Stylish Reflections
Joseph Ugoretz | March 8, 2010 | 7:45 pm | Stylish Reflections | No comments

Three options for reflections this time–and they’re really quite different, so choose whichever one is the right “style” for you.

  1. Do some web research.  Find some descriptions of online learning programs (you can use the commercial ones, like University of Phoenix or Capella, or the more “traditional” institutions like UMass Online, Penn State’s World Campus, or UMUC’s program or any other you can find.  Tell us what you’ve found, and let us know what you think of these options–especially in regards to your own learning style(s).  Would a program like any of these work for you? Not just for a class, but for your whole academic career.  Could you earn a degree this way? Would it match your style nicely?
  2. Get imaginative.  Think about the kind of learner you are, what works for you now.  Then try to imagine what it would be like to learn in the opposite way (whatever that means–you’ll have to tell us).  This could take the form of a story, an essay or description, a “day in the life,” or a kind of stream-of-consciousness, what’s going on in your head.
  3. Try something completely different! Go outside of the regular bounds of a written reflection.  Make a video. Or a photo-essay.  Or a comic strip.  Or music.  Whatever you can do–embed it here if possible (I can provide technical assistance with that part).
Aural, Verbal…and a little Meta
Kaitlyn O'Hagan | March 10, 2011 | 3:20 pm | Stylish Reflections | 1 Comment

I consider myself and Aural and Verbal learner. The traditional class structure (do some readings on a topic, hear a lecture on this same topic, take notes on the lecture, and then write a paper on the topic) combines these two learning styles perfectly and enables me to not only memorize the information without having to make a conscious effort to do so, but also allows me to understand the material.

I try to picture a class where neither Aural nor Verbal teaching methods are used and it is difficult. Perhaps watching a movie, or looking at a series of images? The incorporation of these teaching tools is always helpful, but I can’t imagine them being the sole method of education. Imagine trying to learn American History with a picture book. How many pages would you need to depict every important event? Perhaps it is simply because I am not a visual learner, but I cannot imagine being able retain all of the visuals to learn about the major events. And how would you represent the abstract ideas of freedom, equality, and democracy? Movies, though somewhat Aural assuming they have music and dialogue, also seem impractical. How much time would it take to show a film depicting the entirety of American History? Would the 40 hours of an average introductory history class be enough? It seems to me that hearing a lecture and reading are not only the best ways for me to learn, but the most efficient as well.

Kinesthetic learning seems equally inefficient. While acting out the Boston Tea Party in class or molding the map of the United States as it changed over time might help me memorize and understand the material as my preferred methods of learning do, they would use much more time to accomplish the same goal.

Then there is the idea of social versus solitary learners. I would definitely consider myself one of the latter. Again, I see the value in social learning, and do engage in it to reach the goals of memorization and understanding. Yet I often simply find reading or researching on my own. Moreover, I think that if I am an active reader, it is almost the same as social learning: I am engaging with the author, though obviously in a different way and not to the same degree as I would if we were having a face-to-face (or skype) discussion.

My learning style preference is evidence in the way I did this reflection. I could have created a video where I modeled the United States in clay, acted out the Boston Tea Party, made a movie (okay, short film) summarizing American history, or done the same through a picture book. I could have done just one of those things. Perhaps it would have been easier for you, my classmates, to understand my ideas and the point I am trying to make if I had done this. But for me, writing an essay is the most efficient and best way for me to express my reflection.

I am aware that my examples might not have worked so well if I had chosen a subject other than American History. But I chose American history because that is my field of study. This made me think, perhaps people choose their academic (and life) careers based not simply on interest in content, but also, to some degree, on learning style.

