subject I have chosen for my final paper. The idea that we, as educators, must create a community among our learners is not a new idea. The struggle comes when thinking about applying this idea to the technology driven virtual classroom. As I have also been reading and researching to create my annotated bibliography, I have seen the importance of social constructivist and cognitive theories. Application of these learning theories within online instruction is important for me. I am not a classroom teacher, but I am active in assisting our faculty in online instruction. I need a better understanding of online instruction in light of these learning theories. I can help apply these theories to instruction and in turn create a more meaningful learning experience that is very social in nature. I believe the online classroom can actually be more social and provide a greater outlet for student-student engagement than the traditional classroom. My readings this week have supported my belief.

I am thankful for the head start the annotated bibliography has given me. This jump on the final paper will be vital in the weeks to come. I have direction and understanding of where I want to go and how I want to proceed with my research and the topic I have chosen.

I have been very behind in the last few weeks and feel that I have not had the time to devote to my studies that I needed. I am thankful for the progress that was made, despite the adversity of every day life. Overall, Module 3 has been challenging, difficult and most definitely worth it.

Module 4 Reflection During the course of Module 4 I have been busy preparing my Final Synthesis Paper on creating community in online courses. I cannot consider what it means or even the process involved in creating community online without considering the impact and effects of emerging technologies and learning theories on educational technology. Many consider emerging technologies as critical to the future of technology as a whole and this impact is huge for the educational world. Items like mobile devices, gaming, open content and personal learning environments are all going to have a major impact on the way education is “done” in the future. Are we ready to embrace some of these items and how do they fit within the educational structure? How do these technologies work with learning theories? Connectivism seems to be one learning theory that will help bridge the gap between the emerging technologies and typical student/teacher roles. Connectivism places emphasis on social and cultural context. The idea of students being connected to each other and to the teacher through various modes of communication and technology is the new norm. Constructivism builds off of this idea and often connects students to each other and with real world experiences. Technology bridges this gap as well and makes it possible for simulation of real world cases and for distant students to meet together and collaborate with each other. As I have researched the ability to create community in the online course, I have found it true that community is what we make it to be. Social media is one example of how community is possible online. I explored Transactional Distance Theory as part of my research and the concerns that students and teachers alike often have about feeling left out or as if they are not part of the class. Narrowing TDT is vital for online and distance courses to succeed. Only when a student feels as part of a group will the student be truly engaged in learning. Gaining knowledge and being submerged in a learning environment are 2 different things. Anyone can gain knowledge through observation, but only when a student is surrounded by a community, whether local or online, of fellow learners does the learning come alive.

Reflective Learning Log (end of course) I have never been excited about a “theory” class in my life. I was not excited about Theories of Education Technology either. It sounded like a class that I would have

no interest in and where I would be confused and overwhelmed with information that I wasn’t terribly concerned with. I am not a teacher and I assumed the course to be more about theories of teaching and that it would build on knowledge that many teachers acquired through undergrad education. However, after the first couple of weeks, I found myself thoroughly enjoying the course. In my eight years of work in higher education, I had not once stopped to understand the theories of learning much less how those theories impacted or were impacted by technology. I began with what I thought was a good definition of educational technology. In the first week we had to define educational technology and after reading, my definition was changed. I came to understand that technology is the tool that communicates the information to the student. There was a time when the book and chalkboard were cutting edge technology. I struggled with this understanding because for so long in my job I had fought chalkboards, overhead projectors and other outdated tools as even being considered technology. The first week made me rethink educational technology and take a more holistic view. Once we began exploring the vast amount of theories, I began to better understand how I learn. It is now evident to me that each student learns a little differently from the others. My new understanding birthed a desire to explore the other theories. I began to explore Constructivist theory in depth and realize that this form of instruction truly allows the learner to build knowledge unlike other theories. In reading quotes and studies by some of the greatest minds in educational theory from the last 60 years, I began to see a bigger view of instruction. I have had the same view as many of these leaders for a long time, but now I can see where the theory was developed and that there is actually research that supports my thoughts. The Zone of Proximal Development concept described my preferred learning style exactly. I like to be given an example and then given guidance as I explore on my own. Throughout the course, I had plenty of opportunities to accept guidance from our professor as well as other learners. I began taking a greater interest in theories that were applicable to areas I am interested in. Social Constructivist Theory and Transactional Distance Theory helped shape my view of distance learning. I can see where our university needs to improve and now have research that will support my previous beliefs. I have thoroughly enjoyed exploring the idea of learning in community. The idea of creating community in online courses has been a struggle for many of our faculty members and I saw an opportunity to do research in this area. My final synthesis paper has supported the idea that community can be built in online courses but it takes more work on the part of all parties involved. I am thankful that Boise State has given a great example for building online community. Ever course I’ve taken has provided friendships and partnerships that I will carry for years. This course has helped me explain the possibilities of online course communities to skeptics.