Thursday, April 30, 2015

Adult Learners: Practical Orientation (Attribute 5)

Schoolchildren are "subject oriented," and do not expect to be able to apply all they learn immediately, at least in traditional schools.  But adults, on the other hand, want their learning to be relevant, practical, immediately applicable, and problem-centered.

To learn more, check out my and Karrie Augustine's Screencast about Adult Learning Attribute #5, "Orientation," which synthesizes our own and our classmate's work on this attribute.  We enjoyed creating it and hope that you learn from our tour of the class's attribute maps.

An Infographic provides information about Knowles's theory in graphic form.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Explore Web 2.0 Tools - a Handy Annotated List and Some Boffo Resources


You snooze, you lose.

I came across the wonderful metasite Cool Tools for Schools the other day, and pasted it into my Notes app, thinking I would post it to my class discussion board later.  But by the time I got around to it, others had scooped me.  Procrastination 1, Anne 0. 

I had to look pretty hard for another site that would be as useful.  I don't know if I quite succeeded, but I did find some great links:

First, a Wikibook on Web 2.0 and Emerging Learning Technologies  .  It qualifies as a metasite because of its many categorized links, and because it links to other sites that have great Web 2.0 tools.

In the course of this search I stumbled across additional resources too awesome not to share.  The European Union's MobiVET project makes available a .pdf document, "Web 2.0 Technologies and Their Applications in Online Training and Tutoring" (May, 2013).  This document gives a concise yet comprehensive intro to E-learning with tons of info on Web 2.0,  its history, strengths, and uses.  The report yields a bonanza of useful links for course design, free learning  management systems, resources, and yes, Web 2.0 tools.  Particularly helpful is its Section 3,  "Web 2.0 in E- and M-learning," on Web 2.0 tools,  it describes and suggests uses for an array of Web 2.0 tools, categorized by function.

Here are some more great tools sites:  Web Applications Index has an easy logo-based interface and a sidebar with tool categories to explore.  You can also follow them on Twitter or contribute to this useful site by suggesting an app.

Less comprehensive, but still useful, is the Watertown, Massachusetts' school district's list of Web 2.0 resources for faculty.

An awesome short list of Web 2.0 tools has been put together for the Watertown, MA public schools:
Web 2.0 Tools

I'm so proud I did not use the word "curate" once in this blog post.  Just can't do it, out of respect for my curator friends from my days spent at a major museum.  Making a list, however useful, is not the same as what those fine, extremely knowledgeable and well-trained folks do with the world's precious art heritage.

Motivation and Learning (Adult Learner Attribute 6)

The sixth of Malcolm Knowles's attributes of adult learners is motivation.  Adults, he says, may respond to external enticements like higher salary, but the strongest and most lasting motivations are internal.   I looked at this web page on intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation, but I started arguing with it a little, thinking, hey, I'm reading this because I'm genuinely (intrinsically) interested in motivation - reading about it for me is its own reward.  But I'm also reading this for a class so I can fulfill the requirements and get a good grade (extrinsic reward).  If my motivation is mixed, what does that mean for my learning?
Not only is intrinsic motivation more powerful, but adding external rewards to a task for which someone is already intrinsically motivated may actually decrease motivation.  I hardly know what to make of this.  Could I be harming the learning of some students by offering rewards to everyone, hoping it will motivate the daydreamers, the behind-the-purse texters, the window-gazers, the nappers, the gamers, the feckless, the clueless?

The solution, say the authors, is to make the learning environment itself more intrinsically motivating:  offer "challenge, curiosity, control, cooperation and competition, and recognition."   As it happens, point out the authors, all these are things we associate with fun.

So wait:  making learning fun makes people more motivated and thus better learners?  I am all over that puppy!