In Their Own Words: Learning Styles
December Lange | March 10, 2011 | 1:39 pm | Stylish Reflections | 1 Comment

For this week’s reflection, I wanted to do something a little different. For the past few units, we have mainly focused on ourselves: our learning backgrounds, our cultures, and most recently our own learning styles. As I mentioned in the forum, I am a verbal learner. I can understand and remember things better if I read it or hear it. I know that because I have identified this way, I can utilize information in specific ways so that I can make the most of my class time. However, I am also concerned about how to learn as a class. Do the different styles of my classmates have an effect on the way that I learn? So this week, I asked a handful of friends to tell me about their learning style. This is what they had to say…

[display_podcast]

After interviewing my friends, something surprised me. A lot of them did not know what learning style they used and had trouble identifying it. But once they could look at a list, they started to think about it for the first time. In the end, it seemed that visual learning was in the majority and so I started to think about how this would affect a classroom. In a perfect universe, professors would include modes of teaching that would address all learning styles. Unfortunately, I found that this does not occur naturally. Most professors stick to one style of teaching. But there is one important thing I learned from talking to my peers: all learning styles are needed to create one cohesive unit. It builds the class as students become teachers. Students have more one-on-one contact so they can translate they style of teaching into the style of learning that a friend needs. Students are learning by teaching. And by helping each other, classes become stronger and more productive.

 

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An Alternate World of Learning
Frieda Benun | March 7, 2011 | 12:47 am | Stylish Reflections | 2 Comments

When teachers want to get the students’ attention in order to emphasize a point, they will often announce, “Pencils down, I want everyone to watch what I’m doing.” I always ignore these instructions. In fact, comments like these alert me to start scribbling down in my notebook. I cannot bear to not record something that might be important. I am all too familiar with my long-term memory and its shortcomings to know not to rely on it. If the teacher is saying something important, I’d better write it down if I want to retain the information.

In a cruel and unusual world, where I would be forbidden from recording important information and instead be forced to learn it in a hands-on way, I am almost certain I would not succeed. My certitude comes with good reason; I’ve experienced this hands-on learning in my chemistry classes. For the lecture part of chemistry, I have never had a problem doing well. I study hard, often cramming before a test, and come out with high scores on tests. In the laboratory part however, I am forever on the verge of failing. My experiments never go (still, presently!) as planned. I might be able to write out an entire chemical reaction on a piece of paper, but I cannot replicate that reaction in reality. No matter much I review the pre-lab exercises and instructions beforehand, I still have the most stressful experiences in lab. Even now, in my fourth semester of chemistry, I’m constantly frazzled and end up borderline deranged when it comes to lab. The disparity between my test scores and lab performance are a clear indication of what type of learner I am, and what type of learner I am most certainly not.

Now that I think about it, I don’t even have to think that hard to imagine a world in which I had to learn in the opposite way because in fact, I do it each Thursday morning from 9am-1pm in the organic chemistry laboratory. In a dystopia where everything was like chemistry lab, I have little doubt that I would fail. I’m able to channel my high-strung personality into an acute focus when I’m taking a test. When I’m in lab, however, this high-strungness results in one too many broken beakers and spilled solutions.

If I tried to apply the laboratory-like learning to my other subjects, I cringe to think of what my classes would be like.

Music: Having to write a song based on a certain genre. I would not be able to handle this; I could barely get by on the listening parts of the tests

Biology: Dissecting a pig. I get queasy just thinking about it. I’m still grateful that I haven’t had to dissect something while in my second year as a biology major.

History: Creating a multimedia project based on a culture/time period. I actually had to create a podcast on a certain culture for one class. I silently cursed the teacher the entire time while making the podcast.

Sociology: Visiting a community and commenting on the social interactions. I had an assignment like this as well. While I enjoyed the trip, I found it difficult to summarize the community’s social trends and was relieved when the professor resumed the typical reading-based assignments.

I’m not sure what it is about the hands-on activities that makes me so averse to them. Maybe it’s because the “right” way is not as easy as memorizing information and repeating it back on a test. These activities require a further application of knowledge that does not come easily to me. I feel uncomfortable when I have to synthesize various pieces of information into a unified whole. I don’t know if I should attribute this to a skill that I’m lacking, or to the fact that I become so agitated because I do not understand what a teacher is expecting. Yet I’m hesitant to say that I’m opposed to this way of learning simply because I find it challenging. I also don’t see it as useful a tool in retaining information. I accumulate knowledge not because I practice it, but because I hear and see it multiple times and make a conscious effort to commit it to memory.

