I wrote about immersion in July:
Another argument used for not learning computing is that the Department should provide inservice time for teachers to learn these new things. The reality however is that only IMMERSION works and no Department can ever provide that. The desire to master computers must come from within.A recent response from Tony has made me think more about immersion, what it is and whether it alone is sufficient.
I still like the Marshall McLuhan quote, "I don't know who discovered water but it wasn't a fish" - that some things seem effortless in certain environments - but have come to think that it doesn't tell us all we need to know about learning. It is too clever. Immersion is essential for learning, but not enough.
The immersion approach, to say, learning a language is to immerse yourself in the language. To learn French, go and live in France. Failing that, in the wikipedia description of language immersion:
- In total immersion, almost one hundred percent of class time is spent in the foreign language ...
- In two-way immersion, at least half of the class time is spent learning subject matter in the second language ...
I just said, immersion works. But immersion doesn't always work. I've spent time working in factories and knew workers there who had lived in Australia for 20 years and who still spoke poor English. I've seen chess players who play far more regularly than I do and yet their game does not improve much. In both cases the people involved did not participate in effortful study, they did not grasp the importance of deliberate practice in acquiring expertise. Just putting in more hours (immersion) is not the same as effortful study with clear goals to improve ones understanding.
Immersion works provided it is combined with effortful study. I attempted to resolve the contradiction between constructivist learning and guided experiential learning here
In reality people immerse themselves in all sorts of things - yoga, TV, reading, blogs, logo, game making, game playing. But the learning outcomes vary quite a lot, depending on whether there is some intrinsic, self directed learning activity going on in all of this
Harel and Papert (1990) argue that some materials are better with regard to the following criteria:
- appropriability (some things lend themselves better than others to being made one's own)
- evocativeness (some materials are more apt than others to precipitate personal thought)
- integration (some materials are better carriers of multiple meaning and multiple concepts)
Tony also connected immersion to situatedness in his comment:
Only immersion works but we can try to provide immersive PD for teachers. We should try to provide the same kinds of situated, relevant and authentic learning in teacher PD as we are trying to provide for kids.My understanding of situated learning is that it also involves elements that are culturally significant to the learners. eg. an example from Lave is teaching weight watchers fractions in the kitchen. So, situatedness means relevance, which is likely to increase motivation, which is like to lead to immersion and effortful study.
I'm cherry picking from different learning theories here (constructionism, guided experiential learning, situatedness) but it feels like the right way to go, for now. If the combination leads the learner in the direction of immersion combined with effortful study then that is very likely to end up in good learning.