What is learning?
According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, learning is the activity or process of gaining knowledge or skills by studying, practicing, being taught, or experiencing something (2015). According to me, learning is everything but studying and practicing. I believe learning to be a natural process of deep acquisition and successful application of new knowledge or new skills that takes place within the right content and context.
So, what is my learning philosophy you ask?
I believe any learning philosophy should start with the “why” (Harapnuik, n. d.). Why do we learn? Why do we keep learning? Yes, it is a natural process that the human mind was built for, but why else? I believe it to be our academic, social, and emotional motivation and instincts that drive us to search for the unknown. It is the curiosity in us that wants to know why something happens at any given moment in time. Here, I reference the endless “why” that toddlers begin to use to learn more about the world around them. We search for the technical why something happens using our academic skills that we’ve learned in school. We search for feedback from our peers and mentors using our social skills that we’ve learned from the people who surround us. And we do all that through our emotional drive to satisfy our brain’s hunger. Yes, just because.
Everyone, of course.
And what do we learn?
Everything. Or at least the things that we are passionate about. Here, we ask ourselves: What do I want to learn? What is worth learning about? (Weimer, 2014). Why do I want to learn this? And how will I apply it later? One of the biggest and reoccurring issues I have encountered within my circle of colleagues is the idea of giving students the opportunity to explore life and career skills to get them ready for their next stage in life outside of school (P21, n. d.). But then again, there is so much to learn about life.
Next, where do we learn?
Now we’re getting somewhere! Here is where we create a significant learning environment that allows the learner to explore endless failures and successes through their discovery in learning. So, how do we create that significant learning environment? I can’t tell you that! It’s a secret. Well, no, not really. A perfect and one-size fits all type of environment does not exist. But we do know some of what is required of it. We take into account the diversity of our learners. Where do they come from? What do they already know? What have they experienced? What do they need? And this is where we incorporate all of the learning styles that can possibly exist. Or we try our best to do so.
For more information on learning styles and preferences, Mind Tools provides an overview of the model of Index of Learning Styles developed by Dr. Richard Felder and Barbara Soloman in the late 1980s at https://www.mindtools.com/mnemlsty.html.
Our next question is: when?
Learning happens all the time. We cannot restrict learning with a time limit or schedule. We let it happen. It’s a natural process. Most of the time, it is the only opportunity that the brain has to have fun—when there is no pressure.
And lastly, the how. The how is probably the most important and most difficult to answer. I cannot explain how learning occurs. But I could try by explaining how I learn.
How do I learn?
I learn through books. I learn through paper and pencil. I learn through a lecture. Yes, everything that is against what I’ve been saying. But this is how I learned to learn in the 90s and early 2000s. That is how I was taught to learn. That is how my teachers taught me. And I love it. I see nothing wrong with it. It worked and it still works. I’m one of those people that has to have a paper copy of everything. Although I love my brand-new touch screen laptop, I still need my paper copies. And I’m struggling right now because my printer is malfunctioning. So that’s me.
Then, how should I expect my students to learn?
There is no right answer. But there are methods that are frowned upon, such as my paper and pencil method, and there are ways that are new and innovative, such as blended learning.
For more information on blended learning, I have put together all of the resources that I have created and utilized for introducing, supporting, implementing, and encouraging blended learning in the classroom in the following article: Putting It All Together.
As facilitators, we have the opportunity to not mold but open up the fresh minds of the children we teach. Then, why not try to do it the right way? —By giving them the opportunity to explore endless opportunities through eportfolios, project-based learning, inquiry-based learning, discovery learning, etc.
Hmm, so what does this mean for my innovation plan, you ask? Well, in a previous post, Thinking Holistically Through a New Culture of Learning, I mentioned how I was going to change it from blended learning to something else (I have not yet found a specific name or title for it). But it does incorporate most of what I’ve included in this info graphic which outlines what the ideal (in my mind) learning environment looks like:
For more information on some of the different types of learning theories that I mention in this document, visit these websites:
Dr. Harapnuik provides a minimalist definition of what an eportfolio is in his article, “What is an Eportfolio.” He states that an eportfolio is “a learner’s digital evidence of meaningful connections.”
Learn more about project-based learning through this article, “What is Project Based Learning (PBL)?.” The Buck Institute for Education (BIE) defines it as “a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge.”
If you want to gain more insight on inquiry-based learning, Edutopia suggests that “instead of just presenting the facts, [we] use questions, problems, and scenarios to help students learn through their own agency and investigation” in this topic-based webpage http://www.edutopia.org/topic/inquiry-based-learning.
This article, Instructional Design Models and Theories: The Discovery Learning Model, describes how discovery learning “encourages learners to build on past experiences and knowledge, use their intuition, imagination and creativity, and search for new information to discover facts, correlations and new truths.”
There is not one theory or theorist that can define who I am as a learner, but I can point you towards a few directions that may enlighten you:
According to Instructional Design.org, “a major theme in the theoretical framework of [Jerome] Bruner’s constructivist theory is that learning is an active process in which learners construct new ideas or concepts based upon their current/past knowledge” in the following article: http://www.instructionaldesign.org/theories/constructivist.html.
These two articles, http://www.tonybates.ca/2014/07/29/learning-theories-and-online-learning/ and https://repository.nie.edu.sg/bitstream/10497/4735/1/ET-42-5-48_a.pdf take on Jerome Bruner’s constructivist theory with a twist–incorporating e-learning and technology.
Lev Vygotsky’s social development theory is based on how “social interaction plays a fundamental role in the development of cognition” in this article http://www.instructionaldesign.org/theories/social-development.html.
Learn more about Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences theory that focuses on distinct forms of intelligence that each individual possesses in varying degrees at http://www.instructionaldesign.org/theories/multiple-intelligences.html.
Merriam-Webster. (2015.) Learning. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/learning
Harapnuik, Dwayne. (n. d.) Educational Development Philosophy. Retrieved from http://www.harapnuik.org/?page_id=4639
Weimer, Maryellen. (2014). What’s Your Learning Philosophy? Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-professor-blog/whats-learning-philosophy/
Partnership for 21st Century Learning (P21). (n. d.). Framework for 21st Century Learning. Retrieved from http://www.p21.org/our-work/p21-framework
Mind Tools Editorial Team. (2016). Learning Styles: Understanding Learning Preferences. Retrieved from https://www.mindtools.com/mnemlsty.html