A Workshop on Learning with Technologies

Temenoujka Fuller temenoujka.fuller@centralaz.edu

Central Arizona College, USA.

Orhidea Georgieva, deia@abv.bg

Department for Language Teaching and International Students, (DLTIS), Sofia University, Bulgaria

Resume.  The shift from a teaching to a learning paradigm is presented in this paper by a brief review of existing research on paradigm change, teaching and learning. The need of experimental and theoretical research to unify the studies on students' personality, cognitive aspects of learning, knowledge management, and development of some aspect of cooperative learning is used to inform the design, development and implementation of a four-phase workshop to provide data for developmental research on adaptive learning systems. Some original results and applications, supporting the experiment with multipurpose workshop, are presented and briefly discussed.

Introduction. In the most popular book on paradigm change [1], Thomas Kuhn provides comprehensive analysis on the change of the belief system (paradigm) in the case of scientific revolutions. Although, this paper presents the change in educational systems, most of the critical conditions for a change are the same as in "pure science," because it is the change of our belief system in general that is the key to a new paradigm. The new learning paradigm [2] means many changes in the system of education. This paper presents one pragmatic approach of addressing one strategy for a change to a new educational paradigm by designing scalable infrastructure supported by action research conducted to support the learning process [3]. A multipurpose, long-running, technology-based workshop guided by the discoveries of modern physics and learning is presented in the paper to integrate new learning methods, computers, and new beliefs about education. Historically, the change of an educational paradigm resembles a process of phase transition [4] in a thermodynamic system. The analogy with thermodynamics is used to guide the strategic planning of this study. The transition from a teacher-centered education to more individualized education is a process of change of the system of beliefs from "one set of beliefs fits all educators and students" to a more general belief system that will orchestrates our automatic behavior without standardization. To change the entire educational system from mass-standardization to mass-personalization educational systems will need much more than computer integration into the classroom.

The expectation that technology integration into the learning process will increase the learning outcome requires new skills from instructors and students. This paper presents two different types of long-running workshops designed to observe and compare the transition from a teaching paradigm to a learning paradigm with embedded action research. According to Buckley [2], "Changing faculty behavior requires transformational faculty-development experiences. Faculty development generally consists of workshops or other evangelistic experiences that do not provide a sufficient opportunity to reflect and experiment, to probe new learning principles deeply."

The model of the change of learning outcomes used to guide the development of these workshops is presented at Fig. 1. In the time of societal change, the learning demand and the tacit knowledge about students’ learning and teachers' methods may balance each other for some interval of time. To increase the learning in the system, this study uses outside support to change the balance and increase the academic achievement through project-based learning.

Text Box:     Industrial Era         Transition                 Information Era

 

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

           

 

 

 

             Figure 1 The integration of educational technologies has three phases: linear growth of learning with increasing the amount of learning technologies, followed by the plateau - the period of balance between the new and old paradigm, and, finally, the support for instructors leads to change of the entire paradigm

Population. In the supported workshop, low achieving on standardized placement tests students enrolled in developmental literacy classes were conveniently selected for the workshop. In a non-supported workshop, international students with different achievement scores were selected conveniently. Students in this group study in a secondary language. The populations in the two sample groups were with diverse backgrounds and cognitive skills.

Research Method. The workshops were conducted part of the time in computer labs and part of the time in computerized classrooms with students computer ratio 1:1 [9]. Both workshops use technology for learning and specific challenging curricular objectives; however, the supported workshop was conducted with two additional learning opportunities:

a)  for instructor to reflect, observe, analyze and gradually become comfortable with the learning paradigm; and,

b) for students to meet with tutors in the Learning Center at time convenient for the students and tutors.

Although the two workshops address the computer integration into the project-based learning, the approach to technology integration is different in each one.

