What we learn when we learn by doing

Mureren med sin murerske

Everyone in the education field is familiar with Dewey’s axiom “learn by doing.” It is well known that experiential learning is not only preferable by students, but also more effective. I recently started taking a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on Coursera that helped me understand better what learn by doing is. While I was going through the weekly readings, I could see that the following three basic questions were being addressed: what is learning by doing? what do we learn when we learn by doing? when learning is not motivated by learning to do something (practical/experiential), what is the motivation behind It? In this post I will try to share some of the answers I found to these questions through the readings and the connections I made to my experience as an EFL teacher using technology to advance my own learning and that of my students.

First let’s try to define what learn by doing is and give some examples. Learn by doing is experiential learning. Students learn by doing when they do things instead of being told about things. It is many times easier said than done. In the language classroom, students learn to speak the target language by speaking it, not by being lectured about it. The same goes for writing, reading, and listening. However, for students to speak, there should be a reason for them to do so. Therefore, teachers usually create scenarios or simulate situations to bring about a need to communicate. The more realistic the situation is, the more effective it seems in generating real communication. Having understood that, we should say that using Web 2.0 tools should follow the same “learn by doing” guidelines. Students learn about blogging by actually having a blog, posting, adding, and replying to comments.

Once we know what learn by doing is, we need to understand what one learns when he learns by doing. When there is experiential learning, what is learned cannot be put into words. If you ask a teacher who integrates technology into his teaching to tell you how to create a blog, for example, he will probably be able to show you step by step the procedures for doing it. However, he might not be able to tell you about it without visualing a given blogging platform and actually testing its features. Therefore, when one learns by doing, he learns micro scripts and scripts that help him assimilate and index new experiences. When a student has to create a blog, he first has to create an account. This one is probably a micro script that he has already assimilated. He probably knows automatically that to create an account he will have to provide his e-mail address, a user name, and so on. So what he will learn by doing will be how to customize his blog, how to insert a video or an image using HTML code or just copying and pasting. Besides that, he will also learn how to create a post and with this he will be familiar with rules for typing and editing text. He will learn that paragraphs have to be indented, that capital letters are required in the beginning of new sentences (the later might sound weird, but this is true for my teenage students). So, the scrips I have listed are extensions that are incorporated to the micro scripts he already possesses. The digital native claim proves to be a myth when it comes to creating content. This holds true especially if we are talking about young learners. So that is what is learned when one learns by doing.

However, it is not always that learning is guided by such an experiential tone. Sometimes learning is driven by reasons other than learning how to perform a specific task. In this case, learning is motivated by the willingness of knowing more. This is generally what guides professional development: a desire to learn about the philosophy behind a given practice, a new way of thinking about a given area of knowledge. It is learning for learning sake. I guess that in the field of language teaching this is the reason why EFL/ESL teachers, that supposedly already know enough about the English language, go conferences conferences as attendees or presenters and take other professional development initiatives such as reading/commenting/posting to blogs, connecting with peers through social networking channels, and taking online courses.

Finally, I would like to say that learning by doing also applies to writing. And this is exactly what I am trying to do with this blog and my posts. I confess that writing is not easy for me and I make a big effort to make my ideas come accross the way I want. Nonetheless, I never give up. I have been reading books about writing, I have just decided to blog with my students (I mean writing a short blog post after ech class reporting what went on). I did that because I read that if you ask your students to blog (which I frequently do), you should blog to. Finally, I am just about to begin a course in writing and hope I will feel more confident as a writer when it ends.

2010-Horizon-Report.pdf (application/pdf Object)

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The Horizon Report is an important report released each year on emerging technologies. It discusses trends and issues related to teaching and learning. It is really worth reading.

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Posting Everywhere

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One thing I like about posterous is its integration with other websites such as twitter, facebook, you tube, and other blog hosts (it is called autopost). This feature allows bloggers to post to lots of places. Being a tech freak I am, it makes me happy to see that I get to be a ubiquitous entity, a dream of most bloggers.  

