Tag Archives: education

Psychological Perspectives and ICT

For my final ICT specialist module of the year I was required to research and learn about psychological perspectives and ICT. In order to do convey what I have learnt I have created a series of blogs which represent a range of topics that can be discovered within this module. These topics include insights into the psychological theories that underpin learning, the impact that ICT has in education and these topics have influenced how we teach and educate today.
I began my learning by researching “How the work of Pavlov influenced education” this was the first step into the world of how psychology has influenced education for me and very much an area of research that encouraged me to learn more. My second blog was entitles “Learning through making” and it opened my eyes to the collaborative learning and how learning theories are usually built upon the work conducted by others. As I progressed through the module I began to gain an interest in exploring how technology has become apparent in our lives and education. This encouraged me to explore the world of “Computer dependency” an area of modern life that is often overlooked. Building upon this my learning drove me toward the use of “Technology in the classroom” and how we can use technology to further the development of children and how they learn.

These initial blogs allowed me to not only increase my understanding of a range of topics but also presented me with the opportunity to gain new knowledge surrounding the issues raised in this module. But with my ever increasing desire to learn more I decided to go back and research a few more learning theories for a few reasons. Firstly I wanted to expand my current base of knowledge regarding learning theory and understand why we teach the way we do or why we did at particular times in history. For example “Bandura, the theory of social learning and education” provided me with the opportunity to understand how the behaviour can influence the actions of others along with other things. Another theory that I took a particular interest in was “Situated learning.” After posting my first blog on this topic I was encouraged by feedback that I received to post a second blog on the topic titled “Comparing situated learning,” this allowed me to research the topic further and deepen my understanding of the topic. Another interest that I gained whilst studying this module was how theorists explain how we has people behave and act. I decided to research the work of Maslow but to approach it from a teachers point of view, writing a blog thinking about “How the performance of children in the classroom relate to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.” My final blog looked into the “Presentation of self in a digital life” allowing me to think deeply about how the digital world allows us to alter our persona and how people perceive us in both a personal and professional manner.

I feel that as a learner looking to expand his knowledge approaching this module in this way has been extremely beneficial to me. I have just written an essay surrounding two or three topics but researched and understood a wide range of topics that cover a variety of aspects of this module. In turn by representing my learning in the form of a series of blogs it has provide me with the opportunity to receive feedback that helps me to think about what I have written developing me as a learner.

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Presentation of Self in a Digital Life

For the purposes of this blog I wanted to consider the presentation of ones self in a digital life and how some people can be perceived differently online than they would be in person. I hope to combine theory and my own experiences to discuss the implications the digital age have on how we are perceived in a personal/professional manner and how it affects our lives.

If we begin by considering the thoughts of Goffman (1959) who brought to our attention the fact that when someone is forced to interact with another person, that person is putting on a performance. They carefully analyse every move they make in terms of how the other person will react or how the other person’s perception of them might change. As people in this society we are brought up to recognise that there is a correct way to behave and an incorrect way. Goffman (1959) ratified this when he stated that “A society’s cultural norms define the social forces that push humans to interact in a way that is congruent with accepted social rules.” Furthermore Leary and Allen (2011) discussed how they believed that although people’s self-presentation correlates moderately with their own views, these people also tailor their public images to specific targets. In (1959) Goffman described the social world in the form of a metaphor, relating the life of the everyday person to that of a performance on a stage. He argues that we present ourselves in a certain manner in order to make identity claims for ourselves. In making these claims we attempt to secure both material and social resources for ourselves. Goffman describes those that take part in social interaction as actors, with said social interaction taking place on the front stage of life and the subsequent planning occurring on the back stage or behind the scenes. He proceeds to argue that people will go to some trouble to avoid the social situation of embarrassment. Embarrassment stops social interaction dead in its tracks and must be responded to. We say it is problematic. In order to avoid such embarrassment people will engage what is described by Goffman (1959) as “Face work.” Too much loss of face transcends mere embarrassment and becomes a powerful negative social label that radically changes a person’s social identity and self-concept or Stigma. “A person is reduced from a whole and usual one to a tainted and discounted one” (Goffman, 1963).

Goffman developed a series of concepts which are useful in describing and understanding interaction. The development of the digital world has opened up a new range of interactions that build upon the ideas first outlined by Goffman. The digital world provides people with the “backstage” previously mentioned allowing us to create the required front stage persona that everyone will see. From this we can compare face to face interaction with how we are perceived in the digital world. It is fair to say that although both allow us to mould and create a persona the digital world allows us to edit and remove areas of that persona that may cause embarrassment.

Thinking about the construction of our digital identity how does it influence the perception that people have of you? In fact because this world provides us with the chance to create any persona that we want, people may be led to believe that you are someone that you are not. Social media such as Facebook is rife with fake accounts in fact Wasserman (2012) estimates that there are approximately 83 million. Information such as this has led to an increase in awareness regarding e-safety and the drive to educate people on how to use the web properly. But considering the question from a professional point of view, a view that is important to me as a trainee teacher; your digital life is one that is very much in the public eye, anyone can access the aspects of your life once they are made digital unless the correct precautions are taken. As highlighted my Miller (1995) “on the Web you can put yourself up for interaction without being aware of a rebuff, and others can try you out without risking being involved further than they would wish.” In professional terms someone that you want to work for could potentially check you out simply by searching your name on the web. If they find something that could discredit the company, the chances of being hired are reduced significantly. For this reason alone it quintessentially important that we are aware of how we are portrayed in our digital lives. Illustrated in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (1954) we are all motivated to fulfil our potential and this could possibly be why some people try to create a new persona online, develop a character that is perfect for reaching that potential.