The action research was originally developed by Kurt Lewin [6] and modified for instructional purposes. Technology integration into the system of education led to new opportunities for educator to conduct action research. For example, teachers or educators have easer way to record qualitative and quantitative data, the access to electronic databases is increasing, new professional community of practices online provide opportunities for formative evaluation and collaboration, and others. 

The goal of action research in this study was to develop controllable and intentional transition from single loop learning to double loop learning (Argyris [7]).  In a single loop learning, as it is described by Kuhn [1, p. 35], the research is locked into the old paradigm. Through planning, implementing, reflecting, and overcoming the old counterproductive tacit beliefs, and new planning, the team has the opportunity “to jump” from the old paradigm to a double loop learning [7]. In general, the tacit knowledge may be productive and counterproductive. One example for counterproductive tacit knowledge is the cognitive overload for some students and lack of challenge for others. We all know that standardized homework will have different learning impact on different students; however, in the industrial era the established teaching standards were undisputable.In this study, the transition to a new paradigm is directed by collaboration of learning center and instructor for designing customized learning opportunities.  The transition is gradual and self-sustained in the process due to the fact that the learning opportunities are relocated from classroom only to a combination of classroom and outside-of-the-classroom. 

        Two additional learning services, action research and informal professional development, were provided only in the supported workshop (we can call it experimental). In the control workshop, the whole program was designed and developed only by the instructor with no institutional support. An action for the experimental group was conducted by the guest speaker (a representative of the learning center) throughout the entire long-running workshop. The results of the experimental workshop available online [8]. Professional development for both, the instructor and the learning specialist, was a second goal for the experimental group. The opportunities for the instructor to analyze, facilitate, and evaluate the learning process without extra preparation time, stress and work after the workshop, led to productive collaboration for more than 10 semesters. The data on learning accomplishment of the supported workshop is collected by surveys, students’ artifacts (technology-based projects), and observations. Students’ artifacts from the first experimental workshop (2004) are available online [9].

          Experiments with Supported Workshop. The support for this workshop was provided by a guest speaker who orchestrated the entire project. Students/participants were assisted by the guest speaker through tutoring/mentoring programs outside of the classroom [10]. Phase I was designed to build a collaboration between the faculty member and the representative of the learning center. In Phase II, the presenter used technologies to present regular content from a learning point of view directly into the classroom. For example, teaching students how to take notes with PowerPoint. Phase III takes at least a month or even longer. In this phase, the guest speaker or tutors from the learning center provide individualized instruction as needed to all students to prepare their project. A learning environment, enriched with specifically developed for the workshop services, provides computers, software, tutors and a place for cooperative learning. In Phase IV of this workshop, students presented their artifacts. There was a hidden part of our old tacit knowledge that good students will do well, the rest of the students will fail. In the supported workshop every student can learn with as much assistance as needed; the workshop was designed to increase the meta-cognitive awareness of personal learning needs, and to provide academic the amount of help each students would like to get.

        Experiments with Non-supported Workshop. Non-supported workshop has the same phases, but without the learning support provided in the supported workshop. An ongoing professional self-development and action research during the implementation phase are conducted by the instructor. Students receive regular tutoring in the classroom and in office hours for the group. This so- called learning boutique [2] has huge local value for the instructor and his or her students; however, it is hard to transfer these unique experiences into the entire educational system. It is hard to convince resistant instructors or educational leaders that these learning experiences are beneficial in a long run. Traditional measurement of students’ achievement was highly ignorant about students’ ability for self-directed learning; therefore, the system often remains blind to personal accomplishments of these workshops. Data collection is an overwhelming process for one instructor only. The overload for instructor interferes with the quality of the learning experiences.

        Observations and results. Both workshops, presented in this paper, are designed to provide data and observations on educational needs in the time of change from teaching to learning paradigm. The data of each workshop is used immediately for reflections and improvements of the next workshops. With a limited change of the traditional curriculum, the workshop's designer conducts careful observations on students' learning needs and plan for immediate improvements.

