An Examination of Educators' and Learners' Experiences with Technology from Both Sides of the Learning Landscape: An Autoethnographic Exploration

An Examination of Educators' and Learners' Experiences with Technology from Both Sides of the Learning Landscape: An Autoethnographic Exploration

Rehana Seepersad (Florida International University, USA), Iris McKenzie Jackson (Florida International University, USA), Brett Jolyon Kendon (Florida International University, USA) and Jennifer Kross (Florida International University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6046-5.ch063
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Abstract

This chapter provides an autoethnographic exploration of the experiences of three adult educators who have recently returned to the learning environment where they are now on the other side of the fence and are students. They confront new technologies within increasingly multi-generational classrooms and student-centered learning resources and dynamics far different from when they were first credentialed. As experienced educators, they currently teach within their own content areas and facilitate student learning using current technology. This chapter examines their experiences through an autoethnographic approach that describes their perceptions as educators and as learners given present technology.
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Overview Of The Adult Learner

In the adult learner classroom, individuals from a range of backgrounds, age groups, and professional arenas converge, and collaborate on projects and assignments. In today’s classrooms, adult learners collaborate with instructors, and peers from various generations, through varied levels of interaction to complete their course requirements. Interestingly, many adult learners intend to continue their own teaching careers, as teachers of adults, and so their mastery of technology, and indeed all learning resources, is imperative. Hence understanding the challenges and issues they face, and how they handle or surpass these challenges is relevant to the field of adult education (Merriam & Caffarella, 1991) and to the teaching and learning of technology.

A somewhat common myth that older adult learners confront is that others, peers included, believe they are unable to use technology, and so may hinder the learning process for the entire class. From my experience, often when the entire class is expected to perform a new task, younger students will typically be several mouse clicks ahead of even the instructor, while older students tend to need more help finding the correct links, and getting caught up to the instructor. Although the younger generation of learners in the 25 to 35 age range are up to speed with most technology, older learners have the advantage of being keenly dedicated to their fields, more professional and mature, more participative and academically engaged with discussions, able to allocate time and effort toward their studies, and extremely eager to learn new technologies (Pew Research Center, 2010). In fact, older adults are far more willing to learn new technology, particularly when the learning environment is low stress, and the instructors and respectful and patient (Kleiman, 2005).

Generational differences between Baby Boomers, Generation X and the Millenials lead to different perspectives within the learning environment, largely because motivators, communication styles and thinking styles differ (Pew Research Center, 2010). Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964, individuals born between 1965 and 1980 are Generation X, while those born between 1980 and 2000 are called the Millennial Generation (AARP, 2007). Both Baby Boomers and Generation X form the more prevalent generations currently enrolled in an effort to retool and further their education. Although the typical age for college falls within the millennial group, students from both the Baby Boomer and Generation X are enrolled in an effort to further their formal education, taking continuing education, in-service trainings and professional development certification programs (Kennamer & Campbell, 2011; Miller, 2013). They possess advanced degrees, doctorates and professional degrees, and are extremely engaged as lifelong learners.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Duality: The sense that an individual may be at an expert level in the domain where one is expert and able to teach a subject or content, yet “one of the herd” or even inept when one becomes a learner or student in another environment or context, hence experiencing two frames of mind.

Dialogue: Critically reflective conversations that allow learners or educators to analyze their feelings and perceptions regarding experiences in the classroom or online, and to make these known in an effort to help others learn, or handle challenges they may confront.

Make Meaning: Drawing connections with learning and one’s real life, through deep reflection, emotional responses or extreme need, that leads to the acceptance of new information, i.e., what is learned, more meaningful and impactful in the individual’s life.

Flexibility: The adaptability that comes from being able to use and to maneuver technology to maximize productivity as students, and in turn to harness the technology to the benefit of one’s own learners.

Retool: To gain or obtain additional training to enhance one’s capabilities in the field, hence progressing to expert level. This enables the individual to obtain new knowledge so as to handle new technology, resources, or learning tools that are needed within dynamic professional spheres, together with the expertise or capacity to teach or train others.

Transformative Learning: Learning that reshapes one’s outlook, and one’s approach to future situations, particularly from instances that are disorienting within an academic or professional environment – leading to a paradigmatic shift in beliefs, behaviors and goals.

Limitations: Restrictive practices or reduced abilities that result from the introduction of new technologies, new learning platforms or new classroom requirement and procedures. Limitations result in a feeling of being incapable or inept.

Asynchronous Learning: Learning that takes place at a time that is different from when the information is being delivered, such that learners are able to access course content and new information at their convenience, while at the same time allowing the instructor to post new material at his/her convenience.

Generational Differences: Differences that result from various age groups encountering a shared experience and reacting or responding differently as a result of when they were born and what they encountered during their lifetimes, particularly in instances with using technology and because of the perceived depth of the digital divide.

Enduring Learning: Learning that goes beyond the classroom, and remains with the learner, that results from contextualized, real-world connections either presented or experienced; that is formed from high levels of interaction, discussion, research, information sharing, and academic engagement.

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