Thursday, May 30, 2013

Thoughts about equilibrium and rewards

Technological interfaces create their own rewards for users-- that little thrill/threat when a link is pressed, or when we get a notice that there's new email.

Neuro-engineer Ken Beverley (private conversation) mentions the change as a result of technology as producing a physiological response of endorphins in the brain, which can be felt as a threat or a reward, but is inevitably a spur to some action. Saba (2003) discusses the distinction between "anticipating emergent behaviors" and "directing them," and posits that the interaction should allow for change without determining it. This acceptance of uncertainty is the start, perhaps, of training oneself to adapt to whatever the new situation is..

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Behaviorist teaching instruments -- Most important idea for me in Mod 1

In Module 1, I of course resonated to the cognitivist theory-- it is after all the basis for most of our educational tradition! But I found myself weirdly intrigued by the idea of how behaviorism can guide some practices in certain types of online classes, like MOOCs.

Before I forget-- the text book starts with describing the behaviorist learning theory, and I started thinking about how different types of learning tools can be useful for different learning tasks. Specifically, I was remembering the quiz I took recently in another class, which was multiple choice, and automatically scored. I've created quizzes like that in my writing courses, and the purpose is to test the student's understanding of factual material-- no interpretation, really, no analysis, just the facts, ma'am.

The behaviorism comes in with the little "reward" after I click on the answer. Right away-- no delay for grading-- "Correct!" pops up. (Okay, I did get one question wrong, and there was a BUZZ! An ugly buzz. Clearly a "negative stimulus. I didn't want to hear that buzz again. I wanted to hear the happy "correct" chirp.) And as soon as I finished all the questions, I got the grade (passing, fortunately). It's the perfect learning tool for the era of instant gratification.

I found myself absurdly pleased with my grade. I realized that part of the instructions for the quiz helped prepare me for that result. The instructions told me that I could take the quiz as much as I needed, but as soon as I scored 80%, that would be a "pass" and I would move on to the next quiz, the next level. I was prepped to want at least an 80%, and I was so proud when I got better than that and got to "move on to the next level."

This is a way to engender a sense of competition when there's no one to compete with, when I'm alone with my laptop. As soon as I know what "pass" is, I feel fired up to do better than that. There is no rival here, but I get the pleasure of "winning" anyway.

Again, though, this type of behaviorist learning tool is appropriate for certain tasks-- learning facts-- and not others!


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Rehearsal communities

In re: Community of Learning-- I recently attended a lecture by Michael Fentiman, the director of a new performance of Titus Andronicus, one of Shakespeare's first plays. It's generally not considered among his best, shall we say, and the director talked a lot about how different his own vision was. In his mind, this was a play like King Lear, about the loss of certainty and the descent into madness.

He acknowledged the difficulty of conveying this to the actors who had absorbed a great deal of scorn for the play. He drew upon his own training with two directors who had nothing in common except "their love for collaboration." Like them, Fentiman used the rehearsal time as what I now know to call "a community of learning," where the entire crew and cast explored the play, brainstorming various approaches and options. It was, he said, one of the most exhilarating experiences of his life, as each confessed what would drive them to madness and murder, what combination of love and fury would unseat their reason. From that, he was able both to develop and convey his own understanding of the play, what it meant, and how it could be presented to an audience.

A community of learning... and yet, in the end, there was still a play, and still a director: Something to be learned, and someone to decide how it was to be taught.

This is a different, more purpose-driven sort of community than the critique group Coddington (1997) analyzes, where the need to maintain the commonality of goodwill was paramount. In that, there was no text, and there was no teacher-- just a group of learners. Did it matter that they were mostly all at about the same level? That there could be no "teacher" because none of them in isolation knew more than the others?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Getting started

This is Alicia's Learning Journal. Though I've had a blog for years, I had trouble setting up this one and am feeling typically incompetent. I don't get why Google now always defaults to my umuc account and then tells me it's not supported.

I think I need to remember to access this blog through Firefox, not Chrome. I don't know why this is always difficult for me!  I hope "learning" is a lot easier.

In Module 1, we're going to overview the three fundamental theories which have influenced education. I think of these as the "20th Century" theories, as even the most recent (constructivism) seem to be before the Web got into everyone's lives. or maybe to go with the "Web" metaphor, I should say before we all got entrapped in the Web?

Anyway, those theories don't seem quaint as I start reading them in Harasim. They seem still quite useful, and especially so when applied to online learning.