My philosophy of learning is like the digestive system of our human body.
I digest and assimilate the food (ideas, resources – books, articles, on the net, artifacts, knowledge and information) and absorb those nutrients (which become emergent knowledge) out of it into my body through the blood stream (through plan-do-check-act learning reflection cycle in my connections – nodes and networks).
I will ensure that I take a variety of foods (learning network at neural, conceptual, external – communities, social levels and information sources) to maintain a healthy body and mind.
I will egest any by-products of learning (those obsolete knowledge, SPAMS, distractions, overloading of knowledge and time wasters) to keep my body clear of toxins and wastes.
The ICT and Web 2.0, PLE etc. could act as catalysts (or enzymes) for the digestion.
I would also take extra physical, spiritual and mental exercises (external support, experts’ advice, courses, community or network participation and involvement, action research and learning projects) to ensure a proper balance of my health.
Photos: credit from wikipedia on digestive system
Is teaching different from learning?
Stephen explains that: The word ‘learning’ is a success-term. It refers to the result. Although we say “I am learning to drive” we really mean “I am practicing how to drive.” If we keep practicing but get no better, it becomes foolish to say “I am ‘learning’ to drive.” That was followed by an interesting debate on what is and what is not learning by Stephen, Ken and Verónica. I like to dig deep into it, but don’t seem to have got the right words for what those definitions really mean in “theory”. May be I could join in the discussion once I have shared a few stories of learning.
To me, there are semantics involved – how the meaning of learning is interpreted especially in online learning? And how it differs from one person to another.
Learning to drive is practising how to drive. If we keep practising but get no better, could we still call this: “I am learning to drive”? That is quite difficult to conclude. Why? If I am learning how to learn, and that I keep practising but get no better, am I still learning how to learn? May be there are some hindrance to the learning itself. May be I need some help, or I want some intervention by the educators or knowledgeable others to help me to learn. So if we say learning is about practising, then practising in doing something may involve some learning, with or without the help of others, but not necessarily could lead to “learning” as defined as a success-term. So, what is success then? This would again be interpreted somewhat differently by different persons at different stages of development in learning.
May I share my story of learning?
I played harmonica when I was young. How did I learn playing harmonica? When I was around 14, I decided to play with musical instrument, and after hearing many others playing harmonica beautifully well, I thought, wouldn’t it be great to play out some musical pieces. My passion drove me to do four things:
(a) Buy a harmonica and a book on how to play harmonica
(b) Learn how to play by reading the book and joining a harmonica band
(c) Learn with others in how to play well with harmonica in a harmonica band
(d) Refine my learning through practice, reflection, comments and feedback, and corrective action cycle
So, once I had bought a harmonic and started reading the book in how to play harmonica, I started to play harmonica. Within two weeks, I could play some basic musical pieces, and to my surprise, I could play many pieces without referring to the musical books. I didn’t know how to read the “dots or notes” at the time, and so I was still a “novice in music”. However, during the first week when I joined the harmonica band, I was able to follow all instructions by the expert instructor (who was the expert master at the time in Hong Kong – Mr Leung Yat Chiu, who was so generous in devoting his time in teaching us how to play harmonica without being paid). So, on one hand I have “learnt” how to play harmonica even before I joined the harmonica band (class), but then on the other hand, I was still not yet perfected in learning how to play. In the following weeks and months I kept on practised playing harmonica (which was really annoying sometimes to our neighbours, especially when there were no acoustic insulation in our house :)). I also learnt a lot in refining my skills by learning through the harmonica band, and practising there. I did participate in the band for two to three years and our harmonica band won a consecutive Runner Up in an Inter-school Competition where I was proud of.
Learning to play a musical instrument is an act of learning. Whether learning has occurred would depend on how I have practised it (my harmonica playing) and how I have refined the skills in playing it better each time. Could I learn how to play well just with the books? May be if I were a genius! I found that I could play any pieces of music by just listening to the notes, even without knowing how to read the standard music book, but then I would need to rely on my musical memory of the notes in order to play out the piece accurately.
In the process of learning how to play harmonica, I started off with self-learning, and then I was both taught by the instructor and my other harmonica team members through their sharing, comments, feedback and practice with me. I can’t claim that I know how to teach others how to play harmonica, as I learnt that in the first place through self-teaching and learning, followed by instructions by instructors. However, I must admit that the first 2 weeks of self-paced teaching and learning had made a big difference in molding my thoughts about self-directed learning, in that learning how to learn is as important as learning how to play a certain musical instrument, as there are so many similarities between the two: they require thinking, learning through practice and action, that are most often driven by intrinsic motivation, though extrinsic motivation could help, and most importantly, practice could make “things” perfect, through internal reflection, evaluation, and critique, and then action again.
The above account is my personal anecdote about teaching and learning. Does it sound familiar to you, when you were learning at a young age?
Here are some images of model on experiential learning. Which of them could explain what I have learnt through the harmonica learning experience?
If I were to “teach” someone how to play harmonica, what would I suggest? Would I be recommending to other how to learn with what I have experienced before? May be through the above story. But whether this works for others is totally unknown to me and us. Why? Each of us learns differently. If you want a successful learning, you would need to think about what you need to do to achieve your passion or goals. You might seek advice from others if you wish to, but eventually you are the one to decide what is in your best interests.
So, what are the assumptions here in learning? Have we assumed that what works for me works for you? No? If we were to teach others how to play a musical instrument, have we assumed that others really want to learn how to play first? Should we teach by giving instruction first? Would this depend on what the “learner” actually want? However, “I don’t know what I don’t know” if I haven’t experienced it before is a typical “schema” or mindset written in the minds of learners (or just a white piece of paper without any writing there). So, if we bear this in mind, then learning about something entirely new could be coined by the novice learner as: “Tell me what I have to learn, then tell me what I could learn, then tell me what I should have learnt” so I know at least what I am expected to know in this learning. Otherwise, may be just like what I have experienced, let me (as a learner) figure it out, and I will learn it in a way that suits me.
But is that learning effective? That had been shared in another post on Teaching and Learning. From which perspective are we referring to this teaching and learning? Teacher or learner.
I think “we” need to consider learning from a “micro-learning” and “macro-learning” perspective too. I will elaborate the differences between micro and macro learning theories in the coming posts.
So What is learning and teaching to you? What is the difference? Your story…..