As explained by Miller (1995) as the culture of electronic communication develops, people will construct expressive resources out of whatever facilities are available. Electronic communication will become more and more human communication to the extent that there is more to it than just efficiently passing information to each other. Considering this the digital world for some may become their only stage, choosing to present themselves just in a digital form. Reasons for this would vary depending on the individual; some may feel that this allows them to create the perfect persona, others may feel more comfortable behind a computer screen but whatever their reasons I think it is important that our digital lives and real lives are linked but are separate. Although our digital lives can be presented in a way that ensures we are not viewed in a negative light they should still be accurate. Inaccuracies can lead to problems in the future in both our personal and professional lives. Leary & Allen (2011) explained that people only present their true self with those that they are close to or trust. Leary & Allen state that this is because people are “compelled to present themselves more accurately to people who know them better.” To a degree it is understandable that people do not want to reveal their entire self to professionals or people they are unfamiliar with. However I think that we should never lie about ourselves but perhaps not fully reveal all aspects of our personas straight away.

References and Further Reading

Goffman, E. (1959) The Presentation of Self in a Everyday Life. New York: Double Day.

Goffman, E. (1963). Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Miller, H. (1995) The Presentation of Self in Electronic Life: Goffman on the Internet. [Online] Available at: http://www.dourish.com/classes/ics234cw04/miller2.pdf (Accessed: 20th March 2013)

Leary, M & Allen, A. (2011). Self-Presentational Persona: Simultaneous Management of Multiple Impressions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2011, Vol. 101, No. 5, 1033–1049

Maslow, A. H. (1954). Motivation and personality. New York: Harper and Row

Wasserman, T. (2012) [Online] Available at: http://mashable.com/2012/08/02/fake-facebook-accounts/ (Accessed: 21st March 2013)

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Comparing Situated Learning

Following the publishing of my previous blog post “Situated Learning.” I have received a few comments discussing my thoughts and the post. However a comment from one of my lecturers caught my attention in particular, a challenge per say to think deeper about the topic. I have spent some time researching the idea of situated learning and want to consider how it compares to similar well-known learning theories. By placing a focus on situated learning and comparing it to other theories it has forced me to engage more with the idea of situated cognition and as a result expanded my knowledge of the subject.

Firstly what is a theory, so often we hear the word used throughout published works but how is it defined? The colloquial use of the term means a guess or a hunch, but from a psychological or scientific point of view it is much different. As stated by Cherry (2012), “A theory is based upon a hypothesis and backed up by evidence.” However why do we apply psychological theories about learning to education? Doing so enables us to have a “scientific basis for education in how people think, feel, and motivate themselves rather than only to guess what intuitively might make sense, (Sternberg, 2008). Referring back to situated learning, is it the best theory for learning, how does it compare to other theories from the past and those that stand alongside it?

Lave and Wenger (1990) referred to situated learning as the process of “legitimate peripheral participation.” They argued that most learning jumps in and out of context and that any knowledge obtained needs to be presented in settings and situations that relate to that knowledge. McLellan (1996) speaks of learning as a “Lifelong process” resulting from learning in “different situations.” Expanding further upon this the thoughts of McLellan, it could be said that we learn as we grow throughout our lives as we encounter new situations and people. Perhaps the idea of situated learning for our children create a similar environment where the class learn through experience and context. Referring to my previous blog post Collins (1988) highlighted some of the benefits associated with situated learning. Describing it as a theory which applies knowledge, engages children, shows the implications children’s thought processes can have in real life and creates meaning for the learning that is taking place. Thinking deeper about situated learning Brown et al (1989) suggest the idea of cognitive apprenticeship. They state that it “supports learning in a domain by enabling students to acquire, develop and use cognitive tools in learning both outside and inside school.”

Comparing the theory of situated learning to other theories past and present we can see a link between it and constructivist ideas. The theory of constructivism suggests that what children learn arises through the construction of concepts that make sense through their real life experiences and reflections upon these experiences. The cognitive tools mentioned by Brown et al (1989) are advanced through the idea of collaboration, social interaction and the idea of social constructivism. Situated learning has similarities with Vygotsky’s theory of learning through social development, both of these theories emphasise the importance of social learning. Vygotsky (1978) introduced the idea of the zone of proximal development where by a child can extend their knowledge and therefore further their learning through the help of another peer. In continuation of this, Bandura (1977) believed that social learning theory explained human behavior in terms of continuous reciprocal interaction between cognitive, behavioral, and environmental influences.

However in conclusion which specific theory is the correct one, which theory should we promote in our education system? No theory is a pure theory, they are all built upon the ideas presented in other theories. In my own opinion i feel that by educating children in a situated context it highlights the idea of ensuring that their learning has meaning. If I felt that I could not apply something to my own life or experiences that i may encounter, i would deem it a waste of time that i could be investing in understanding something else. By providing a context children understand how they can use what they are being taught in their own lives. This in turn is a method of engagement, capturing the attention of the child that would otherwise take no interest. Situated learning puts a child in a context where the skills they are being taught become transferable. Finally all theories have positives and negative aspects to them but in terms of teaching it is up to use as professionals to decide on what is best for our children’s education.

    Sources, References and Further Reading

Bandura, A. (1977). Social Learning Theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Brown, J.S., Collins, A. & Duguid, S. (1989). Situated Cognition and the Culture of Learning. Educational Researcher, 18(1), 32-42

Cherry, K. (2012) What is Theory? [Online] Available at: http://psychology.about.com/od/tindex/f/theory.htm (Accessed: 26 February 2013).
Collins, A. (1988). Cognitive Apprenticeship and Instructional technology. (Technical Report No. 6899). BBN Labs Inc., Cambridge, MA.

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1990). Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

McLellan, H. (1996) Situated Learning Perspectives. New Jersey: Education Technology Publications.

Sternberg, R. (2008). Applying Psychological Theories to Educational Practice. American Educational Research Journal. March 2008, Vol. 45, No. 1, pp. 150 –165.

Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). Mind and society: The development of higher mental processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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Situated Learning

Emerging from sociology and cognitive science, situated learning theory represents a major shift in learning. From traditional psychological views of learning as something that is for the individual it moves toward perspectives of learning as a social concept. Greeno (1998) is often credited with the development of the situated cognition or situated learning theory. Collins (1988) defines situated learning as the notion of learning knowledge and skills in contexts that reflect the way they will be used in real life. Therefore, situated learning theory “encourages educators to immerse learners in an environment that approximates as closely as possible context in which their new ideas and behaviours will be applied.” (Schell & Black, 1997).

Collins (1988) described four benefits of situated cognition that he believed were a good theoretical basis for learning. Firstly, it is important that students learn about the conditions for applying knowledge. Secondly, students are more likely to engage in invention and problem-solving when they learn in diverse situations and settings. Thirdly, students can see the implications of knowledge and how their thoughts can be in a real life context. Finally, students are supported in structuring knowledge in ways appropriate for later use by gaining and working with that knowledge in context that is meaningful to them. Classroom practices such as project and problem based learning would qualify as consistent with the situated learning theory. Thinking about the concept of situated learning, Wilson and Myers (2000) commented that situated learning “is positioned to bring the individual and the social together in a coherent theoretical perspective.”
Affordance is an ecological concept about perception. Gibson’s “affordance” (1979) is a term to characterise the “impact of the environment on an organism’s behaviour, or how it lives in its environment.” Any theory of learning must start with the culture in which the learner resides. This is a critical pedagogical approach by Wenyi Ho (No date). “If knowledge is co-produced by the learner and the situation, the position of the learner within the culture can become an important variable.” There are such a wide range of places that learning can commence, accessible areas which will deepen childrens thinking.  I think it very important for teachers to respect where children come from and their own communities. Therefore need to ensure that their learning has a context in their own environment but also to help them to become comfortable in multiple environments.

References 

Collins, A. (1988). Cognitive Apprenticeship and Instructional technology. (Technical Report No. 6899). BBN Labs Inc., Cambridge, MA. 

Gibson, J. (1979). The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception. Boston: Houghton Mifflin

Greeno, J. G. (1998). The Situativity of Knowing, Learning, and Research. American Psychologist, 53(1), 5-26. 

Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Schell, J. W., & Black, R. S. (1997). Situated learning: An inductive case study of a collaborative learning experience. Journal of Industrial Teacher Education, 34, 5-28. 

http://www.personal.psu.edu/wxh139/Situated.htm

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How does the Performance of Children in the Classroom Relate to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

In (1943) Abraham Maslow proposed the idea that we all had a hierarchy of needs in his paper “A Theory of Human Motivation.” However it was not until (1954) in his book “Motivation and Personality” that the idea was fully expressed. Maslow believed that every human being had several layers of needs, beginning at the base each layer need must be met before someone can meet the needs of the next layer. The top need is the layer known as “self-actualisation,” Maslow spoke about how he believed that we all have the potential to reach the highest layer but our journey is often disrupted with a failure to meet the needs required in the lower layers. Maslow noted only one in a hundred people become fully self-actualized. This is because our society rewards motivation primarily based on esteem, love and other social needs. Often people get caught between layers moving up and down due to life experiences such a divorce, loss of job or social rejection.

When we think of the hierarchy of needs we often envision a pyramid structure represented in layers as mentioned previously. However Maslow never actually described the hierarchy in such a way or mentioned its representation as a pyramid in any of his writings. The idea of using the pyramid has become the known method of explaining the hierarchy of needs and the visualisation that it allows helps people to understand the concept. Maslow (1954) explained that his hierarchy was a five stage model and he said “the basic needs arrange themselves in a fairly definite hierarchy on the basis of the principle of relative potency.” Therefore each stage is based on the way in which we as human beings develop. For example the physiological needs of a person come before the need to be safe because if we were unable to get food, water or even breathe then the idea of having a house or employment becomes redundant.

Maslow's_Hierarchy_of_Needs.svg

Each stage that is found in the hierarchy is applied to human beings and how they live. However considering Maslow’s theory we can apply it to an educational context and more specifically to children. Do these layers or needs affect how children learn, their development and understanding of what is being taught? All children have a set of needs that if met with the help of parents, friends and teachers can help mould a child and build a good foundation for adulthood. If there is a deficiency in the needs or any are neglected it can result in hindering a child’s performance and behaviour in school. If we break the hierarchy down into its five stages we can evaluate the impact they have in the lives of children and their learning.

The first stage is “physiological needs,” considering this stage in terms of a child we can see that just as adults do children require breathing, excretion, food, water and sleep. The other element of this stage is sex, but for a child this not yet relevant. Considering the need for sleep and food further we can see areas of this stage that can seriously affect how a child performs in school. Without a proper diet and reasonable amount of sleep children’s concentration will decline and their minds will be focused on other things such as hunger. As a direct result of this the child will lack the energy required to actively participate in activities throughout the school day and this could affect their performance in the classroom. Problems such as these are often linked to children who come from troubled homes and many schools have set up initiatives to combat some problems that can affect the performance of children in school. School have introduced breakfast clubs where children can receive food before the school day for a cut price or free in some cases.

Once the physiological needs of a child are met they can move on to the second stage which concerns “safety.” The idea of safety is often a second thought to adults however children often worry about their safety and what is going on around them. This is a broad area to consider and needs for physical safety, a secure environment and emotional safety need to be met. Children who live in unstable homes may not have the same sense of safety other children may have. For them the idea of safety is getting through the day without having thoughts to worry about like “Will mummy hit me” or “Will daddy be there when i get home.” Unfortunately in some cases children live in perpetual fear of their home life and school is their only escape. In terms of their education children who come from unstable homes or places where they do not feel safe can often bring their problems with them to school. Reflecting back on Bandura’s (1977) theory of social learning children who observe violent behaviour or abusive language are more likely to replicate the behaviour elsewhere. As a result this means that children may act out and become more troublesome in school not only disrupting their own learning but the learning of others. In these cases good behaviour management and support from the school can help to move the child forward in a positive way.

