This Mess We're In
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Toni Blay via Compfight

Over the past 5 or so years, a number of colleagues and myself have discussed the research around learning styles.  We have lamented the continuing attention that has been given to learning styles, particularly in teacher education.  This is of great interest to me. My dissertation research focused on the use of abilities and included a review of learning styles research.  As I wrote in my dissertation research:

Some of the strongest support for integrating learner differences into the classroom has the least research to endorse its use.  The intuitiveness of learner differences is a moving factor.  While we recognize individuals in a multicultural view—gender, ethnicity, and learning disabilities, for example—personalizing education to an individual seems as logical as any other accommodation that may be made.

Since my research a decade ago, though, there has been tremendous rigorous analysis of learning styles research. However, I continue to see blog posts by teachers, professional development specialists, and folks with huge followings on Twitter writing about learning styles.

In the past few days, my colleague Dr. Chuck Hodges at Georgia Southern University collated a number of the research resources we have discussed over the years into a Slideshare deck.  I encourage you to read it through and share it.  I’ve embedded it below, too. The slidedeck is pretty easily digestible.  It provides some of the strongest evidence we have about whether learning styles matter.

[slideshare id=18939517&doc=learningstyles-130416140105-phpapp02]

Intuition & Honesty

As a follow up, I completely “get” the intuitive desire and pull of learning styles.  It helps us to explain the uniqueness and individuality of learners — whether they are 8 years old or 40 years old.  As an instructional designer, I understand that it helps us believe we have taken in to account the variety of learners as spelled out by a learner analysis. And to be honest, I teach along side other teacher education faculty, and I know that learning styles as a topic is still being taught inside of our curricula. And again, if I’m being honest, I was an adamant believer in learning styles, previously, because I considered myself a “visual learner.” So, my thinking about this has had to evolve.

Believe me, I get it.

However, I implore you to consider the possibility that it may not matter.
For me, the baseline information is “learner preferences” are not determinants, or absolutes. So, developing content, or teaching in a specific manner, for a specific learner doesn’t make a difference.  Using multiple instructional strategies, multiple examples, multiple non-examples — yes, these will most likely matter.  However, using the same strategy for the same individual continually, just doesn’t matter.

If you’re so inclined, I would love to have your thoughts below.

Busy hands need no decoration
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I came across this blog post in my Zite feeds yesterday, and I thought that I should really share this for how timely it is to some of my students.  Right now, my doctoral class in academic writing is in the process of writing drafts of their literature reviews. So, I thought they might like a little support or scaffolding to help them write better (or stimulate their writing).

I know that students sometimes struggle with how to “say things” in their writing.  What I like about this post is that is organizes the different types of statements/arguments that you may make.  For example, here is a section under the “Argue” heading.


  1. Along similar lines, [X] argues that ___.
  2. There seems to be no compelling reason to argue that ___.
  3. As a rebuttal to this point, it might be (convincingly) argued that ___.
  4. There are [three] main arguments that can be advanced to support ___.
  5. The underlying argument in favor of / against [X] is that ___.
  6. [X]‘s argument in favor of / against [Y] runs as follows: ___.

via 70 useful sentences for academic writing.

Another Resource

Another resource that I use in my writing class is provided by UC Davis, and it has some excellent tips for academic writing, particularly with ways/methods to say things and verb tenses.

From Dr. Philip Pavlik, Institute for Intelligent Systems and Department of Psychology.  If you have a chance to go and hear about Betty’s Brain, I highly encourage it.  This is a fantastic example of technology-supported/enhanced learning in an open-ended learning environment.

Betty’s Brain: An open-ended learning environment that helps middle school students develop metacognitive strategies for learning science
Dr. Gautam Biswas, Vanderbilt University
Wed March 27, 2013 4:00pm – 5:20pm Cog Sci Seminar – FIT 405

