To me, there are two sides to learning. One side is the gathering of information. There is a plethora of information out there in the world literally at our fingertips through the internet. The other side is what we do with information. Learning is an action and a process. It is a non-tangible growth/accumulation of information, skills, understanding, and relationships between information and how to use them. That second side creates a framework from which to learn more.
Thinking back to my late 1980’s elementary school days, I did a report on the French and Indian War. There was a vast amount of information available to me only in books. In today’s classroom, going to a book for a resource would seem archaic. In the context of doing a research paper then, I did the best I could with the rather limited information I had. Today, in the words of Jim Daly, “the Internet has delivered an explosion of learning opportunities for today’s students, creating an abundance of information” (Daly, 2012). Teachers may not be fully equipped for how to guide students to use information. Will Richardson in this TED talk from Nov, 2015 explains this well.
“Learning is a continuous process that commences at birth and continues until death; it is the process through which we use our experience to deal with new situations and develop relationships” (Skills You Need, n.d.). What we do with that information is the main point. Otherwise, it’s just a lot of information being thrown at us. What we learn, after all, is the only thing we can take with us. What did the pharaohs leave behind? Their prized possessions, which we know because, well, that is all we have.
Learning is the most giving thing we do for ourselves. “Almost every action we take is the result of past learning” (Skills You Need, n.d.). It creates a framework to learn more. In a sense, we learn we know nothing. “It’s a progressive relegation of your own ignorance as you go on to solve a problem” (Nibley, 1985).
Experts in a particular field have learned something so well, that it’s become second nature to them to organize their knowledge and use their skills to reason and solve problems. At the beginning of our learning, we are novices. Novices lack the set of strategies to be able to see the meaningful patterns, organize the information they have gained, know which set of skills to use for any given problem, and may not know what information to use. Experts can adapt their knowledge to a problem, organize their knowledge, and monitor their own approach to problem solving (Bransford et al., 2000).
How can I, as a teacher, support learning best? With math, one method of teaching is the “Understanding Method,” where the teacher tries to break down the problem into smaller, more understandable parts (my home-base method). Another method is a “Rote Method” where the teacher shows students how to plug numbers into a formula or has them ‘follow these steps.’ The most effective method, as asserted in “How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School: Expanded Edition,” is the “Transfer Method.” With this method, where students learn by transferring knowledge acquired in one situation to another, naturally making more connections and stretches than other methods allow. It allows students’ learning and application to be more flexible (Bransford et al., 2000).
Bransford, J., Brown, A.L. & Cocking, R. R. (Eds.). (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school: Expanded edition. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press
Daly, J. (September 14, 2012). Why School? TED ebook author rethinks education when information is everywhere. TED Blog. Retrieved from http://blog.ted.com/why-school-ted-ebook-author-rethinks-education-when-information-is-everywhere/
Nibley, H. (Writer), & Brigham Young University and the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies. (Producers). (1985). The Faith of an Observer–Conversations with Hugh Nibley. Film Transcripts. p. 12
What is Learning? (n.d.). Skills You Need. Retrieved from http://www.skillsyouneed.com/learn/learning.html