But the surprises keep coming:  the very same reward may help or hurt motivation:
"The functional significance, or salience, of the event dictates whether intrinsic motivation is facilitated or diminished. For example, an athlete may perceive receiving an external reward (e.g., money, trophy) as a positive indicator of her sport competence (informational), whereas another athlete may perceive the same reward as coercion to keep her involved in the activity (controlling). Thus, the aspect of the event that is perceived as salient will determine level of autonomy and perceived competence experienced, and ultimately affect intrinsic motivation for that activity."
(Horn, 2008)
In other words, how the individual perceives the reward may make it intrinsically motivating or extrinsically de-motivating. 

If rewards weren't thorny enough, even praise can be a two-edged sword.  You may have heard the maxim, "Praise the work, not the worker."  At one time I had resisted this idea - it seemed harsh and ungenerous.  But I finally understood it apropos of motivation when I read this:
 "There is also evidence that verbal praise (one form of reward) should be used carefully. When children are successful, it may be best to praise their effort ("You worked so hard!") rather than their ability ("You're so smart!"), because when children believe that success depends on effort, they are more likely to persist in the future if they fail. The goal of praise should be to produce feelings of competence and confidence that success is possible with good efforts."  (Breckler, Olson, & Wiggins, 2006)
 This surely applies to adults as well as children.   If you want to encourage persistence and lasting learning, create a fun environment that make learning intrinsically rewarding.  As in so many things, heavy-handed manipulation can backfire, while a light touch and sensitivity to the needs and characteristics of learners can only help.

Trigger Events and Adult Learner's Need to Know (Attribute 1 of Adult Learners)

This flow chart by Karrie Augustine and Anne Pushkal shows how a trigger event leads an adult to initiate learning or decide against taking action. (Augustine & Pushkal 2015)

Trigger + Need to Know = Desire to Learn = Action

The first attribute of adult learners is their realization that, or acceptance of,  their need to know something (Malcolm Knowles et al, 2005, cited in, for example Ota et al, Training and Needs of Adult Learners).  This is often sparked by a trigger event - something takes place that brings them to this conclusion that a gap in their knowledge needs to be addressed.  Rothwell's (Adult Learning Basics ) notion of a "trigger circumstance" (p. 27) refers to "anything that leads an individual learner to recognize the importance of learning something new."

While I can imagine a situation in which people learn without realizing they are doing it or thinking they need to - going with friends to see Dangerous Liaisons, say  finding afterwards they've gained an understanding of France during the 18th century - Rothwell is right to identify this realization as the first step of the learning process, since a large proportion of adult learning is intentional and deliberately undertaken.  Trigger circumstances can be internal or external.  An internal circumstance would be some desire: an adult realizes a lack of knowledge is keeping him or her from accomplishing something he or she wants to do, whether it's sewing on a button or becoming a lawyer.  An external circumstance would be something like mandatory workplace sexual harassment training, which an employee may not have sought on his or her own but understands he or she must complete as a condition of employment.

For example, I've been pretty happily using Techsmith's Jing for screencasts.  I love it- so functional and easy to use - but my work in an E-learning environment and my coursework in an instructional technology program made me increasingly dissatisfied with the inability to edit, add music, etc.  I realized that not being able to edit video is holding me back from the kinds of productions I envision.

I had used Camtasia in the past and forgot how.  Finding that I could have used that knowledge to good effect now has triggered me to want to learn Camtasia, Apple's Final Cut Pro, or another video editing program like iMovie, really well.  Moreover, the realization that I need to up my video editing game spurred me to begin investigating the programs that are available to me and consider long-term benefit vs. immediate benefit, costs, and feasibility of learning one or another of these video editing tools.
"Knowing you have a problem is half of the solution." 
If buy-in is important for adult learners, then some learning theories that would be especially useful would be Functionalistic theories, which stress not only giving learners a reason to learn but rewarding them for learning; Constructivist theories, which take into account learners' backgrounds and current situations in order to influence their learning, and Experiential theories, which privilege the role of the learner in constructing their own learning and focuses on giving them a reason to learn.

