Monday, January 27, 2014

Learning and knowing

What is the connection between learning and knowing?  George Siemens refers to learning as "the moment we acquire the knowledge that is missing in order for us to complete the needed task or solve a problem."  In PYP schools we talk about constructing knowledge, but Siemens points out that we do not always construct, though we do always connect things in our minds.  He writes that learning is:
  • Chaotic and messy
  • Continual - often just in time
  • Co-created instead of simply passively acquiring knowledge
  • Complex - learning changes as one element changes
  • Connecting specializations - complexity and diversity result in specialisms, but the growth of knowledge and learning involves connecting all the specialized areas
  • Continually suspending certainty - being able to live with uncertainty or being certain for the short rather than the long-term.
I was interested to read about internal and external learning networks.  For example connecting information and building understanding in our brains is internal, but the networks we create to stay current and to acquire and connect new knowledge is external.  It's important for us to be connected learners as this leads us to constantly encounter new information and knowledge.

As a technology teacher, and one who is passionate about how technology can transform learning, I'm really interested to read about connectivism, the theory of how learning happens in a digital age.  In an era when the amount of information and the rate of its growth is often overwhelming, new knowledge is being acquired all the time.  We are constantly have to make decisions and filter out the important from the unimportant, and to recognize when new knowledge is going to lead to a fundamental shift in what we do or think.  Siemens states that "learning is enabled/facilitated by technology" but at the same time our capacity to know more is still more critical than what we currently know.  It's important to be able to see connections and to recognize patterns and to know where to go and who to go to when learning.  Siemens writes "An information rich world requires the ability to ... stay connected and informed as information changes ... Network creation enables learners to continue to stay current in the face of rapidly developing knowledge."  Once again I'm thinking of my connections on Twitter.

I'm interested in how we cope when the flow of information or the creation of new knowledge happens too fast.  One of the advantages of having a PLN and using a micro-blog such as Twitter to connect to the network is that instead of having to read and process and evaluate every piece of new information, I can connect to people who have already done that and who will then pass this knowledge and their perspectives on to me (as indeed I hope I am further thinking about it and then passing it on again to others).  I feel that Twitter has certainly helped me as a learner, and while it has increased the amount of new ideas I'm exposed to, it has also synthesized these new ideas too so that I can see them both side by side and building on each other.   Now I'm much less certain than ever before about what I actually know, but what I am certain of is that I am a better learner.

Photo Credit: Saad Faruque via Compfight cc

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