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Meaningful learning experiences

Posted on March 8, 2015

Its 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 cant 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 realworld 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).
Thats 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
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.