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Assignment 10: Speculation to Science (Summary)

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. (distributed on paper)

Briefly discuss the following issues:

1. what did you find

1.1. interesting about the article? Most readers found the article to be effective in introducing current state of research in learning and placing the research in context. Most everyone appreciated the organization of the article with explicit key finding, implication for teaching, and designing classroom environments sections particular useful. Most also mentioned that the Fish is Fish and Throwing Dart Underwater examples also serve to illustrate the main points that the paper was trying to make. Finally, one reader also found the Bringing Order to Chaos section that provided guidelines for using different teaching strategies to be useful.

1.2. not interesting about the article? Most readers thought that the article was interesting and relevant. However, a good number of readers thought the paper could have used an organizational introduction at the beginning and that the transition was one sub-topic to the next was too abrupt. One reader also thought the phrase "right tool for the right job" has been bandied around too liberally that it has becomes a "cliche". In addition, two readers although indicated that the concepts covered is dense and readers with little exposure to cognitive and developmental psychology would have benefitted from more background information. Finally, one reader thought that the writers wrote from the position of advocates for changes in educational environment and should explicitly state their stance as advocates.

2. what do you consider the main message of the article? Most readers agreed that the current educational system is lacking and that there is a better vision of what education could be. That vision stems from recent advances in cognitive science, developmental psychology, neurosciences, and interdisciplinary fields. These research suggests that the way people learn depends on context in which learning occurs and to be effective teaching methods must be dynamic, tailored, "learner centered, user-centered, knowledge-centered, assessment-centered, and community centered." Underlying this vision is the belief that learners must practice "active learning" and the paper suggests ingredients/strategies essential to this process: "rich body of prior knowledge, knowledge should be organized around important concepts," and explicit metacognition.

3. analyze and describe how you have learnt a complex systems (e.g.,“Microsoft Word” or a similar system incase you have never learnt MS-Word, Photoshop, Java, using the Web effectively, …)?

Most folks expressed that reading documentation is not the first step that they would take. Everyone reported that their learning process occurs in stages as they progressed from "novice" to "expert". Within each stage most folks used a trial / and error method (often involving "play"/ "trying it out") first. Only when they couldnot figure out interactively how to use certain feature then they would consult the manual or help function. They would repeat this process in each stage until they are comfortable with the functionality they have learned before moving on. Within each stage folks also reported relying on a communities of users for help (be it physical or on-line). A good number also reported that having conceptual familiarity with a system (such as an early DOS based text editor) and being able to "transfer" that knowledge as being a great help in learning a new system.

4. describe the most interesting / exciting learning episode of your life!

By and large folks' greatest learning experience did not take place in a traditional lecture-style classroom. My classmates reported that their best learning experiences take place on extended research or field trips where they learned by doing (Outward Bound or Hawaii biology trips), on the job where they learned and had to immediately applied what they had learned (and got immediate feedback from it), and in situations where they had personally meaningful educational goals (such as reading humanities that promotes reflection, learning how to play a guitar, and a conference with peers who are passionate about improving education). These anecdotes suggest that learning is most effective when learners feel that they own the learning process, have a personal stake in its successful outcome, and that the learning is tailored to their learning preferences.

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

5.1. learning by being told

Most of my classmates felt that learning by being told occurs one person tell another about something. The quality of this process varies and most of my classmate felt most schooling occurs under this model and that they did not like it. One person also brought up the dimension of trust (that they would not mind this if they had respect and good learning relationship with the person that did the telling). But overall, most did not like this method of learning and they de-valued the knowledge transmitted via this process.

5.2. self-directed learning

My classmates define self-directed learning as someone who delves into a topic on her own initiative due to curiosity or personal interests and who will persist in learning due to internal motivation. Their personal experience includes independent study, sports such as soccer and basketball, learning the guitar, and reading software manual(!).

5.3. learning on demand

Folks defined learning on demand as access to information at a time and place of the learner's choosing. (I would also add the learning via the cognitive style that the user is most comfortable with.) Most folks associated this method with online learning and for most CS major learning a new software framework on their own for a project or a job.

5.4. discovery learning

Folks defined this as learning "through experiment or accidental discovery" that is nevertheless valuable. Most folks experience this type of learning when encountering an unexpected but valuable functionality in MS Word or through science laboratory assignments.

5.5. experiential learning

Most folks define this type of learning variously as occurring through experiences, trial and errors, and learning by doing. This occurs for folks in learning a new recipe or doing a science experiment.

5.6. informal learning

Folks defined this type of learning as those that occurs without explicit planning, often outside of formal learning institution or context, and often through social contact or pervasive media. Contexts may include learning the rules of football from watching it on TV to random pieces of information from reading the daily newspaper.

5.7. collaborative learning

Collaborative learning occurs in groups, preferably with those whose knowledge differs from your own. Examples include the class swiki and group projects such as the CS senior project.

6. which media support have you used and are you using for your learning?

Folks mentioned the internet, radio, magazines, books, databases, Google, technical manuals, video games, and television.

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