Integrating Technology with Adult Learning Theory

Near the top of a google search for “adult learning theory and education,” I found the article “Andragogy and Technology: Integrating Adult Learning Theory as We Teach with Technology” by Dolores Fidishun, Ed.D., Penn State Great Valley School of Graduate Professional Studies, presented at the 2000 Mid-South Instructional Technology Conference, Middle Tennessee State University.

The article begins with this idea:

The principles of adult learning theory can be used in the design of technology-based instruction to make it more effective.

I share this sentiment and one of the reasons that I have developed this blog is to learn more about adult learning theories and how these ideas can be applied to the development of online educational resources.

Based on the application of adult learning theories, Dr. Fidishun offers several suggestions for the design of an effective online educational resource, including these specific design ideas:

One way to help students see the value of the lessons is to ask the student, either online or in an initial face-to-face meeting, to do some reflection on what they expect to learn, how they might use it in the future or how it will help them to meet their goals.

It becomes extremely important for those who are designing technology-based adult learning to use all of the capabilities of the technology including branching, the ability to skip sections a student already understands, and multiple forms of presentation of material which can assist people with various learning styles.

The instructor must find ways to move [dependent] learners into self-direction by giving them short, directed, concrete online tasks that provide the most “learning for the experience” to make these adults see the relevancy of online learning.

The design of technology-based instruction must include opportunities for learners to use their knowledge and experience. Case studies, reflective activities, group projects that call upon the expertise of group members and lab experiments are examples of the type of learning activities which will facilitate the use of learners’ already acquired expertise.

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The “Real World” and the Internet

From the Pew Research Center on August 17, 2008:
Key News Audiences
The findings by the Pew study include this finding of an interesting type of behavior by Internet users:

A slim majority of Americans (51%) now say they check in on the news from time to time during the day, rather than get the news at regular times. This marks the first time since the question was first asked in 2002 that most Americans consider themselves “news grazers.”

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Maybe the schools are the problem

From the BBC on August 15, 2008:

Professor Greenfield has spent a lifetime researching the physiology of the brain, and now thinks that there could be a link between the attention span of children and the growing use of computers.

In an interview for Radio 4’s iPM she said: “The last 10 years have seen a three-fold increase in the prescription of the drug Ritalin, a drug used for Attention Deficit Disorder. One asks why?

“Why suddenly is there greater demand for a drug for attentional problems?” she asked. “This might, and I stress might, be something to do with the increased exposure of young children to unsupervised and lengthy hours in front of a screen.”

Baroness Greenfield wondered if the cause was growing computer use.

“Could it be, and this is just a suggestion which I think we should look into, could it be if a small child is sitting in front of a screen pressing buttons and getting reactions quickly for many hours, they get used to and their brains get used to rapid responses?” she said.

If children do not have stories read to them and have little practice of concentrating for long periods this could effect how they handle the sedate pace of school life, said Baroness Greenfield.

Or maybe they are the solution…

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