Learning is a lifelong process in which people learn to adapt and survive in the environment where they live. More than that, learning is also a process which they acquire knowledge from their own experiences, study or being taught. With a view to studying well, learners should be the one takes the initiative, with or without the help of others, in understanding their learning needs, setting learning goals and being able to identify available material resources for learning (Knowles, 1975, p. 18). That is why the idea of setting up an environment in which students are encouraged to develop learner-centered learning activities in terms of considering the Zone of Proximal Development theory by Vygotsky (1978, p. 86) is crucial in education. Recently, the education systems around the world are recognizing the importance of technology in education that focuses on technology education as a process and its role in enhancing the quality of our lives (Stables, 1997). Furthermore, it is also emphasized the importance of using technology in learning and teaching. In a nutshell, the value of applying student-centered activities with the consideration of ZPD theory along with using technology in education will be discussed in this essay. Learning episode: The placement in Silverton Primary school was a good chance for me to do the observation of how an open-planned school works not as a student but as a pre-service teacher. From this opportunity, I had pursued a deeper understanding of what is learning from a distinctive position, a student teacher and especially in the Australian context which is totally different from the experiences I had in my home country. During the placement, I was arranged to assist and observe grade 5/6 students in math and literacy class, which was in Learning Centre 4. The first thing I noticed was the open-planned learning centre which nearly has no walls or clear barriers between classrooms. The whole centre was decorated with bright colors and student’s works. My mentor teacher told me that the school encouraged their teachers and students to change the decoration every year because they wanted to make sure that new students could have the sense of belongings in their new class. Moreover, I was also amazed by the way they set up the centre as a huge classroom which will be flexible for every activities and class that students may have. There were bookshelves in every corner, also lockers for grade 5/6 students and students are free to choose to study with the normal desks and chairs or even sofas, beanbags and just do the work on the floor. The school believed that this kind of environment would be suitable for learners to feel comfortable to share and to acquire new knowledge. Furthermore, unlike the traditional classrooms, the way students in Silverton learn was completely different when compared with class I used to have in my primary school. In fact, instead of using the same methods with traditional classrooms, Silverton primary school chose to divide their students into small groups in which they would take part in their writing workshops, reading workshops and other activities too because the school wanted to provide more chances for students to interact with teachers and also focus more on working individually. For instance, they either change the way their teachers cover required knowledge or replace the normal and boring lessons with more interesting activities. Yet, it was making a movie trailer activity with a view to expanding learner’s vocabulary in literacy class of grade 4/5 students. To be able to make their own video clips, students needed to write and then combine their group stories into one only. After that, they would be taught how to use the editing software and had time to work together as groups on their personal laptops. The aim of this activity was to motivate learners by doing the interesting activity like this and to challenge their limits. According to my mentor teacher, from these activities like this, students are actually learning and preparing for their future career since we are in the era in which one of the most crucial requirements for a job is ‘technology literacy’. They are also soon able to learn how to collaborate with others and later on become life-long learners. That is why these activities will be beneficial for learners. In this project, I was not only surprised by how independent the students were in this activity but also how they enjoy doing their works and because they like to do it, they were more willing to put more effort in their learning process which could be considered as a success in learning. Discussion and analysis: * What is learning? Learning is a persisting change in the performances of learners caused by the interaction of them with the surrounding environment, according to Driscoll (1994, pp. 8-9). Additionally, Nguyen (2017) stated that learning is the process of constructing their understanding based on the experiences from a wide range of sources individually. In my perspective, learning is building your knowledge by exploring the world around us, observing it and having interactions with the volatility of the world and engagements with others, then link those new materials to our prior knowledge in order to make sense of it. Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Social Learning, Social Constructivism, Brain-based learning are examples of the theories which will be helpful to understand the complex concept ‘learning’. For example, the Piaget’s theory of cognitivism will support us to explain what are the certain features of children at a range of age and from that, we can tell how learners tend to behave and what is the appropriate learning styles for them from visual, auditory and tactile learning styles. Last but not least, I do believe that the main aim of MCD8010: Understanding Learning and Learners is to understand learner’s needs with a view to knowing how teachers can successfully transfer knowledge to learners and also satisfy those needs. * Factors of effective learning: According to my learning episode, there are three learning factors, which are important in making learning effective. They are technology, implications of ZPD theory in learning and lastly, self-directed learning activities which will be discussed and analyzed in this essay. Zone of Proximal Development theory: Implications of the zone of proximal development (ZPD) in learning is one of the identified factors (Vygotsky 1978). The ZPD can be defined as the differences between a person’s current ability to solve an issue and they can achieve with the support from others (Gindins et al., 2017). At times, there may be some problems which the learners are not capable to come up with solutions then they will definitely need support from teachers. However, teachers often help their students accomplish a task using either verbal guidance or non-verbal gestures and this type of assistance (scaffolding) can gradually reduce as learner starts to take over the guidance and is able to work individually. For instance, the activity in which students learn to make a movie trailer on their personal devices can be an example of the activity that implies ZPD theory (Vygotsky, 1978). Since before learners started their works, they had received lectures about how to write their own stories, how to use editing software and internet. From that, they knew how to do it and even would be able to do more than the things they had been taught in lessons by exploring and accessing to internet. The scaffolding here is the lectures delivered to learners before they launched their first step in making the video. Based on Vygotsky’s theory (1978), guided participation, scaffolding and assisted learning are essential requirements in order to support students in their learning process (Gindins et al., 2017). In reference to Pruyn et al. (2017), both Piaget and Vygotsky believed that the main aim of education was to develop higher cognitive functions. Piaget’s definition of ‘development’ is the active construction of knowledge and ‘learning’ is the passive form of associations (Siegler, 2000). That is why the activities which implemented the ZPD theory of Vygotsky all encourage students to practice and work more on their own along with the assistance at the right time, right amounts (Pham et al., 2017). As a result, the reason why teachers in Silverton primary school only play the role as assistants in the learning process of the students, which means they will always stay next to them and ready to support them, such as doing part of the issue as the example or answering their questions. It proves that this kind of activity helps learners develop understanding, expanding knowledge by overcoming hardship in their learning process and interacting with the surrounding environment. Moreover, it is shown clearly that the implications of the ZPD theory by Vygotsky in learning are crucial for education. Technology in learning: Technology plays an important role and it has revolutionized how we store, find then use information. Technology nowadays is everywhere around us, such as social media, online database, smart devices and we even have electronic encyclopedias. With all those new changes in this era, teachers and students are facing a new requirement called ‘digital literacy’, in order to prepare for the future or simply to be able to use the new technologies which are updated every day. This is one of the reasons why Silverton wanted to bring technology into learning and teaching. In according to Tamim et al. (2011), technology also creates communications among learners, make students actively engage in lessons and offer them new opportunities in studying in a different learning environment. For example, every student from grade one to grade 6 in Silverton all had one personal laptop on which they would learn to how to type their documents (for grade 1/2) or to create their own videos (for grade 5/6) and access to the internet. Having their own devices means that it will increase the ability to access new technology and they have more chances to interact, then get used to it. At the same time, it also helps teachers to expand their curriculum beyond the traditional classroom, providing opportunities for students to engage with new issues and develop their ability to solve problems (Christensen, Johnson & Horn, 2008). Which is what learners will need the most for their learning process in order to develop higher cognitive functions. Moreover, ‘visual modes of thoughts’, they are images in books or from print materials and even more than that, which are moving images, lively videos or the diversity of human imagination from technology will become the growing power for learners to see things that maybe teachers would not be able to see or understand (Gindins et al., 2017). Because nowadays, for students, they need the real challenges, the real experiences with a view to leading and changing the future, not to become followers or to be told what to do. That is why technology is important in making the learning environment in Silverton ideal for developing and nurturing the young generation in order to meet the requirements which will be required in the future. Self-directed learning activities: Apart from the importance