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education = meta-learning + change

 

I’ve been looking at the 2015 NMC Horizon Report: Higher Education Edition, which charts the biggest near- and longer-term trends across the post-secondary landscape. One of the key directions is advancing highly flexible and innovative learning environments..

With change comes challenge. According to the NMC Report, post-secondary institutions will struggle with how to create these flexible, customizable and personalized learning environments (as students increasingly want and demand). Related challenges include: teaching complex thinking in the context of digital information proliferation, and addressing/resolving competing models of what higher education should/does look like.

The mainstreaming of radically student-centred learning represents a massive disruption to the traditional “broadcast” model of education (one instructor + many students). Just as one-to-many “Web 1.0” gave way to many-to-many social sharing, collaboration and self-curated content consumption (“Web 2.0”), will higher ed institutions see a similarly tectonic shift?

And yet…moving toward student-centred and customizable learning may bring us closer to education in its truest sense. Carl Rogers, the influential humanistic psychotherapist, education theorist and founder of client-centred therapy, stated:

“The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change.”

Learning how to learn – the capacity to curate and critically reflect on new information and knowledge – is especially crucial at a time when ‘data never sleep’ (check out this infographic showing what happens during one minute on the Internet).

And, at its heart, all learning is really about change.

In other words: education = meta-learning + change.

welcome woodburned

 

Learning is up to the learner, but teaching is up to the teacher

 

It’s one thing to teach, and quite another to learn. Learning is up to the learner, not the teacher. Just like the old saying: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”

But…here’s the thing: You can make him thirsty!

So the question is, how do we create environments that make learners “thirsty”? In other words, how can we foster learner engagement? Herewith, my personal Top 10. Some are prosaic and some can be incredibly challenging. And that’s a good thing, because we are all learners and we’re all teachers.

1. Start as you mean to go on: Begin every workshop, class, course, etc. with a question. Establishing right at the outset that our learning journey will be collective and collaborative is key, and especially early on I make a point of explicitly praising and otherwise rewarding any and all signs of positive engagement on the part of individuals/groups.

2. Incentivize participation: We want learners to take risks and make mistakes. When a person volunteers for something high risk, reinforce the desired behaviour. I don’t advertise it ahead of time, but whoever comes to the front of the room to do a role play with me is going to go back to his or her seat with some small token. It doesn’t even really matter what it is (think $ store).

3. Provide normative feedback: Using in-class mobile polling or an audience response system (like iClickers) lets learners compare their own knowledge/opinions/beliefs/assumptions with others in the room.

4. Establish relevance: Learners what to know “what’s in it for me?” Creating learning activities that help people bridge curricula to their own lives = good. Co-constructing learning activities that address/solve real-world problems = better.

5. Show your sense of humour: It’s hard to be serious all the time. Make it fun and mix it up! Shared laughter builds group cohesion.

6. Affirm autonomy: Let’s face it. Some days we are more fired up than others about our life’s work, and it’s no different for our students. When individuals or groups just don’t seem to be getting on board, I find that stating out loud (with 100% sincerity and with 0% judgement) that how/when/if folks engage is entirely their choice seems to free up some good energy for engagement.

7. Deploy multiple “engagement channels”: Individuals come to learning environments with a range of different learning preferences and a range of preferred ways of participating and engaging. Some people like the limelight, others need time to process and formulate a thoughtful response, and many are more comfortable sharing in a smaller group. The more choices we can offer about how to participate the better, including: verbal/written, large group/small group, synchronous/asynchronous, classroom-based/online, and more.

8. Evoke affect:  Research about emotion (affect), memory, and implications for learning suggest that teaching needs to go beyond engaging at a purely intellectual (cognitive) level, and touch peoples’ feelings (for example, Sylwester, 1994; and more recent perspectives that encompass academic technology and affective/cognitive learning, Calvo & D’Mello, 2011). Create learning activities that pair new knowledge and skills acquisition with positive affect, like surprise, delight, excitement, curiosity for deeper and more durable learning.

9. Show them you care: Authentic care and concern can go far in building good will and fostering mutual respect and support for one another’s learning and achievement.

10. And last but not least – know when to break the rules (and go ahead and break them). Like the time I called it a day and took the group shopping. 

 

 

Related articles

Five Reasons why Reality TV is not a Waste of Time: How reality TV can inform teaching best practices

Seven Essentials for 21st Century Education and Teaching: Stuff it took me 20 years to learn and I’m still trying to figure out

Rules of Engagement: The “Top 4” preconditions for learner engagement

 

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What’s the difference between education and learning?

 

 

“Education is what others do to you. Learning is what you do to yourself.”

 

Amy J.C. Cuddy

 

Awareness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One word to ponder.

 

Something we are always learning and relearning.

 

 

Toronto-20130602-00130

Data is not information

Information is not knowledge

Knowledge is not understanding

Understanding is not wisdom.

 

– Clifford Stoll

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