If you asked me last year what kind of an educator I was, what learning theory I subscribed most closely to, how you and I were going to frame our lessons together, I would have answered easily: “I am a Constructivist.” Ask me the question again today and I wouldn’t be so definite in my answer. I would ask back, “What’s our learning objective, what are we teaching, who are we teaching, and how will we know that we’ve been successful?” Somewhere, very likely, within that reflection we would offer our learners a chance to “mess about” and to come up with or reinvent their own solutions or rediscover well-trodden territories that they now call their own. We would allow for a wholly constructivist approach to our tasks, but we would, along the way, be using aspects of Behaviorism, Instructionalism, and Cognitivism to reach and reflect upon our objectives.
Within educational technology I looked at behavioristic methods critically, but I was using poor criteria. I had become over-sensitive to what I automatically believed were the less attractive aspects of learning applications – the fireworks, the badges, the “bells and whistles,” trying to ignore the clear fact that the students enjoyed them and had purpose. I saw it as a weakness in the program. Now I’m not so quick to judge. Yes, there are ways to incorporate behaviorism with more finesse, but now I am looking at the content and pedagogy more closely to determine whether the technology is appropriate for the objectives at hand. Previously, having been a strict constructivist, I would have looked at instructivists too critically, but now with an educational technologist’s view I see many good resources that are essentially well crafted lecture. This year I take on the mind-set of a cognitivist to frame my reaction toward my students’ thinking more than I did – to think more deeply about individuation, load, and style.
Within all of this rearranging and incorporation of new ways of approaching learning, teaching, and technology, I learned something new despite the fact that it surrounded me at every turn – Connectivism. Thinking about education and technology as a connectivist redefined and transformed me as an educational technologist. Thinking in this way helped me to see how enormous applications such as Google’s G-Suite for Education allows community to connect in the smallest way to the broadest. That smaller applications, such as Front Porch Forum, connects community together at a local level in small and broad ways as well, and how it’s possible to connect people with seemingly disparate culture and country, who share a common interest, using translation, email, video, and ways not yet invented, to connect with meaning.
And of course, as with most good learning, I understand how little I do know – which is both humbling and exciting, and makes me both hopeful and anxious as to how I will find my way to further my career helping others to find their own way through this vital aspect of teaching and learning.