25 January 2013

Individualized Learning Environments

This unit we examined two types of individualized learning environments: Personalized System of Instruction (PSI) and the Audio-Tutorial Approach (A-T).

What are key similarities or striking differences between the theories/models in a given unit? Do the theories/models in a unit share any common foundations or principles?

Both of these models want to focus on allowing the student to move through material at their own pace, mostly independent of the traditional classroom or lecture/discussion setting. Both models seem to try to maintain some connection between the students and the faculty, such that students are always provided with the assistance they need and to create some sort of faculty presence within the learning experience.

One thing that struck me was that the PSI model is a mastery-based model, which requires students to be able to demonstrate their knowledge before moving on to the next objective. The A-T model does not require mastery before students move on, but in its traditional form does require more contact with faculty for review and quiz sessions, in which students may be asked to present or recall any of the course material studied. I tend to be in favor of mastery-type models, because it helps to remove the fear of failure, which allows students to be more at ease in the learning environment. That being said, this is not always an option, given the time and resource constraints of most educational environments.

What are your initial reactions to these learning theories/models? What are barriers to their use? What benefits might be expected for those who overcome the barriers?

My initial reaction to both models in their traditional forms was that they would be very time intensive and require a lot of time scheduled during which the teacher observes students doing their work, in case they need help. Given the technological advancements since the birth of these models, I think there are better ways of handling those issues. The one barrier that I do not foresee being eliminated is the time it takes to develop these kinds of programs. Gathering materials, creating coherent curricula and then creating all of the necessary digital materials for these programs will just take time. I think the benefit to spending that time is that teachers (hopefully in groups) will create databases of resources that can be used in and out of the classroom. I thought of many ways of incorporating these ideas into classroom style teaching, as it occurs in most primary and secondary school settings. Using the A-T style approach, teachers can provide the lecture style material outside of class, while using in class time for review, guided practice and group/collaborative learning. My favorite parts of the PSI model are the focus on mastery (as opposed to merely testing) and the clear statement/testing of objectives. Letting students know what is expected of them and then having a guiding process through to demonstrated mastery is important in any classroom.

Would you attempt to use any of these theories/models with the students you are currently teaching or hope to teach in the future? Why or why not? Could elements of the theories/models be modified so that they would work with your current/future students?

I wouldn't (couldn't?) attempt to use any of these formats in their original forms in a public high school classroom - it's just not set up that way. There are many facets of each of these models that I feel would fit nicely into that learning environment. I would be in favor of delivering material A-T style to students outside of the classroom. This would combine short podcasts, videos, text and short assignments that students would complete out of class, so that they could come prepared to engage the material in the classroom. I would also try to incorporate the PSI-favored explicit objectives, mastery and tutored (as opposed to lectured) style of in-class interaction. Rather than lecturing material to students, they could engage the material in guided and independent practice, either independently or in groups, with teacher assistance for a more student-centered approach.

Since we're taking learning theories/models that were not necessarily created with the Web in mind and turning them into Web modules, what Web-based tools or resources could be leveraged to carry out these learning theories/models online? 

For the PSI model, I think that LiveBinders would be a great resource for this type of program. It could be a great way to organize different units and objectives for completion. Also, any website creation programs like Weebly or GoogleSites would be useful in creating a platform and organizational tool for material where students can easily access it.

For the A-T model, the first tool I thought of was VoiceThread. I can't think of a better way of putting audio-visual material together in a way that is so accessible for students. Podcast hosting sites would also be super-helpful with this model, so Podbean or Blubrry are options. Also Audacity is a great open source audio recording tool. 

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