Do learning styles exist? * Brain Rules

September 4, 2008

Do learning styles exist?

 

Dr. Willingham, Cognitive Psychologist posted a video, which shares his thoughts on how learning styles don’t exist. I discovered it from Brent S. who discovered it from Clive Shepherd who discovered it from Stephen Downes.

I am certainly on board with challenging the existence of learning styles and am very interesting in finding out more information about what “something close to the theory” is. Please forward resources my way!

“Good teaching is good teaching…teachers do not have to adjust their learning styles.” Dr. Willingham says. I agree on the strength of good analogies and stories, whether auditory, visual or kinesthetic. Although, teachers will obviously need to consider adjustment for special needs.

Browsing through Dr. Willingham’s articles, I wanted to share a Q & A related to the use of stories.

Question: I have read that the mind treats stories differently than other types of information. It seems obvious that people like listening to stories, but it’s not obvious how to use that in the classroom. Is it really true that stories are somehow “special” and, if so, how can teachers capitalize on that fact?

Answer: Research from the last 30 years shows that stories are indeed special. Stories are easy to comprehend and easy to remember, and that’s true not just because people pay close attention to stories; there is something inherent in the story format that makes them easy to understand and remember. Teachers can consider using the basic elements of story structure to organize lessons and introduce complicated material, even if they don’t plan to tell a story in class.

Brain Rules Rocks

I agree with Brent about John Medina’s Brain Rules, which I am listening to as I write this. I am excited to check out his keynote at DevLearn08. Check out his Rules tutorials.

EXERCISE | Rule #1: Exercise boosts brain power.
SURVIVAL | Rule #2: The human brain evolved, too.
WIRING | Rule #3: Every brain is wired differently.
ATTENTION | Rule #4: We don’t pay attention to boring things.
SHORT-TERM MEMORY | Rule #5: Repeat to remember.
LONG-TERM MEMORY | Rule #6: Remember to repeat.
SLEEP | Rule #7: Sleep well, think well.
STRESS | Rule #8: Stressed brains don’t learn the same way.
SENSORY INTEGRATION | Rule #9: Stimulate more of the senses.
VISION | Rule #10: Vision trumps all other senses.
GENDER | Rule #11: Male and female brains are different.
EXPLORATION | Rule #12: We are powerful and natural explorers.

 

 

 

 

 


New Media * New Learner

August 1, 2008

Can New Media Be Taught in Schools, written by Marshall Kirkpatrick, inspired me to reflect on the subject of new media tool adoption and the enhancement of learning. As any web 2.0-ified elearning specialist in the corporate world, I advocate for new media tools to support learning, improve performance and facilitate knowledge management. Knowledge management, which I view as the gray area where people, processes and tools overlap, can easily fall to the wayside with personnel turnover and the clock ticking away.

New media, web/eLearning 2.0, or whatever-you-label-them-tools are ideal for establishing ubiquitous virtual settings for learners to collaborate, share and learn from each other, while simultaneously creating a cloud of digital knowledge artifacts to easily retrieve, validate and maintain. Whether it be a wiki of process documentation, a user generated video gallery or a trusted set of RSS feeds, these tools act as both learning and performance support tools. Plus with the power of the network and the greater number of connected minds strengthen the alignment around objectives and amplifies results.

Can those skill sets be taught in school? Most people we talked to said that schools could do well to facilitate learning experiences regarding new media. We believe, however, that there are large amounts of tangible information that can be transmitted to students in any setting that will enable them to have far more meaningful experiments in learning.

Update: A number of people have responded in comments, arguing that it’s not the skills that need to be taught, it’s knowledge about the issues. Ethics, history, ethos, etc. While that’s all very important, the skills themselves are not trivial, either.

Can that information be transmitted to students in a school setting, though? Students may be better off spending an hour watching all the 5 minute Social Media in Plain English videos from Common Craft.

Is the question how can teachers prepare students, or how can students prepare teachers? Maybe students help students help teachers help students relate and figure things out in this brave new wired world.

Kirkpatrick’s article asks, is this what the future of education is going to look like?

  • Tests on Twitter
  • Wiki-style study groups
  • Students quizzed on yesterday’s most popular videos and sites

Here are a few that I would like to add to Kirkpatrick’s list:

  • Blog and video-log learning journals and portfolios.
  • eLectures, via iTunes or other.
  • Class and even post-class social (group) networks? Do you remember all the names of everyone in your graduating high school class, or where they went afterwards? Don’t worry, I can’t either. Now you have more than just a yearbook picture to look at. Imagine the potential now for young people to maintain peer connections throughout the years. What use to be passing phases of friendships, becomes a (loose) network of peers that can efficiently strengthen at anytime necessary for personal or business reasons.
  • Probably others I can’t even think of yet (please comment if you have ideas).

In closing, I want to re-quote from Nonprofit technologist Amy Sample Ward.

For new media ‘courses’ to be successful, in my opinion, the ‘teaching’ and ‘learning’ need to be synonymous. Experiential learning and project-based assignments are really the only way to provide a space to learn and discuss new media tools. For example, a project that I had in one of my new media classes, was to take the regional newspaper’s website, and re-vamp it be an actual community space using new media tools for story-telling, community building, and up-to-the-minute input. We even had the chance to present our changes to the newspaper staff. It doesn’t get much more ‘real’ than that; and made us all focus on the biggest lesson of new media application: it needs to fit, not just be cool.