One of our first tasks was to watch this video of the children’s book Fish is Fish by Leo Lionni being read, and reflect on how this relates to learning and understanding.
The book does a nice job of highlighting the fact that we each have an individual experience in life and the world. Our minds are filled with different ideas of how things work based on the experiences we have. Because of this, it can be difficult to accept a new viewpoint based on an experience that someone else has had, but you have not. I think it is important to note, that even if we do the same things (leave the pond) we might still have very different experiences. What is a good for one being, might not work for another. Regardless of what the subject is, we need new experiences that challenge our current thinking and make us assimilate new information, and consider different perspectives. Reflection on these experiences is what will lead ultimately lead to new learning.
What hopped to the front of my mind while listening and watching the story unfold was the moment the fish jumped out of the pond. The fish had heard about the frog’s wonderful experience on land, and wanted to see what all the fuss was about. The fish quickly realized that land was not the place for a fish, even though the frog had loved it so. My wife and I had a similar experience a few years ago when we went to Las Vegas. Many of our friends had gushed about how much they enjoyed Vegas and what a wonderful place it was to visit. After spending one night there, my wife and I had felt the complete opposite. We found it loud, confusing, crowded, expensive, and over-stimulating. What was a great experience for some, was a terrible experience for us. Again, this just goes to show you that even though you might do something similar to someone else, the experience that plays out in your mind might be very different. This tells us how important it is to hear from your learners what their experience was with a lesson. Maybe they are taking away something completely different from what you expected.
I’ve always thought of learning as the process, and understanding as the result. Learning would be the experiences, and the reflection on those experiences. Understanding is what you walk away with when the learning is all finished up, and will be your starting point for your next learning experience. When you go through the next cycle of learning, you will assimilate those experiences into your new understanding.