What is learning?

This is the million dollar question that needs to be answered before we can really talk about learning design. To get you started thinking about what it means to learn, please read this post from Clarissa Sorenson-Unruh.

You are invited to use hypothes.is to annotate this post. Please use the tag edci335. Two things you can do are to annotate the page with your questions, and to annotate with connections to your own experience.

What’s going on here?

Using hypothes.is like this to annotate a web resource is a strategy that you can use in any learning situation to enhance the likelihood that your will remember something, otherwise known as encoding. By activating multiple regions of your brain, you are actively building new connections between your brain cells. That’s what Sorenson-Unruh means when she says

Learning requires building new synapses in the brain to interconnect bits of information/data. These synapses are gaps (i.e. connections) that form between axons that grow from one neuron (presynaptic) to another neuron (postsynaptic).

Learning involves changing your mind by physically changing your brain! Remember the ‘Why is learning hard?’ post?

The trouble is, if you only do this once, that connection is very weak and it is easily broken. You can strengthen the connection by connecting it to your own past experiences and knowledge, otherwise known as consolidation. Another way to strengthen the connection is through retrieval, or recalling the information from your memory.

An implication of this for your learning in this and other classes is that you can engage in these activities in purposeful ways. We all know that cramming is not an ideal practice for long-term memory and learning, so here is an alternative to that.

  • Write while you read. Annotate, question, draw, or whatever to use multiple brain regions to think about what you are reading.
  • Connect the content to something you already know. Use phrases like ‘This reminds me of…’, or ‘That’s just like…but it’s different because…’
    • This course models various different ways that you can make connections between ideas using web technology, and when you think about it, the web is built to make connections through hyperlinks. In this post, we have included links to a blog post by Clarissa Sorenson-Unruh, to a tutorial on how to use hypothes.is, and to a post in a different topic. You might think that the web was built for cat pictures, but no, the web was built to connect people and ideas!
  • Practice spaced repetition. Practice retrieving your new knowledge in different contexts with increasing time intervals in between attempts.
  • Follow these study tips:
    • With your book/notes/source material closed, write down everything you can about the topic you are needing to recall.
    • Compare what you wrote with the original source material and identify the gaps in your knowledge.
    • Use the strategies above to aid in your consolidation and retrieval of the information in the gaps.
    • Rinse. Repeat.

These strategies are much more effective than trying to memorize large amounts of disconnected information in a short period of time, and you won’t waste time reading material that you already understand.

As you design learning experiences, be intentional about ways to encourage your learners to make connections between ideas and their past experiences, then, as they become more proficient with those ideas, to extend them to unrelated and new ideas, as described by the SOLO Taxonomy.