Theoretical Educational Approaches And Constructivism Education Essay

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The research question purposes to analyse and present potential opportunities for the convergence of technology-enhanced learning with education for sustainable development initiatives in Malta. To this end, this dissertation seeks to provide a sound foundation of knowledge on the evolutions of Education for Sustainable Development, Technology Enhanced Learning, and Educational Theoretical Approaches to present day in the context of local historical, environmental, and policy issues relevant to the Maltese national education and sustainability perspectives. It is hoped that the information contained herein would be of value to anyone interested in learning more about these subjects and/or pursuing courses of action aimed at alleviating constraining issues hindering beneficial advancement for society in these areas.

1.2 Theoretical Educational Approaches

Three main theoretical schools, or philosophical frameworks, have featured prominently since early Educational Technology literature, namely, Behaviourism, Cognitivism, and Constructivism. These schools of thought are still present in much of today's literature, but have evolved as psychology literature has evolved.

Behaviourism is a theoretical framework developed in the early 20th century with the animal learning experiments of B.F. Skinner, Ivan Pavlov, and many others. The works of psychologist B. F. Skinner's theories of behaviour were influential on many early instructional theorists because their hypotheses could be tested with the scientific method process. Since the beginning of the Cognitive Revolution of the 1960's however, the subject of learning theory has undergone a great deal of change. Cognitive Science helped to change how educators viewed learning. Although despite the changes that occurred, much of the theoretical framework from Behaviourism was retained in Cognitive Science (Skinner, 1985). Cognitivism applied to eLearning environments focuses on how the brain works and the cognitive processes of learning. Cognitive theories look beyond behaviour to explain brain-based learning, and study how human memory works to promote learning (Bloom & Krathwohl, 1956) .

1.2.1 Constructivism

Constructivism is a philosophical framework of learning theory that educators began to consider more closely in the 1990's (Paas, 1992). One of the primary tenets of this philosophy is that learners construct their own meaning from new information as they interact with others with different perspectives. Students are required to utilize prior knowledge and experiences to formulate new, related, and/or adaptive concepts in learning. However, constructivist educators must make sure that the prior learning experiences are appropriate and related to the concepts being taught. Under this framework, teachers take on the role of facilitators, providing guidance so that learners can construct their own knowledge (Siemon, Virgona, Lasso, Parsons, & Cathcart, 2004) .

Techno-Constructivists are teachers who are adept at integrating technologies into their curricula in a way that not only complements instruction but also redefines it. A true Techno-Constructivist has realized the full potential of technology to help students build upon their own experiences, construct their own meanings, create products, and solve problems successfully (McKenzie, 2012).

Social Constructivism is a theory of knowledge that considers how social phenomenon or objects of consciousness develop in social contexts. Some sources cite that this theory is similar to, but different from traditional constructivist theories. Collaborative learning activities, such a discussion forums, blogs, and wikis, are well suited to social-technical resources. The collaborative approach of Social Constructivism adapts the construction of educational content to address a wider group, which can include the students themselves. The One Laptop per Child Foundation attempted to apply the Social Constructivist approach to its project (Muema & Muia, 2011).

1.2.2 Inquiry Learning

Inquiry Learning is a form of active learning. This form of learning is an instructional method that was developed during the discovery learning movement of the 1960's. According to cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner, inquiry-based learning was developed as a response to the perceived failure of traditional forms of instruction, wherein students were required primarily to memorize facts from instructional materials (Bruner, 1961). In utilising this methodology of learning, the educational progress of students is assessed by how well they develop experimental and analytical skills, rather than by the quantity of knowledge they possess.

Inquiry-based learning, Problem Based Learning, Project-based Learning, and are all active learning Educational Technologies used to facilitate learning. All three technologies are student centred, involving real-world scenarios in which students actively engage in critical thinking activities (K12 Academics, 2012).

In Problem Based Learning (PBL), students learn by solving problems and reflecting on their experiences (Barrows & Tamblyn, 1980) . PBL is well oriented towards helping students become active learners because it situates learning in real-world problems and makes students responsible for their learning. It often has a dual emphasis of helping learners develop strategies and constructing knowledge (Hmelo-Silver, 2004).

Experiential learning focuses on the learning process from the individual's perspective. An example of experiential learning would be going to a public aquarium and learning through observation and interaction with the aquarium environment, as opposed to reading about marine life from a book. One then makes discoveries and experiments with first-hand knowledge, rather than reading about others' experiences.