        The variables, used to compare the observations of the two workshops, are presented in column one of Table 1.  Column 2 of Table 1 presents the observations for non-supported workshop.  The observation of the supported workshop are listed in Column 3.  The change of traditional classroom into a learning environment can happen if the instructor is trained to make changes; however, there are obstacles to be considered in this case. The observations summed in Table 1 show that a change from teaching to learning benefits from outside learning programs and services. Training embedded into the classroom is new and highly effective and efficient method. It is possible that  providing traditional or new instructors with experiences of classroom integration of computers and individualized instruction to remove the resistance against the change of the paradigm.  In the case of supported workshop, learning and faculty departments are united to provide flexible management for change of traditional teaching format.  Learning assistance is provided for instructors and for all students in and out of the classroom. The guest speaker collects qualitative and quantitative data and provides management of long-term research on the learning through action research. Also, the guest speaker provides individualized instruction to all students in a timely manner.  After few consecutive workshops, the instructor in the supportive workshop gradually converges to the new learning paradigm. Students learn technologies as a new learning tool and gradually gain learning independence. 

      The non-supported workshop is equally effective and efficient, with limited opportunities for action research and professional development. Although many instructors are willing to double or triple their effort to integrate technologies in education, many consider the traditional form of education beneficial for students.   Table 1 shows only few observable variables for two workshops. The supported workshop is expensive in short run if there is no established department to do the service; however, the advantages of this workshop for all variables, presented in the table, should be considered in future planning.

Table 1: Observable Variables.

 

  Observations

Non-supported workshop

Supported workshop

Development of Educational Resources and Methods

All learning methods and resources are developed by the instructor.

The guest speaker and the instructor provide learning resources and methods.

Learning Community

Only in the classroom and teachers office hours

The College Learning Center provides supportive environment for expanding learning community.

Scalability

Traditional scalability

This workshop is highly scalable - the guest speaker can work in different classrooms and learning centers to expand the scope.

Individualized Instruction

Regular

Regular + Guest speaker and tutors provide out-of-the classroom tutoring as needed.

Action Research

One-sided, conducted by the instructor only.

Conducted by the guest speaker and the instructor. A two sided observation is provided.

Professional Development Cost-Paradox

Short-term Cost for Professional Development

Low cost with tension in the system.

Depends on availability and relocation of human resources.

Long-term Cost for Professional Development

High

Low

         A new type of learning activities related to problematic areas of learning [3] should be planned and developed with cognitive and non-cognitive learning objectives. The learning classes of the future probably will integrate reason, action and reflection by bridging all subjects and individual learning preferences into pleasant and successful academic and personal experiences.

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References

[1]   Kuhn, T. (1996). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London

[2]    Boggs, G. R. On the Horizon. Accepting Responsibility for Student Learning. 1998,   6(1), 1, 5-6. 

[3]   Papert, Y. (1996). A Word for Learning. In Constructionism in Practice: Designing, Thinking and Learning in a Digital world (pp. 9-24). Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence  Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.

[4]   Wikepedia, Fase Transition, Retrieved April 27, 2006 from  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phase_change.

[5]   Buckley, D., (2002). Pursuing of the learning paradigm, Educase Review 29, Retrieved April 20, 2006 from Internet: http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ERM0202.pdf

 

[6]   Lewin K. (1946), Journal of Social Issues, Action Research and Minorities Problems.

 

[7]   Chris Argyris, Infed, theories of action, double-loop learning and organizational learning. Retrieved April 18, 2006 from   http://www.infed.org/thinkers/argyris.htm

 

[8]   Fuller T. (2005), Learning Demand, Students’ Learning Demand and the Zone  of Proximal Development; Retrieved April 18, 2006 from

http://www.learningdemand.com/final_reflection.htm

[9]   Fuller T., Learning Demand, Workshop on Learning, Technologies and Modern  Physics: Artifacts; Retrieved April 18, 2006 from  http://www.taskstream.com/main/?/fuller42/StudentsArtifactssummer2005.html