This week so many of us are connecting (no pun intended) in our blogs with connectivism.  These are all good reads. Like many of you I am looking forward to this evening’s class.

Using tools of connectivism, will we still have the benefits of the emotional connection? Different ways of stating this question – -What role does human presence and physiology play in learning? How will our knowledge of brain science help us develop the most effective and personally rewarding learning experiences in the world of connectivisim?

Another one of our bloggers asks the questions — Who is the expert? How do we know? I ask these questions also and as that adult learner I plan on taking a research methods class as part of my degree requirements. Evaluating credibility and finding valuable resources among the myriad of available works are just two of the research skills I hope to hone. Does anyone remember the Periodical Index? I do. We have come a long way!

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Our Communities

The term communities of practice is new to me, yet the concept is not. Wow, I didn’t know that those great collective, collaborative and supportive environments that I have sought out, contributed to and grown from over decades  have a theory named after them! The concepts underpinning community of practice (CoP) theory are intuitive. I feel like I have come home.

Whether it was with my tight knit group of girl friends in high school, collaborating health professionals in the workplace, extended family members and neighbors, fellow teaching staff at my college alma mater, fellow nonprofit workers, fellow town elected officials, or wherever, I have been participating in CoPs all of my life. I particularly like that these environments encourage altruistic behavior and yet I get the added benefit of helping myself through personal growth. By definition CoPs evolve naturally because of our common interest in a particular domain. It is through this process of sharing information and experiences with the group that we have learned from each other.

I have noticed that in our class communications many of us have very recently used the words thank you for sharing. Although just like the words have a nice day thank you for sharing has gotten a bad rap, I would suggest to you that using these words are appropriate in CoPs. When I responded to our classmate’s sharing of her experiences in Boston during the recent tragedy, I used the words thank you for sharing. I was not being sarcastic or flip; I was making a sincere expression of caring and concern. Within the respectful, mutually supporting environment of our classroom community of practice, we are understood to be supportive and real. So I for one will continue to use those words which help connect us as people….take care, thank you for sharing, have a nice day!

One last thought. Just because we participate in mutually rewarding CoPs, we still can and should disagree when necessary. Free and open collaboration does not mean going along to get along. Communities of practice offer forums for communication.

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Transformational Learning

John Bradshaw’s book Bradshaw on the Family: A Revolutionary Way of Self Discovery (1988) has offered and continues to offer to many that transformational experience we speak of in our readings and discussions. Bradshaw’s classic illustration of holding up a mobile, tugging at one of the members of the mobile, and watching the resulting affect that the new “imbalance” has on the rest of the unit, was a wonderful way to visual my participation in a dysfunctional “social unit”.

For several years I tried to “walk on eggshells” and to try to figure out what I could do to make another person in my life happy. If I could only change the way I did this or said that, then I could change the unhappiness, the behavior of the person in my life. Yes, classic enabling behavior. Bradshaw’s clear description of a dysfunctional family unit brought much insight to me. My thinking and my life was transformed.

Today I listen to Sheryl Sandberg speak to issues concerning the dysfunctional group environments that women find themselves in today. Why after four decades of enlightened conversation is it still not OK for a woman to “lean forward”? Why do we shun a woman who is feminine yet puts her foot out there just like a man?

through out my life, I have been hoping that the work of so many women during these so many years in combination with the works of individuals like John Bradshaw would enlighten each of us.


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AGILE in practice

Along the way in this learning process I have subscribed to some interesting blogs in the wordpress universe. Dave Higgins' work just popped into my email today.

Continue reading

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Experiential Learning

Give an example of a time when you believe you taught or learned something using this theory. How did this impact your experience?

For approximately fifteen years starting at about the age of nine, I would sew some of my own clothing. It was a labor of love. It was fun. It was a creative process. Even though my experimentation with fabric and patterns was many years ago, I could duplicate the process today. It has become part of me.

