From Theory into Practice

Sometimes it is laborious to visualize what some theoretical theory really means and how it can be applied. And sometimes, it goes the other way round: you come across some theory that suddenly make sense and help you to magnify practices already in place.
This week’s readings were quite rich and, I thought, the perfect balance between theory and practice. Or theory leading to practice. Or How to Use Learning Theories to Support Students’ Learning.

As educators, we indeed have a responsibility to stay up-to-date with research in order to apply innovative learning theories to our teaching.

Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

First of all, if we look at the conclusions -and implications!- of Living with New Media (John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation), it is clear that being immersed in the digital age means much more than “just” being able to access serious online information and culture. Being able to participate in social and recreational activities online is essential too. Adults need to realize that a cultural shift happened and they should remain open to experimentation as this would benefit the education program, by taking advantage of moments when young people are motivated to move from friendship-driven to more interest-driven forms of new media use.

“In our work, contrary to the fear that social norms are eroding online, we did not find many youth who were engaging in behaviors that were riskier than what they did in offline contexts.”

Institutions like schools and libraries should also play an active role in granting young people access the internet when it is not feasible to do so at home, to allow their participation in common culture and sociability.
Besides other points that have been noted by researchers, this final one is significant for educators: youth are developing new forms of media literacy that are keyed to new media and youth-centered social and cultural worlds.
Peer-based learning can be very powerful, and should be perceived as such by institutions and educators (and by parents too!); formal instruction needs to evolve and adapt to today’s young people’s practices.

Introduced in 2005 by two publications**, connectivism “is a theoretical framework for understanding learning in a digital age”. It gave, and still gives, a new insight into what it means to facilitate learning nowadays.
In What Does Connectivism Mean for Education?, written in 2012, Justin Marquis explains how the education process needs to be remodeled. And that includes the teacher’s role, but also the student’s one, and technology.
The way teaching is delivered should indeed meet the learner expectations and the physical changes that technology has done to the brains (!).

** Siemens’ Connectivism: Learning as Network Creation and Downes’ An Introduction to Connective Knowledge

Connectivism is driven by the understanding that decisions are based on rapidly altering foundations. New information is continually being acquired. The ability to draw distinctions between important and unimportant information is vital. The ability to recognize when new information alters the landscape based on decisions made yesterday is also critical.” (Siemens, 2005)

With Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy (Churches), we can start looking more precisely at a practical plan of action as it is a hierarchical model classifying educational learning objectives into levels of complexity and specificity.
Thinking skills and objectives are categorized and put in an ascending order, moving from the Lower Order Thinking Skills (LOTS) to the Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS)

Evaluation = Higher Order thinking Skills
Knowledge = Lower Order Thinking Skills

In 2001, Anderson and Krathwohl revised it and considered that creativity was higher within the cognitive domain than evaluation.

Through a Google search, I came across Obiageli Sneed‘s post on Integrating Technology with Bloom’s Taxonomy, and the very helpful graphic below: suddenly, you can link toolkits to the different learning stages.
Depending on the project, the ultimate learning goal you want students to achieve, and the competency already acquired, you can start at one level as they don’t all need to be followed in a sequence.

Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy is a great help for educators as it allows them to select purposefully through all the digital tools available, and make choices based on the kinds of learning experiences they want students to engage in.

Infographic Credit: Ron Carranza

Finally, Bringing the Science of Learning Into Classrooms (Edutopia) is so motivating when it explains how recent research shows that the brain is malleable and, contrary to previous belief, it continues to evolve until young adulthood.
The main consequence being that, despite toxic stress and abusive relationships, both inhibiting the learning, it is still possible to reverse the process, thanks to a trusting relationship with an adult (e.g. a teacher, a counselor…).
Isn’t that wonderful to have science confirming that with proper care and approach to learning, a student can still meet his/her full potential?
There is no such thing as an expiring date on the brain’s capacity to overcome barriers to learning. And educators can have such an impact if they are able to combine social, emotional, affective, and cognitive aspects within their teaching: the student’s brain will make more connections, and it will accelerate student learning and development.

One Reply to “From Theory into Practice”

  1. Love this “Peer-based learning can be very powerful, and should be perceived as such by institutions and educators (and by parents too!); formal instruction needs to evolve and adapt to today’s young people’s practices.” So true and it is crucial that schools make changes to adept to our students practices.

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