Dr. David A. Kolb is an American educational theorist who helped to popularize the theory of experiential learning. The Experiential Learning theory proposes that learning is accomplished through reflection on doing, and is often contrasted with didactic methods of teaching. Traditional based methods of academic learning use the process of acquiring information through the study of a subject not necessarily with direct experiences. By comparison, experiential learning methods involve the dimensions of analysis, initiative, and immersion (Stavenga de Jong, Wierstra, & Hermanussen, 2006) .

Project-based learning (PBL) is an instructional method that assigns students with complex tasks based on questions or problems that require them to work in collaborative teams to make decisions, solve problems, and use investigative skills; all of which may require teacher facilitation but not necessarily direction. The projects help students to demonstrate what they have learned, and frequently incorporate in-depth investigations of subject matters that involve outside experts to supplement teachers' knowledge, and in the process, students learn from their own experiences. Students are given real tasks with challenges to solve in context with the means in which they will eventually be required to function in the real world. It emphasizes creative thinking skills by allowing students to find that there are many ways to solve a problem. Through Project-based learning, students learn from their experiences and are able apply them to the world outside their classroom (Hmelo-Silver, 2004).

1.2.3 Situated Learning & Communities of Practice

Situated learning is based on the theories of Situated Cognition and Communities of Practice (Hung, D., Looi, C.-K., & Koh, T.-S. (2004). Situated Cognition and Communities of Practice: First-Person "Lived Experiences" vs. Third-Person Perspectives. Educational Technology & Society, 7 (4), 193-200). Situated Cognition presupposes that learning is inseparable from doing, and that all knowledge attained in situated in activities are bound to social, cultural, and physical contexts. Knowing exists in-situ, and therefore is inseparable from the individual environments of people, culture, and language (J. S. Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989) .

Lave and Wenger (1991), concluded that learning is fundamentally a social process, and focused on the relationships between learning and the situations in which they occur, and defined situational learning as similar to some forms of "social co-participation", and accordingly, they inquired into what kinds of social engagements provide the best context for learning to take place, with learners participating in communities of practitioners and moving toward full participation in the sociocultural practices of a community (Lave & Wenger, 1991) . The basic argument made by Wenger (1998) was that communities of practice are everywhere and that we are generally involved in a number of them, no matter whether that there are at work, school, home, or in our civic and leisure interests.

According to Wegner (2002), true Communities of Practice have three core elements: domain, community, and practice. A domain is defined as a shared area of interest to which members are committed and in which they have a shared competence that distinguishes them from other people. A Domain of knowledge is thought to create a common ground, to inspire members to participate, to guide learning, and to give meaning to actions. A Community creates the social fabric for learning. In communities pursuing their domains, members engage in joint activities and discussions to help each other and share information. Although domains provide the general area of interest for communities, practices are the specific focus around which each community develops, shares, and maintains its core of knowledge (W. Snyder, Wenger, & Briggs, 2004) .

Learners who engage in communities with shared interests tend to benefit from the knowledge of those who are more knowledgeable than they are. Social interaction is an important part of the learning process; it allows students to embrace a community where they can learn from one another other (Ernst & Clark, 2009) . In legitimate peripheral participation, newcomers become part of a community of practice gradually through the engaged in learning of processes to becoming a full participant in a sociocultural practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991) .

1.3 The Emergence of Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL)

The term Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) may refer to any form of learning that is supported by technology. TEL is also sometimes referred to as eLearning or EdTech. EdTech is a popular acronym for the term Education Technology and is often associated with the tools used in eLearning environments. According to the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) Definitions and Terminology Committee, Educational Technology is defined as the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources (Association for Educational Communications and Technology, 2012).

Educational Technology may theoretically be traced back to prehistoric times with the use of paintings on cave walls. Though a more common approach the history of Educational Technology begins with the use of educational films in the 1900's, and the first documented usage of Educational Technologies on a large scale traces back to the WWII era with the training of U.S. soldiers through training films (Leigh, 1998).

The 1950's era led to two major and popular designs in Educational Technology. The work of Skinner led to a "programmed instruction" design, which focused on the formulation of behavioural objectives, breaking instructional content into small units, and rewarding correct responses early and often; and Bloom endorsed instructional techniques that varied both instruction and time according to learner requirements (Wiburg, 2009).

Models based on these two designs were present throughout the 1970's through the 1990's, and were usually referred to as either Computer-Based Training (CBT), Computer Aided Instruction and/or Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI) (Marold, Kathryn A., The 21st Century Learning Model: Electronic Tutelage Realized, Journal of Information Technology Education Volume 1 No. 2, 2002, Metropolitan State College of Denver, Denver, CO, Editor: Linda Knight). Computer Based Learning (CBL) continued to progress through the 1980's and 1990's, and was frequently based on constructivist and cognitivist learning theories (McKnight, Dillon, & Richardson, 1996) . These technologies correspond to a simplified format of today's e-content that often form the core of eLearning set-ups, which are often referred to as Web-Based Training (WBT). Some of the earliest documented uses of computers in education were in the early 1960's by Suppes and Atkinson from Stanford University to teach mathematics and reading skills to elementary school children in Palo Alto, California (Kulik, 2002).