All in all, I’m very thankful that the instituted method for learning consists of note taking and tests. I can only hope that this convention lasts until I graduate.

Imagining a Different Learning Style
Moses Sutton | March 6, 2011 | 9:50 pm | Stylish Reflections | 3 Comments

Autodidactic learning has been a continuous theme in my posts and reflections. I have discussed how I learn most often from books and the Internet. Even in college, in courses that require you to listen to lectures and take notes, I seem to always resort to reading textbooks and other materials on my own time to absorb the necessary information. This method of learning – one that emanates from and relates to the autodidactic drive – has gotten me quite far. I have routinely done well on tests and reports (in accordance with my standards). But I wonder. How would I fare in a situation that inhibits me from doing things on my own? I am going to attempt to conceptualize a scenario where in order to learn and succeed I must rely on the lecturer, the classroom conversation, and the activity immediately beyond the scope of my personal boundary. I am going to imagine learning medieval music history (a course I have already taken) without my computer, the Internet, or a textbook to rely on. Granted, imposing a technological handicap may not actually simulate a plausible, universal, or relatable method of learning. But the goal is to free myself from a routine method that lacks the motive (and ability?) of listening comprehension and to embrace the distinctive positive and/or negative features of learning and absorbing through listening and interacting:

Day 1. I take a seat in front of the classroom. Teacher walks in.

Gregorian chant… Music was sacred and secular. Mostly Sacred… Blah, blah, blah… Oook got it.

[Professor:] …The motet was developed from the clausula and is the most popular form of polyphony…

—wait, klajewla? klaujula? What was the name?

[Me:] Anthony, what was the most popular form of polyphony?

[Anthony:] Motet.

[Me:] No, the other thing the ‘K’ word…

[Anthony:] I don’t know what you’re referring to…

[Me:] The other thing she just said…

[Anthony:] Moe. Don’t know. Shut up—

[Professor:] …it was in contrast to the plainchant’s popularity in the Italian secular repertoire

—crap, what was? I missed it? What’s in contrast? The klajala???

Class Discussion after listening to a composition by the composer Leonin

That was, eh, OK. I would never listen to that but I guess it’s not crap…

[Professor:] How does Leonin’s style compare and contrast to twentieth century classical music? And/or to any of your own compositions?

Hmmm. Maybe in how his polyphonies require attention to the sacred words whereas today melodic polyphony has no rules… [raise hand to answer]

[Student:] Well, in today’s music harmony is more emphasized than polyphony. So, even though there are melodic polyphonies inherent in today’s music we don’t have as prevalent an amount as Leonin in medieval culture and especially later on during Bach. It’s a matter of cultural trends.

Ohhh, that’s a better answer. She makes a solid point. I guess polyphony doesn’t even exist to the same degree today… [lowering hand]

[Professor:] Moses.

[Me:] Oh. I don’t know… Well… I was going to say that polyphony in Leonin’s music emphasizes and elongates specific sacred words. I don’t know…

[Professor:] As opposed to…

[Me:] I guess… my own compositions. I mean, even when I write a chorale piece for synagogue, I don’t care for the words as much.

[Professor:] Good. Interesting analogy. You see, this is the concern of medieval music. It’s all about the reason why it’s composed. It informs what is written and how…

Alright… yes. That was lucky. Some awesome b.s. I guess it’s somewhat of a relative point. But her point was better. I don’t know. Maybe I should focus more on harmonies than polyphonies. That might modernize my music…

Please bear with my contrived and amateur inner and outer dialogue. The point I am trying to illustrate is how listening and engaging in interactive learning may have its positive and negative attributes. I am not used to embracing this style of learning. Even though it constitutes the majority of today’s educational style, I personally have not been subscribing to it. And of course, the examples I provided were clearly drawn from knowledge I already have on the subject matter, so the content is inauthentic. But perhaps, there are constructive and informative things to gain from interactive learning based on listening and internalizing others’ comments and opinions. However, the first example above does demonstrate the potential miscommunications and frustrations that occur while relying on this style of learning.