Moving on to the third stage of the hierarchy “belonging” this is the point where a child wants to feel loved and accepted in several areas of their lives. Their family can provide them with unconditional love which may be enough but many children will want more than this. Schools can provide children with many extra-curricular activities such as sports, creative activities and homework clubs that encourage a child’s sense of belonging to a community. Extra-curricular activities, whether in or outside of school help children to form friendships beyond their family members and in turn provides children with more avenues of support. Belonging to these types of clubs can help children develop many new social skills and other abilities that can aid them in the classroom and in the future.

The fourth stage children seek to meet their needs for self-esteem. This area of their needs can work in tangent with the previous stage as children seek to gain the respect of others in aspects of their life. At this point in their development the idea of achievement is one of the most forward of a child’s thoughts; the take pride in their accomplishments. It is important that as teachers we provide children with the opportunity not only to accomplish goals but also receive praise and recognition for meeting those goals. The thought of working at something that was difficult or very time consuming and completing the task is one that children thrive under. Moreover knowing that someone will take notice and recognise what they have achieved is even more inspiring for a child.

The final stage of the hierarchy of needs is “self-actualisation” according to Maslow (1954) his theory suggests that it is impossible for a child to reach this point in their development. However I want to consider the idea of self-actualisation further; can a child claim to be self-actualised? Firstly, Maslow said that self-actualisation was not possible to all of the previous needs detailed in his theory were met; I believe that children can potentially meet the required needs outlined in the other stages of the model. In addition according to Sprenger (2008) self-actualisation suggests that someone has achieved “what they were born to do.” Now to an adult this might be a specific job or accomplishment that they have worked all of their lives to master or complete. I would agree with Maslow that a child can claim to be self-actualised; however this does not prevent a child entering that level of thinking or need. Considering a child again, they too set goals for themselves and in some cases children aspire to achieve something later on in their life from a very young age. So if a child for example believes that they are born to be a doctor, if they know what they have to do to achieve that and set themselves goals that act as milestones along that journey are they not self-actualising?

Sources, References and Further Reading

Bandura, A. (1977). Social Learning Theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall

Maslow, A. H. (1943). A Theory of Human Motivation. Psychological Review, 50, 370-96.

Maslow, A. H. (1954). Motivation and personality. New York: Harper and Row.

Sprenger, M. (2008) Differentiation through learning styles and memory. London: Sage

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Bandura, the Theory of Social Learning and Education

Albert Bandura is a psychologist from Canada who is currently a professor at the Stanford University. He is widely described as the greatest living psychologist and one of the most influential of our time. Bandura has won many awards, received six honorary degrees and a 2002 survey ranked him the fourth most cited psychologist of all time. I want to explore some of his research and understand how it has influenced education today.

Bandura was responsible for conducting the famous “Bobo doll” experiment in (1961), a very controversial experiment however it paved the way for his theory of social learning. Bandura conducted the study with the aim to investigate if social behaviours or aggression can be acquired by imitation. Using children from the Stanford University nursery school he tested 36 children of each gender. The experiment consisted of three stages, the first two stages were used to lay the foundations of the experiment with the children being observed in stage three. It is this final stage that provided the experimenters with the results they required. The children were divided into three groups of 24, one group was exposed to aggressive behaviour towards the Bobo doll, another observed non-aggressive behaviour and the final 24 were used as a control group and did not observe any particular behaviours.

For stage one the children entered the experimental room individually, within this room there was some toys, a mallet and a Bobo doll. The person who the child would observe, better known as a model was invited into the room. Depending on the group that the child was assigned the model would either act in an aggressive or non-aggressive manner towards the Bobo doll. If aggressive actions were to take place the model ensured that they were aggressive in an easy to imitate way. At this point stage one would come to an end and an experimenter would enter and take the child to another room. Stage two was used as a way to stimulate aggression; the child was subjected to mild aggression arousal. To cause this arousal the child was taken to a room with lots of toys, however as soon as he/she began to play with the toys they were quickly removed by the experimenter and told that those toys were not for them. For the final stage of the experiment the child was taken to a room containing a Bobo doll, a mallet, a dart gun and some other non-aggressive toys such as a tea set and teddy bears. The child was placed in the room for a total of twenty minutes and their behaviour was observed and rated though a one-way mirror. Experimenters made observations at 5-second intervals, therefore giving 240 responses for each child. The Bobo doll experiment allowed Bandura to draw several conclusions based on the collective data that the results showed. He found that the children who observed aggressive behaviour towards the Bobo doll were more likely to imitate this aggression when they came face to face with the doll. The girls who witness the aggressive conditions also showed more physical aggressive responses if the model was male but more verbal aggressive responses if the model was female.

Bandura (1977) states “behaviour is learned from the environment through the process of observational learning.” This underpins his theory of social learning and the Bobo doll experiment support this theory. In their lives children observe a variety of people that can influence how they grow, develop and behave. The behaviour of these people can define the child and these influences include parents, siblings, friends and teachers. The people that children observe are referred to by Bandura as models and the influences previously mentioned provide the opportunity for children to view the behaviour of both male and female models. When children observe models they encode some of their behaviours, remembering what they have seen and replicating such behaviours. Bandura found that during the Bobo doll experiment (1961) that children are more likely to replicate models of the same gender but this is not always the case. Despite a desire to copy behaviours that they have observed children can be manipulated to repeat or stop the behaviours. This is done through the use of reinforcement or punishment, if the behaviour that a child is replicating is positive then the model may decide to reinforce such behaviours. They may do this by providing praise or a reward, with the hope that they child repeats the particular behaviour more often. On the other hand the model may punish the child in order to discourage them from repeating the behaviour again. A punishment may entail removing the child from an activity that they enjoy or telling them off. Skinner (1968) argued that learning is a result of the reinforcement or punishment of behaviours within a context that is deliberately manipulated. It is at this point we can begin to evaluate the social learning theory in education.

