Saturday, March 5, 2011

Learning and e-learning - Mayes & DeFreitas

Bad blogger, bad blogger. I have been a bad blogger of late, not posting anything in many months. I have been pretty busy with work and life in general. I needed something to kick start my blogging again - I think I have found it.

Last week I got a delivery from amazon, in it was two books that I really was looking forward to reading - the first one is Jay Cross's Informal Learning and the second is Rethinking Pedagogy in for a Digital Age by Beetham and Sharpe. In reading these books I thought - I really should practice what I preach and engage in a bit of reflection - so I turn to my trusty blog and I want to tell you all about the first chapter in the Beetham and Sharpe book - Learning and e-learning - the role of theory, written by Mayes and De Freitas.

The fundamental question asked at the start of the chapter is; 'are there really e-learning models or is the e of e-learning just a enhancement of traditional learning much like paper and pen was in the end of the nineteenth century?' e-Learning does bring some value to the learning process, providing for learning opportunities that would otherwise be impossible but is the actual way we learn different than say how we learned twenty years ago? Mayes and DeFreitas argue what we see with e-learning is a new model of education rather than a new model of learning.

One of the central messages of the chapter is that although there are a variety of learning theories out there, they are essentially complimentary. The authors nicely categorise the theories into the following perspectives:

  • Associationist Perspective - learning through the gradual building of patterns of associations and skill components. This perspective encompasses associationism, behaviourism and connectionism. It is this perspective that Gagne's task hierarchy fits nicely into - tasks get increasingly complex and build on others. In the task hierarchy a learner doesn't move on from one level until that component is understood.
  • Cognitive Perspective - This perspective sees knowledge acquisition as moving knowledge from a declarative form to a procedural form. As a learner becomes an expert the component skills become automatised - conscious attention is no longer needed to monitor low-level aspects of performance. Key activities here are interactions with material systems and concepts, and discussion with peers to develop understanding and competence. This perspective highlights that new knowledge must be built on something the learner all ready knows - educators cannot simply get the learners to memorise expert knowledge. Building knowledge structures from solid foundations must be done using problem-solving activity and feedback.
  • Situative Perspective - This perspective embraces social learning and the fact that learning must be personally meaningful. 
The authors see these perspectives as complementary but a different perspective needs to be applied to a given e-learning context.  Each perspective addresses a different learning need as the learner looks to gain mastery in a given topic. e-Learning technology can support the pedagogical approach.

Okay so that is chapter one down. Hope to get a few more chapters done over the next week. Comments most welcome. 

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