At this point in my Learning Theories and Instruction course, three things I’ve learned about myself and about learning stand out. The first is that, instead of using flash cards to memorize what I need to learn, I should spend time elaborating on what I’m learning to transfer it to my long-term memory and to make as many “connections” as possible. There might be times when flash cards and the Behaviorist theory are appropriate for what I’m learning, but not often.
The second thing that stands out is that the material I’ve explored during this class validates my preference for learning by researching and solving problems that directly affect my life. Relevance is critical to me, as I have little free time and there are SO many things I want to learn!
The third thing that stands out validates my preference to spend time learning with others—socializing is an important aspect in several of the learning theories, not just the Social Learning Theory. According to Davis et al., with the Constructivist theory learners create meaning in social environments (2008), and making and nurturing connections is critical to Connectivism. I thrive in social environments, especially those that include brainstorming on writing projects. I don’t learn in just one way, and by using different theories in different situations I maximize my learning potential.
Technology plays a critical role in my learning, although my methodology is hybrid: I use what I need from the 21st Century (the Internet, Word processing, my smart phone) without giving up some of the tools that worked for me in the 20th Century, like highlighters. I don’t live close to a good library, so when I do research for myself I do it online, where once I did it at a library. I appreciate that “good” library material is available online, which makes it easier to find solid sources. Even if I’m only looking for verification that certain words (like species) are italicized and capitalized, I search through journals because I know their publishing standards are strict and they are reliable sources.
I still prefer readying hard copy books over electronic books when I’m learning so I can highlight specific passages. Then once I begin writing I lay different articles out on a large table and can easily find each bit of information I need. At work almost all of my research is electronic. If I’m going to write from my research, I usually print it out and use the same methodology I use at home, highlighting and then spreading the articles out when I begin to write.
My smart phone is an important part of this process. I can’t think creatively when I have to block out background noise with words in it such as television. While I research and write I listen to a “Dolphins and Whales” station on Pandora radio. It is my background white music of choice, and it frees my mind for hours at a time.
Once I know what part of my research materials I will use, I locate the electronic copies of my research articles, open a new Word document, and cut and paste from html or PDF to Word and then write around my notes. Eventually I delete everything that doesn’t work, and rearrange information until either I’m satisfied with it or until I run out of time—usually the latter. I look at it as whittling: I pick up a stick (all my research material), see what is waiting to be brought to life within the stick, and cut out everything that isn’t part of the finished vision.