Unit Five this week covered a number of networking topics from packet switching to essential protocols to network models, Local Area Networks and the construction of IP addresses. Part of our task this week was to reflect on the variety of presentations of our material and determine which worked best and which did not work so well. For instance, do I like working with videos or with text when trying to learn new material.
One way of determining what could work well is the evaluation of an individual’s learning styles. Our instructor Bruce Fulton suggested looking at Dr. Richard Felder’s and Dr. Linda Silverman’s Learning Styles model. Felder is a professor of Chemical Engineering and Silverman is an educational psychologist. According to Felder, Keefe defined learning styles as “characteristic cognitive, affective, and psychological behaviors that serve as relatively stable indicators of how learners perceive, interact with, and respond to the learning environment.”
Being of a curious nature, I decided to answer Felder and Soloman’s Index of Learning Styles Questionnaire. See http://www.engr.ncsu.edu/learningstyles/ilsweb.html The ILS determines an individual’s learning style profile based on four dimensions (active/reflective, sensing/intuitive, visual/verbal, and sequential/global) of the Felder/Silverman model.
I discovered that I had a moderate preference for a reflective learning style, a very strong preference for an intuitive learning style, a “well-balanced” preference for visual and verbal learning styles, and a moderate preference for a global learning style. Explanations of the different styles and how you can work with them are at http://www4.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/users/f/felder/public/ILSdir/styles.htm
What I needed to do?
Although I have a preference for reflective learning and should be comfortable with theoretical presentations I think the concepts presented like package switching and Address Resolution protocol were very theoretical and I needed some concrete examples to understand the concepts. For instance, Address Resolution Protocol is discussed on pg. 262 of Nemeth’s Linux Administration Handbook. I could not decipher or understand the details even though he gave an example. However, I looked up Address Resolution Protocol in Wikipedia and found an excellent example. See the Example section in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Address_Resolution_Protocol#cite_note-7
I also found myself wishing that I could use my newfound knowledge in a network administration position so I could understand how the material is used in a job setting. I think I could learn more by doing and this would be part of an active learning preference.
I have a strong intuitive preference which means that I am impatient with details and my preference is more for overlying concepts. For instance, explaining TCP/IP protocol in terms of packages being delivered to a particular address helped me to understand the whole idea of TCP/IP. I used the video in Volume 4 on TCP/IP Protocol in the Harvard Computer Science course website at http://computerscience1.tv/2006/fall/#l=votw&r=about&v=other/welcome
My visual preference is equally balanced with my verbal preference. I had to look for diagrams to help me understand certain concepts. This was very helpful when trying to understand classful addressing. A diagram at http://www.freesoft.org/CIE/Course/Subnet/202.htm of Class A, b, and C networks was very helpful but I used this in combination with the Wikipedia article on the classful network to gain an understanding of this concept. Wikipedia also has a clear writing style that enables the user to gain information quickly on a wide range of technical topics. I appreciate the editing at this website. Could writers on network administration write better?
Finally, I appreciated the lecture materials which had more detailed links to Wikipedia articles and other topics. As a global learner it was easy to get an overview of the whole topic without drowning in details. However, I found that I had to go to the Wikipedia and other links to gain a better understanding to the material.
Learning styles are controversial but are indeed helpful. See http://joelleegardner.blogspot.com/2012/01/learning-styles-fallacy.html Some commentators like Joel Gardner prefer well tested principles from the instructional design field. Gardner, for instance, refers to “a list of instructional theories and principles that a trainer or instructional designer can refer to when considering how to design and develop high quality training and instruction.” The list includes:
- Gagne’s 9 Events of Instruction.
- Merrill’s First Principles of Instruction
- Principles of e-learning. Clark and Mayer (2011)
Perhaps these principles need to be implemented more in technical training and instruction.
Keefe, J.W. (1979). Learning style: An overview. In NASSP’s Student Learning Styles: Diagnosing and Proscribing Programs (pp. 1-17). Reston, VA. National Association of Secondary School Principles
Learning Styles Index http://www4.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/users/f/felder/public/ILSpage.html
- 13 E-learning theories (mymindbursts.com)
- Mobile Instructional Design Principles for Adult Learners (paradise.typepad.com)
- The Importance of Instructional Design to my Career Plans (buddysteeleblog.wordpress.com)
- Instructional Design & Goals (vezell.wordpress.com)