Who hasn’t had wonderful life experiences through experimentation? Experimentation going hand in hand with self directed learning offers so much opportunity to the adult learner.  Some might say the center of learning is experience. It is worth repeating, “it is not the teacher who is at the center of the learning process, it is the learner”. (John Dewey)

The learning cycle is a dynamic process. A learner who is very concrete can enter the cycle through a concrete experience, a learner who is very reflective can enter through reflection,   no matter where you enter the cycle the cycle goes on. Knowing the power of experimental learning, we can use the learning cycle to organize the way we teach…start the class with an experience such as a case study or a game, do the readings then apply this in one’s life, organize the class to bring a boring lecture alive.  Experiential learning  accommodates that people learn differently.

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My thoughts on a working definition may be different than it is for some. Cognitivism is defined as a theoretical approach which describes mental functions as information processing models. It uses quantitative, positivist, and scientific methods.

The general idea of cognitivism is that mental functions can and should be explained by evidence of brain activities that can be measured through experimentation (Tokuhama-Espinosa, 2011).

Although some may argue that cognitivism is a response to the theory of behaviorism which neglected to explain cognition, I believe cognitivism is just an extension and expansion on the ideas of behaviorism. I find it hard to believe even with such limited knowledge of the workings of the brain  that scientists like Pavlov failed to believe that the response to stimuli as described by behavorism is independent of the physiolgical aspects of the brain and nervous system. The belief that all things that organisms do can be described as behaviors moved toward cognitivism.  From what I have read, the behaviorists’ theories where developed from observations of animals. Cognitivists took the next step in the development of theory and spoke to the observable uniqueness of humans.

So what is positivism? Positivism is the philosophical movement that discounts metaphysical theories, considering them to be meaningless. In this movement, all meaningful statements are either analytic or absolutely verifiable, or at least can be confirmed by observation and experimentation.

And quantitative methods? Using math, statistical and computational, in a systematic investigation is a working definition of quantitative methods.

Scientific methods? The scientific method is an approach to investigation that involves making observations and conducting experiments to test a hypothesis.

Despite the differences attributed by many to behaviorist and cognitivist theories, cognitive science does not escape all of behaviorism’s criticism. However, cognitivism overcomes behaviorism’s main faults by identifying that reflexes and reinforcements cannot account for all human behavior and also that animal behavior is not the best predictor of human behavior.

Our investigation of constructivism, connectivism, as well as other models will continue our journey into understanding learning and the adult learner. As a good friend of mine might say, we are “Learning to Teach“.

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A Century of Learning Theory

What an interesting journey we are taking in our examination of concepts from behaviorism to connectivism…and beyond.

As one of the first learning theories, behaviorism is founded in the principle that all learners are malleable. Learning is about changing behaviors. Who hasn’t heard of those classic investigations of Ivan Pavlov approximately a century ago? It is particularly interesting to me to take those ideas of a physiologist, a biological scientist, and relate them to all we know today about how and why we learn.

Using today’s tools we have an amazing horizon applying adult learning theory. Gone, I hope, is the classic traditional classroom of boredom, replaced with the excitement of gaming, blended learning, classroom applications, collaboration, and self-directed learning. Even Bloom’s Taxonomy is made new again! (Loved that link on the wiki).

With today’s tools we have so many options to create those social and interactive learning processes during education that so long ago were describe by John Dewey in the context of his time. I hear the struggle among my classmates trying to define the appropriate application of educational theory. This struggle I believe is similar to Dewey’s struggle in his attempt to balance the delivery of knowledge yet considering the interests and experiences of the students. Students exploring many fields of study can benefit from concepts of andragogy, having a guide on the side. The concepts of a more traditional classroom yet have relevance in select situations, for example in the description of a researcher’s highly technical presentation of original scientific research results.

The discussions we have in class are being replicated in many learning environments. I hope to be able to participate in more of these opportunities. The eLearning Guild is one of these resources which will help me link together a century of thought.

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First awakening CREATIVITY

So often I find a unique clarity of thought on first awakening in the morning. I think it would be nice to have one of those voice recognition programs, so while still lying in bed I could ramble on capturing the fluidity of creative thought. Since I’m sure that I am not unique, I hope that some researcher is hooking up people like me upon awakening in order to define this neurological process. I can just image volunteers crawling into MRI’s at bedtime to wake after a full nights sleep to the banging and booming sounds of brain scanning!

