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Untitled Document

William S. Beachley
Assignment 9
Due: 3/2/04

Learning: From Speculation to Science -- Introduction to Bransford, J. D., Brown, A. L., & Cocking, R. R. (Eds.) (2001) How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.

1. what did you find

1.1. interesting about the article?
I thought the article was a good overview of what is wrong with education today. One thing that I have found which would probably fit under metacognition is the idea that the best way to learn a subject matter is to try and teach it to someone else. I think this type of exercise should be done in more schools. Also, I really like the idea that teaching fewer subjects at a greater level of depth greatly improves quality of what is learned. Why not take this a step further and teach some subjects based on student interest in the subject? Why not try and tailor the curriculum to the interests of individual students? For example, if a student is constantly talking about space and astronauts, why not do a section on Astronomy? This brings students into a conceptual framework for active learning because they have some control over what they are being taught? With younger students, this makes them feel more like adults which I believe will improve their ability to learn and improve their attention spans.

1.2. not interesting about the article?

2. what do you consider the main message of the article?
The main message of the article is that the current school system still clings to 19th century ideas about education which do not work anymore now that more jobs require the ability to think and reason productively and the ability to find and use information efficiently. It is no longer sufficient to be able to remember a bunch of facts. A deeper understanding is required for the knowledge contained in facts to become usable.

3. analyze and describe how you have learnt "Microsoft Word" (or a similar system incase you have never learnt MS-Word)
I learned MS Word through experience and trial and error. I had used similar programs (Word Processing systems) in the past which provided me with a conceptual understanding of how word processing systems work in general. I used Appleworks for the Apple II in the late 80's and then Clarisworks for the Macintosh and then I learned Word when I got my first Windows 3.x PC.

4. speculate of all the "information/knowledge" which you have today -- how you have learnt it?; give a brief description of the two most interesting episodes
Most of what I know today I learned from reading books assigned in school / out of school and from hands-on work. I would say that 99% of what I know, I learned outside of the classroom from books, school assignments, life experiences, playing with a computer or working a job. I have taken database classes, but never really understood a lot of the stuff until I started doing it at work by building a database web application. Everything I know about fixing computers I learned by tinkering and tweaking computers in a trial and error fashion. Over time the trial and error started to become experience and skill. No one taught me how to install a motherboard, I learned it on demand from the motherboard's manual. I find that when I get fired up about something and want to learn it, it does not even seem like work and I learn what I need to know much faster than if I was not really fired up about it.

5. write in one short paragraph (a) what the following concepts means and (b) which role they have played in your learning (e.g., where you have encountered them)

5.1. learning by being told (meaning, personal relevance)
Meaning: I take this to mean the lecture style of learning in which a student is not an active participant.
Personal Relevance: I have learned little or nothing from this style of learning. I took notes and did well on the tests, but any deep understanding was probably acquired out of the lecture hall when I was reading the course material and thinking about the stuff on my own.

5.2. self-directed learning (meaning, personal relevance)
This is learning that is not motivated by anything other than the need to know.
Personal Relevance: I have learned many things this way such as PERL, PHP, Java, Java Swing, JSP and SQL. I became really interested in designing web applications so I learned how to set up a Jakarta Tomcat server and build applications using many of the leading technologies. I would say I learned these things on demand because they were immediately useful when I was learning them which sets the perfect stage for learning.

5.3. discovery learning (meaning, personal relevance)
This is the inquiry-based method of teaching/learning discussed in the paper which seemed to do so much better than conventional methods.
Personal Relevance: I was taught with the more conventional methods growing up. I am used to tests that do not require much thought, but rather the ability to access memorized facts. I remember the first time I was given a test which required a deep understanding and the ability to apply knowledge learned in the class, I did not do so well. My idea of studying was to read through the relevant chapters in the text book, memorize definitions and important ideas and facts and be ready to recall them at will. After the test I forgot everything because the deeper understanding is the necessary foundation for building on that knowledge.

5.4. experiential learning (meaning, personal relevance)
I would guess that experiential learning is learning that takes place in a relevant context for what is to be learned. This would probably include internships and study abroad programs. It is easier to learn Spanish if one spends a year in Spain because Spain is a relevant context for learning Spanish.
Personal Relevance: When I was studying Classics at Colgate University, I went to Greece for a year to learn about Ancient Greek religion, philosophy and the Classical Greek language. It really enabled me to acquire a broader understanding of the culture and visits to the ancient sites provided me with some insight into what it was like to live back then. My sister learned Spanish, French and Portuguese by spending time to Spain, France and Brazil respectively.

5.5. informal learning (meaning, personal relevance)
Informal learning is similar to self-directed learning in that it is personal. When starting a new job, there are things one probably needs to know that were not taught at the orientation or training workshop. These things are learned by asking questions, trial and error, and observing those who have been there a while.
Personal Relevance: I can't remember ever consciously learning informally, but I'm sure it has taken place. I can't seem to think of a good example to relate.

5.6. collaborative learning (meaning, personal relevance)
This type of learning takes place within groups of collaborators. The information flow within the group provides the information that is learned and applied. Each member might work on different parts of a project and every member learns from every other member. Generally all information is shared.
Personal Relevance: I have worked in several groups and I've found that you get out of it what you put into it. The act of sharing information that I found or applied provides reinforcement to the knowledge that I gained in the research or implementation process. If everyone in the group works hard, I get even more out of the group, but I will still learn more than I would alone, even if I'm the only one whose putting forth the effort.

6. which media have you used for your learning?
Pretty much everything, computers, programming languages, various operating systems, pen/paper, interactive web sites, web forums, the internet in general, books, articles, software of every variety, web cameras, digital video/still cameras and scanners.


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