What is learning? Part 3

A few weeks ago I wrote Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, outlining some of my thoughts on the topic, What is Learning?

Here is a wrap-up of  people who’ve influenced the development of my learning theory of Relationalism.

  • Lev Vygotsky described how people use a semiotic process (language and sign systems) to mediate (external) social relationships into (internal) psychological functions. He also had quite a bit to say about the role of play in learning.
  • Benjamin Lee Whorf described the relationship between language and the rest of the culture of the society which uses the language, in his volume, Language, thought and reality
  • James Zull, professor of biology and biochemistry at Case Western Reserve, in his book, The Art of Changing the Brain describes how knowledge is situated in growing, evolving network configurations in the brain. Those neural configurations are activated in the future when presented with the same types of experiences, and apparently, they reconfigure and grow some more.
  • Ted Panitz, for example, suggests that learners create knowledge as they collaboratively and cooperatively work to understand their experiences in nature, in society and culture, growing their own meanings.
  • In his theory of connectivismGeorge Siemens situates learning in the creation of network connections. He says, “Connectivism is the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, and complexity and self-organization theories.”
  • Howard Gardner describes a cognitive architecture of multiple intelligences.
  • Cognition itself is now being seen by some as distributed, as described, for example, in James Surowiecki’s book, The Wisdom of the Crowd. These multiple intelligences belong not just to the person, but to the person’s community.
  • Paivi Hakkinen and Sanna Jarvela have found that social negotiation of meaning in an online forum is dependent on the presence of multiple articulated viewpoints, and may be tied in part to the design of the learning activity
  • Peter Checkland‘s soft systems inquiry focuses strongly on agents and agency.
  • Terry Anderson has described social learning in terms of user interfaces and technologies for distance learning and online learning. These technologies live on the Internet, World Wide Web and private networks, and are accessed through personal computers and mobile devices.
  • Jon Dron has described how increasingly complex online user interfaces provide a venue in which individuals can socially construct knowledge, from the bottom up.  If the software is well designed, the interactions are organic, self-organizing, evolutionary and stigmergic.  Learning experience designers can embed in the user interface the kind of control over the learning trajectory that a teacher role would normally take. Learners can choose whether to control their learning or to delegate that control to the group. In principle, then, social learning appears to offer the best of both worlds, assisting dependent learners through the provision of structure yet enabling autonomy at any point.

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