Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Learning or consumption?

Ubiquitous learning is a concept which I see quite often in articles. The idea is that learning is accessible anywhere and at any time. We can access the net, download lectures to our mobile terminals, communicate and collaborate whenever we want. But how often can it be truly labelled as learning?

We consume vast amounts of information every day but how much do we learn from it all? I watch films, read articles, listen to talks but I'm afraid I don't retain too much of it all. I have to do a fair amount of active processing before I can really say I've learnt something from it. Sadly I consume vast amounts of information without really reflecting over it. To learn something I need to reflect, discuss with someone, take notes or take some kind of action based on the information. Otherwise it just fades away into the subconscious leaving only a few random impressions. It would be more accurate to talk about ubiquitous information. We can access everything everywhere and there is an unlimited amount of it. To turn that into learning requires the addition of some kind of structure, some kind of timetable with deadlines. If not we merely consume.

We can fill the net with excellent educational content offering the potential for learning but without structures for reflection and processing we will seldom learn from it all. Consumption of information is passive whereas learning is active and I think the former is what we are mostly involved in. We mistake the presence of information for learning. That's where the teacher comes in - to provide framework and focus to turn information overload into learning.