Tech to Support Learning

by Dr Davis on June 14, 2014

steampunk_archive_icon_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d5jsav0Bransford and Brown.“Technology to Support Learning.” How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2000. 206-230. Web. May 2012. .

“[T]here is a strong argument for electronically linking students not just with their peers, but also with practicing professionals” (212).

Scaffolded experiences can be structured in different ways. Some research educators advocate an apprenticeship model, whereby an expert practitioner first models the activity while the learner observes, then scaffolds the learner (with advice and examples), then guides the learner in practice, and gradually tapers off support and guidance until the apprentice can do it alone (Collins et al., 1989). Others argue that the goal of enabling a solo approach is unrealistic and overrestrictive since adults often need to use tools or other people to accomplish their work (Pea, 1993b; Resnick, 1987). Some even contend that well-designed technological tools that support complex activities create a truly human-machine symbiosis and may reorganize components of human activity into different structures than they had in pretechnological designs (Pea, 1985). (214)

This is an interesting set of options. I am most likely to use the first set, even though I know that often my students will need to re-visit the idea of learning. While always having a solo approach is very unrealistic, there are lots of instances when that is exactly what every single one of us has to do.

[T]he mere existence of these tools in the classroom provides no guarantee that student learning will improve; they have to be part of a coherent education approach ” (216).

This is absolutely true and not the way we consistently use technology in the classroom.

An added advantage of networked technologies for communication is that they help make thinking visible. This core feature of the cognitive apprenticeship model of instruction (Collins, 1990) is exemplified in a broad range of instructional programs and has a technological manifestation, as (220) well (see, e.g., Collins, 1990; Collins and Brown, 1988; Collins et al., 1989). By prompting learners to articulate the steps taken during their thinking processes, the software creates a record of thought that learners can use to reflect on their work and teachers can use to assess student progress. (221)

I like the idea of thinking being visible. I have always liked the apprenticeship model.

The introduction of new technologies to classrooms has offered new insights about the roles of teachers in promoting learning (McDonald and Naso, 1986; Watts, 1985). Technology can give teachers license to experiment and tinker (Means and Olson, 1995a; U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, 1995). It can stimulate teachers to think about the processes of learning, whether through a fresh study of their own subject or a fresh perspective on students’ learning. It softens the barrier between what students do and what teachers do.

When teachers learn to use a new technology in their classrooms, they model the learning process for students; at the same time, they gain new insights on teaching by watching their students learn. Moreover, the transfer of the teaching role from teacher to student often occurs spontaneously during efforts to use computers in classrooms. (226)

Sometimes we forget how long it took us to learn to do something because it’s been so long since we learned it. Learning something new, even if it isn’t technology, keeps us involved and remembering the process.

“At the University of Illinois, James Levin asks his education graduate students to develop web pages with their evaluations of education resources on the web, along with hot links to those web resources they consider most valuable. Many students not only put up these web pages, but also revise and maintain them (227) after the course is over. Some receive tens of thousands of hits on their web sites each month (Levin et al., 1994; Levin and Waugh, 1998)” (228).

While I think this is unlikely to continue, unless students are considering the net their memory space, the more practical we can be in our assignments, the more likely our students are to find them useful. …Unfortunately sometimes they are very practical but the students are not yet aware of that.

“The process of using technology to improve learning is never solely a technical matter, concerned only with properties of educational hardware and software. Like a textbook or any other cultural object, technology resources for education—whether a software science simulation or an interactive reading exercise—function in a social environment, mediated by learning conversations with peers and teachers” (230).

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