In many problem-solving situations that you encounter, you are your main resource. You apply your knowledge and skills to solve a problem or accomplish a task of interest to you.
Much of the education and training needed to solve a problem occurs before you encounter the problem. However, it is often necessary to learn more about a new problem and ways to solve it. "Just in time" education and training are becoming increasingly important.
[[The "ownership" requirement in our definition of problem strongly suggests that you will have intrinsic motivation to attempt to solve a problem situation that you have accepted as a problem. This may well adding to your current base of knowledge and skills. An good education provides a person with a good repertoire of knowledge and skills, and provides a foundation for gaining more knowledge and skills when the need arises.]]
This chapter focuses on formal and informal education and training. The dividing line between education and training is not clear-cut. Thus, a College of Education trains [[prepares]] teachers. The preservice teachers are both educated and trained in their program of study. The goal is to help students gain increased expertise as teachers. We will define education and training as instruction designed to enhance the capabilities of the mind and body.
Some definitions of intelligence seem to assume that it is a fixed and immutable characteristic of a person--fixed at birth. However, it is clear that the potentials that one is born with can be developed by appropriate education, training, diet, and experience. The definition of intelligence used in this book is based on what you can currently do and what you actually do--not on what potentials you were born with.
The definition of intelligence given by Perkins (1995) and discussed in Chapter 3 contains three components: neural intelligence; experiential intelligence; and reflective intelligence. The content of the current chapter relates to improving experiential and reflective intelligence.
Education and training are a lifelong experience. Your mind is naturally inquisitive and always learning. In formal learning situations such as schooling, the learning is directed by a curriculum, teachers, and coaches. In many informal learning situations, your environment serves as the curriculum and you may serve as your own teacher and coach.
You know a great deal about education and training because of the many years you have spent in our formal educational system and the many years you have lived in an informal learning environment. Thus, you have learned to learn both in formal and informal learning situations. That is not to say, however, that you have reached your full potential as a learner; you can certainly increase your level of expertise as a learner. You can develop better research skills, study skills, and learning skills. You can develop better habits of metacognition and other aspects of reflexiveness. You can improve your skills in transferring your new knowledge into the domains that you already know.
Reading a book such as this one requires considerable intelligence and education. Spend a minute browsing through the Index. Notice the range of vocabulary and ideas that the book covers. It takes a great deal of semantic declarative knowledge to be able to read and learn from a book like this.
[[In its current online form, the book no longer has an index. A Search Engine can, in some sense, take the place of an index. However, the terms in an index are usually carefully selected by the author. Moreover, only select pages are listed for each index item. Thus, a search Engine and an index do not accomplish the same tasks.]]
Now, browse through the References and Resources section. Notice how many different people have contributed ideas to this book. As you learn from this book, you are building on the work of a large number of researchers and writers.
You have a considerable level of expertise in learning from academic books and from other formal educational settings. How did you gain this expertise? Have you received specific instruction on how to learn or on how to study?
It turns out that many students have relatively poorly developed study skills. They have not learned many of the ideas given in a study skills book such as Gall, Gall, Jacobsen, and Bullock (1990). Thus, they do not make effective use of their study time. With some training and experience, you can probably improve your learning and retention rates by a significant percentage.
[[ Study Guides and Strategies [Online]. Accessed 11/6/01: http://www.iss.stthomas.edu/studyguides/ .]]
For example, have you developed good note-taking skills that you use both in classes and while reading? Are you good at asking yourself questions about the material you are studying and then answering the questions? Do you draw diagrams and pictures to represent key ideas? Do you think about the meaning of new material relative to what you already know? As you learn new ideas, do you share them with your colleagues and do you try them out at work, at play, and in your studies? Do you reflect over general ideas from what you are learning and how these ideas apply to other domains?
Do you use the same study skills in each course that you take? Suppose that you had to take a written test after you have finished reading and studying this book. What strategies would you use if you knew the test was going to be objective--true/false and multiple choice? What strategies would you follow if you knew the test was going to be short essay? What strategies would you follow if you knew the test was going to be open book and open notes? What strategies would you follow if you knew that the test was going to be a month later, but that you would not have any chance to study during that month?
You may find such talk about tests to be distressing. It places emphasis on passing tests rather than on learning. What learning strategies would you use if you knew that you would not be tested at all?
You are mature enough to decide for yourself what you want to learn. You are mature enough to determine whether you are learning at a level to satisfy your own needs. The independent, self-sufficient, lifelong learner does not study just to pass objective or essay tests. Rather, the studying is internally (intrinsically) motivated.
Think back over the first few chapters of this book. Consider the problem situation of learning from this book. Do you have ownership? Can you name a number of ideas from the first few chapters that are personally meaningful to you? Are you already practicing them in a variety of settings? Can you name some "ah ha" insights that you have added to your episodic declarative memory as a consequence of studying the first few chapters?
The fundamental question is, are you making use of ideas from this book? Are you able to transfer your book learning into real-world problem solving?
Transfer of learning deals with transferring one's knowledge and skills from one problem-solving situation to another.
