FSLT13 – What is learning?

FSLT13  has started this week, and today George Roberts, Marion Waite and Elizabeth Lovegrove  ran the first live session in Blackboard Collaborate (View the recorded session here) .

Officially this is the Orientation week, so this synchronous session was simply to explain how the course will run, to have a go at using BB Collaborate tools (see below) and to raise and answer questions.

Screen shot 2013-05-09 at 18.22.12

This First Steps course has a very ‘friendly’ and supportive feel to it. It is open, but not massive. Over 250 have signed up and 12 have signed up for accredited assessment. New this year is the involvement of 20 volunteer ‘expert’ participants – people who have considerable experience of teaching in HE or who participated in FSLT12 last year. Alec Couros and Lisa Lane, have called these people ‘mentors’ on their courses. Finding the word that accurately describes their role is a bit problematic, but in FSLT13 the expert participants have already been proving their worth, responding to blog and forum posts and encouraging engagement.

Whilst this is an orientation week, no time has been wasted in getting down to the nitty gritty, with George Roberts asking the question in the Week 0 Moodle Forum – ‘What is learning?’ This is a very weighty question. I remember that last year I referred to Stephen Downes’ statement that ‘to learn is to practice and reflect and to teach is to model and demonstrate’. Ever since I first read this I have liked it. It is very straight forward and emphasises the process of learning and teaching. Of course, learning can also be a product which is articulated in this infed.org website.

What I particularly like about this website page is the quote from Carl Rogers

I want to talk about learning. But not the lifeless, sterile, futile, quickly forgotten stuff that is crammed in to the mind of the poor helpless individual tied into his seat by ironclad bonds  of conformity! I am talking about LEARNING – the insatiable curiosity that drives the adolescent boy to absorb everything he can see or hear or read about gasoline engines in order to improve the efficiency and speed of his ‘cruiser’. I am talking about the student who says, “I am discovering, drawing in from the outside, and making that which is drawn in a real part of me.” I am talking about any learning in which the experience of the learner progresses along this line: “No, no, that’s not what I want”; “Wait! This is closer to what I am interested in, what I need”; “Ah, here it is! Now I’m grasping and comprehending what I need and what I want to know!” Carl Rogers 1983: 18-19

This aligns completely with my belief that learning is not so much about what we know but about who we are. My thinking has been very much influenced by Etienne Wenger’s work on learning and identity. Ultimately, however we learn, it changes who we are. Through learning I learn about who I am and that knowledge influences everything I do. That’s what learning is all about for me.


3 thoughts on “FSLT13 – What is learning?

  1. Cris Crissman (@Cris2B) May 10, 2013 / 3:53 am

    As someone in FSLT13 identified as an “expert participant,” Jenny, I share your uneasiness. I’ve served as a mentor in Lisa and colleagues’ POTCERT and that’s a bit different because we are assigned specific participants to work with. I feel more like a guide in FSLT13. Though I’m still chuckling over Lindsay’s “plant” suggestion and considering adding a green leaf to my profile icon.

    I really connected to Downes’s definition of learning that you’ve shared. Only I would edit it a bit to read “to learn is to practice and reflect and to teach is to model and demonstrate and practice and reflect.” So learning is always part of teaching.

    Final connection here: Do we learn about who we are or through learning do we create who we are? I think the latter is more actualizing.

    Thanks for blogging about this first session. I always look forward to your posts.

  2. jennymackness May 10, 2013 / 11:58 am

    Hi Cris – thanks for taking the time to comment on this post and for your insightful observations.

    >>Do we learn about who we are or through learning do we create who we are? I think the latter is more actualizing.

    This is a very interesting question, but I wonder how much we are in control of the learning process, i.e. how much we can create who we are, and how much is serendipitous, i.e. being in a certain place at a certain time, with a certain mindset etc.

    And I wonder whether in trying to ‘create who we are’, it might mean that we are less open than we could be to the uncertain, unpredictable nature of learning.

    I’m just thinking aloud here. I don’t know the answers. It’s hard enough knowing who I am 🙂

  3. Cris Crissman (@Cris2B) May 14, 2013 / 4:41 pm

    Ionesco said, “It is the question that enlightens.” And this question of self-actualization seems a good one to explore this summer/this life. Thanks for inspiring me to read Rogers’s “On Becoming a Person,” Jenny. It’s one of those classics I’ve heard so much about that it seems second nature to me but I should go to the source.

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