Week 6 – Reading Response

Articles I read this week:

  1. Social Learning, ‘Push’ and ‘Pull,’ and Building Platforms for Collaborative Learning” – Lankshear and Knobel (2011)
  2. Can Running Make You Smarter?” – Gretchen Reynolds, The New York Times


“Social Learning, ‘Push’ and ‘Pull,’ and Building Platforms for Collaborative Learning”

In this chapter, we continue to look at learning as a social act.  We have previously read and discussed the idea that a person learns better when they interact with others and are submersed in a community of learning.  The structure and importance of this “social learning” is a focus in this chapter.

Lankshear and Knobel define ‘social learning’ as follows:

social learning is understood as involving a change in understanding at the level of ‘social units’ (such as an organization, an institution, or a community of practice), that occurs through interaction where ‘the message is spread from person to person through social
An important thought I took away from this chapter is the need to move away from decontextualized learning to a way to learn content in a contextual and social manner.  For example, in the foreign language classroom, it is unreasonable to expect my students to be able to learn, remember and correctly use the language if they have only ever studied vocabulary words and done activities from the textbook.  Instead, a contextualized way for them to learn would be through real life situations where they have to use the language, and are able to learn and use new words and new grammar structures as we go.  I fear that in many classrooms the older and more traditional model of teaching and learning, in a decontextualized way, prevails and and both the students and the teacher are suffering.  Lankshear and Knobel refer to this as an “emphasis on decontextualized and abstracted

content transmission that characterizes formal education at the school level.”
I liked the example given of the Australian schools efforts’ to enhance social and collaborative learning.  The schools build relationships with community organizations, groups and leadership to “produce knowledge artifacts that would be authentically useful for and usable by their end users.” So great!
“Can Running Make You Smarter?”
The following statement is going to shock you, and I’m sure you have never heard anything like it before: Exercise is actually good for you!  Whaaaaaattttttt??  I know what you’re thinking…
We have all heard it before, obviously using our bodies is good for us, blah, blah, blah.  But I still find a lot of the studies they are doing to be interesting.  Most recently I read an article in The New York Times about the effect of running on the brain.
Reynolds writes, “long-term endurance exercise such as running can alter muscles in ways that then jump-start changes in the brain, helping to fortify learning and memory.” Specifically, researchers found that this type of exercise releases a chemical into our bloodstream called Cathepsin B which helps with neurogenesis.
(neurogenesis: creation of extra neurons in the brain)
So more strenuous exercise, more neurons, more development of memory and learning abilities.  Yay!
And for those of us who are not addicted to strenuous running, these findings really indicate that exercises using our muscles in a continuous way will release these chemicals.  I can’t wait to have my students jog in place at their desks before class everyday!  Muahahaha.

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