In our classroom teacher can use the social learning theory as a way of understanding the current behaviour of some of the students, especially in the cases of troublesome children. Teachers can use the influences and people that these children observe as a point of research to begin to understand why children act out. Moreover the social learning theory can be used as a method of modelling good behaviour to children. Observing a teacher behaving in a particular way and their responses in different situations can help to encourage children to behave in the same way. The cause of a problem or success may be accounted to a child’s exposure to another person and their behaviours. All teachers are role models and it is their responsibility to ensure that they behave in a way that meets the expectations of a role model. By doing so teachers can help develop and shape children in a way that is beneficial to their learning and development.

Sources, References and Further Reading

Bandura, A. Ross, D., & Ross, S.A (1961). Transmission of aggression through the imitation of aggressive models. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 63, 575-582

Bandura, A. (1977). Social Learning Theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Skinner, B.F. (1968). The Technology of Teaching. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

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Technology in the Classroom

Throughout history there have been many renowned theorists that have encouraged collaborative learning in the classroom. People who believed that with support of peers or teacher, children could improve their learning experience and help to shape their own development. However it is only over the last few decades that the idea of collaborative learning has considered the integration of technology. Stahl (2004) had a theory suggesting that learning is not a matter of accepting fixed facts, but is the dynamic, on-going, and evolving result of complex interactions primarily taking place within communities of people. Technology allows us, as educators to form these communities that open up a whole new world of collaboration and learning experiences. One of the biggest believers in collaborative learning was Vygotsky. His theory that everyone had a Zone of Proximal Development (1978) suggested the idea that each child has the potential to access an area of knowledge beyond their current understanding. With the help of technology in the classroom children are able to access knowledge that was previously inaccessible to them, understand areas of confusion and work collaboratively in exciting new ways.

Many people consider ICT to only be a subject in the curriculum; however it has come into its own. ICT is a “complex tool which can be used by teachers and be pupils in teaching a learning” (Higgins, 2001). Technology is always changing, becoming more advanced and available for practical uses in many different settings. It is important that we as educators take advantage of this technology, John and Sutherland (2005) point out that “in recent years the emergence of new digital technologies has offered up the possibility of extending and deepening classroom learning opportunities.” These opportunities are furthered by the ever increasing speed of the internet; this combined with mobile technologies that have rocketed in popularity recently, opens up a new world or e-learning opportunities that we must take advantage of. The multimodal capabilities that technology can provide allow the teacher to present their lessons in a variety of ways, ensuring that they cater for all types of learner. Meeting the needs of every child is important, engaged children will interact in the lesson, getting more involved and take a genuine interest in what is being taught.

Technology in the classroom allows teachers to explore and find new ways of engaging different children and to encourage them to take an active role in their own learning. Computer games are often thought of as purely a leisure activity. However recent interest in education has seen the potential for play to form the basis of learning. Computer games could be individual or whole class activities which the children enjoy playing but each games as an educational theme that develops a child’s understanding of a subject area. Interest in the use of computer games in school has grown as computers and technology have become more readily available in homes. This would allow children through the use of an internet connection to begin a game in school and continue on from the same point when they are at home. Therefore learning will have expanded beyond the traditional classroom and children are having fun whilst building upon the learning that took place in school that day. Technology in the classroom allows children to work individually or in small groups using PCs, mobile devices or tablets developing a range of skills. Some of the skills that computer games develop are outlined by Kirriemuir and McFarlane (2004). These skills are; Strategic thinking, planning, communication, application of numbers, negotiating skills, group decision-making and data handling.

When the idea of children using computers in the classroom began it meant a child or group of children crammed around one desktop PC fixed to a table. However advances in technology now mean that the computer is no longer fixed to one space. We now have access to a wide range of mobile technology and tablets that allow children to pick them up and move around the classroom. This mobility allows children to record data at the scene of an experiment, use the technology in group activities or even take their learning to a more comfortable area in the classroom. The idea of technology in the classroom is not to replace traditional methods, but in fact to integrate it with traditional learning to enhance the learning experience for the children.

When technology is integrated into a classroom it provides the teacher with the opportunity to globalise the school and the learning that is taking place. Many would consider the school’s website to be its only global presence but in fact classes can take advantage of social networking and other media to enhance the school’s reputation on a global scale. The benefits of his far exceed the idea of promoting the school; in fact it allows children to collaborate with other teachers and children around the world. An excellent example of this is 100wc, set up by Head teacher Julia Skinner it facilitates the uploading of children’s short 100 word blog posts. Skinner has gathered a network of trainee and qualified teachers who log on and post comments on children’s work. Knowing that someone is reading their work from another part of the country or somewhere else altogether is great motivation for a child to continue to write. Of course there are safety issues when it comes to sharing information but the children’s surnames in this case are not used and only those with a login can access the work.

It is of quintessential importance that technology is used to further the learning experience of children; combined with outstanding teaching it creates an environment conducive to student participation and development. Alexander (2008) says that “dialogic teaching harnesses the power of talk to engage children, stimulate and extend their thinking, and advance their learning and understanding.” This type of teaching means using talk more effectively. Rather than a teacher just presenting the work, they should be having on-going discussion with the children. This helps to develop ideas, understanding and model subject specific language. Integrating this method of teaching with technology provides the chance for interactivity to support explanations and learning.

