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Meaning of Learning

Learning is often a poorly defined concept. For many people its meaning is biased towards what happens in the traditional schooling and training contexts. The work of LDI is inspired by the recognition that learning is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon. Available knowledge about learning is dispersed across a large variety of fields of disciplinary inquiry and traditions of practice. These fields include - but are not limited to - psychology, cognitive science, linguistics, neuro-physiology, computer science, the study of complex adaptive systems, anthropology, instructional design, cultural studies, epistemology, economics, communications, management.

LDI seeks to contribute to the development of visions of learning that go beyond the simple sum total of these different areas of research, i.e. it wishes to approach its inquiry into the meaning of learning from a transdisciplinary point of view. LDI's Meaning of Learning (MOL) project will thus explore the interconnections between, the synergy among, and the complementarity of views represented in the existing dispersed areas of inquiry and practice. To this end, MOL will function as a community of scholars and practitioners, who will collaborate on, and contribute to, the social construction of the meaning of learning. Interaction within this community will be facilitated through a web-based learning environment in addition to face-to-face encounters.

Preliminary planning and development for the Meaning of Learning project is currently underway at LDI. Seriously interested scholars and practitioners, as well as relevant funding agencies, are invited to make themselves known by e-mail to <ldi@learndev.org> and to clarify the nature of their interest in, and intended contributions to, this project.

 

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In Search of the Meaning of Learning

Meaning of Learning workshops and dialogues

In the framework of the Meaning of Learning project, several workshops and dialogues have been conducted to elucidate the meaning of learning and to discover the conditions that promote and facilitate meaningful learning. A first workshop of this nature on In Search of the Meaning of Learning: A Social Process of Raising Questions and Creating Meanings took place on February 17, 2000, in the framework of the Annual Convention of the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) in Long Beach, California. The workshop originated from the shared concern of UNESCO's Learning Without Frontiers and LDI's Meaning of Learning initiatives with the integrity, completeness and comprehensiveness of the learning environment. More about that first workshop can be found in the original workshop proposal and a short report, that was published in the April 2000 issue of the journal TechTrends.

Similar exercises have been conducted as part of LDI's Reinvention of Learning training workshops in different places around the globe. They have effectively served the purpose of helping diverse groups of workshop participants generate critical questions about existing learning contexts, based on their shared personal learning histories. They have also generated a wealth of data that are currently being used for case story research into the meaning of learning.

As a follow-up to the Long Beach workshop mentioned above, a two-hour Presidential Session on In Search of the Meaning of Learning was held during the International Conference of the Association for Educational Communications and Technology in Denver, CO, October 25-28, 2000. A collection of papers generated in connection with both the Long Beach workshop and the Denver Presidential Session can be found below under 'Papers.'

 
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Statements and questions

In preparation of the Long Beach workshop, contributions in the form of thought-provoking statements and urgent questions were invited to stimulate the debate.
 
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Papers
 
Another category of contributions consists of background papers. The following papers (in PDF format) served to inform the Long Beach workshop:
· Integrity, Completeness and Comprehensiveness of the Learning Environment: Meeting the Basic Learning Needs of All throughout Life by Visser,
· Learning Without Frontiers: Building Integrated Responses to Diverse Learning Needs by Visser & Berg,
· Lifelong Learning and Wellness: One Component to the Enlightened Gerosphere by Nussbaum,
· Learning and Videogames: An Unexploited Synergy by Fabricatore,
· At the boundaries of being: re-figuring intellectual life by Shotter,
· Philosophical Inquiry in Instructional Technology: The Forgotten Pathway to Learning by Solomon.
 
The following papers were generated in conjunction with the Presidential Session at the AECT Conference in Denver:
· Learning: Towards Health and the Human Condition by Nussbaum,
· The Learning Story of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy by Marshall,
· Learning as Activity by Jonassen,
· Philosophy and the Learning Ecology by Solomon,
· Context, Communication and Learning by Burnett,
· On the Difficulty of Changing Our Perceptions About Such Things as Learning by Visser and Visser
· The Meaning of Learning in the Perspective of Rapid Technological Change by Spohrer.
· Constructing 'Resourceful or Mutually Enabling' Communities: Putting a New (Dialogical) Practice into Our Practices by Shotter.
 
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Learning stories
 
As a result of the various workshops, a collection of learning stories was generated from among participants. We believe that these stories give a sense of what people generally feel and think to be important about their learning. Researchers may find them of interest as raw material for their inquiry. On this site we present a sample of available learning stories in Spanish and English. They are available at the learning stories page. A wider collection is available with the Institute.
 
The growing collection of learning stories serves as a basis for an ongoing research effort, the Learning Stories Research Project, undertaken by LDI, in collaboration also with researchers from various other institutions, such as Florida State University, the University of Northern Colorado and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Initial results of this research effort were presented by Yusra Laila Visser and Jan Visser under the title "The Learning Stories Project" at the International Conference of the AECT in Denver, Colorado, in October 2000. A second phase of research is underway. Presentation of a paper on "Second Order Learning Stories" by Jan Visser, Yusra Laila Visser, Ray Amirault, Cole D. Genge and Vachel Miller has been proposed to the American Educational Research Association for their 2002 Annual Meeting in New Orleans.
 
 
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Call for inputs

Visitors to this site who have a serious R&D interest in this area, or who intend to direct their activity towards it are invited to provide us with their contributions by writing to ldi@learndev.org. Visitors to this website from around the world who have interesting learning stories to contribute are invited to check out the learning stories page on this website.

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