Doubts about Slow learning

I thought I would enjoy this Week 13 in ChangeMooc – presented by Clark Quinn on ‘slow learning’, but instead I find myself a bit at odds with some of the ideas that have been discussed.

I think the main problem is the terminology, i.e. ‘slow learning’. I just don’t think it describes the ideas presented very well.

I understand the basic ideas behind the ‘Slow movement’ –  (Stop the world, I want to get off), and I particularly understand ‘slow blogging’ – as I have been a very slow (non-existent!) blogger over the past couple of weeks (apologies to brainysmurf and Jeffrey for not responding to your comments 🙂 ) – and I have written about this in the past

…. But….

I’m afraid I do not think the term ‘slow learning’ works as well. It brings up notions of being a ‘slow learner’, which has negative connotations. In addition, surely, particularly in this day and age, we want people to be fast learners – and by that I mean ‘more efficient’ learners. I honestly can’t see anything slowing down- so we need to be able to keep up. We need to be effective, efficient, efficacious and ethical learners.

The Adventures of Slow Learning Blog –  provides an answer to the question “What is Slow Learning?” – but I cannot see anything in the answer that relates to ‘slow’. I think what is written there is more a description of good teaching, or a possibly ideal learning environment, rather than a description of the learning process.

Clark Quinn has described slow learning as follows:

So I’m hereby initiating the Slow Learning movement. It’s a move where we care about our learners as learners, helping them with their suite of learning and problem-solving skills as well as their job-related skills. There’s an ROI here, as Jay Cross and I have argued for …….. It’s a move where we care about learners as individuals, not just helping them be better, but wiser as well. It’s about using technology to use drip-irrigation over time as well as the firehose for the moment.

There’s not much to disagree with here and I can see that drip irrigation would help learners to pace their learning – rather than the firehose approach – but thinking about it like this suggests that learning is something that you can do to people – which clearly we cannot.

There are a number of points that Clark Quinn makes which would be difficult to argue with, e.g.

Learners need a Sage at the Side – Fair enough – but isn’t it also a reciprocal process between novice and expert?

Learning should be Layered –  Again this is fair enough – but isn’t it more complex and messy than this – cyclical, random, emergent, spiral etc. etc?

Learning is more effective in small bites than big events – This reflects the ‘messiness’ of learning, but occasionally ‘the flood’ can have a dramatic effect on learning, positive or negative. Isn’t it all a question of balance, between depth and breadth, slow and fast, tidy and messy, linear and random and so on?

Clark Quinn believes that we should be designing for an uncertain world – He writes:

My problem with the formal models of instructional design (e.g. ADDIE for process), is that most are based upon a flawed premise.  The premise is that the world is predictable and understandable, so that we can capture the ‘right’ behavior and train it.  Which, I think, is a naive assumption, at least in this day and age.

I agree – but perhaps we shouldn’t even be thinking in terms of instructional design, but more in terms of thinking about learning spaces and environments in which learning can emerge, which feels less controlling to me.

So I’m still not sure where I stand with all this – but I have enjoyed thinking about it – and also found Paul Prinsloo’s blog post helpful in pulling the ideas together –  not to mention the posts that Clark Quinn has made himself this week and his two live webinars – Thank you 🙂

See also…..

…. for further writing by Clark.