In (1987) Shulman proposed a model of pedagogical reasoning which outlined the knowledge needed by a teacher to plan, teach, assess and evaluate. His model consisted of six elements, these being; comprehension, transformation, instruction, evaluation, reflection and new comprehensions.in each of the areas of his model we can incorporate technology, allowing us as educators to transform aspect of our teaching to provide multimodal ways to represent ideas and evaluate lessons. However Technology is not always necessary so it is at the teacher’s discretion to decide what the unique contribution technology can bring to the lesson. In terms of comprehension the use of ICT is quite limited however using the internet it could be used to provide the children with a range of sources to back up subject knowledge. At the transformation stage the teacher is required to transform their understanding of a topic into a form that the children will grasp. Again the use of technology is very limited at this stage as it requires the teacher to use their own professional judgement. However as the teacher beings to create representations and prepares their lesson the opportunities to use ICT increase and technology such as PowerPoint and Smart Board can be used. It is at this stage the teacher should consider how technology can be ensure the lesson is multimodal, Shulman (1987) himself said “multiple forms of representation are desirable.” By the time instruction stage is reached all planning is finished at at this point the lesson is underway. Technology can be used now collaboratively or individually as a tool to support the children’s understanding of a particular topic. For example there is an IPad app that allows children to explore the body; the different bones, organs etc. If used properly in group work it could support the creation of a poster or fact sheet. Finally considering the evaluation sections of the model technology can be used but its influence will be minimal. Evaluations are conducted by the teacher based on their own thoughts and opinions, however if areas of the lesson have been recorded on video cameras or photos have been taken it can help support the teacher as he/she evaluates.
Web 2.0 referred to the “mass socialisation” of internet connectivity and is centred around communities rather than the individual (Selwyn et al, 2010). In 2001 Prensky coined the term “digital natives” a phrase used to describe the generation that grew up with mobile technology and tools of the digital age. He argued that technology is now part of children’s everyday lives and how they are surrounded by it. Today people are talking about the possibility of the development of the semantic web or web 3.0. Digital technologies are widely seen to support learning and help children develop a greater working memory, be more adept at perceptual learning and have better motor skills (Selwyn et al, 2010). With all the positives that technology can provide in the classroom and the fact that our children are now growing up in a world where they are immersed in technology it seems foolish to not integrate their learning with such a large part of their lives.

ipad kids

References, Sources and Further Reading

  • Stahl, G. (2004).Building collaborative Knowing: Elements of a Social Theory of CSCL. In J.-W. Strijbos, P. Kirschner & R. Martens (Eds.), What we know about CSCL: And implementing it in higher education (pp. 53-86). Boston, MA: Kluwer Academic Publishers
  • Vygotsky, L. (1978). Interaction between learning and development. From: Mind and Society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press
  • Higgens, S. (2001) ICT and Teaching for Understanding. Evaluating and Research in Education. 15:3, 164-171
  • John, P., Sutherland, R. (2005) Affordance, opportunity and the pedagogical implications of ICT Educational Review 57 (4) , 405-414
  • Kirriemuir, J and McFarlane, A. (2004). Literature Review in Games and Learning. Bristol: Futurelab.
  • Alexander, R. (2008). Dialogic Teaching, 4th edition, York: Dialogos.
  • Beauchamp, G. (2012) ICT in the Primary School, from Pedagogy to Practice. Essex: Pearson Education.
  • Selwyn, N., Potter, J. and Cranmer, S. (2010) Primary Schools and ICT, Learning from Pupil Perspectives. London: Continuum International.
  • Prensky, M. (2001) Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, On the Horizon, 9(5), pp 1-6.

 

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Computer Dependency

 

Can we be addicted to a computer? No, I don’t think we can. Addict is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “One who is addicted to the habitual and excessive use of a drug.” A computer is not a drug, so in fact I would tend to say that we can be dependent on what the computer offers us. Shotton (1989) spoke at great lengths about the misuse of the word addict or addiction in the context of computers. She concluded that the most appropriate word to use was dependency or its other forms. Dependency was explained to mean that there was a strong, compelling desire to do something. As the world grows and the influence technology has increases, we can expect to see more children becoming dependent on their computers. There is nothing wrong with using a computer or technology in fact it makes our lives a lot easier in many ways. However it is when someone becomes obsessed with something a computer can offer them that problems occur.

The use of technology in our everyday lives has increased dramatically, according to the Office for National Statistics, 77 per cent of UK households have a home computer. This means that over three quarters of the population have the potential to become dependent on the computers found in their homes. over the last few days it was stated on Sky News (2013) that the average cost of raising a child has rocketed to £222,000, with one of the main reasons for this being children’s desire for technology such as laptops and tablets. The big question is why do people become dependent on computers or what they offer? There are many reasons to why people become dependent on computers, allowing them to become a major part of their lives. One reason may be a problematic family or social life. Many people find computers as a form of escapism. They are able to forget the real world for a while and immerse themselves in the fictional world portrayed in a game or website. Research conducted by Shotton (1989) showed that the majority of the people considered to be dependent on their computers had in fact family troubles. They had experienced negative relationships with either one or both parents. In addition to this she found that although not all of these people came from cold environments in terms of their household they did often have neglecting parents. Considering the social life of those dependent on computers, it was found that they were object based people. Dependents spoke about how they felt “alien” from their peers and it could in fact be this feeling of isolation that has driven people to seek comfort or acceptance from their computer.

There are several different types of computer dependents, defined by why they are dependent on their computers. There are those that are networkers, people who use their computer to be social. Website such as Facebook and Twitter have dominated the internet in recent years and in some cases the lives of children. Although it is technically illegal for anyone under the age of thirteen to have a Facebook account, research shows that in fact a consumer reports survey showed that as many as 7.5 million Facebook users are under 13, and two-thirds of those children are under 10. This sparks another debate regarding the safety of children on the internet. However those children dependent on social networking find themselves glued to their computer screen waiting on the next notification or message from one of their friends. Friends which they may not even know personally. Another group would be those that work on their computers. These people who often show themselves to be ambitious careerists who would struggle to differentiate between work and play. For these types of people work and play are one as they get enthralled in their activities, indulging their need to develop their passion into a viable financial solution. Finally I want to consider the gamers, the people that are dependent upon the virtual worlds that many platforms such as PC, Xbox and PlayStation offer. Gaming worlds offer people a chance to leave the world they are in and embrace a new one. These worlds are at their mercy and this can provide these dependents with a feeling of control, a feeling that they may be unable to experience outside of their video game.

