Meaningful Learning

and the

Participatory Web


This site is dedicated to an exploration of Meaningful Learning and the Participatory Web and the potential relevance of the resources and experience such an environment provides to educators and learners. Feel free to explore.

Mark Grabe and Cindy Grabe

Table of Contents

    1. Preface

    2. Introduction

    3. Theoretical and Empiricial Justification

    4. Tools and Tactics

    5. A role for hardware

    6. Assessment

    7. Safety and Responsibility

    8. Copyright

System Requirements

Your contributions

Connect your own comments and contributions.

Our "participatory philosophy" and site function.

Introduction - our title

Meaningful learning is one of those phrases that is easy to toss around and might be part of the terminology used by many educators. We have also noticed that "meaningful learning" and "technology integration" have become popular parts of several book titles since we first used these phrases in titling our own first book (1996). Our use of the phrase "meaningful learning" can be traced to the way in which meaningful learning was defined by David Ausubel (1963). Meaningful learning was contrasted with rote learning and was assumed a product of the integration of new experiences with what one already knows. It was described as an active, constructive, cognitive activity accomplished by the learner.

Ausubel also commented on the relationship between learning experiences - specifically the difference between reception and discovery experiences - and how students learn. In what I think was an important insight, he noted that there is no guaranteed connection between the type of learning and the manner in which information is received. In other words, discovery experiences (term used here as Ausubel used it) can still be associated with rote learning. The notions that learning from presentations (e.g., books, lectures) is inherently bad and that learning from "hands on" activities is inherently good are simplistic.

So, while we have a specific way of thinking about meaningful learning and the participatory web, we recognized that the connection between the two requires more than the assignment of a given learning task.

We first used "integration" to describe our focus on using technology to facilitate content area instruction. What we were describing in the mid-1990s was the adaptation of tools (word processing, Hypercard, paint programs) to the study of biology, history, etc. Sounds strange now, but the integration of technology tools was once an uncommon way to understand what technology might have to offer learners in classrooms or elsewhere.

By the way, we treat meaningful learning, generative learning, and social constructivism as roughly equivalent. You will need to consult a different resource if your interest is in differentiating such ideas.


Ausubel, D. (1963). The psychology of meaningful learning. New York: Grune & Stratton.

Grabe, M. & Grabe, C. (1996). Integrating technology for meaningful learning. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin.