The definition of learning has changed and reflects a deeper understanding of how the brain works. According to Simon, the meaning of knowing has shifted from being able to remember and repeat information to being able to find it and use it (Bransford et al., 2000, p. 5). Disconnected memorized facts don’t lead to a deep understanding or an easy transfer of knowledge from one situation to another. In contrast, when converted to usable knowledge that is connected and organized around important concepts, this knowledge can lead to understanding and transfers to new and other situations.
A learner’s ability to understand new concepts is always tied to their prior knowledge. The use of this knowledge allows them to construct new understanding and supports the claim “all learning involves transfer from previous experiences” (Bransford et al., 2000, p.42). Prior knowledge needs to be activated, guided and dealt with in a sensitive manner for a learner to construct knowledge that can be “conditionalized’ and retrievable for later use.
Expert and novice learners exist in classrooms and other learning environments. There are six principles that describe and differentiate an expert from a novice. Experts are able to see patterns and features in information that are not seen by the novice. Experts have a wealth of knowledge that is organized and leads to a deep understanding. Retrieval of knowledge for an expert is fluent and can be applied to numerous situations; not just the one in which the information was taught. They know when they don’t fully comprehend and are able to regroup, rethink and approach a problem differently. The one remaining principle that seems somewhat disconcerting but relevant is that experts are often unable to teach others what they know (Bransford et al., 2000, p.31).
My first two paragraphs are nothing more than an exercise in memorizing and regurgitating the facts from this weeks reading. I didn’t deepen my understanding of learning or teaching. Yet this is what we often ask of our students to do and then wonder why they don’t understand or even remember a concept. Having previously read How People Learnand having just finished the book Brain Rules, I can tell you I am a big fan of brain research and it’s implications for learning. We are moving more in our classroom and sensory stimulation is constant and changing. “Because many new technologies are interactive (Greenfield and Cocking, 1996), it is now easier to create environments in which students can learn by doing, receive feedback, and continually refine their understanding and build new knowledge (Barron et al., 1998; Bereiter and Scardamalia, 1993; Hmelo and Williams, 1998; Kafai, 1995; Schwartz et al., 1999) (Bransford et al., 2000, p. 206). Watch a movie on Brain-Pop Jr. with a second grader and you’ll experience first hand what technology can do to motivate a learner. Read My Father’s Dragon on the iPad and without leaving your seat, you can define the new word Banyan tree and travel to Bangalore to gaze at forest of Banyan trees. Everyone is engaged, even me. Together the students and I are becoming experts at using technology in our learning. What’s my conceptual change then? Hoping that as I become an expert in technology, I can still teach teachers what I know. I can be the impetus of change. Too early for me to tell, one week down seven to grow.
Bransford, J., Brown, A.L. & Cocking, R. R. (Eds.), How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
Retrieved from http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309070368
Medina, J. (2008). Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School. Seattle, WA: Pear Press