Many of the earliest eLearning courses in the 1970's and 1980's were based upon Computer Based Learning (CBL) systems (Ally, 2009). Computer Based Learning (CBL) refers to the use of computers as a primary component of an educational learning process. Most early eLearning systems were Computer Based Training (CBT) systems that simulated traditional autocratic styles of teachers through providing the major function of transferring knowledge to students (UNCCD Project Management, 2011). Thismethodology was contrasted later with systems, such as Computer Supported System Learning systems (CSSL) that were more collaborative in nature and supported a shared development of knowledge (G. Chen & Chiu, 2008) .

Although recent developments in CSCL are often referred to as eLearning 2.0, the concept of collaborative learning environments designed to encourage learners to work together has been around for much longer. Collaborative learning is different from more traditionally based methods of instruction wherein the direct transfer of knowledge is through teachers as the sole distributor of knowledge. Learning in this capacity is often referred to as eLearning 1.0, and reflect the early CBT learning environments. eLearning 2.0 based upon Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) accepts that knowledge can be socially constructed, with conversations about content and interaction based upon problems and solution oriented actions (S. Brown, Adler, & Richard P., 2008) .

The original history of networked learning can be traced back to the 19th century with the advent of networked infrastructures such as railroads and telegraphs. More recently, however, the roots of modern networked learning began in the 1970's with the use of computer networks. The Institute for the Future, located in Melno Park, California, began experimenting in the 1970's with networked learning practices based on the use of the internet for computer conferencing. Hiltz and Turoff are two renowned educational pioneers that began publishing research in the 1970's on use of internet technologies in education at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (Beller, 1998) Dr. Charles Findly lead a collaborative network project in the late 1980's at the Digital Equipment Corporation that observed trends in collaborative learning environments, which were instrumental in developing prototypes that eventually became the basis for developing collaborative network learning and collaborative learning work (Findley, 1987). In 1997, the State University of New York (SUNY) studied the processes for evaluating products and course development strategies for teaching and learning in eLearning environments (Graziadei, Gallagher, Brown, & Sasiadek, 1998) .

eLearning systems have continued to evolve since computers were first used in education. eLearning 2.0 often features Computer Supported Collaborative Learning systems (CSCL), which came about with the introduction of Web 2.0 technologies. With the advent of eLearning 2.0, learning also began to incorporate social learning and collaborative efforts with tools such as blogs, podcasts, wikis, and virtual worlds. The design of distributed net-based education approaches are often designed around the concept of communities of practice. Communities of Practice can exist anywhere, including online, such as within discussion boards and newsgroups, or in real life, such as at work, in a field setting, or elsewhere in the natural environment. Communities of Practice are not necessarily a new occurrence, however. They have existed since people first began to learn and share experiences together. The term Communities of Practice was used by Lave and Wenger to describe learning through participation and practice, and the subject of Communities of Practice was subsequently expanded upon by Wegner in 1998, 2002, and 2009. Communities of Practice (COP) are "Groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis"(W. Snyder, Wenger, & Briggs, 2004) .

Globally Networked Learning Environments (GNLE) were first described in 2007 by Starke-Meyerring, Duin, & Palvetzian in their book Global partnerships: Positioning technical communication programs in the context of globalization. GNLE's are networked learning environments specifically designed to connect students from around the globe to one another. They are designed to facilitate dialog and collaboration among students from different parts of the world. Their intent is to develop competences towards a greater understanding of the world for global work and citizenship. Some GNLE's have been initiated through institutions of higher education, such as the Center for Collaborative Online International Learning at the State University of New York (COIL, 2010), and others through third-party organisations such as the NGO Soliya (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2007; Soliya, 2012).

There several different levels of eLearning implementation, from using classroom aids such as PowerPoint slides with voice overs for lectures, to deployment of course websites or Course Management Systems, to requiring students to bring in their own laptops to class as part of the in-classroom process, to a completely online learning experience, which is also considered a form of distance learning education (OECD, 2005). eLearning can refer to a wide range of applications of technology, and its exact definition is therefore not even clear in peer-reviewed research publications discussing eLearning (Lowenthal, Wilson, & Parrish, 2009) .

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