Andragogy and Digigogy
We are in the business of training adults in the 21st Century... so andragogy and digigogy makes far for sense than pedagogy ...
Constructionism asserts that learning is particularly effective when constructing something for others to experience. This can be anything from a spoken sentence or an internet posting, to more complex artifacts like a painting, a house or a software package.
For example, you might read this page several times and still forget it by tomorrow - but if you were to try and explain these ideas to someone else in your own words, or produce a slideshow that explained these concepts, then it's very likely you'd have a better understanding that is more integrated into your own ideas. This is why people take notes during lectures (even if they never read the notes again).
Social constructivism extends constructivism into social settings, wherein groups construct knowledge for one another, collaboratively creating a small culture of shared artifacts with shared meanings. When one is immersed within a culture like this, one is learning all the time about how to be a part of that culture, on many levels.
A very simple example is an object like a cup. The object can be used for many things, but its shape does suggest some "knowledge" about carrying liquids. A more complex example is an online course - not only do the "shapes" of the software tools indicate certain things about the way online courses should work, but the activities and texts produced within the group as a whole will help shape how each person behaves within that group.
This idea looks deeper into the motivations of individuals within a discussion:
- Separate behaviour is when someone tries to remain 'objective' and 'factual', and tends to defend their own ideas using logic to find holes in their opponent's ideas.
- Connected behaviour is a more empathic approach that accepts subjectivity, trying to listen and ask questions in an effort to understand the other point of view.
- Constructed behaviour is when a person is sensitive to both of these approaches and is able to choose either of them as appropriate to the current situation.
In general, a healthy amount of connected behaviour within a learning community is a very powerful stimulant for learning, not only bringing people closer together but promoting deeper reflection and re-examination of their existing beliefs.
1. Social Constructionism as a Referent
- All of us are potential teachers as well as learners - in a true collaborative environment we are both.
- It's so important to recognise and remember this.
- It helps us keep our eyes open for opportunities to allow the other participants in our learning situation to share their ideas with us and to remind us to listen carefully and ask good questions that elicit more from others.
2. We learn particularly well from the act of creating or expressing something for others to see.
- For most of us this is basically "learning by doing”, and is fairly obvious, yet it's worth reminding ourselves of it.
- It's surprising how much online learning is still just presenting static information, giving students little opportunity to practice the activities they are learning about.
- Most importantly, such learning is best when you are expressing and presenting posts, projects, assignments, constructions etc for others to see. In this situation your personal "stakes” are a lot higher, and a lot of self-checking and reflection takes place that increases learning. Seymour Papert (the inventor of logo) famously described the process of constructing something for others to see as a very powerful learning experience, and really this sort of thinking goes right back to Socrates and beyond.
3. We learn a lot by just observing the activity of our peers.
- Basically this is about "classroom culture”, or learning by osmosis. Humans are good at watching each other and learning what to do in a given situation through cues from others.
- For example, if you walk into a lecture theatre where everyone is sitting in seats, facing the front, listening quietly to the teacher at the front and taking notes, then that's most likely what you are going to do too, right?
- If you are in a less rigid class where people are asking questions all the time, then it's likely you'll feel freer to do so too. By doing so you'll be learning about both the subject itself and the meta-subject of how learning occurs from overhearing the discussions of your peers and the kinds of questions that get asked, leading to a richer multi-dimensional immersion in learning.
4. By understanding the contexts of others, we can teach in a more transformational way (constructivism)
- As you probably know from experience, advice from a mentor or friend can provide better, more timely and customised learning experience than with someone who doesn't know you and is speaking to a hundred people.
- If we understand the background of the people we are speaking to then we can customise our language and our expression of concepts in ways that are best suited to the audience. You can choose metaphors that you know the audience will relate to. You can use jargon where it helps or avoid jargon when it gets in the way.
- Again this is a pretty basic idea - every guide to public speaking talks about knowing your audience - but in online learning we need to be particular mindful of this because we often have not met these people in person and don't have access to many visual and auditory cues.
5. A learning environment needs to be flexible and adaptable, so that it can quickly respond to the needs of the participants within it.
- Combining all the above, if you as a learning facilitator want to take advantage of your growing knowledge about your participants, giving them tailored opportunities to share ideas, ask questions and express their knowledge, then you need an environment which is flexible, both in time and space.
- If you discover that you need to throw your schedule out the window because your participants know a lot less than you'd expected when you first designed the course, you should be able to readjust the schedule, and easily add new activities to help everyone (or just one group) catch up. Likewise, some great ideas for a simulation or something may have come up during discussions, so you should be able to add those later in the course.
- Timewise, your participants may be spread over different timezones, or maybe they live in the same timezone but have differing free time, so you should be able to offer asynchronous activities where people can work together but at different times... (Dougiamas, M., http://dougiamas.com/writing, 120309).