There are many negative effects and health concerns that accompany computer dependency; these can be divided into three categories; mental, physical and social. If we first consider a few of the mental effects a dependency on computers can have beginning with stress. Many dependents can get frustrated when a system isn’t working leading to stress, which in turn can cause someone to act out their feelings sometimes violently. Griffiths (1991) felt that an addiction or dependency on computers especially violent video games does in fact affect children negatively and they tend to show increased levels of aggression. Research has found children to exhibit addictive behaviour towards their participation in computer game playing (Phillips et al, 1995), which can be a catalyst for many problems. On such problem that I experienced first-hand whilst on a teaching placement was sleep deprivation. Children can get so enthralled in their computers especially video games that they lose all track of time or will sit into the late hours of the night. This of course has a great impact the following day as children show signs of drowsiness and a difficulty concentrating whilst in school. This was ratified by research conducted by (Meijar et al, 2000) who concluded that quality of sleep has a “substantial impact” on school functioning for children. Secondly there are also physical repercussions for having a dependency on games. Long extended periods sitting at a computer or hunched over a video games can lead to the development of a sore back, neck and even eye problems. Personal hygiene can also suffer as looking after your own body becomes less of a priority and spending more time on the computer increases. In addition to this there is also a link between computer dependency and obesity, researchers from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University Hospital of Zurich published a study in the journal of Obesity Research in 2004 that establishes the link between computer dependency and childhood obesity.
Finally another factor which suffers because of a person’s dependency on their computer is their social life. The user can gradually withdraw into a virtual world where by the dependent becomes more focused on the computer and places emotional value on what happens in an artificial world rather than in real life. Brod (1984) suggested that children’s ability to learn would become distorted and that they might develop and intolerance for human interaction. He believed the computer was used as a refuge for stress, preventing the development of a well-rounded personality by cutting the child off from other activities.

We are very quick to jump to the conclusion that computers and video games are bad; only hampering the development of our children, but it is important to understand the opinions of the involved parties. The main concern of parents is that computers will affect their children in a negative way; this was proven in the Byron Review (2008) when 79 per cent of parents thought computers may affect the behaviour of children. Researching various debates recorded online I found many parents commented saying things such as, “It’s a waste of time” or “They could be out playing football or working on their homework.” Other parents believed that there is no problem with children using computers as long as it is in moderation and does not affect other aspects of their lives.
As a trainee teacher I found that computer dependency was not a big problem on my placements. There were children in my class who were obsessed with video games and games on their computer. In fact it would often be the topic of conversation during their lunch breaks and free time. However I found that this obsession never got in the way of their learning. A study conducted by (Gentile et al, 2004) with teachers found that computer dependency in children often led to more children confronting members of staff and they often witnessed a decline in their school achievements. On the 28th January 2011 BBC Radio Five live spoke to a young boy and his mother regarding his addiction to his computer and video games. The young boy described himself as feeling happy in his own world and stated “I’d just get proper angry over nothing.” this interview highlighted some of the effects computer dependency has on children. The boy blamed the amount of time he spent on his computer as one of the reasons he become so dependent. In one study by Walsh (2000), a majority of teens admitted that their parents do not impose a time limit on the number of hours they are allowed to spend on their computers. Perhaps responsibility falls to the parents to regulate how much time children are allowed to spend on their computers, perhaps the blame for computer dependent children lies with them.

Children use their computers for a number of reasons, many use them for social networking, gaming and educational purposes. It is important that computers are not seen as detrimental to our children or their development. In fact if used correctly they can be one of the greatest tools at a child’s disposal, furthering their education. I feel that it is essential that parent regulate how long children are allowed on their computers but also guide their children. Show them new ways to exploit the capabilities of a computer.

Sources, References and Further Reading

  • Brod, C. (1984) Technostress: The Human Cost of the Computer Revolution. Michigan: Addison-Wesley.
  • Byron, T. (2008) The Byron Review: Safer Children in a Digital World.
  • Gentile, D. A., Lynch, P., Linder, J. & Walsh, D. (2004). The effects of violent video game habits on adolescent hostility, aggressive behaviors, and school performance. Journal of Adolescence, 27, 5-22.
  • Griffiths, M.D. (1991) ‘Amusement machine playing in childhood and adolescence: A comparative analysis of video games and fruit machines’, Journal of Adolescence, 14, pp. 53–73
  • Griffiths, M.D. (1993)  ‘Are computer games bad for children?’ The Psychologist: Bulletin of the British Psychological Society, 6, pp. 401–7
  • Mark Griffiths. CyberPsychology & Behavior. April 2000, 3(2): 211-218.
  • Meijer, A., Habekothea, H. & Vandenwittenboer, G. (2000) Time in bed, quality of sleep and school functioning of children. Journal of Sleep Research. 9(2): 145-153.
  • Office for National Statistics. (2010) http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/family-spending/family-spending/family-spending-2011-edition/sum-consumer-durables-nugget.html
  • Phillips, C.A., Rolls, S., Rouse, A. and Griffiths, M.D. (1995) ‘Home video game playing in school children: a study of incidence and patterns of play’, Journal of Adolescence, 18, pp. 687–691
  • Shotton, M. (1989) Computer Addiction: A study of Computer Dependency. London: Taylor & Francis.
  • Sky News (2013) Cost Of Raising A Child Soars To £222,000. [Online] Available at: http://news.sky.com/story/1042120/cost-of-raising-a-child-soars-to-222000 (Accessed: 25th January 2013)
  • Walsh, D. (2000). Interactive violence and children: Testimony submitted to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, United States Senate. (March 21, 2000.) Available:http://commerce.senate.gov/ hearings/0321wal1.pdf (Accessed: 26th January 2013)
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Learning through Making

How should we learn? What is the best way to teach a child? These are questions that many intellectuals have asked and tried to answer for years, many of whom have published theories on what they believe is the best way for children to learn. As mentioned by (Wheeler, 2012) the transmission model of learning is still dominating our classrooms today. This model assumes that learning is dependent on the teacher, that they are present to repeat facts. Children are viewed as an apathetic vessel waiting to be filled with knowledge. The transmission model suggests assessment is based on whether the information communicated by the teacher has reached the child and how effectively. However this idea of teaching is not representative of all schools and of the many teachers that adapt their teaching in order to gain the best from their class.

