The Learning Process… in GIF form

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I enjoy a good animated GIF. I will not be pulled into an argument about how to pronounce “GIF”.

I collect those GIFs that I think are especially apropos to teaching and learning. My goal for this post is to use them in a fun way to illustrate the learning process from the learner’s point-of-view.

This story could apply to you, me, anyone really.

Students come to class…

Obi Wan Kenobu quote from A New Hope, "Hello there."

And are introduced to a new concept. They react accordingly, thinking,

Wedge Antilles quote from Star Wars: A New Hope, "Look at the size of that thing!"

Students don’t understand at first

Quote, "I have several questions."

They spend some time thinking and working.

Clip from the movie The Hangover. Man thinking, math equations floating and swirling around his head.
Man typing at a typewriter, shrugging sholders and waving hands with palms up trying to think of what to write.

They feel good. They think they have understood and that they have it.

Captain Jack Sparrow quote, "I understand everything."

And then the first assessment or learning activity happens. The learner has to use or apply the new concept or skill.

A man wih a confused look on his face.
Steve Urkel character from the TV show Family matters wearing Fedora hat and suit, looking into camera making faces of surprise, concern and disbelief.
A man commenting, "Wait... what?"
Quote from movie Where Brother Art Thou?, "Tat don't make no sense!"

The learner realizes what they thought they grasped, they do not. Naturally, they do what any normal person would do in the same situation.

Actors dressed in ancient Roman garb, running and one screams. "Panic!"

After regaining composure, and receiving encouragement from the instructor, they get back to work: taking more notes, wading through concepts,

Steve Irwin quote, "This poo is really important. I'm gonna save it for later."

Asking more questions,

Liam Neeson asking, "Why? Why? Why? Why?"

Making new connections,

Baby sloth pulling paw under chin. Text overlay, "Hmmm. Fascinating."

Struggling through feelings of disorientation,

Cartoon stork turning map around and around. Text overly, "Definitely lost."


A man sitting looking around in confusion.

and even anger.

Cartoon man roaring in anger.

Then, finally, it happens,

Socrates from the movie Bill and Ted's Excellent adventure realizing he understands Ted.
Jeff Goldblum quote, "Well, there it is."

Ideas and concepts begin to congeal into a cohesive whole.

Doc Brown from the movie, Back to the Future, saying "This is it!"

They realize they can learn.

Quote from the TV show Community, "WOW. You just wrinkled my brain man."
Quote, "I'm a survivor. I'm not going to Give up. I'm going to work harder."

Learning is hard, uncomfortable, and takes work and practice. Learning is a process of encountering new information, creating connections between old and new information, and synthesizing all this into new ideas.

It is tiring work.

A person collapsing back into a chair, exhaling in exhaustion while peers applaud in the background.

But it can be done.

After working though the process successfully the learner looks back, sees and celebrates the progress that was made.

Young Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy dancing to music.
A man smiling and clapping.
Quote from Star Trek the Next Generation, "His eyes uncovered!"

At least until the next time, until a new concept or skill is necessary and the cycle begins again.

Wayne from the movie Wayne's World, looking around confused and tongue-tied.
Quote from Saturday Night Live Skit, Undercover Boss: Starkiller Base. Adam Driver as Matt character, "It's not as easy as I presumed."

But after experiencing this cycle repeatedly a learner sees that it is worth the effort, feels the accomplishment, and concludes no matter the outcome that,

Quote, "Today was a good day"
"The End"