 

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Connectivism – Learning in the Digital Age

This is presentation I created based on one made by George Siemens  in 2006 and other podcasts, articles by Siemens, Stephen Downes and others. This is presentation will be given at the 11th Braz TESOL National Convetion in Fortaleza . I am a psychologist that  became and EFL teacher. As a psychologist and a teacher, the learning process has always attracted me. I always like to think about what is inside the black box. I have always enjoyed going beyond warm ups and cool downs and thinking about how learning happens.  So, I was amazed and fascinated the first time I heard George Siemens speaking about connectvism in his onthologic presentation (and still like to listening to it while driving on my car radio). In my opinion, this theory makes a lot of sense when it tries to explain the way people learn.

The idea of learning/knowledge  not residing in one place and being distributed across our social networks and our brains is especially perceptible for those involved in online e-learning communities of practice. In these environments we perceive the notion of knowledge being distributed across a network. We live and have lived in a networked world. Networks have always existed. They are just more prominent now with the widespread use of computers. Hope you enjoy the presentation.

My PLE (E for Experience and Environment)

What motivated me to present on PLEs was my experience with e-learning. I first heard the term on Teemu Arina´s magnificent presentation Serendipity 2.0 and saw that it had something to do with the way I had been learning for the past two and a half years. While reading for this presentation, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that PLEs are not a tool or an aggregator, but a way of aggregating learning, a way of morphing the tools, people, machines around your own personal learning. So, PLEs are defined largely by the learner and his learning goals.

The idea of PLEs, as I see it, is connected with mobile learning. However, we have to be careful not to connect the idea of mobile learning and PLEs with expensive technological devices. Mobile Learning is a combination of two words and both of them should be given equal weight. Mobile learning, if the second word of the expression is given its value, refers more to the learner than to the device or technology. Mobile learning has to do with being able to learn anytime and anywhere.

Listening to Learners’ Voices

This presentation discusses the challenges related to being critical in a space with such an abundance of information as the cyber space. Adopting an approach of enquiry in such a space is  a way of deconstructing reality and creating meaning. The way Critical Literacy (CL) views language is likely to promote a more meaningful dialogue among students if teachers use such approach in creating content using multimedia. I truly believe that blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other web 2.0 tools provide a space for conversations that can take the classroom to the outside world. I recognize that sometimes it is a challenge to develop classroom activities with the CL approach without deviating so much from curriculum, but there is always a way and it is worth trying. A departure from textbook views and away from the predictable text interpretations will foster a more critical view of the world and will throw some light into important issues. Listening to learners’ voices is a way of having learners as content creators instead of content regurgitators.

 

 

 

ICT in ELT: Resources and use of technology

We are now in passed the middle of our online seminar. This has been a great experience for me. I have been posting too much on the open threads of discussion on the panel. However I have been reading all the posts, which keeps me quite busy. Every time I open my mail there about 30 new messages to be read. Some of them I copy, paste and save into my computer because they discuss valuable issues for my practice as an English teacher. Some of them have links which sometimes I open and add to favorites. 

This online seminar is for me an eye opener showing how much you can learn through ICT. While I am being exposed to the different tech gadgets they talk about I am thinking on how to use this with my students. It is really amazing to see how much technology is out there that I do not know to use, actually I did not even know that they existed. Some of them I knew they existed, but did not know what they were called. 

At this point I am better off than when I began. So far I have found out a lot about Cop (Communities of Practice) and their usefulness for teacher development. I am part of a community of practice already and I want to create another one with some teachers from the school where I work to discuss relevant things in the field of language teaching. 

The approach to technology, I am adopting form myself is playing around with these new gadgets and found out how to use them. So far I have learned hot use Odeo, which is a voice mail device. With Odeo or Springdoo you can record your voice and send to someone’s e-mail. I am having fun with this one. Concerning the class work, I am going to introduce these new things to my students through tasks. My approach will be taking them to the lab and teach step by step how to use ICT and then move on to more complex tasks. 

That is all for now. I will keep you posted.