I’ve spent a substantial chunk of time working on a project for my Human Relations class. We were to create a presentation on one aspect of classical education theory including recommendations about how to hold this in relation to the new research in the field… no small task. After much worrying, harrumphing and thought, I finally decided to hone-in on Social Cognitive Learning ala Alfred Bandura. My decision, quite frankly, was in reaction to the very Skinnerian behaviorist work environment I am currently engaged in. As a speech and language behavior therapist for two early learners with autism, my work-world revolves around conditioning, consequences and shaping through Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). I spend my day reinforcing verbal behavior through the giving and taking of edible and tangible rewards. While I can see the positive impact that this approach has in the development of language skills for my learners, I have very deeply rooted ethical issues with the use of rewards to control behavior; but alas, that is a conversation for another project.
What I can say is that I was ready for a change, a fresh perspective as to the role that individuality, cognition and the environment play on shaping human behavior. As I finished researching and contemplated how I wanted to demonstrate and present my learning, I came to realize that I did not want to write a paper because believe it or not, that would be the easy thing for me to do. Nor did I want to cobble together yet another PowerPoint. I really wanted to employ a novel web application that would challenge me to learn a new skill. I decided to create my first Prezi as I had recently viewed a presentation that successfully made use of this Web 2.0 tool. Now, I must pause to let the record show that I use maps when traveling and instruction manuals when putting together a small home project. However, I approach online programs much the same way that I approach cooking; I may glance at a recipe or a few, but rarely will I follow a recipe, too boring. So, I approached learning how to make a Prezi in a predictable manner; I watched one tutorial, became impatient and decided just to dive in and figure it out.
What I took away from this experience was a profound understanding of the powerful learning that comes from combining text and images into a multimedia presentation. I found that through the process of making decisions about how to visually arrange the massive quantity of information I had, including what to edit out for the sake of brevity, the mix between direct quotations and my analysis, and how to make a connection to present day applications, I took my understanding of my topic to a new plane. Unlike writing a paper, I was forced to boil down my research notes to the most salient points. I also had to make an immediate decision regarding layout by choosing a template. While this seems like an easy undertaking, I found it to be quite crucial to the success of my project. Prezi templates are the key to visually organizing information and range from “explaining a topic”, “brainstorming”, “process”, and so on. This forced me to clarify my thinking regarding my topic and how best to present it; visual images are powerful symbols and I wanted a template that would support my intent of comparing Bandura to Skinner, including application to educational practices, then focusing in on three aspects of research and resources that are used in classroom today.
This is a link to the Prezi I created. I am excited to contemplate how I will use this web 2.0 application with future students keeping an eye towards providing them with opportunities to reflect on how the use of this technology affected their understanding.