by Terry Heick
Why should someone learn?
While Paulo Freire, John Dewey, and others have provided compelling arguments for what might be the goal of education, learning and education are not one and the same. One simple overarching goal of learning, as opposed to education. might be for each learner to understand “how to work well in one’s place,” wherever that place may be.
Learning—here defined as the overall effect of incrementally acquiring, synthesizing, and applying information—changes beliefs. Awareness leads to thoughts, thoughts lead to emotions, and emotions lead to behavior. Learning, therefore, results in both personal and social change through self-knowledge and healthy interdependence. In fact, this may be the truest–and wordiest–definition of 21st century learning possible: intimate, self-directed learning experiences that serve authentic physical and digital communities, ultimately leading to personal and social change.
Self-knowledge is formed through ranges of meta-cognition and basic epistemology.
1. What do I know?
2. What am I curious about?
3. What questions and answers have those before me created?
4. What do those around me need from me?
5. What do I need from them?
6. What is worth understanding?
7. What is the difference between awareness, knowledge, and understanding?
8. What are the limits of knowledge?
9. How does uncertainty affect me as a thinker?
10. What does one “do” with knowledge?
11. What does my community–however I define it–require from me, and I from it?
12. Why learn?
Globalization & Citizenship
Authentic self-knowledge and accountable local placement promote healthy communities that can solve problems and celebrate knowledge on a scale that resonates globally. But what does this mean to the learner—the individual that should be the focus of any learning process, platform, or initiative?
How should the role of the teacher change in the light of modern access to information in much of the world? (And how is information different than knowledge?)
Should education aspire to “keep pace” with technology change? Do we fully understand the consequences of this ambition? Since globalization is first and foremost a matter of local citizenship, a question must be considered: where does citizenship begin?
Essayist and social critic Wendell Berry for years has addressed large questions regarding the intersection of the individual, society, business, and technology. Berry cautions that a “refined, discriminating knowledge of localities by the local people is indispensable if we want the most sensitive application of intelligence to local problems, if we want the best work to be done.”
One interpretation of this idea references the notion of scale; in fact, most challenges of application (in this case, learning) can be reduced to challenges in scale. An implication then would be for one to design a “scale-able” curriculum by, among other things, beginning and ending with the local “self.”
In lieu of outward content knowledge, perhaps the goal of all learning should be self-knowledge–themes of identity and purpose, then connectivism and interdependence–ultimately leading to self-directed thinkers who care for their connections with others, and the consequences of their “cognitive behavior.”
This “self-caretaking” is radically different than externally-directed, measured, and motivated performance in both tone and purpose. But this redirect of the purpose of learning isn’t just about motivation or even a classroom striving to be “learner-centered”–it’s about re-centering the entire learning process itself.
Alone this is a minor shift, but on a macro level this kind of thinking just might lead to the innovative, “different” thinking by a new kind of learner who just has to solve a problem, correct an conflict, or create art.
Masterpieces are rarely created under compulsion.