Metaphor and the Power of Definition

As we start writing, reflecting, and connecting in EDT400 I want us to think about words and definitions. In his chapter The Word Weavers/The World Makers Niel Postman (1995), implores the reader to think deeply about the power of official definitions. Thinking about definitions is instructive as we start a course on emerging trends in learning. What is learning? Who controls the narrative on learning? What is possible or necessary for learning as 21st century educators? All of these questions and more will surface in this course and I will hope your career as educators. How you start to answer the questions and possibly define for yourselves a narrative for learning in the 21st century will have an amazing impact of the learning communities you enter, write about, and practice in.

To start the week of thinking about definitions I want you all to build on one of the following sentences in a comment to this post during the first half of our meeting today.

Learning is like a tree.

Learning is like a river.

Learning is like a building.

Learning is like an ecosystem.

We will discuss our next steps as a community in our meeting today.


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  1. Learning is like an ecosystem in that it is forever changing and expanding. The people, theories, ideas, and techniques within the education system change rapidly. There are always way to build onto your pre-existing knowledge and the environment in which we are learning never remains constant.

  2. Learning is like a building because it takes work to make progress. An building that is going through construction is unfinished, and knowledge that is not fulfilled can not be considered complete. Even when the building is finished, there can be many things done to it to make it better. A building that hasn't been updated may be subject to being considered poor because it is not up to date. A poor building needs to be updated to come to code. Learning is a life long experience to upkeep, as is a building.

  3. Learning is like a building. A building is always built from the ground up. Kind of like our education is started at the bottom and slowly progresses until we are sometimes finished completely, or in some cases never stop taking taking classes. When a building begins getting built you are always anxious to see what the end product is going to look like. I think you could also say the same about your education. When your parents put you into school the ultimate goal is to graduate high school. What the real question is though is what are you going to make out of your education, and what are you going to become, what is the end product going to look like?

  4. Learning is like a tree because it starts as a seed then grows and grows as it becomes older and more mature. Learning is like a tree in a way that the more tender love and care you give the seed the more it grows and develops. The more knowledge you give a student the more he/she will become more intelligent, just as a tree. The more nutrients and water you give a tree the more it grows.

  5. It is almost impossible to describe learning, because I would honestly say that it is like a river, like a building, like an ecosystem, and like a tree. It all depends on who you are, how you learn and the way the information is taught. For me I would say that learning is like an ecosystem. An ecosystem is a system where everything is interacting with each other and with the environment. I work best working with other people, working with what is around me, and I feel like this is the same with many other people I have met. I am sure to other people learning is like a tree, a building or a river, but for me personally learning is like an ecosystem, where I get to work with my environment, and the people around me. I don't think I would learn as efficiently if I did not have people and things to work with.

  6. Learning is like a tree struck my interest the most. I think of how a tree starts off at a seed and continues to grow. Once it grows, there are many different ways in which it can branch off. This is like learning because there is never one strict way to go. Each branch, branches off into another just like learning and there are so many possibilities. Once you learn one thing, that can turn into learning a lot more.

  7. "Learning is like a river"

    Imagine you were standing on the banks of a river that flowed with all the knowledge in the world. You are armed with only a bucket (your mind) to dip in the river and try to collect all the knowledge you can… but like our own brains, the bucket can only hold so much 'water' and invariably we forget things almost as fast as we discover them. Over the course of our lives, just imagine all the knowledge and experience we will have heard, seen, read, etc, even though we are left with only a fraction in our buckets.

  8. "Learning is like a tree."

    As I think about learning as a tree, I think about the many dimensions of a tree, how a tree changes throughout the year, but also about how a tree grows and changes through the years. As children learn new material old ideas may be stripped away, an example of the leaves falling off the tree in autumn. In the spring, trees bud, flower, and eventually new leaves appear, which could be an example of an "Ah-ha" moment! Those times when children finally understand what you are trying to teach them, the leaves appear, they get it! As your knowledge increases, the rings within the tree grow. We become more knowledgeable with age, more wise, which is displayed in the rings inside the trunk of the tree.

    I have never thought about learning as a tree before, but with all the dimensions of a tree, and all of the dynamics of growing, it only makes sense to define learning as a tree.

  9. Learning is like a tree because it is always growing. Our minds are always growing. The roots can be considered a basic knowledge planted deep within ones thoughts and minds and the trunk is the solid core of facts and knowledge that we have collected throughout our years. The branches are the new things learned everyday. The way a tree branches out is very similar to the way knowledge can branch out, some paths much stronger then others. Leaves are like the small facts that are learned, held onto and then lost. The branches signify what is important and what will become stronger as they are built upon. Until a person dies they never stop learning, until a tree dies it never stops branching out and growing.

  10. Learning is like a tree. It starts out as a seed in the soil and steadily grows and changes until finally it becomes a tree. It has many different branches and leaves that stem from it. Learning must have a good foundation or relating to a tree, having a trunk.

  11. Learning is like a tree reminds me of a few things:
    1. The tree can be an allusion to scaffolding in education.
    2. A person climbs a tree much as a student goes on to different levels of education– from elementary school to middle school to high school to college, etc.
    3. As that person climbs their tree, the branches get smaller and more difficult to reach, just like the challenges that students encounter in higher education.