Transfer of learning is commonplace and often done without conscious thought. For example, suppose that when you were a child and learning to tie your shoes, all of your shoes had brown, cotton shoe laces. You mastered tying brown, cotton shoe laces. The next year you got new shoes. The new shoes were a little bigger, and they had white, nylon shoe laces. The chances are that you had no trouble whatsoever in transferring your shoe-tying skills to the new larger shoes with the different shoe laces.
Transfer of learning lies at the heart of learning--and hence, of an educational system designed to help students learn. Here is a simplified plan applicable to your education.
The goal of gaining general skills in the transfer of your learning is easier said than done. Researchers have worked to develop a general theory of transfer of learning--a theory that could help students get better at transfer. This has proven to be a difficult research problem.
At one time, it was common to talk about transfer of learning in terms of near and far transfer. This theory of transfer suggested that some problems and tasks are so nearly alike that transfer of learning occurred easily and naturally. This is called near transfer. Other problems and tasks require more concentrated effort and thinking for transfer to occur. This is called far transfer.
We know that near and far transfer occur. But, what is "near" or "far" varies with the person attempting to do the transfer. We know that far transfer does not readily occur. The difficulty with this theory of near and far transfer is that it does not provide a foundation or a plan for helping a person to get better at transfer.
In recent years, the low-road/high-road theory on transfer of learning, developed by Salomon & Perkins (1988), has proven to be more fruitful. Low-road transfer refers to developing some knowledge/skill to a high level of automaticity. It usually requires a great deal of practice in varying settings. It becomes a stimulus-response type of BBR. Experts in a field have a large repertoire of these BBRs that have been practiced to automaticity and are used without conscious thought.
On the other hand, high-road transfer involves: cognitive understanding; purposeful and conscious analysis; mindfulness; and application of strategies that cut across disciplines. In high-road transfer, there is deliberate mindful abstraction of the idea that can transfer, and then conscious and deliberate application of the idea when faced by a problem where the idea may be useful.
For example, we have previously mentioned the strategy of breaking a big problem into smaller components; this is called the top-down strategy. You can learn the name and concept of this strategy. You can practice this strategy in many different domains. You can reflect on the strategy and how it fits you and your way of dealing with the problems you encounter.
Eventually, the strategy becomes part of your repertoire of approaches to problem solving. When you encounter a new problem that is not solved by low-road transfer, you begin to mentally run through your list of strategies useful in high-road transfer. You may decide that breaking the problem into smaller pieces would be an effective strategy to apply.
Two keys to high-road transfer are mindfulness and reflectiveness. View every problem-solving situation as an opportunity to learn. After solving a problem, reflect about what you have learned. Be mindful of ideas that are of potential use in solving other problems.
Of course, there are a wide range of problems that lie between those easily handled by low-road transfer and those that require the careful, conscious, well-reasoned, mindful approaches suggested by high-road transfer. The previous chapter discussed the many years of hard work required to gain a high level of expertise in a domain. To a large extent, this work results in moving many problems from the middle ground in the domain toward the low-road transfer end of the scale. More and more of the problems that you encounter in the domain are quickly and easily solved, almost without conscious thought and effort. An expert has a large number of BBRs within a domain of expertise.
Computers have added new dimensions to the transfer of learning. We have previously mentioned how computers can easily provide you with a greatly expanded collection of BBRs. Of course, it still takes quite a bit of practice before these computer-based BBRs become part of your low-road transfer repertoire. In many cases this is aided by proper design of the human-machine interface. If the software is appropriately designed, it is relatively easy to transfer your learning from one software environment to another.
Instructional uses of computers are often broken down into three main parts: 1) computer science and computer engineering; 2) computer-as-tool for personal and group productivity; and 3) computer-assisted instruction (CAI). Figure 6.1 shows this three-part division.
Figure 6.1 The three-part division of the instructional uses of computers.
The fields of computer science and computer engineering as well as related areas, such as information science and data processing, are well-established domains of study. These computer-related disciplines have existed for many years, and they continue to change rapidly. For example, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) is a large professional society that began in 1947. In 1968, the ACM Curriculum '68 specified details of a college undergraduate curriculum of study. These recommendations helped to shape undergraduate programs for studying computer science throughout the country. The ACM has produced major revisions to this initial curriculum several times since then.
[[IEEE computer Society [Online]. Accessed 11/6/01: http://www.computer.org/. Quoting from the Website:With over 100,000 members, the IEEE Computer Society is the world's leading organization of computer professionals. Founded in 1946, it is the largest of the 36 societies of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).
At the two-year college, four-year college, and university levels, many computer science and data-processing programs of study have existed for 20 to 25 years and more. There are hundreds of associate- and bachelor-degree programs, and many doctoral programs in computer science and computer engineering. There are hundreds of research journals as well as a great many popular periodicals carrying computer-related articles.
Computer programming is a fundamental component of computer science and computer engineering. A computer program is a detailed step-by-step set of instructions that tells a computer how to accomplish a particular task. While a computer program may be short, some programs are millions of instructions in length. Large teams of programmers, working over a period of years, produce these long and complex programs.
