Category Archives: Learning Style

Input equals output



There are many different angles to be explored when looking at student outcomes. We need to know the learners background of content, the students motivation and the learners developmental level. When we are talking about higher education this can encompass a wide variety of learners and needs. “A central challenge for educators is to support the emergence of environments for adults to participate in their own learning with respect to to those issues that are integral to their lives (Barab, Thomas & Merrill, 2001, pg. 107).”

So not only should we be looking at outcome, but also where students are in their lives. Distance education was an alternative for students who were unable to attend traditional classes based on geography, but the ability to remove the constraints of time and location from education exploded with the technology offered by the internet and has opened a whole new educational community (Bernare, Abrami, Lou, Borokohovski, Wade,Wozney et al., 2004).

What are the effects on K-12 students in distance education courses? Eleven variables were identified as features that impacted outcomes of student performance. These variables were: duration of program, frequency of use of distance learning, instructional role of the program, number of distance learning sessions, duration of distance learning sessions, pacing of the instruction, role of the instructor, timing of interactions, type of interactions, amount of teacher preparation for distance instruction, and amount of teacher experience in distance instruction (Cavanaugh, Gillan, Kromrey, Hess & Blomeyer, 2004).

These ideas connect to interactions of student:teacher:content. I am thinking about science courses that I took as an undergraduate and how they may work online. The lecture part of the course would be fantastic online, but what about the labs? How about the role of gaming as an alternative to textbooks and science labs? Massive Multiplayer Online Gaming (MMGO) can offer “well-crafted instruction, yet they also fully realize simulated worlds exhibiting emergent, unpredictable properties…MMGO’s can offer multivariate problems of real complexity and of genuine social importance to those solving them, problem solvers are stakeholders…individuals have the opportunity to make a genuine contribution (Steinkuehler & Chmiel, 2006, pg. 728).” Maybe this is an area of education that will get more attention and we will begin to realize that while distance education and f2f education have the same outcomes, some of the technological tools we have will benefit some disciplines over others.



Barab, S. A., Thomas, M. K., & Merrill, H. (2001). Online learning: From information dissemination to fostering collaboration. Journal of Interactive Learning Research, 12(1), 105-143.

Bernard, R. M., Abrami, P. C., Lou, Y., Borokhovski, E., Wade, A., Wozney, L., … & Huang, B. (2004). How does distance education compare with classroom instruction? A meta-analysis of the empirical literature. Review of educational research, 74(3), 379-439.

Cavanaugh, C., Gillan, K. J., Kromrey, J., Hess, M., & Blomeyer, R. (2004). The Effects of Distance Education on K-12 Student Outcomes: A Meta-Analysis.Learning Point Associates/North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL).

Steinkuehler, C., & Chmiel, M. (2006, June). Fostering scientific habits of mind in the context of online play. In Proceedings of the 7th international conference on Learning sciences (pp. 723-729). International Society of the Learning Sciences.

What is up with connectivism?


What’s up?
George Siemens challenges the learning theories of the past with his modern take on learning incorporating the connections available through new technologies and the ability to easily connect using many digital platforms. He highlights the trends in learning, more specifically the impact of technology and ones ability to find knowledge, process information through the use of technology, technology connections in communities, personal life and work, and the impact of technology on our thinking (Siemans, 2005). Siemans does not discount learning theories of cognitivism, constructivism and behaviorism, but he points out their limitations in a digital age. He points out that that learning happens through the interactions of people. In addition the value of what is being learned and its value to us is an important understanding that learners make before they engage in learning (Siemans, 2005). According to Siemans (2005), connectivism attempts to explain this shift in learning theory from being an internal process to a more external process. This is what we understand distributed cognition to be, the linking together of culture, context and history with cognition. “It does not seem possible to account for the cognitive accomplishments of our species by reference to what is inside our heads alone. One must also consider the cognitive roles of the social and material world (Hutchins, 200o, pg. 9).”  Connectivism embraces diversity of opinions, connecting to sources including: various technologies, others, current knowledge, fields, ideas and concepts,  the need to know more,  and decision-making (Siemans, 2005). The flow of information and how we keep that flow continuous despite the content is at the heart of connectivism.
Is it strong enough?
The great thing about connectivism is that it opens up a theory that incorporates the way the world is shifting. It incorporates what we know that shift to be at this moment. Currently we have vast quantities of information at our fingertips and we need to start piecing together the who, what, where, when and how of information. We have this continuous flow of information at home, at work and in our jobs, so we must be learning outside of ourselves which is contrary to what other learning theories of the past have implied. “The attractiveness and accessibility of the theory of connectivism makes it a good candidate for structuring innovation by educators in their practice (Bell, 2009, pg. 10).” Connectivism gives us a rationale for stepping outside of our 1950’s classroom, and embracing the ways of the 21st century. It helps explain how we share, connect and improve our abilities to be an informed society, impacting our future democracy. “When knowledge is abundant, the rapid evaluation of knowledge is important…the ability to synthesize and recognize connections and patterns is a valuable skill (Siemens, 2005, pg. 2).”
Where does it need to grow?
While connectivism is an interesting and productive theory on learning, it is important to embrace it with what we have learned and studied for decades and decades. Throughout human history it is important to note the observations and theories that have come before us and how they mesh, add or have shifted today. Connectivism should be considered with caution. We look to this theory as participants in it’s making, but there is a deeper level of knowing our students that we need to see. “Greater risk comes from the fact that connectivism tends to overrate learning conditions and cultural stances that in reality are peculiar to specific fields: virtuous dynamics of acquisitive self-generation in the net are occasional emergences, that occur more frequently with categories of adult people, endowed with good technological and meta-cognitive abilities and with good knowledge in the domain, while they occur much less with all other categories, and anyhow facing a myriad of futile and disorientating interactions which in any case come into play (Calvani, 2009, pg. 251).” It is not so simple as to say, “if you show them they will learn.” There is more depth to learning than just connecting on and through these various technological platforms. We need to look at the roles of the students, the learners, the environment, the classroom/materials, and how we are to shift a historically static institution (Darrow, 2009).
The bottom line for me …
Connectivism is in it’s early adolescents and needs more refinement. There is a strong need to understand how we are incorporating technologies and our ability to interact and connect with information at a constant clip. The maturation of this theory is one that I hope blossoms into a more practical and accepted learning theory. There is a place at the learning theory table for connectivism, and with time we will learn and observe how this theory can accompany our learners in the 21st century.


Bell, F. (2009). Connectivism: a network theory for teaching and learning in a connected world. Educational Developments, The Magazine of the Staff and Educational Development Association, 10(3).

Calvani, A. (2009). Connectivism: new paradigm or fascinating pot-pourri?.Journal of E-learning and Knowledge Society, 4(1).

Darrow, S. (2009). Connectivism learning theory: Instructional tools for college courses (Doctoral dissertation, Western Connecticut State University).

Hutchins, E. (2000). Distributed cognition. Internacional Enciclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences.

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 2(1), 3-10.

I am a ______learner?

When I impulsively fill in the blank my response is, I am a visual learner. Then I step back and realize that that isn’t true. The learning style that I thought described me, well, just doesn’t exist. How can I be a visual learner without the audio? Stepping back farther, what am I learning? If I am learning to cook, then I need to smell and taste, if I am learning about a poet I need to read and visualize.  When I think about all of the things that I love to do and how I learned them I realize that I learned a lot of different information in a lot of different ways. Why would I quickly reply visual learner? How many others respond to visual?

This summer I was introduced to the article “The Myth of Learning Styles” by Cedar Riener and Daniel Willingham. The article clearly points out the learning styles lack credible evidence and that the differences we see in learners is based on genetics, interests, experiences and abilities. So when I characterize myself as a visual learner is that what interests me? I love to experience audio and visual presentations. One of my favorite resources is Ted Talks. It is not a glitzy produced video on ideas, but a matter of fact talk on ideas worth sharing. I love listening to podcasts such as On Point, and This American Life. I love going to workshops and seminars to experience presenters and topics of interests. When I start to dig into what it is in learning that grabs me and engages me it is social interactions. It is sharing ideas, discussing perspectives and learning from others that ignites my passion for learning. I think of what all of my learning experiences have in common, and it is that I want to connect. I want to share,show teach, tell, discuss, or explain. I want to engage and socially connect what I am learning with others.

So how do we figure this out? How do we understand our learners? I can look to theory and pedagogy to inform my teaching practices, but that alone will not work. I need to understand and make decisions of my educational practice based on constant evaluation. Willingham discusses boundary conditions, must have principles, and could do principles when observing the educational process. These all align with an analogy of teaching that doesn’t fit particular learning styles, but fundamental principles. The principles of teaching are to know your students, know your conditions and understand best practice. I need to have the space to know my students and their goals. I need to have the resources and the tools to connect. It is constant construction where we are not always aware of the final product with out the input of our families and students. The analogy of teaching, by Willingham, to architect is brilliant. There are certain rules and fundamental skills that we must apply in construction of our teaching, but the variables of ability, interest, resources and experiences will shape our final product. We must work together on a common goal of educating our students

So now when I fill in the blank, I will leave the blank there and just say I am a learner, who want to connect and learn more.