  12. Learning is like an ecosystem. Ecosystems are made up of many populations and communities that exist together, often crossing paths but also frequently working in "privacy". All member efforts, whether intentionally or not, change the way the rest of the system exists. As the world changes, the members adapt. They change what they do and how they learn in order to keep up with their surroundings. Nothing about an ecosystem is ever stagnant. The same goes with learning. We will forever be altering what we learn, how we learn, and why we learn. Without learning, in its most basic of forms we cannot survive.

  13. Learning is like a tree because trees are always growing and changing. Like a tree, ones learning is constantly "branching out". As a tree continues to grow, new branches sprout from old ones. No matter what age you are, learning never stops. Technology is always changing, so as we get older we must branch out, like a tree, to try new things.

  14. Learning is like a building. This is an interesting metaphor, conjuring images of old brick school buildings. One could compare every piece of information learned to a brick, and the processes of learning to the mortar. I guess in this case, learning would be a lot like a building…it would just never be finished.

  15. I believe that learning is like a building of several levels. I think this is so because you start to kind of get an idea of what you are going to learn for example in preschool and kindergarden; these two would be the basement. From there you have 1st thru the 12th grade and these grades from here on up would be the different floors within the building. Learning is like a tall, wide building because you learn so many things within a year that sometimes it overwhelms you just by looking back at it for example, when you are walking away. Learning is even like the surroundings around this tall building because you not only learning through the different grades and teachers that you go through but also by your experiences, mistakes and different looks on life.

  16. Learning is like a building. Like buildings with learning people believe that once a building is built is done and a finial object. Just like buildings learning needs to be maintained, such as fixing a roof are reviewing a subject. A building may need to be upgraded with modern features, a student of learning may have to be taught new information or correct information relearnt in her life. A building may need an addition be more functional, a person may need additional information or schemas to complete the task at hand. Most importantly is constant work is not put in to the building or the student one is in danger of having the hard work to complete the building/ student undone.

  17. Learning is like a tree growing; Throughout your life you learn more and more everyday, much like the way a tree grows throughout its life

  18. "Learning is like a river."

    Learning is like a river because a river winds and finds itself flowing down different areas, different banks. With all the places that a river travels, it is still the same water. It may pick up material along the way that mixes with the water, but it is the same. This is related to learning because we take this journey through levels of education. Now, education right now is not allowing for this river to collect the knowledge and materials as it passes through. Learning is like a river with a current dam built in it. There is something preventing the students to pick up and learn the necessary materials for life outside the classroom. Learning is like a river because knowledge should be constantly flowing through curious minds of students.

  19. To me, learning is similar to a river. It has a starting source that is ever expanding. It is constantly winding, twisting, turning, changing directions, being constricted and opened. The river is gathering anything and everything as the water pushes towards it's ultimate journey, the end. Every river leads to a bigger body of water, or a bigger "thing", if you will. During that journey, it doesn't always have to be a steady flow. It is forever changing. If one follows the river for long enough, one will find themselves at the end, to a bigger body of water, or knowledge….

  20. Learning is like a tree. As you grow from your youth, gain more and more knowledge. A tree has to start from the ground and as time goes by, it will grow, just like learning is taught in your youth and gradually progresses with more knowledge learned through the years.

  21. Learning is like a building. When I think of learning being like a building I picture a very tall building with multiple floors. I picture the building always changing inside and out because I believe that as I learn and grow I change. The older I get the more I learn, so if you think of this as a building, the older a building gets the more it knows because of it's history and purpose for being.

    Not only do I think learning is like a building but I also think one can argue that learning is like the other things listed above.

  22. Learning is like a river. I think that learning is a journey for everyone, much like a river. The journey never ends because there is constantly more knowledge flowing into the river. Everyday new information is discovered or new technologies are developed, just like a river needs a constant supply of water. As a child we see and hear about all kinds of information, and it is overwhelming, but we need to be willing to jump in and take risks. No one can know every piece of knowledge in that river, but we can choose a path down that river that will hopefully become a passion. Learning is a lifelong journey, with change along the way.

  23. "Learning is like an ecosystem…"

    I believe that learning is like an ecosystem because it is always growing, expanding, and changing. As we begin to learn we as people make progress and expand our learning as we go through life containing knowledge. An ecosystem never remains the same throughout the years and one person can never retain all the knowledge brought into the world. There is always room for expansion for people to capture new learning.

  24. Learning is like a building. Each building with a different foundation, like each individual person has had a different education. Depending on the experience of their first years in school, a foundation can be strong or can have cracks. Like learning, buildings can increase in higher levels as learning can increase with progress and completion of grade levels. Like learning, buildings can also collapse if not maintained like learning can be forgotten if not stored in memory or be put to use often enough. Buildings are always accessible. Buildings provide doors to opportunity and stairs to easily move. One can always walk into the door of learning and go up or down stairs to better educate one's self.