Les Vygotsky introduced the idea that each child has the potential to access a Zone of Proximal Development which is the area beyond the child’s current knowledge. The zone is defined as; “The distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers” (Vygotsky, 1978). Vygotsky explained that with the assistance of either a peer or an adult the child will be able to extend their own zone of proximal development, which is basically the area of knowledge that the child didn’t not have which they can now access. This theory would support the idea of group work specifically dyadic grouping where the close working partnership between two pupils, one of which being considered to be of a higher level than the other; will allow them to discuss and come to a suitable conclusion on how to complete a task. In addition to this the pupils will learn from each other and enhance their skills in communication and the subject concerned. “What is in the zone of proximal development today will be the actual development level tomorrow that is what a child can do with assistance today she will be able to do by herself tomorrow” (Vygotsky, 1978).

Constructivism is a theory of learning and an approach to education that lays emphasis on the ways that people create meaning of the world through a series of individual constructs. Constructivists believe that the knowledge a child has is built up through a series of schemas or a cognitive framework and that what is taught is only a stepping stone that influences further learning. What children learn arises through the construction of concepts that make sense through their real life experiences and reflections upon said experiences. In the idea of constructivism we are creators of our own knowledge. When we come across a new idea we have to reconcile it with previous knowledge and experiences, this could lead to the formation of new knowledge or we may disregard the new idea. Some criticisms of this method of teaching suggest that there is no active role for the teacher in the classroom and that their “expert knowledge” is deemed surplus to requirements. I would argue that the role of the teacher has in fact changed and they are seen today as facilitators of learning. In traditional methods the teacher will stand at the front of the class, delivering a lecture of facts matching those set by the curriculum. In a constructivist classroom the facilitator will help guide the child and help them arrive at their own conclusion, through a series of enquiry based lessons which allow children to solve problems, formulate ideas and arrive at conclusions that they can reflect upon. In this view of teaching the child is an active participant in the learning process rather than a passive recipient of facts. Children are given the opportunity to construct their own knowledge and become actively engaged in their learning; consequently resulting in learning through real life experiences, collaborative work and their own findings. (Brooks, 1999) stated that, “as long as there were people asking each other questions, we have had constructivist classrooms. Constructivism, the study of learning, is about how we all make sense of the world.” The theory of constructivism was developed by the work of Piaget and he has inspired many people.
One man who modernised the idea of “Learning by Making” was Seymour Papert. It was his ground-breaking work that has resulted in the widespread use of information technology in our classrooms today. He is an expert on how technology can provides us with new ways to learn and a pioneer of artificial intelligence. Jean Piaget was a major influence for Papert and in fact they worked together for a number of years. Piaget viewed Papert as his best student and is said to have remarked, “No one understands my work better than Seymour Papert.” Piaget helped to define constructivism and develop this theory; however Papert further built upon this idea and came up with his idea of constructionism. What is constructionism? (Kafai & Resnick, 1996) defined it as “a learning theory and a strategy of education, built upon the ideas of Piaget.” however although true this is a vague definition. Papert (1991) himself describes constructionism as “building knowledge structures,” or has he said “learning by making.” This is also described as learning by design, the idea that the learner or designer will gain more from engaging in an activity that result in the creation of something that is meaningful to them. The object created will have clear learning outcome but will be formed from contexts and skills taken from the child’s experiences.

In this learning theory the teacher is acting as a facilitator and as (Papert, 1993) said, “The role of the teacher is to create the conditions for invention rather than provide ready-made knowledge.” Children are given the opportunity to investigate through creating programming or designing using real life applications. The teacher will set targets and only guide the children towards the correct path but it is through their own chosen strategy that children will come to a conclusion. Learning by making could begin as research, a class discussion, a game and develop into the creation of a portfolio, detailing evidence that the child has an understanding of a particular topic. Throughout the process the children are encouraged to test their ideas, evaluating them and adding improvements if necessary. Papert give us an insight into how we as teachers can rethink education, dream up new learning environments and give children access to new tools, media, and technologies that they can use to develop their own learning.

Vygotsky’s research was based on the idea that with the aid of other people as resources we can extend our cognitive potential. Constructionism or learning by making share similarities to this theory. It promotes collaborative work among learners, with groups sharing ideas in order to aid their inquiry and further their learning. Traditional learning expects the child to take in an abundance of facts many of which will seem boring and pointless to said child. Learning through making allows children to use their own strategies to learn. These strategies will be based on the child’s own understanding and this may not be the same as the teacher. However it is what works for them and when the learning is given a real life context it becomes meaningful. If something seems pointless why should a child remember it, give it a context, give it a point!

Sources, references and further reading

  • Ackerman, Edith, “Piaget’s Constructivism, Papert’s Constructionism: What’s the difference?” Available online:  http://www.learning.media.mit.edu/content/publications/EA.Piaget%20_%20Papert.pdf (Accessed 16th January 2013).
  • Kafai, Y., & Resnick, M. (Eds.). (1996). Constructionism in practice: Designing, thinking and learning in a digital world. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
  • Papert, S. & Harel, I. (1991). Situating constructionism. In Constructionism: Research reports and essays.
  • Papert, S. (1980). Mindstorms. Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas. New York: Basic books
  • Papert, S. (1993). The children’s machine: Rethinking schools in the age of the computer. New York: Basic Books.
  • Papert, S., & Harel, I. (1991). Situating constructionism. In S. Papert & I. Harel (Eds.), Constructionism. New York: Ablex Publishing.
  • Vygotsky, L. (1978). Interaction between learning and development. From: Mind and Society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Wheeler, S. (2012) Learning by Making. Available online: http://steve-wheeler.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/learning-by-making.html?m=1(Accessed 16th January 2013).
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