Learning: It’s an Experience

“Learning isn’t the delivery of content. It’s the experience of content-rich ideas, activities, processing time and reflection.”

(from Kim Cofino’s post Designing Learning Experiences.) Learning by doing. We learn when we teach someone else how to do it. Learning is an active not a passive process. As an educator and an educational technology coach, I know these things but I also know how hard it is to design truly effective learning experiences! It takes time. It takes lots of thought and trial and error. I ask myself a lot of questions–how can I get teachers to connect with the ideas and come out with meaningful understanding? What tools to I have to make the learning active? To prompt discussion and record thoughts and ideas as well as reflections?

Kim Cofino’s post documents 9 steps to planning learning experiences. It also talks about how although there are steps 1-9, rather pieces 1-9, the steps in planning are often jumbled up. We start with backwards planning from what we want the learner to take away and then begin figuring out how best to deliver that. (see Kim’s model below)

I recently led a pre-conference session at the Learning2 Conference in Warsaw in April. The session was about making ePortfolios effective and meaningful. It was the first time that I had ever had that much time with a group. I usually have one hour maybe 90 minutes, so 4 hours seemed like a massive chunk of time! I wish I’d had Kim’s blog post to help me! I spent weeks and my late nights planning those 4 hours. Pondering over how not to simply bombard the participants with information, but to provide ways to connect and hopefully walk away with a better understanding of what portfolios could look like as well as practical tools to help them. I also found out that I would have teachers ranging from kindergarten to high school in the room so I would need to differentiate to make sure everyone got something out of their time. And, we all know, adult learners–especially teachers–don’t always make for the best students–I’m guilty in many a staff meeting! In the end, I felt like I was reasonably successful, but certainly had room for improvement. 🙂 After reading Kim’s post, I know where I’d like to focus my time in refining my workshop.

Kim’s post will serve as a very good guide and is an excellent reminder that teaching well is a craft that requires time, energy, practice, reflection–whether it be for young children, 16 year olds or adult learners. It makes me think of one of our prompts from last month, the article from George Couros, People are Always Your Best Reosource. In it he writes:  “Valuing our people doesn’t mean we don’t push them; it actually means that we do.  We help them become the best version of themselves, but we start with their strengths, not their weaknesses.” Do we all have the time to go through this essential process for designing our learning experiences? It also reminds me of how important it is to have a good teaching team who can support each other. Do all schools really embrace the idea that learning isn’t about content delivery? What do you feel are the conditions for creating really successful, powerful learning experiences?


Image Credits:
Designing Learning Experiences by Kim Cofino is licensed under CC BY 4.0
Learning by Mikael Wiman is licensed under CC BY 4.0

Featured Image Credit:
Learning by Mikael Wiman is licensed under CC BY 4.0

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  • Reply
    June 19, 2017 at 08:37

    Hi Kim! I’m thrilled that we’re in this month’s bundle together! It’s curious to read about your post-L2 reflection! I will use your thoughts for the future (as I’m sure you will too!) Like you mentioned, teachers are often the most difficult students and planning for PD with teachers is necessary for success. As with teaching, I appreciate your reminder to work from the end goal to set your agenda. Since planning for PD is part of both of our jobs I’m happy to have made a connection with you and can bounce ideas off you as well. Our order for iPads for next year was approved last week so next year we’ll have 200 in total, so I’m sure there are more questions and random thoughts coming your way! Ever grateful, C : )

    • Reply
      July 8, 2017 at 15:24

      Hey Carrie! Thanks for your comments and sorry for the late reply! I’ve been using the summer vacation to catch up on so many things. 🙂 I really enjoyed the L2 challenge of designing a 4 hour workshop–never had to plan for that much time before. It was a really good exercise for me and the reflection afterwards was beneficial for me to think about how to improve and make it useful for everyone. That differentiation piece was a hard one with not only mixed experience in the room but also the kindergarten to high school range.
      Happy for any questions when your iPads arrive. My whole month of August will be at school helping set up our iPads as well. All of ours went back on lease after 3 years so we have entirely new iPads school wide. Plenty of work!! xK

  • Reply
    Tricia Friedman
    July 12, 2017 at 19:01

    Hi Kim,

    Thanks for sharing. Your post actually makes me think we should start asking more questions about what it is that complicates the learning experience for adult learners. My gut reaction is that adult learners, in particular-teacher learners are sometimes conflicted by feeling that they ‘should already know this.’ This makes me question how we can go about making sure it feels ok not to know everything. And that (thanks for bearing with my flow of thought) makes me think of a book I just read called ‘Machine, Platform, Crowd,’ by Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsoson. They discuss in one chapter how experts consistently underperform when it comes to problem-solving when put up against an external crowd. One of the reasons for this, they posit-is that once something considers themselves to be an expert, they become biased not only by prior successes, but are much more likely to seek out perspectives which confirm already existing agreed on opinions, rather than rethink ways of approaching a problem. I think we need to make disagreement and collegial debate more the forefront of what we do. I see all too often meetings set up for alignment and fast agreement. What if we hosted staff debates? What if we occasionally appointed a devils advocate role?
    Thanks again for pushing me to think about all this.
    Kind Regards,

  • Reply
    July 13, 2017 at 13:26

    Hi Tricia,
    I think you are totally right about adult learners. I love the example from the book ‘Machine, Platform, Crowd’ about experts bias toward prior successes. I see this phenomenon all the time in staff meetings and team meetings and it is certainly a road block to change. I hadn’t thought about it in the context of a professional development setting, but I’m sure it does come into play when people’s ideas are being challenged. ‘Meetings set up for alignment’ is a great way to describe what so many meetings are like. There is value in letting people air their concerns and misgivings as well as to play a devil’s advocate role. I love your idea of staff meeting as debate!
    Back in May, Marcello wrote about ‘Inquiry vs Advocacy’ http://www.mmongardi.com/blog/inquiry-vs-advocacy and the challenge of our role as coaches. It’s easy to say ‘we need to get buy in’ but the nuances of that process are quite intricate and the skill set required as a coach is far different from the one that I need to trouble shoot an app or train someone on iMovie. I’m fascinated by the change-maker part of the role and thereby always open to ideas about how real change happens and what makes it stick. Thanks for sharing the book recommendation and for adding to my perspectives on teachers as learners.
    Hope it’s sunny and warm where you are!

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