Tech and Learning

I have been lucky enough to be able to teach many other teachers and students on a variety of topics. A friend and I were recently talking about how people from different generations learn. He mentioned that younger people (like our students) want to dive in and figure things out. Older people (like teachers) want to be told step-by-step how to do things.

When I teach adults and students alike, I adapt my teaching method to whatever seems most comfortable for them. When I teach students, I usually let them play with things and only show or demonstrate when they get stuck. So far, my students have enjoyed this.

Last year, when I did TechnoThursdays, I usually had to go more step-by-step with the adults who came and needed help, which is why I used the wikispace to help them see the step-by-step directions. TechnoThursdays were the ideal setup. I would create a wiki with directions of what we were going to do. Then I would talk to the teachers and walk those who needed it through that web page.

Technology makes that possible. It allows everyone to be on their own page when it comes to learning. They can go slow or they can go fast. This year, I have made many screencasts that show how to do different things with our transition to Google Apps for Education email accounts. The screencasts allow the teachers to view the needed material, often without any audio, and as many times as they personally need. Some people just need to know that a certain functionality exists, and they will do the rest on their own. I am not doing TechnoThursdays this year because I do that in one technology-themed faculty meeting each month. Allowing everyone to go at a speed that is comfortable to them has made those meetings much more effective. It gives people permission to go above and beyond what I am teaching.

The Aloha Team at my school went one step beyond my lesson about blogging on our school web site. They made their own wiki and their own blogs and those blogs are linked on this wiki. Their next step is to create an RSS feed that feeds right on to that page (a challenge for next year). That is something that could not have happened if I did not let them go at their own pace--a vital key to any learning situation.

I think about when I teach in other settings where technology is not available, the learners have no opportunity to go at their own speed. The instructor determines the speed, and they must conform to it. There is no other choice.

Understanding the ways that my students and other adults learn has helped me figure out how I learn the best. I like a mixture of what I give my students and what I give adults. I like the structure of an actual class, but I like being able to go at my own pace. Since I have finished my Masters degree, I have been able to focus more on what I want to learn, when I want to learn it. Using Twitter has also helped me gain more information than I could ever imagine.


    Jethro, this is a very enjoyable post about learning styles and how you accommodate them. I liked the way you compared teaching adults vs kids. Do you really find that much difference in ages, or do you think it is more personal?

    I teach mostly adults and have found a huge variety within this population. It is true that many must go step-by-step, but there are those who love to mess around in the programs. (I am teaching the Adobe Creative Suite 4 programs-Flash, Illustrator, InDesign).

    RE Twitter--I have also learned so much from Twitter and blogs, but find Twitter more difficult to manage. Any hints on how to do this? Blogs are easy since the aggregator organizes everything for me. Oh well not to worry, because as information and the tools explode, companies come along with innovative ways to manage it.

    Lynda, I think that learning is very personal, but I also think that there is something to this idea about how we learn based on the generation we are from. It makes sense that you would find a great variety in the "adult population" as it possibly spans at least 40 years (18-60 year-olds). A quick Google search shows that there is support for this idea out there.

    Twitter is difficult to manage, and when I started following about 200 people, I realized that I could spend all day reading twitter. I found a neat application called DestroyTwitter which allows you to change the preferences so that you can follow only certain people in that client. It reduces the immense amount of "stuff." Try using that and just follow a few people that you actually want to keep up with (like me, I just added you).