[[A computer program is designed to solve a particular type of problem or accomplish a particular type of task. Some programs represent many thousands of person-years of work. That is, they (in some sense) represent stored information and knowledge that has been accumulated by many thousands of people working together over a period of years.]]
Some people find it useful to draw an analogy between writing computer programs and writing in a natural language, such as English. With a modest amount of education and training, a person can learn to write simple computer programs. This is somewhat akin to being able to write simple paragraphs in English. However, it takes a great deal of education, training, experience, and natural talent to become qualified to play a major role in developing large and complex programs.
Chapter 9 discusses computer programming in more detail. It will help you to decide whether you need to learn a little or a lot about computer programming.
Many computer tools are designed to be used by an individual to increase productivity. For example, a word processor, spreadsheet, database, and graphics software are all personal productivity tools.
An important trend is emerging in the use of personal productivity tools. The tools and the people using them are being networked together by local area and wide area computer networks. This connectivity is so important that special software, called groupware, has been developed just to enhance group productivity.
With groupware, a team of people who may be located throughout the world can be working together on the same project. They can all be looking at the same computer images, and each can make changes to the images. They can all draw upon the same databases of information. They can communicate with each other through the computer as they work together to solve a problem.
Chapter 8 discusses computer-as-tool in more detail. It looks at a variety of personal productivity tools, some of which may be particularly useful to you.
Computer-assisted instruction (CAI) involves using a computer to help deliver instruction. There are a variety of forms of CAI. Drill and practice tends to be based on behavioral learning theory. The computer presents drill material and provides feedback on the learner's responses. Typically, the goal is to increase the speed and accuracy of performance on materials that students have previously studied.
A second form of CAI is called a tutorial. It includes the presentation of materials to be learned. Many of the newer pieces of tutorial CAI software incorporate ideas from cognitive learning theory. The instruction may make use of text, graphics, sound, color, animation, and video. The interactions between the learner and the computer system may be complex.
[[There are many different learning theories. See the references section of the Website Accessed 11/6/01: http://otec.uoregon.edu/learning_theory.htm.]]
A third general type of CAI is called a simulation. Probably you have heard of flight simulators and other types of simulators that have been developed to train airplane pilots, astronauts, ship pilots, and so on. A wide range of simulations have been developed for use in schools. For example, there are simulations for doing chemistry and physics experiments. There are historical and social studies simulations. There are medical simulations that immerse the learner in medical emergencies.
[[The Simulation Education Homepage [Online]. Accessed 11/6/01: http://www.acs.ilstu.edu/faculty/dldoss/
Learning is assisted and made more efficient by appropriate instruction and by appropriate feedback. That is why we have teachers, coaches, and trainers. An expert teacher or coach can make a significant difference in learning.
That is not to say that people cannot learn on their own. You do so all the time. You serve as your own teacher, coach, and trainer. Your learning may be assisted by books, audiotapes, videotapes, and other media.
CAI falls someplace between having expert humans as teachers and coaches and being your own teacher. Certain aspects of an expert teacher can be incorporated into CAI. The interactive nature of CAI means that you and the expertise in the CAI materials can work together to assist you in your learning.
Historically, early CAI tended to fall into one of two categories. Some of the very first CAI materials were simulations developed by and/or for the military. These were expensive to develop and required the use of very expensive computer systems, but they were successful. Flight simulators provide an excellent example. The second category of CAI materials were relatively inexpensive drill-and-practice programs. These were based on behavioral learning theory and were often mundane. For example, many different drill-and-practice programs were developed to help students learn to do paper-and-pencil arithmetic.
CAI has improved over the years. The improvement is based on continuing research on human learning as well as on the development of better hardware and software. For example, there are now many examples of tutorial software that incorporate both behavioral learning theories and cognitive learning theories. Better hardware and software have led to hypermedia CAI systems that are very impressive. As they are used, data is gathered on how well they work. Analysis and use of this data by the CAI developers leads to incremental improvements on a continuing basis. There is no doubt that CAI will continue to grow in importance as a component of our educational system.
There has been an extensive amount of research on CAI (Kulik, 1994). The results of using CAI vary with the quality of the instructional materials, the area being studied, and the learner. However, the research suggests that on average, students learn faster (perhaps 30% faster) in CAI environments, as compared to conventional instructional environments. Similar research suggests that on average, students learn as well or better in CAI environments, as compared to conventional instructional environments. Because time is one of your most valuable resources for problem solving, the possibility of learning faster is very important.
More and more software packages include some built-in CAI such as a tutorial on how to use the software. Online Help features provide detailed instruction on specific features of the software. You can think of this as "just in time" instruction. These various forms of CAI are adding a new dimension to our formal and informal educational systems.
[[Kosakowski John (August 1998). The Benefits of Information Technology (ERIC Digest) [Online]. Accessed 11/6/01: http://ericit.org/digests/edoir9804.shtml.]]