This is a second part of a series exploring Virtual Learning, and the ways that we can design for curiosity and creativity. The series is based around some tips and techniques, so is intended to be practical and applied. I am writing it in parts, and today will be a short piece exploring how learning is a process of breaking yourself.
Within the comfort of our own minds, we seek to make sense of things: this layer of ‘sense making’ is just one part of a complex process, part of which is done in isolation, and part of which is done collectively, to figure out how the world works. So our knowledge, capability, and understanding, is held within frames that we have constructed, and ‘learning’ something new can be a challenge to this.
As we are exposed to new ideas, new knowledge, it rubs up against those things that we already know to be true, and one of several things may happen: we may simply adopt the new thinking wholesale, and incorporate it into what we know, we may take part of it and reject others, or we may deny it outright and stick to what we already have. Partly this is a conscious reflective one, and partly a subconscious and biased one.
With this in mind, i would normally say that learning depends upon disturbance: a disturbance to challenge, fracture, or replace, those things that we already know to be true.
In the context of Virtual Learning, this is important, because (as i explored yesterday), we are able to build ‘learning journeys’ that take place over time, and over time we have greater opportunity to introduce disturbance in interesting ways.
Of course, disturbance is just the start: once we have completed that ‘sense making’ process, we build a new version of our private truth. A mosaic made partly of the old, and partly of the new.
That’s why i drew this piece: to show how the thing we learn is constructed, and constructed on a personal level. What i build may be different from what you construct. Not radically different, but perhaps using a few different tiles.
Mosaics are made up of tiny tesserae, each of which is abstract until it’s relative position gives a overarching picture. It was common to dig up an old mosaic to make a new one, hence why i borrowed the image.
Again, i find this useful to understand learning: even if we gave everyone the same picture to begin with, as we break and reform ourselves, we diverge. Keeping some of the same pieces, for sure, but also incorporating, or even making, new ones.
Perhaps the image that the mosaic makes is one that is only visible to ourselves.
This leaves us with some practical things to consider, notably, where does the disturbance come from?
It may be imposed from outside, or found from within (and again, this is a tick for Virtual Learning Journeys: they create space to ‘find it from within).
We can use diagnostics to indicate a disturbance, or indeed we can disturb people to learn just by telling them to. But better is to consider how we find it within: through curiosity, through creative activity, or within our communities.
An early question to ask ourselves in Learning Design is about where will the disturbance occur, and to plan our design accordingly.
It’s easy to get hung up on the mosaics that people will construct, but perhaps we should focus more on the mechanisms by which they take apart the old, and how we can celebrate and learn from the diversity of images created.
Throughout this week i will share a short, practical series, exploring the context of Virtual Learning, intending to highlight some of the underlying design approaches, and providing some practical tips and techniques.
Tomorrow we will explore how Virtual Learning works, or fails.