Trigger + Need to Know = Desire to Learn = Action

What video editing tools do you use? Are there any free tools you recommend?

Friday, April 24, 2015

British Library releases over a million images

 "Thrilling Life Stories for the Masses"
 "British Library HMNTS 012634.n."
Crewe, Manchester, 1892
The Public Domain Review reports that the British Library has released over a million images, rights-free, to its Flickr photostream.  What a spectacular resource!  Here are just a few of the riches that have been made accessible to us all:

Title: "The National and Domestic History of England ... With numerous steel plates, coloured pictures, etc"
Author: AUBREY, William Hickman Smith.
Shelfmark: "British Library HMNTS 9503.i.1."
Volume: 02
Page: 897
Place of Publishing: London
Date of Publishing: 1867
Publisher: James Hagger
Title: "The rivers of Great Britain. The Thames, from source to sea, etc. [With “Rivers of the east coast”.]"
Shelfmark: "British Library HMNTS 10348.k.18."
Page: 716
Place of Publishing: London, etc
Date of Publishing: 1891
Publisher: Cassell & Co.
From John Ledyard Denison, 1873 "An Illustrated History of the New World: containing a general history of all the various nations..." British Library HMNTS" p. 579 

Title: "Sailing Directions for the Strait of Gibraltar and the Mediterranean Sea, comprehending the Coasts of Spain, France and Italy ..., the Coasts of Greece ... and the African Coast, from Tangier to Alexandria"
Author: PURDY, John.
Shelfmark: "British Library HMNTS 795.e.33."
Page: 136
Place of Publishing: London
Add caption
Date of Publishing: 1841

Sunday, April 19, 2015

How Adults and Children Learn (Andragogy v. Pedagogy)

Rodney Dangerfield goes Back to School (1986)

     Children, it seems, are coming full circle.  Before the fifteenth century, as Philippe Aries argued in his 1962 Centuries of Childhood,  children were thought of as small adults, less capable, perhaps;  but they dressed the same as adults, were little shielded, and began working as soon and as hard as they were able. While many of his points (such as the notion that medieval parents were detached from their young children since the children were so likely to die) have since been refuted, his central idea - that childhood is a social construct that has changed over time - is generally accepted.  Moreover, neuroscience has since provided evidence that children's brains function differently from those of adults, and that, consequently, they have different ways of learning and different learning needs (although what those ways and needs consist of is often avidly contested).  All this is taking place even as some children, at least, are imputed to have the same responsibility, autonomy, and moral capacity as adults.

     I raise these points in returning to look at assignment for the first week of the course Adult Learning, in which our class members were asked to post an image which to us embodies the differences in learning between adults and children (my semi-tongue-in-cheek contribution is above).

     There is by no means universal agreement on what the differences between adults and children as learners might be.  Malcolm Knowles, who first codified (some say popularized) the idea of specific attributes of adult learners from the 1950s on in the United States, remains influential in adult education and training circles, although he modified his ideas in the 1980s and allowed the differences might not be as strict as he once supposed.  

     One might argue that some of the differences he points out are related more to the structures of children's formal education, and to a particular kind of teaching style then prevalent, than to innate characteristics of children or adults as learners.  For example, Knowles's contention that adults choose what they will learn based on their own needs and goals, while children acceptingly learn whatever they are taught, may be true when children are enrolled in traditional schools.  But the unschooling movement has argued that children are naturally independent, self-directed learners when freed from the structures (or strictures) that characterize(d) most formal K-12 educational milieux. 

     This sets the context for "Teaching Adults:  Is is Different?" , Susan Imel's 1989 article that synthesizes several studies from the 1980s on the topic of adult learning.  While scholarship and research on adult learning have advanced since then, it is still a useful place to start.  

Imel examines some of adult learning theorist Malcolm Knowles’ assumptions, and concludes,

“Is teaching adults different? Based on the literature discussed here, the answer is both yes and no. Although teachers perceive adults as being different, these perceptions do not automatically translate into differences in approaches to teaching."

