Learning in school – my reflection on group learning and teaching.
Working and learning in small groups, and learning from and with each others had been one of my experiences in polytechnic and university learning, and throughout my teaching for the last decades. For instance, I still remember our classmates having had to present in small groups on one topic each in every week, and so the learning came principally from the classmates, though the lecturer did facilitate and debrief after each presentation. Another example would be my own teaching. After teaching in a particular class in a traditional way for some years, I shared my teaching where I actually asked students to come to the lesson with presentations on their projects they have prepared, based on their work projects for each lesson. Learning with peers online has been a natural emergence, though this is easier said than done.
Now should we be quick or slow in learning? This relates to this week’s session on Geetha’s 2007 article, A Dangerous But Powerful Idea: Counter Acceleration and Speed with Slowness and Wholeness.
On Slow Schooling:
She begins by reading a story by Rabindranath Tagore, The Parrot’s Tale (translated from the Bengali by Palash Baran Pal).
She then takes this story and extrapolates it to today’s world of educational technology and the lack of emphasis on creativity. She asks, “Now that we can do anything, what will we do?”
Here Jenny reflected on the significance of learning with Dangerous ideas for the future of teaching and learning:
She talked of the need for smallness and keeping education local (which is contrary to current moves to scale education through ventures such as the Khan Academy and indeed MOOCs). She suggested a need for slowness, meditation and stillness – an integration of mind and body. Her view is that we also need a disruptive and innovative curriculum. Embracing these ‘dangerous’ ideas will enable our children to cope with an unpredictable future. It is all about wellness, survival and expanding the inner self.
I could appreciate the way meditation, deep reflection and slow learning (schooling) could add to one’s experience and journey of learning. These may be in the forms of experiential and authentic real life learning through action and sensing the environment within a dynamic school based curriculum, with plays, activities like outings, rain forest exploration etc. These could be carried out actually based on excursion, observation of the nature, and group sharing of experiences, feelings, emotions, and stories with the elders. Does it ring a bell with what I have experienced in my childhood? Yes.
I think the return to basic is both healthy and natural for children to learn, in an environment built on nature, with plays, acting, sharing, participating all part of the learning, in order to grow and develop with wellness both physically and mentally. This may rely less on technology (the new and emerging technology like mobiles, computer softwares etc.) but more on the human quest for knowledge, curiosity and sense of belonging, in group learning, and active participation as a citizen in the community.
In the adult learning world, however, these strategies would likely gain more popularity and traction when one is looking for a deeper meaning of life, where work and play is integrated into a form of “flow” in order to make sense of the technology, networks, and people we are interacting and learning with.
So, I don’t think we have lost all the skills we have acquired when we were young, of being creative, intuitive, imaginative and innovative, only that now we may be overwhelmed with information, pressured to become multi-skilled, and to be like a superman in order to thrive in study and work.
So, may be when we grow older, we would look back at our own learning, and be surprised how much we learn with ourselves through reflection, and how much we learn through technology, and the affordance through technology, and why we are learning this way, and not that. So, if we are looking for personal learning, then retreating to a place and meditate may give you the perfect sense of one-ness with the world of nature. However, there may be the down side of sitting at the bottom of the well, looking into the sky, and think that the sky is too small, as a result of the limiting perspective.
Does scale matter in learning? Which is better? MOOC or SOOC? Is peer learning better than personal learning? Is learning within a school setting better than that of networked learning in networks? Is MOOC a community or community of practice? You are the judge.
I still love the learning from ancient philosophers. Here is my previous post on what educators could learn from philosophers:
Sun Tsu was a war strategist and a philosopher. He was praised for his great strategies and tactics at war. Researchers often refer to his strategies as the best of all times in the military arenas and have thought that they could be applied in the business arenas. And so his strategic philosophies was often used in business to win over others.
Lao Tzu was a great thinker and a philosopher. He was often conceived as a wise leader, but historians have not been able to identify him. Lao Tzu was anonymous and so no one even knew who he actually was. But his concept of leadership was stated as “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say we did it ourselves.” However, this was quoted in Network Logic as being said by Sun Tsu.
I suspect these may be due to a problem in the translation into English.
Out of the many Chinese Philosophers, the wisest one was called “Chong Tsu”. His most important and famous philosophy runs like this: “Human has a life span, but we know that there is unlimited boundary (knowledge, especially the huge amount of information, and knowledge nowadays) , to use the limited life span to chase after the unlimited knowledge boundary, it would cause “serious consequence – “death”. If you know the consequence, but still want to do it, then, it will just cause “death”. My interpretation of his philosophy is that he was trying to warn people not to chase for the unlimited “knowledge” to that extent, because there are lots of worthwhile things to do other than the mere passion of knowledge.
Another famous story from Chong Tsu was about how to learn. Chong Tsu quoted how he observed a butcher of a cow separated the fresh from bones of the cow. He noticed that the butcher had done it so naturally with speed and seemingly so easy, and so he thought it was due to the practitioner’s practice and his craft in “butchering”. The moral of the story was to illustrate the importance of mastering learning with efficiency based on “profile, pattern recognition and sensing” of the learner and its interface or artefacts – similar in concept to the connectivist’s learning approach of pattern recognition, way finding and sense making. So, his philosophy seems to provide similar direction to that of connectivism.
I am happy to share more stories of those philosophers with you. Some of these stories were lost in their formal records, but I could still recall them. The genres or themes of those stories have great significance in education and learning, and could be used as a foundation of most modern education and learning theories.
Photo: Google image