Long time since I’ve posted

I am hoping to start writing at least a post a week going forward, at least to start capturing some of the things I’m thinking that I don’t have the time to write about given how time consuming everything else has become over the last few months. We’re in an accrediting year at work, which means a lot of meetings and reports to do. I’m still trying to finish my learning games book, but every time I think I’ll be able to sit and work there is something else that draws me away. I’m at 260 pages or so and need to continue heavy editing and finish a bit more writing. I love getting to write it and get irritated when I’m pulled away. Hoping that after all the dissertations and proposals and institutional effectiveness reports are done next week that I can just sit for a while and finish.

However they might draw me away from my own work (due in January), the dissertations are exciting, especially with one of my students who is finish. I have worked her with on transmedia (alternate and augmented reality games included), LTCA theory, and social media for half a decade now. She has done an amazing job on her study and I’m so glad she is defending.

Today, I’m reading about MOOCS and in their implementation, still trying to figure out why you wouldn’t just buy a book with associated videos that has questions at the end of each chapter or use Lynda.com or equivalent. If there will be no direct instructor feedback or interaction with other students, what is the value added to be one of the masses? I have serious qualms about calling something a theory (especially in light of spending 7 years developing LTCA), when it has no explanatory power to tell why learning is supposed to occur in the mind of the learner. I have more heartburn when someone claims learning can take place outside of them, stored elsewhere. The “outboard brain” is something I am increasingly concerned about, because I am beginning to believe that our use of technology to store so much of out memory is beginning to harm our ability to engage in higher order thinking as well as personal agency and responsibility for learning, as locus of control continues to be offloaded to others and digital systems.

Also, learning is commonly understood by most folks in the field as a process that leads to long-term or permanent change in the mind of the learner and expressed as a verb. Different authors may use different words for defining learning. However, examining common features, it’s basically: engaging in an activity leads to observed or self-reported changes in the brain/mind or exhibited behavior as evidence of change.

For me, to go beyond simple acquisition of information however, is a second process beyond memorization. For example, in the first phase of learning (surface/acquisition), this may mean they have brought information into working memory, developed the ability to repeat a physical skill from learned from a model followed by practice, or something similar.

In the first case, where they simply acquire information, there is a second process phase that allows that information to be used meaningfully. If they can use the information to engage in some sort of other activity or practice, such as comparing that information to other information through a process of analysis of features leading to a mental heuristic (set of functional rules of thumb that work more often than not), this allows it to be used again in the future. Once the learner determines it has this utility, the information becomes something else: knowledge. The ability to accurately determine the best time to apply that knowledge is wisdom. When someone tells me learning is a noun or that it is itself knowledge, I remain confused as to the logic.

However, there is a lot of confusion in our field about what is and is not a theory. I’m writing an article on what constitutes theory according to philosophy, but set in the context of education ,and learning technologies specifically, where I can fully delve into that. Maybe I’ll post more about it once its published.

One should always be engaging in critique of “knowledge” to continue to determine its utility. Once it not longer has use, it should be relegated back to information. This is true especially with one’s own conceptions of truth and knowledge and one should be prepared to let go of what no longer serves.

This has been true for me with LTCA. Over the last couple of years, I have been quietly expanding its explanatory power well past where it was in 2012 when I thought it fairly cohesive. However, through peer feedback and reflection, I have seen a lot of the holes and have been filling them in and connecting it much more clearly to existing theories of mind, critiquing those and filling in the blanks. This is done in the hope that it can rise from the level of what is known as a functional/conceptual framework to a middle theory that both explains what happens in the mind as well as what should happen in practice to support learning through teaching practice and instructional design of activities.

To that end, I’m now referring to it as Educational Communications Theory (ECT), because it has expanded well beyond the four or five communicative actions previously described (though they remain important), to better bridge the theoretical, psychological, pedagogical, and methodological components into a coherent worldview that is broad enough to have real utility: knowledge not information. But at the same time, I continue to critique it myself and ask for input as I go because again, knowledge is only information with practical utility.

I hope that from there, over time, I’ll better have the wisdom to know whether and when it is best applied.

Of course, these are just some of my thoughts. As always, I could be wrong.

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