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Monday, September 04, 2006

Enhancing Communication and Improving Learning Through Technology

Enhancing communication and improving learning through technology.
Discussion and Support
The Shannon-Schramm Communication Model demonstrates the communication process as related to perception, field of experience, noise, feedback, and the sender/encoder-decoder/receiver. This cycle of communication relies individual experience and perception to communicate information. As society becomes more complex, the field of experience also becomes more complex. Media and other forms of communication capitalize on the ability to "create" a uniform schema or foundational knowledge base, however, an individuals field of experience is shaped by more than media. It is important to assess this information when designing learning activities.
Drawing on theoretical foundations for how people learn provides a framework for enhancing learning through improved communication. Cognitive learning styles "refer to the preferred way an individual processes information" (TIP Concepts). Several theories provide guidance based upon multiple intelligence, developmental stage, learning strategies, and other criteria, but most acknowledge the need to assess student learning and experience to create a common field of experience and enhance communication and understanding.
The ability of technology to positively impact learning by enhancing communication is debated by some individuals who cite the lack of conclusive evidence demonstrating significant effects from media on learning (Owston, 1997). This does not preclude the argument that technology is capable of communicating information in a distinctly different modality than traditional print. In fact, little debate regarding the unique characteristics of technology is to be found. Technology is capable of "individualizing" the rate, modality, progression, feedback, and duration of instruction. Drawing on the premise that students learn in different ways, at different rates, and from different perspectives, the ability of technology to "individualize" instruction is perhaps the most promising potential offered.
Technology can create a common field of experience
The example of individual experience as related to perception was demonstrated in class by reference to "a tree". Socially, it is expected everyone in the room was familiar with the term, but individual experience dictates the "meaning" inferred by each person at reference to "a tree". Even if a more descriptive explanation was given (a Mesquite tree), individual experience directs the process. Never having seen a Mesquite tree, the label does little to assist me. Technology can enhance this stage of communication by quickly creating a common field of experience through the use of other medium…in this case a photograph. The importance of creating a common field of experience is clearly demonstrated in communicating with a person who is blind or deaf…the ability to use alternative formats such as auditory or visual information is able to bypass the barrier experienced as a result of the disability. Cognitive barriers based on learning style, ability, previous experience, etcetera, are less obvious variations on different methods of acquiring information.
Technology can provide inclusive communication
According to Twigg, "studies have shown the largest group of college students consists of concrete-active learners…(whereas) the overwhelming majority of college faculty prefer the IN pattern, creating a disparity between teacher and learner" (Twigg, 1997). Twigg poses the question; "How can our faculty respond to diverse learning patterns when their primary pedagogy consists of classroom lecture?". This concern has been a repeated theme among advocates of educational reform and the use of instructional technology. Technology provides the means to not only create a field of experience, but to deliver information in a manner that decreases "noise" or extraneous information the decoder is unable or not inclined to process. By individualizing instruction, communication becomes centered on the learner rather than forcing the learner to adjust to the instructor.
Technology promotes dialog
In the article "Me and my hypertext" the author points the interactive nature of publishing on the Internet. In Digress 2a, Reinking introduces the author (himself) and in so doing demonstrates the authoritative nature of traditional educational communication where an "expert" imparts information to a static audience void of "democratic dialog". The less formal, but highly democratic dialog available through on-line technology creates an environment where information is discussed, argued, and subject to question as well as revision. Boundaries imposed by qualifications become less important as communication is challenged by peers and non-peers alike. Reinking astutely states, " electronic reading and writing invite a much less formal, honest approach to writing, because whether authors like it or not, they are ( I am) much less remote" (Reinking, 1997).
Technology is capable of increasing access and decreasing time of communication
Technology has revolutionized society by providing many of the same benefits cited for individuals to a macro/global level. This in turn has provided increased access to individuals and so forth. An example is the ease with which I acquire information as compared to ten years ago. The availability of reliable information is at my fingertips as I write this. My husband can access libraries with spanish/latin authors in a matter of minutes. The ability to share information and resources further increases communication. According to Thornburg, the Internet is doubling in size every year and e-mail is doubling every 90 days (Thornburg, 1997). Standards and protocols for the documentation and delivery of information on the Internet are further increasing the speed and availability of information.






Resources
Owston, R. The world-wide web: A technology to enhance teaching and learning. On-line. Available: http://www.edu.yorku.ca/~rowston/article.html
Reinking, D. Me and my hypertext: A multiple digression analysis of technology and literacy. On-line. Available: http://www.readingonline.org/literacy/hypertext/index.htm
Shannon-Schram Communication Model. Modified Hand-out.
Thornburg, David. 2020 Visions for the Future of Education.
TIP Concepts. On-line. Available http://www.gwu.edu/~tip/
Twigg, Carol. The changing definition of learning. On-line. Available: http://www.baddesigns.com/

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