I now understand educational technology as more than just tools, websites, apps, etc. (which I hadn’t prior to this course). There are more mediums than only digital/online/computer (e.g., oral, written, broadcasting). Whatever form it takes, the objective of educational technology is to increase student learning, which many scholars link to a change in behaviour or thinking. All educational technologies have benefits and challenges that can differ from person to person, which connects to Postman’s (1998) first idea of every technological change having a trade-off, as well his second idea of benefits being unevenly distributed among the human population.
In my own experiences as an elementary and high school student, my teachers utilized mostly behaviourist and cognitive approaches to learning. Many of my primary teachers used an incentive/prize program to encourage us to read more books and follow classroom rules (Skinner’s operant conditioning – positive reinforcement). Rote memorization and providing the desired response (not higher-order thinking) was consistently rewarded on written exams. The nine events listed by Robert Gagne was a very common lesson plan structure that was also suggested by quite a few university professors of mine. I don’t remember a lot of meaningful group work tasks in middle years, and even less in high school. However, I believe many of my university professors (particularly in education courses) have emphasized collaboration and a community of practice (constructivism).
I certainly use a behaviourist approach to condition my grade 2-3 students into following classroom routines (e.g., Katia’s clapping example). Based on Ertmer and Newby’s (2013a) discussion of the three main theories of learning, many of my go-to teaching strategies are grounded in cognitivism (e.g., reasoning, problem solving, acquisition of knoweldge, use of examples and non-examples, making connections, using graphic organizers, concept mapping, self-monitoring and revision). I think this could be tied to my own learning style preference. Thirdly, my belief in the power of the curriculum-as-lived (daily conversations, sharing of personal experiences, discussion) aligns with constructivism. I have been inspired in my Inclusive Education certificate program and M.Ed. program to genuinely engage my students in more constructivist learning approaches. Although, I struggled to incorporate as many group activities during the pandemic as I had in past years. For example, I stuck mostly to table partner activities this year, for the sake of contract tracing had it come up. This unfortunately limited the interactions my students had with multiple classmates on a daily basis. I did continue other practices as normal, such as Math Talks, a problem-based learning activity that involves listening to peers’ thinking strategies. I would like to include more relevant, real-world problems next schoolyear, as encouraged by Barrows (1986, as cited by Ertmer & Newby, 2013b). Going back to my first year of teaching, in a prekindergarten classroom, empiricism (knowledge comes from experience) was a huge focus through my experiential learning centers. I believe one thing holding me back from fully embracing a constructivist classroom is the perception of colleagues who do not like noisy classrooms (which will happen when all students are engaging in dialogue with one another).
Aristotle’s empiricism reminded me of the story The Blind Men and the Elephant. Aristotle’s knowledge theory argues that one can understand something and know what is real through their senses (i.e., sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste). In The Blind Men and the Elephant parable, each of the men feel a different body part of the elephant and declare it to be different objects, claiming that their knoweldge is real based on their sense of touch. For example, one thought it was a snake (trunk), another thought it was a fan (ear), the third thought it was a tree trunk (leg), the fourth said it was a wall (side), and the last man said it was a spear (tusk). Are these men all right, all wrong, or a bit of both? I previously understood the main message here as the importance of having a variety of perspectives and worldviews in our classroom and society, in order to see a fuller picture. I had never connected it to theory before this class. Siemens summarizes this famous parable by stating: “Learning and knoweldge rests in diversity of opinions” (Siemens, 2005, p. 5).
Lastly, George Siemens’ idea of connectivism, specifically that connections to facilitate learning can be made not only with other humans but also with things such as computers, reminded me of post-humanism theory. In EC&I 814, I learned that many posthuman theorists believe that their epistemology is needed in order to ensure human survival on our planet. Posthumanism is the idea that humans are not at the center of the universe; there are also non-humans (e.g., animals) and more-than-humans (e.g., technology) that play vital roles in our world. Fostering a positive, mutually beneficial relationship between humans, non-humans, and more-than-humans is crucial for sustainability.
Ertmer, P. A., & Newby, T. J. (2013a). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 26(2), 43-71.
Ertmer, P. A., & Newby, T. J. (2013b). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Connecting “yesterday’s” theories to today’s contexts. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 26(2), 65-71.
Postman, N. (1998). Five things we need to know about technological change. https://web.cs.ucdavis.edu/~rogaway/classes/188/materials/postman.pdf
Siemens, G. Connectivity: A learning theory for the digital age. https://jotamac.typepad.com/jotamacs_weblog/files/Connectivism.pdf
NOTE: Here is a short reading of a version of the blind men and elephant parable, in case you are unfamiliar with it: