Archive for the ‘Self-Directed Learning’ Category
I am feeling a bit guilty right now. Today was supposed to be a day for working on my class, but I got caught up in configuring some of my devices for mLearning, aka mobile learning. I really wanted to set some time aside to explore some of the possibilities and today turned out to be the day. Up to this point, mLearning has seemed a bit hyped. But today I set up my Nokia Nuron 5230 smartphone to download several podcasts from NPR and PRI. Now I can listen and learn pretty much anywhere, anytime. I can listen to the podcasts through my BH-214 wireless Bluetooth headset or in my car through the Bluetooth connection to my car stereo. Downloading and listening to podcasts while on the road is now easy and routine.
I also set up a Stowaway wireless keyboard, and now the smartphone works just like a mini-computer. Texting, e-mailing and note taking are now extremely easy to do and just as convenient as being on a netbook. And speaking of netbooks, I also configured my netbook to tether to my smartphone using a Bluetooth connection. Now the phone provides a wireless Internet connection to my Netbook, anywhere that I have cell service.
Finally, also on the netbook, I installed Intel’s AppUp store for netbooks and downloaded several applications, some free, and some not.
While some of the innovations I describe have been around for a long time and really aren’t earth shattering, the way that I have suddenly brought everything together shows me that mLearning is more than just trying to see things on a tiny screen. It is a learning strategy of surrounding yourself with learning opportunities-anytime, anyplace through technical innovations that we are just starting to grasp. I can’t wait for the hologram screen and controlling by hand gesture to reach the market.
There are several prinicipal theories of self-regulated learning that are frequently cited in recent literature. These theories are:
- Winne and Hadwin (1998)
- Pintrich (2000)
- Zimmerman (2000, 2001)
In addition to these theories, Azcevedo also provides a framework for self-regulated learning with hypermedia that is based on the Winne and Hadwin model. (Azcevedo, 2009).
Informal learning and self-directed learning appear to be two terms that are connected, yet in my opinion have different connotations in much the same way that self-regulated learning and self-directed learning are related, but not. Self-regulated learning is grounded in cognitive learning theory, while self-directed learning originates from adult learning theory. Informal learning seems to be the newer term. Self-directed learning, on the other hand, is somewhat aged and has been around the block a few times. If you follow the term back far enough, you will even find it connected with programmed instruction in the 50s and 60s. The self-directed learning that I am interested in, however, begins in the 70s when it was popularized by Malcolm Knowles. Along with Knowles, there were several others who contributed to this theory including Alan Tough, Roger Hiemstra, and later George M. Piskurich. I think that many of these theorists of the 70s through the 90s were actually writing for the future. Before the late 2000s, many of the technologies and attitudes to properly implement their ideas at an organizational level simply didn’t exist. If we revisit the literature, I think we will find a theory that is very relevant to our connected Web 2.0 world.
For me, there is one big difference between the two terms. Informal learning happens incidentally and serendipitously, without structure or central guidance. It happens when people come together either physically or virtually to communicate their ideas. Self-directed learning on the other hand, is planned and intentional. It is not incidental learning. It begins when the learner identifies a need for knowledge or a skill and then creates a plan to learn that skill (or competency). Zimmerman (1998) describes this process of creating a learning plan as consisting of three phases: forethought, performance or volitional control, and self-reflection.
This learning plan can include informal and social learning methods, but self-directed learning can just as easily include a textbook, an online tutorial, or a video of an event or presentation. The important characteristic is that the learner is in control of his or her own learning path and decides which resources will be most effective in helping them to construct or acquire what knowledge they need, when they need it.
Zimmerman, B.J. (1998). Developing self-fulfilling cycles of academic regulation: An analysis of exemplary instructinal models. In D. H. Schunk, & B.J. Zimmerman (Eds.), Self-regulated learning: From teaching to self-reflective practice. New York: Guilford Press.
Many learning professionals are currently focusing their efforts on getting people to learn socially and informally. These ideas are important and we have years of research ahead of us on the most effective ways to use these approaches to learning. But we already know that humans learn in social and informal situations. Bandura’s Observational Learning Theory is well established and one of the most obvious learning theories we have.
We shouldn’t have to do a hard sell to get people to recognize the benefits of learning this way. After 20 years of cooperative and collaborative teaching methods in schools and universities, most people are comfortable with this approach to learning.
So if we are increasingly open to learning in social and connected ways, what will our challenge be in the future? My guess is that it is not going to be to encourage everyone to learn socially, but rather to make sure that we don’t lose the ability to think and reason independently. A related desirable characteristic may also be to encourage people to not be afraid to step outside the comforts of consensus within groups or networks and to form opinions apart from the crowd.
A while back George Siemens referenced an article titled The Liberty of the Networked which questions whether technology liberates or enslaves. Another post by Blanche Maynard reflects on technology and solitude in response to William Deresievicz’s essay The End of Solitude. Some feel that we may slowly be losing the feeling of being comfortable alone with only our own thoughts, disconnected from the world. Another article questions whether too much emphasis on particular types of technology is impacting our ability for critical thinking and analysis.
Sometimes ideas develop better whe they have had time to be worked through, reflected upon, tested in intimate circles, and only then brought out into the public light. Daniel Lemire addressed the role of private thought in research in Why I Hardly Ever Blog About My Ongoing Research. The common warning in all of these articles is basically that while social media can be beneficial, we need to maintain balance in our lives and we need to set time aside to be away from networks: to cultivate real and personal relationships at a deeper, more human level that is not mediated through technology. We need to make time for reflective thought.