Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Seven Billion Learners

Learning styles was a big part of my graduate studies. And since that time people increasingly shy away, from conversations about VAK (Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic) and other specific learning styles and how they should be applied. Mostly because the research has found that there is no significant difference in teaching to any particular learning style. Don't get me wrong, having a discussion with someone about how they learn and drawing upon previous research regarding learning styles is a great conversation to have. Any conversation that helps a person (or myself) understand how they learn is an important conversation for everyone.

Some background
I am currently involved in the Learn Creative Learning MOOC with MIT and P2Pu. We are into the fourth week and the theme of the readings is Big Powerful Ideas. The weekly readings are fantastic and really get into self-directed learning and how we learn as kids... etc., etc... please read for yourself;
The weekly reflection was to discuss a personal big idea. One that you could drive a life's work upon.

The powerful idea
My powerful idea has been building for years and is well articulated in the statement that there are seven billion learning styles. What I mean by this is that every person on the planet has their own personal learning style, and our learning and education systems need to be built around this. I come to this from a collection of personal understandings, supported by a whole bunch of research and proven theories;
  • Learning builds upon itself where people build knowing through sequential learning (cognitivism).
  • People construct knowledge (or learn) based on their previous knowledge. Sense is made by related current learning upon previous learning and experiences (constructivism).
  • People learn best by making things "outside" of the learning environment. Constructing things is important to deepening learning (constructionism).
  • The idea that people can learn things in many different ways, with many different approaches, with many different senses (learning styles).
  • Humans are social animals and learning is a social activity. All knowledge is connected via the objects or nodes within our lives (the objects are also our friends and social network) (connectivism)
  • People can be self-directed learners outside of the institution (Heutagogy or Autodidacticism)
The idea isn't that big or powerful?
Well if everyone has there own learning style then our education systems should focus on teaching people to identify and leverage their own personal learning style. People could be given the skills, knowledge and personalized approaches to learn whatever they want with an approach best suited to them. I believe we now have the knowledge, technology and openness to create learning environments that can be customized to each learner, and these learning environments will honour each persons learning style (all seven billion). I believe people have the ability to develop these skills and abilities, early in their lives, with focus toward their teen years for solidifying their personal approaches. So the big idea I continue to work toward is to inspire adult learners to recognize they can learn whatever they want (within reason) on their own with the support of the people and objects around them. And they don't have to go to school to do this. This doesn't mean school isn't a useful part of their personal learning environment.

How I am implementing the powerful idea?
  1. Develop an approach to inspire people to teach themselves. I call this Agile Learner Design (ALD), but in the end it is kinda my own personalized learning methodology. I believe everyone could also develop their own learning methodology. I believe ALD can be reused by others...
  2. Encourage people to map out their own learning journeys, and assist people in finding ways to travel on these journeys.
  3. Open up accreditation, and assessment will follow... I have believed that Open Access Accreditation is as important as Open Educational Resources. Digital and Open Badges are some of the initiatives that opens up accreditation. I am an active contributor to the digital and open badges movement.
  4. Be an example: I believe so much that people can teach themselves that I am wanting to serve as a documented example. I am involved with the Open and Networked PhD program, which endeavours to have people recognized (and accredited) in having a PhD level of knowing without having attended a traditional university to accomplish this goal. References to this journey, include;
  5. Blog extensively about my belief, activities, and learning journey.

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