Over several years, our research team has developed Betty’s Brain, an open-ended multi-agent environment that utilizes the learning-by-teaching paradigm to help middle school students learn science. In Betty’s Brain, students teach a virtual Teachable Agent (TA) called Betty using a visual causal map representation. Once taught, Betty, can answer questions, explain her answers, and when requested by the student take quizzes, which are a set of questions created and graded by a mentor agent named Mr. Davis. The TA’s quiz performance helps students indirectly assess their own knowledge, and it also motivates them to learn more and improve their TA’s quiz scores. Overall, the learning and teaching task is complex, open-ended, and choice-rich. Thus, learners must employ a number of cognitive and metacognitive skills to achieve success. At the cognitive level, they need to identify, understand, and represent important information from online resources in the causal map format, and use the affordances of the system to assess Betty’s progress using quizzes. At the metacognitive level, they must decide when and how to acquire information, build and modify the causal map they are creating to teach Betty, check Betty’s progress, reflect on their own understanding of both the science knowledge and the evolving causal map structure, and seek help when necessary. Their cognitive and metacognitive activities are scaffolded through dialogue and feedback provided by Betty and Mr. Davis. This feedback aims to help students progress in their learning, teaching, and monitoring tasks.

Experimental studies run in middle school classrooms show that students learn science content and do develop some metacognitive learning strategies as they interact with Betty and Mr. Davis. However, a number of students fail to complete their teaching task because they lack an understanding of a number of the cognitive and metacognitive skills needed to become successful learners. We discuss recent additions to the Betty’s Brain system, primarily a model-driven assessments methodology for characterizing and evaluating the students’ actions as they learn in the environment. Our goal is to make the scaffolding provided by the system more relevant to the student’s current learning activities. This translates to a context-relevant, mixed-initiative conversational format for adaptive scaffolding, and we demonstrate that this helps students develop the cognitive and metacognitive skills they need to achieve success in their learning task.

Short Bio
Gautam Biswas is a Professor of Computer Science, Computer Engineering, and Engineering Management in the EECS Department and a Senior Research Scientist at the Institute for Software Integrated Systems (ISIS) at Vanderbilt University. He has an undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Mumbai, India, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Computer Science from Michigan State University in E. Lansing, MI.

Prof. Biswas conducts research in Intelligent Systems with interests in hybrid systems modeling, simulation, and analysis, and their applications in two primary directions: (1) diagnosis, prognosis, and fault-adaptive control; and (2) their applications to develop STEM learning environments in K-12 classrooms. The most notable project with educational applications is the Teachable Agents project, where students learn science by building causal models of natural processes. He has also developed innovative educational data mining techniques for studying students’ learning behaviors and linking them to metacognitive strategies. He is currently working on projects that combine computational thinking with visual programming to help K-12 students develop a deep understanding of STEM content using model-building and simulation, and then applying these models to address real-world problems. His research projects in embedded systems and learning environments has been supported by funding from NASA, NSF, DARPA, and the US Department of Education. In one of the projects, working on Data Mining techniques to enhance aircraft diagnostic models in conjunction with Honeywell International researchers (NASA NRA) he won the 2011 Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate Technology and Innovation Group Award for Vehicle Level Reasoning System. He has published extensively, and has over 300 refereed publications.

Dr. Biswas is an associate editor of the IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics, Prognostics and Health Management, Educational Technology and Society journal, International Journal of Educational Data Mining and the Journal of Metacognition and Learning. He is currently serving on the Executive committee of the Asia Pacific Society for Computers in Education, a member of Executive Board of the Artificial Intelligence in Education Society, and is the IEEE Computer Society representative to the Transactions on Learning Technologies steering committee. He is also serving as the Secretary/Treasurer for ACM Sigart.

Facebook logo

This is interesting: Facebook is planning to add hashtags as an option for updates.  While this is heavily used by twitter as a keyword and categorization method around a topic or event, I’m interested to see what this might mean for Facebook.  Social Media today reported that:

The WSJ reported this last week Facebook is moving to allow users to engage around topics by using a hashtag field in status updates, that would presumably be viewable openly by Facebook’s 1 billion users.

I think possibly the strongest benefit may be from social media users who post across social networks.  For example, I use Tweetdeck to post to Twitter and Facebook pages at the same time. Other folks use  If This Then That (ITTT) or Hootsuite to do something similar.

This will certainly allow me to use hashtags as an organization, or grouping, tool within my posts.  For teaching and learning, I could see that this would really help with postings across social networks, such as a twitter post that works well with one of my courses or teacher professional development programs and so I will be able to post it in both places using the common hashtags.

What other thoughts do you have about Facebook using hashtags?

via Facebook Hashtags: What Will They Mean for Brands and Users? | Social Media Today.