In my 13+ years’ as a trainer, lecturer, and teacher, my teaching philosophy has evolved. Learning is an educational conversation, in which 2 or more people engage in a dynamic flow of ideas and information. In order to achieve this flow of learning, a variety of approaches and methodologies must be considered. I regularly evaluate content in order to identify the most appropriate technology and best tools for successful learning. I also consider learning styles and practices and bring these to the classroom. Every type of content should support the fundamental learning styles (kinetic, visual, auditory), but the audience and type of content may drive the ratio. While technology can be an extraordinary tool for learning, it should be a mechanism of delivery which does not overshine the content. It is important that the technology does not become a barrier or distraction from learning content, but an asset to help deliver content that is tailored to the audience.
As part of that process of course development, I consider the following questions regarding the student, course content, and outcomes: What are the needs of this particular student? What knowledge do they possess and how can I tap into that knowledge? What foundational knowledge do they need before they can move forward? Are there opportunities to present the content in a new way? How can technology be leveraged to facilitate learning? What outcomes do I hope to achieve? What outcome does the student hope to achieve? How will I measure the success of training?
During my coursework in Instructional Design & Development, I became interested in constructionism and constructivist theory, in which framework and support provided by the instructor create a scaffold for students to build their own educational experiences. As my proficiency in training and educational content development increased, my perspectives became more nuanced. Some students need more help; learning styles are dynamic, blended combinations influenced by learners’ culture, technology, language, among other factors. I believe the best learning happens when students engage the concepts presented in class, internalize their understanding, and then apply it in unique and meaningful ways. Learning is truly a creative process!
Most recently, I have been learning more about the ACRL Standards for Visual Literacy (http://www.ala.org/acrl/standards/visualliteracy). Being both technically savvy and creative, I have been considering new ways to bridge those viewpoints in the classroom and through my own learning experiences. We are moving towards a more visual culture, with technology shaping the future. Literacy of these materials and technologies is increasingly more important. Technology like E-books, digital 3D, and content printed via 3D printers will provide new opportunities for all of us. Makerspaces are a perfect example of constructionist learning and technology – learning through making and creating. These new learning opportunities provide unique challenges and opportunities to combine creative literacy and technical skill.
My role as instructor is to help everyone personalize their education via active and collaborative learning. My goal is to spark ideas and aid in knowledge acquisition. For example, I was invited to give a talk on Personal Learning Networks. This talk focused on how IT professionals could build networks of knowledge to enable them to stay current in their fields and abreast of industry trends. The discussion and resources were heavily focused and utilized both active and collaborative learning resources, including gaming. The culmination of the group discussion focused on how we could use and build virtual badges to document credentials. Out of this session we formed a new group to facilitate knowledge sharing!
Each institution, organization, class, faculty member, and student provides new opportunities and challenges for my continued growth as a teacher. As we continue this shift to a more visual society, changes in teaching methodologies and tools will certainly need to occur. I imbue in my students and faculty the curiosity, critical thinking, and technological skills that will allow them to be active participants in genesis of new knowledge.