  25. All of the above statements are true; learning is like a tree, a river, a building and an ecosystem. Although it is almost impossible to describe these metaphors, I feel that expressing how "learning is like a tree" is the most effective way to define how we learn. To plant a tree, you must start with a seed, just like you have to plant an idea in order to learn. The seed will grow, as will the idea. Given time, attention, and patience, the seed will grow into a tree, as will the idea grow into knowledge. The roots of the tree are like the roots of your learning.. the basics and essentials. The tree itself is like the knowledge that you gained, and the branches are the extras and advancements of your learning.

  26. "Learning is like a river."

    Learning is like a river because it ebbs and it flows. A river is random, and brings about many challenges. There could be a rock in the middle, or a branch; the currents can be fast, or slow. Learning is random. Every day brings about something new to be learned. There are snags along the way that make learning difficult. Sometimes something can be learned at the drop of a hat, other times it takes slow deliberation to learn a task.

  27. "Learning is like a tree". I believe this simile refers to how the mind develops and grows over time and with nourishment. Learning is never ending. There is always new life and expansion because you can never stop learning. This is the same as a tree. A tree starts as a seed and slowly progresses into a very skinny twig like figure. Over time, the trunk will thicken and grow numerous branches. The thickened trunk symbolizes the expanding mind. The tree grows larger the longer it lives, just as humans learn more with the more they experience.

  28. Learning is different for everyone but for me learning is like a river. Rivers branch off into streams as learning branches off into topics such as science, math and business. Rivers often have obstacles such as dams as does learning. Science and math is particularly hard for me. I face obstacles in every new section where I feel like I am 100 % lost. When I am learning and come across an obstacle I have two options: I can quit or I can push through the obstacle. I never quit, so once I break down the dam, the water flows and I await the next challenge.

  29. Learning is like a tree. it starts out at the very bottom known as a seed but it eventually grows into something huge. It can have several different branches too it. A tree also has a foundation which would be its roots or trunk. The tree has different steps to grow just like learning does.

  30. I believe that learning can be described as a river. At the beginning of a child's education, his/her knowledge starts off small, comparable to the beginning of a small river. While the child may not be well educated yet, his/her knowledge is still significant, as the river is significant to the earth regardless of its size. As the child advances into higher grades, their knowledge base continuously grows. As a river encounters other bodies of water, it also expands. The other bodies of water can also be looked at as both increasing knowledge, as well as people that the student may encounter while in school, and beyond. As human beings, we continue to learn far beyond the boundaries of schools, similar to the constant flow and changes made to the river.

  31. Learning is like a building. Just like when you want to build a building, you are given tools. You are also given tools for learning. It is how you use those tools that determine the outcome. People use tools of learning, such as the school system or books, to enhance their knowledge and to create new views in life. Same goes for buildings. The mind is always being "remodeled or reconstructed." Building your mind to take hold of new ideas and practices takes time and effort and if one does not give time or effort, the tools just lay their, forgotten.

  32. Learning is like a building in that the foundation must be created before the building can be secured. In other words, without a strong foundation, the building will likely crumble. Knowledge and learning begins from the foundation and moves up. If the foundation is weak, it is difficult for successful learning to progress upwards to complete a sturdy, dependable, and high quality building.

  33. In the most coherent way that I can describe it, I would say that I would view learning as a river. A river by definition is a large stream of water that alters the nearby landscape, but can also be altered by it as well. Much like learning, and the education system. Both of my parents are teachers and I can recall many dinner discussions between them over the constant decline in funding, supplies, or other types of aid for their classrooms. Without a constant replenishing of new materials, enthusiasm and direction, much like water, the river will begin to trickle down until it is little more than a stream. It is greatly up to the students to how far their education will take them; for instance if a river will be able to bypass a mountain or rocky terrain. But for success to occur, greatly depends on the necessary support; like more water or help from the educational system. And the end result can either be a dried up river, or a "flood" of knowledge (lame metaphor, i know haha)

  34. A river's flow is constant. The water is always changing. Through changes in time the river will become deeper or more shallow depending on it's source. At times the river can be so low it is difficult to find. At times the river can become so immense that it overtakes communities. The river can be a source of energy or sustenance to living things. The river is cool a cool and refreshing break from busy life. It may appear to change direction at times, but it always leads to the vast ocean.

    Learning is like a river for it is constantly happening. People learn every day as information changes. How information is delivered is dependent upon the teacher. There can be new and in depth ways of teaching allowing the information to flow to the students or the lower form of education that offers very little growth in the classroom. Education can be overwhelming and envelop communities into one way of thinking. Learning can also stimulate ideas to create new forms of energy and better ways of life. New information is exciting or comforting depending on how it is presented. Sometimes we learn when we least expect it, but it always leads us to a greater awareness of the world around us.

  35. Learning is like a building….

    Learning is like a building because it starts at the base and works its way up. With people, they start in Kindergarten and work their way up to college. When you are building a building, you start at the ground and build a foundation and then work your way up. You would not start building the roof of a building if you haven't done the base foundation, and you wouldn't put a five year old in college. You start at the bottom and build a strong base/structure and outline for yourself. From there, your learning will grow and develop, just like the rest of your building will.

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