of implications of ZPD theory and the role of technology in learning is how self-directed learning activities become essential in the learning process of students. In reference to Cruickshank, Jenkins (2012), there are various types of independent study activities, but they all require the key element which is the responsibility of their own learning from learners and the amount of independence given to students will depend on their level of maturity. These forms of activities also require the student’s fulfilling contracts in doing works that are meaningful to them and they have enough available resources to use for the work. Furthermore, learners need to be checked whether they are on the right track or not and a list of what they need to do will be required too (Gindins et al., 2017). For example, in literacy class of Silverton primary school, grade 5/6 students would film by themselves and make a movie trailer from their own stories. The Australian Curriculum stated that students will become literate as they develop the understanding and the ability to interpret and learn to use language for their learning process and communications in order to participate effectively in society. Additionally, literacy involves skills such as listening, reading, speaking, writing and making oral, visual and digital texts, also using language for different purposes in different contexts. That is why teachers in Silverton replace the traditional activities for literacy class with this kind of activity. Obviously, because making a movie trailer would be much more interesting than sitting quietly in the classroom and attend the lectures. Moreover, this activity would encourage students to focus on either working on it individually or working as groups and also be responsible for their group’s result because the final mark would be the same for everyone in the group. Since they were actively engaging in the work, the focus level on the learning process, their decision-making abilities would be enhanced and at the same time, their experiences would become worthwhile and meaningful. Again, teacher’s role here was just to give them the task and ready to provide assistance when they need it. In a nutshell, self-directed learning is an important part of the effective learning for learners as it provides them a chance to learn through their own views about the world and their lessons will come naturally when they have to deal with difficulties during working out. All these learning factors, which are self-directed learning, technology or the implications of ZPD theory of Vygotsky totally completed both of our view and knowledge of what is learning. These new materials, concepts will support us, the pre-service teachers a lot in the future in making sense of the needs of learners and how we can successfully satisfy those needs. 4. Self-reflection on my personal learning experiences and learning journey: From the experiences during the placement, I have had a chance to experience a new learning environment and observed how effective learning factors used in learning by teachers in Silverton. As a learner, my main aim is to learn from the experiences in order to adapt to fit in and survive in the surrounding environment. Consequently, I will need to become self-directed in my learning, to learn how to use new technology and work with the support (scaffolding) from others with a view to constructing my understanding based on my prior knowledge. However, there are still other teaching and learning styles apart from these, so that teachers need to be flexible in using them for better achievement in learning and teaching. There are various authors, such as Dunn, Beaudry & Lavas (1989) and Hendry et al. (2005), share the same idea that it is critical to match up the learning styles with students’ learning styles for teachers. As a pre-service teacher, I have to understand that later, when we officially become teachers, we need to be flexible in choosing the right teaching styles and there are several ways for us to change and use different styles in order to reach every student’s needs. Moreover, Norton & Wiburg (2003, p. 53) also argued that image making is more capable of expressing size, shape, texture or surface, rhythm than through using verbal communications. It is why technology will become a useful tool in supporting effective learning if it is used right. Finally, the experiences I got from the placement had supported me in enhancing my knowledge and understanding about learning and important learning factors for effective learning. 5.Conclusion: In conclusion, the essay discussed the definition of learning, analyzed three learning factors in the learning episode and reflected on my learning process, also my own experiences from the placement. It is said that learning is a process which we construct our knowledge from experiences and in order to achieve better, we should take the initiative, with or without the assistance of others. That is why the idea that schools should set up an environment in which students are encouraged to develop learner-centered learning and use technology in terms of considering the Zone of Proximal Development theory is important in the learning process of learners. Last but not least, the importance of applying these three learning factors for more effective learning is crucial for teachers since from it, teachers can understand their students more and for pre-service teachers like us, these concepts completed our understanding of what is learning and encourages us to see from distinctive perspective, which is the main aim of MCD8010: Understanding Learning and Learners.