Master of Arts in Educational Technology (OMET) Pepperdine University  
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Educating Today's Learner

Book Review

  Smith's Essential Question

How would Frank Smith respond to the first and second essential questions, based on your reading?

Is learning a solitary activity, undertaken by an individual, or is learning a social activity, something done by a group within a context?

Smith is a firm believer in the “classic theory” of learning. We learn from being around others. Not only do we learn in this manner but also it is instant and permanent. According to Smith, most of the time children are learning silently and without error because the people around them are making learning possible (p.18). Although, it is a fact that children learn to read by reading, it is Smith’s contention that the authors have a collaborative role in this process and that they are the people who are teaching children to read (p.25). People belong to formal and informal clubs in order to establish their identity. And that identification creates the possibility of learning (p.11). I came across this quote from Frank Smith that reminded me of Lave and Wenger’s book on Situated Learning—“Thought flows in terms of stories - stories about events, stories about people, and stories about intentions and achievements. The best teachers are the best storytellers. We learn in the form of stories.” file:///(http///www.ntlf.com/html/lib/quotes.htm)

Is learning primarily focused on the transmission of facts and information or is it focused on the development of understanding of concepts and new knowledge?

Learning is currently focused on the transmission of facts and information (official theory) but Smith believes that learning should be focused on the development of understanding of concepts and of new knowledge. Learning is a natural occurrence that begins at birth. “We are learning all the time,” says Smith. “We learn without knowing that we are learning.” However, along came Ebbinghaus’ theory of guaranteed learning that drummed facts and information into a child’s head until they supposedly got it. If the student didn’t get it, they hadn’t applied enough time and effort into learning the material. So much of what drives education today is still the official theory of learning. There is “no possibility of learning from the company you keep (classic theory) because there is no company to keep only drills and exercises.” The process of memorizing, rehearsing and testing of facts and information is still prevalent in today’s classroom. And memorizing, according to Smith, destroys understanding (p.88).