Friday, August 02, 2013

Learning is Like a River

Sometimes I think that people forget learning has a river-like quality.

Information enters and then it travels a river-like path. As the information travels it connects to multiple experiences, efforts, questions, and thought.  Information transforms as it travels its river-like path bending, yielding, bounding, still, and splashing against rocks.

Hence, for learning to have strength, it is important for educators to understand the wavy waters and long path that learning takes. Therefore give learning time.

Introduce the question early. Let those questions simmer in the learner's mind. Then add to the learning with anecdotes, questions, information links and more questions. After that meet to share reflections, questions, connections and experiences. Then set collective goals. Assess the goals together, share the information with all involved. Revise accordingly and continue the process as the learning changes.

Sometimes learning is presented as much more of a finite process--here it is, learn it, know it. There's no time to ponder, reflect, and make connections.  There's no opportunity to collectively establish learning goals, share the process with others, and work together to assess your work. That learning holds less potential than learning that is treated like a meandering river path that twists and turns gaining strength until it is deposited into the wide ocean of collective knowledge.

Schools of old, factory model schools, responded to learning with a more finite, fixed process. New schools are in a sense innovation centers that embrace learning as an ongoing river-like process, a shared journey, and collective path of ongoing study, inquiry, and quest.

Patterns of communication, schedules, and structure, in many cases, have not kept up with the changing understanding of learning and the potential that learning holds.  That's the next step for many schools as they transition from "factory-model" environments to learning labs and communities. Labs and communities like riverboats that welcome all in the journey to discover, relate, and apply learning with strength.