Several writers have told me that on first awakening that they will sit at their computers capturing the early morning’s burst of creative thought, pounding out prose for several hours. I can relate with this ability to leap into an early morning creative brain process.

Quantum physicist Amit Goswami PhD in his study of the activity of subatomic particles offers an interesting perspective on creativity and free will. He states “There is order to be discovered in the outer arena, how the stars behave, how the atoms behave, and there is also order to discover in the inner arena…every creative discovery is a creative leap of thought.”

Atomic electron transition, quantum leap, is a change of an electron from one quantum state to another within an atom. Could quantum physics offer much insight into neuroscience? There is so much to learn about how we think, learn, and create. I suspect some day investigation into particle activity will reveal new understanding of neuron structure and function. So limited we are today in our knowledge of the electrical and chemical nature of nerve transmission, yet quantum physics may offer a key to understanding of neurological function and learning.

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GAP Analysis

The understanding of human thought, emotion, behavior, and expression are common to both neuroscience and to the arts with artists working across  the visual arts, music, theater, performance and film. It’s no wonder that after several days of scientific exploration through intense, classroom-like presentations, participants like myself attending the recent AAAS meeting in Boston at the Hynes Convention Center felt a certain respite  from the day when presenter Livingston Taylor picked up his guitar to share with us a tune. I thought, that’s what’s missing. Our brains very focused on the latest scientific research just needed a little music!

Where am I going with all of this? Simply we humans have complex brains with billions of neurons and trillions of synapses, a highly complex system yet we know so little through all of our scientific discovery. Neuroscience is a frontier yet to be fully explored and understood.

Adult learning theory helps us bridge the gap between application and science.

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Confusion at any Age

I just wanted to share this poem written by Peggy Girshman, executive editor of Kaiser Health News (Boston’s NPR news station, February 2013).  Anyone who’s cupboard is full of prescription bottles or who works in health care may find it of special interest!

When working with adult learners we know that it is important to distinguish between age, age related illness, and the aging process. In addition to genetics, the four factors that have been correlated with an adult having a keen ability to learn are physical activity, mental activity, social engagement, and vascular risks. Confusion, ambulation difficulties requiring a wheelchair, cataracts, and hearing loss occur in all ages. For example it was pointed out to me at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting in Boston (14-18 February 2013) that approximately one in every two hundred and fifty children have cataracts, although cataracts are commonly thought of as a disorder of the elderly.

As a patient being treated for amyloidosis, one night Peggy was moved to poetry inspired by those accessory labels on her pill bottles.

May Cause Confusion

Follow the instructions very closely
Take before first food. Stay fully upright
Smoking should be avoided
Take this medication by mouth with or without food
Drink plenty of fluids, unless your doctor directs you otherwise
Do not split, crush or chew the medication. Doing so may destroy the drug
Take by mouth at least 1 hour before or 2 hours after a meal
If the tablet falls out before using, throw it away
Avoid exposure to sunlight
Take with full glass of water
Take with food or after a meal
Take on an empty stomach
Must agree to use 2 different forms of effective birth control at the same time
This product may contain inactive ingredients, which may cause allergies

A total of 50% of patients experienced serious adverse events (SAEs)
Constipation, diarrhea, gas or nausea may occur
Avoid contact with people who have contagious diseases
Blurred vision, change in sexual interest/ability
Dizziness may occur
Nausea may occur
Diarrhea may occur
Loss of coordination
Increased appetite
Fast or slow heart rate
Swelling in your hands and feet
Tell your doctor right away if you have low magnesium blood level
This medication may cause withdrawal reactions
Dizziness, drowsiness, feeling “high”
Muscle weakness, mental/mood changes, blood in the urine, change in the amount of urine
Painful or swollen tongue
Breathing problems
This medicine may cause abnormal drug-seeking behavior

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