It’s been an interesting week and I have felt challenged by my reading and interactions with colleagues in my university studies. I am someone who is fortunate enough to be very metacognitive in my own learning. I am always conscious of my thoughts and thought-processes, and how I am interacting with academic stimuli. I can’t say that I have always been like this but when I studied educational psychology, in first year of my bachelor degrees, I learned a lot about constructivism and metacognition, how the brain works and how it develops. It was this knowledge that drove me to understand my own learning processes at a much deeper level. That course changed my life, and many learning experiences have continued to effect me profoundly since. What kind of learning experience are most effective? Meaningful learning experiences.
Reading Howland, Jonassen and Marra (2012), a lot resonated with me about the dimensions of meaningful learning that are identified. The authors share the figure below to outline the characteristics of meaningful learning. As a teacher in the 21st century, I have become more and more conscious of providing students with learning experiences that are authentic and ‘real-world’ relevant to them. I believe this falls under the ‘Active’ part of these characteristics because the real-world relevance of content and activities is observable to students. I guess its like the saying: “Seeing is believing”. If students see the relevancy of something they are learning in the real world, then they are engaging in a meaningful learning experience.
So, where does technology fit in with this idea of meaningful learning? Howard, Jonassen and Marra (2012) say this: “Technologies need to engage learners in articulating and representing their understanding, not that of teachers.” (p. 4). That’s it! There is always so much debate about how to appropriately integrate technology with schools and classrooms, however, now is the time to ensure you are knowledgable and skilled when it comes to engaging learners in utilising ICT and be prepared to let go of the reigns a little bit more.
How I make learning experiences meaningful?
Active (manipulative/observant) – I like to get my students to manipulate their understanding of a topic and recreate/re-represent it in another form to show the depth of their understanding. For example, the demonstrate their knowledge of orchestral instruments, I have gotten them to rewrite the information in the form of a first person introduction. This category of meaningful learning is similar to constructive in a way.
Constructive (articulative/reflective) – I have always valued time set aside to critically reflect on what I have learned. I always try to encourage my own students to reflect before they begin engaging in a new learning experience and then again afterward so that they can learn to understand their own learning processes and how they learn. In this area, I have encouraged students to keep an eportfolio or diary of SMART goals in order to regularly reflect on their learning, using scaffolded apps like Tools 4 Students.
Cooperative (collaborative/conversational) – The benefit of Google Apps and an LMS like Moodle is that collaboration and conversation online can be easier set up. Students in my classes have frequently used Google docs to write a document together and I have had a lot of experience as a student and teacher with discussion forums. I find that students really do start thinking more critically and deeply in collaborative and conversational environments, inspired by others, and perhaps competing with others.
Authentic (complex/contextualised) – PBL units of work are a fantastic way to create learning experiences that are authentic. In my previous school, all PBL had to be embedded in real-world relevant topics and activities. Their PBL units of work would often culminate in a product that would be entered into a competition or be used in a public showcase. Video products are a great way to disseminate information and have long-lasting physical evidence of the learning.
Intentional (goal directed/regulatory) – having learning outcomes explicitly stated and visible is a great way to help students become goal directed and to encourage them to regulate their learning by checking for outcomes achieved. In online learning, I always try to include outcomes for each section of learning developed.
I will continue to reflect on the model proposed as I seek to always create meaningful learning experiences for those I work with.
Howland, J. L., Jonassen, D. H., & Marra, R. M. (2012). Chapter 1: What is meaningful learning? In Meaningful learning with technology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.