The author then turns the question on its head:

"Perhaps a better way to frame the question is to ask 'Should teaching adults be different?' "

She continues, "According to Darkenwald and Beder (1982), 'the real issue is not whether learner-centered methods are universally applied by teachers of adults, but rather for what purposes and under what conditions such methods, and others are most appropriate and effective and in fact used by teachers (p. 153).'"

     I'm not sure I agree with that assessment of what the "real" issue is.  The author never really answers the question, focusing instead on whether or not teachers teach adults differently than children in different situations, rather than whether or not they should.  The author does note, however, that “master” teachers tend to be less directive and more student-centered,  regardless of whether they teach adults or children.

      Imel maintains, “The andragogical or learner-centered approach is not appropriate in all adult education settings (Feuer and Geber 1988). The decision about which approach to use is contextual and is based upon such things as the goals of the learners, the material to be covered, and so forth..." and also notes that teachers may not have had training or the opportunity to practice learner-centered teaching.

     Imel thus focuses on whether or not teachers teach adults differently than they teach children, and ultimately sidesteps the question of whether adults and children have distinctive characteristics as learners.  At the time, the author may not have been able to gather conclusive evidence in the literature on whether adults learn differently from children.  

     In any case, what we now know about brain functioning (for example, this 2009 Stanford University study) leads us to conclude that there may well be significant differences in how children learn compared to how adults learn; but the move toward learner-centered approaches has also shown us that children can be a lot more proactive about their own learning than may have been believed in the recent past.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Are You Experienced? Prior Experience in Adult Learners (Attribute 3)

Adult learners are not a blank slate.  According to Malcolm Knowles, the godfather of Adult Learning theory, adults arrive at a learning situation with a wealth of experience from their work and personal lives and from the education (both informal and formal) they've received up to that point.

While adults sometimes have the reputation of being set in their ways and unwilling to try new things, this stereotype does not describe the majority of adult learners, especially when they are learning voluntarily.  And many adults have a lot of experience learning knew things - they have learned to learn.  Experienced learners can and often do share their valuable talents and experience with others in their learning situation, and everyone is enriched. One of the best things about teaching adults is the wealth of resources adult learners bring with them to the learning situation.

In a recent presentation on experience, I was struck by the phrase, "remembering that prior learning experiences may not have all been positive."   I've seen a lot of this in my encounters with young adults I taught in Camden, NJ.  They had often had problematic experiences with formal schooling - everything from indifferent teachers to, in one alternative school, physical abuse and restraints by the staff.  While these are extreme situations and the coping strategies the young adults had developed to survive them brought predictable difficulties when they entered training programs, even the common experience of garden-variety classroom humiliations and boredom can pose significant barriers when an adult returns to the classroom.

In the youth development organization I worked for, we chose a strategy of making the technology and academic instruction as un-school-like as possible so that we would not trigger negative responses in the youth.  Even so, people were ambivalent about instruction.  While they bridled at the authoritarian structures they had experienced in traditional schools, those same structures and top-down classrooms had made them dependent learners who were often initially lost or even angry when expected to take an active role in their own learning.  A large part of my work there was helping people "learn to learn."

But I've also seen a problematic attitude toward learning among the people from whom you would least expect: teachers.  Surely we can assume that the majority of those who choose teaching as a profession are good at classroom learning and "get" what school and learning is all about.

Yet during the mandatory continuing education seminars at a school where I taught, some of my fellow faculty were overheard to say "these things are a waste of time."  They brought their eye-rolling, arm-crossing attitude with them into the seminar, twiddling their cell phones, grading on the sly, and waiting for the presenter to prove to them that this one would be different.  Some participated in activities minimally and with obvious reluctance.  So here, the negative prior experience with teacher training became a barrier to their own learning, since they expected the worst from the new learning situation.

In this video, Charles Jennings boils down many theories about adult learning and explains the role of experience in adult learning using the 70-20-10 model.