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Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) states that students make connections when exposed to knowledge and skills that are a level above their current functioning level (Thorne 2011). If designed correctly, technology can have a transformative impact on learning. My approach to teaching and learning is grounded in socio-cognitive constructivism. Cognitivism and social constructivism are not mutually exclusive, both agree that learning is social. Constructivists believe that development is before learning and cognitivists argue that learning always precedes development. While I tend to be more cognitivist in my perspective, both are social, with collaborative practices to engage the learner. Sounds basic and in this context of professional and lay audience members, it is. I am drastically simplifying two major learning theories.

Inquiry based learning, which is central to problem based and project based learning, is part of my philosophy. We participate in lifelong learning as we ask questions in order to reconstruct schema and as we interact with others in diverse contexts over time. Inquiry leads an open mind that allows for multidisciplinary knowledge (STEAM+), and the situations to provide learning opportunities for diverse learners.

My point is that, while we ground ourselves in a theoretical position, we should not be so solid in our “belief” of one particular theory that we end up like those who believed in geocentric theory. Our minds, especially those of us with terminal degrees, should remain open to ideas, while seeking data across all disciplines.  By the very nature of being a theory, there will be strengths and weaknesses researchers continue to explore. Vygotsky_Graphic_FinalWhile Piaget and other constructivists focus on how learners generate knowledge and meaning from an interaction with experiences, Vygotsky and other cognitivists focus on the study of human memory to explain the relation between learning and cognitive development. For my colleagues who want to expand their level of inquiry, might I suggest working on an interdisciplinary course? In doing so, ask for support and studies where an integrated approach of team teaching across disciplines is done by your academic support professionals. Incorporating the benefits of flipping, blending, hyflexing, and/or authentic practice, can be one of the most rewarding teaching experiences you’ll have. Many choose to select one of the many ways found on this site until they are comfortable, then try adding something new to their teaching portfolio. Heck, I’m with you on that. Don’t have me run the kitchen in a five star restaurant. Put me in a wine class first! Humor aside, as academicians, we too, benefit from scaffolding.

The intent of this site is to inquire, learn, and reflect on the growth, sustainability, progression, innovation, and effectiveness of digital and emergent learning to improve the human condition. Both learning and technology are social. While some may be removed by the interaction (text book author; application programmer), the intersection of the two can be transformative.

The technology factor

My focus is on using the theoretical lens described above with digital learning  technology and innovation to improve student learning success and outcomes in higher education. This includes less salient issues and those that are tangentially related, when they are likely to have a significant impact. No, I do not have a crystal ball, and I’d be weary of those who claim to “know” everything about the disciplines related to eLearning, or more broadly, digital learning.  What I can contribute is my formal knowledge and practice in higher education and management gained from 30 years of using critical, analytical, systemic, and systematic thinking. My process in forecasting trends in digital learning extends from my years doing so in computer sciences. Yes, I am a geek. I started with the IBM System 3, both the 5410 and Model 8, other IBM systems (36/38/3340 “Winchester/relational db/AS400) , through the mainframe-to-PC conversion era, to the Internet, World Wide Web, and today’s world of makerspaces, 3D printing, competencies and micro credits. Please know that attribution will be given and research cited, some commentary will be my soap box to the world of learning to improve the human condition. Please feel free to comment, or provide additional resources, preferably open and openly liscensed or obtainable within the academy.  Note that this is my personal blog. Therefore, my post are entirely my own, and not the necessarily the views of any employer or organization to whom I may be consulting, or otherwise affiliated. Discussing human learning development in the context of digital learning technologies undoubtedly can be viewed with a political lens, although that is not my purpose.

Thorne, S.L., & Tasker, T. (2011). Sociocultural and Cultural-Historical Theories of Language Development. In J. Simpson (ed.), Routledge Handbook of Applied Linguistics (pp. 487-500). New York: Routledge.

Vygotsky, Lev. Thought and Language, MIT, 2002

Vygotskii, L. S., Rieber, R. W., & Carton, A. S. (1987). The collected works of L.S. Vygotsky. New York: Plenum Press.

Vigotsky, L.S (1978). Mind in Society. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

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