Learning is at the center of our work as educators. Effective technology facilitates and extends learning, often acting as an amplifier for critical thought and reflection. But understanding learning requires a clear definition of what it is to us.

In a few words below, how would you define learning? Contribute an example to the board below.

These examples point out some themes in the ways many North American cultures conceptualize learning. They point out our value and priority for quality and robust learning experiences. But our current ways of talking and thinking about learning might not do the experience true justice.

Knowledge and Learning

Let’s consider learning a bit more. Culturally, we have certain ways of thinking about what knowledge and learning are, and how they work. Take this little quiz to check in with the main perspective you may hold on learning. (This is by no means scientific – it’s just for fun.)


With which perspective did you align? Where do you think most people might align? Add your perspective to the poll, and see the results.

While the quiz above pinpointed an overall perspective you may hold on learning, these three metaphors of learning guide how we think and talk about learning.

Collectively, we conceptualize learning as:

Take some time to explore these ideas further by exploring the two resources above.

Surrounding all of this is some requirement that for real learning to occur, there must be some permanence to it (Katz and Dack 2013).


Unless learning asks us to construct and reconstruct our understandings, or challenge our previous assumptions, it is not likely to stick around, or result in measurable positive outcomes.

Compare your emerging definition of learning and knowledge, to the one you originally constructed at the beginning of this section. Has your definition shifted?

Successful innovation in teaching is driven by committed, professional educators seeking to address learning challenges in their classrooms (Hargreaves 2012). It focusses on identifying a problem in practice or assessment that may be affecting student outcomes and seeking to address it.

Consider a Learning Challenge

Consider a learning challenge you are observing in your own classroom, one that seems to be influencing student outcomes. It might be that you want to find a way to improve attendance or engagement. Or for there to be an improvement in median scores from midterm to exam.

Create a brainstorm, aiming to look at it from all angles:

  • What is happening in the classroom?
  • What might be negatively influencing this?
  • What might positively influence this?
  • How will a change impact their learning or outcomes?

You might doodle on a paper, and post the picture on Twitter. You might use a concept mapping tool like LucidChart, MindMup or Mindmeister. You might draw in Explain Everything and share a video of your process.

However you think best, post a link to your brainstorm in the comment thread below, and share any key understandings you had during your brainstorm. Take a look around – have others experienced the same phenomenon?


Hargreaves, A. (2012) “Singapore: the Fourth Way in Action?” Educational Research, Policy and Practice 11:7-17.

Paavola, S., Lipponen, L., & Hakkarainen, K. (2004). Models of innovative knowledge communities and three metaphors of learning. Review of Educational Research. 74(4), 557-576

Sfard, A. On Two Metaphors for Learning. Educational Researcher vol 25, no. 4.