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LEARNING - a great source book

Bill Purves purves at THUBAN.AC.HMC.EDU
Thu Mar 16 19:48:48 EST 2000

Sorry to be consuming so much bandwidth this week, but here
is yet one more topic I want to address: How people learn,
and how we can help them learn.  I want to recommend a book.

For the last 17 years, I have been associated on and off
with Roger C. Schank.  He's one of the founding figures of
the disciplines of artificial intelligence and cognitive
science.  For the last decade he's been director of the
Institute for the Learning Sciences at Northwestern
University, where he is professor several things.  He
is also president of a company called Cognitive Arts.
He's extremely bright and articulate, and he's written a
string of interesting books.  His ideas have been
the strongest influences on my teaching.

I recommend the following book to ALL participants in
plant-ed.  Its focus is on how machines and people learn,
and why schooling as we know it doesn't teach people
effectively.  It's very engagingly written.

  Schank, Roger C. 1999: Dynamic Memory Revisited.
  Cambridge University Press.
  paperback  ISBN 0 521 63398 2
  hardback   ISBN 0 521 63302 8

Not to be confused with its predecessor, Dynamic Memory,
published in 1983.

Let me quote at some length from the preface to the
1999 book:

  "In the first _Dynamic Memory_ the main points were
  that learning depends upon expectation failure and the
  attempt to explain that failure, and that remindings
  that come from our store of memories are instrumental
  in helping us create explanations and are therefore
  critical to learning.  We process new experience in
  terms of prior experience, and our memories change as
  a result.  To translate this into a teaching environment,
  we must set up situations in which students can have
  their expectations fail and can either be reminded or
  be instructed about how not to fail next time.  To
  put it another way, learning takes place if, while one
  is attempting to do something, something else inhibits
  the doing and causes one to wonder why what one thought
  would work, didn't.

  ... <turning to material since the earlier book> ...

  "The key idea here is doing. John Dewey and others have
  noticed that most learning occurs in the context of doing.
  While I was considering how computers might learn, I came
  face-to-face with the realization that computers weren't
  doing much of anything. ...
  ... For that matter, although children learn by doing all
  the time in their daily lives, they hardly do it in school
  at all. ...
  ... Thus, both for computers and for people, environments
  would need to be created that allowed them to do something
  they wanted to do and allowed learning to take place in the
  context of that doing."

Do seek it out--you won't be sorry.


William K. Purves      Vice President/Editorial Director
The Mona Group LLC                     West Coast Office
2817 N. Mountain Avenue              phone: 909.626.4859   
Claremont, CA 91711-1550               fax: 909.626.7030
              e-mail: purves at monagroup.com


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