Theories for Learning with Emerging Technologies

Terry Anderson, Emergence, Innovation in Digital Learning: Foundations, Jun 06, 2016
Commentary by Stephen Downes
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In an accessible paper that is a breeze to read, Terry Anderson illustrates "how learning and learning designs that use emerging technologies can be enhanced via the lens of theory." He presents several taxonomies of theory to illustrate his point, for example: the presentational view, the epistemic engagement view, and the view from complexity theory. He alsop discusses 'net-aware' theories of learning, including heutagogy, connectivism, and groups vs networks (to which, following his work with Dron , he adds 'sets', in his clearest formulation of the third category yet). We also get a good summary of his own 'learning equivalency theory' and of threshold concepts. The only thing he really gets wrong is his reference to Popper, first, in the sense that "a good theory is one that can't be proved true" (this isn't his view; Popper argues no theory can be proved true), and second, in the sense that Popper's view is current in the evaluation of theories, which is is certainly not. As noted in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, falsification "was superseded in the eyes of many by the socio-historical approach taken by Thomas Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962)" and non-positivist accounts now describe the conditions for theory acceptance and rejection. You can read the whole book Emergence and Innovation in Digital Learning: Foundations and Applications, edited by George Veletsianos, for free on the Athabasca University site.

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