‘Slow’ learning

I watched a recent Big Ideas program which featured a panel from a conference at the Royal Society of Art, discussing ‘The Slow Revolution’.  Listening to the speakers discuss this emerging social and personal philosophy led me to thinking about the pace of life – and the pace of learning.  Several themes emerged from the discussion.

Pace – or finding the right tempo – was significant.  The right tempo….. how often do we set the tempo based on what we must cram into our learners’ minds in a given period of time.  How much time does it take to embed a skill or knowledge.  Where is the right place to make the time….

The story of someone asking for directions in New York: “How do you get to Juilliard?”

The reported reply: Practice, practice, practice… How do we allow time for practice, how do we value practice…

How are we connected – to the food we eat, to the people who make the things we buy, to the businesses we invest in, to the longer term outcomes of our actions and our decisions.

Being mindful and discerning about the many aspects of our lives.

Our sense of mortality – our own and that of the Earth.

And so in learning – what might reflection on the ‘Slow Revolution’ offer us.

I am thinking that it encourages us to work with our learners to see connections between what they are doing, and the outcomes.  It also encourages us to pause, to listen, to consider what we provide.  It could also prompt us to consider spacing of formal learning events, to allow time for new learning to become embedded and for practice… practice… practice…


Why do we think of training as a boring, anticipated pattern in shades of grey….

I still find, even with people who are good trainers, that the developmental, linear approach to learning, remains the predominant model… that the idea that people will piece together learning from a whole lot of different sources, and that we just need to provide opportunities for them to gain more pieces, and to have some sewing time and develop needlework skills, will build powerful learners – that this idea seems naive, wasteful, and unlikely to result in a quilt of any substance…

I find this surprising in a world where writers, researchers, and leaders in the field are not only discussing the power of different approaches to learning, but where they are demonstrating it, where technology gives us access to an array of fabric and patterns not even conceptualised a decade ago… there is a divide growing between those becoming expert at creating widely creative and yet practical quilts, and those sticking with starting in one corner and working to the other, time after time….

I think about how kids learn numbers and early maths – we don’t just show them the numbers and expect that they will get it after being shown once.  We don’t expect that they will get it after being shown the same way again and again – we show them different ways, we link concepts to their environment, we encourage them to find examples, we invest time and ideas and use multiple resources in a range of formats… so why do we think, when training adults, well they have covered that topic six months ago, we won’t do that again…. I am not saying we should cover a topic the same way again and again, I am suggesting that we cover different aspects of critical topics, and that we provide opportunities for people to piece their knowledge and skills together, ensuring that we provide the sewing class as well.

#change11 Quote from Stephen Downes

“Knowing is becoming more and more like the person doing the teaching…..”

Stephen Downes – Week 25 Presentation: Change 11 – http://change.mooc.ca/index.html

In this presentation [you can view the recording of the webinar using the link on the page above] Stephen Downes leads you to think deeply about the nature of knowledge and of learning.  This quote has stuck in my head – and wanted to capture it.  Around 38 mins 20 sec.

Downes then commented that you are not teaching your students – you are modelling how to learn to your students (49:00).  He is really arguing that he does not see learning as shared – that it is a personal experience that you derive from being involved in a network with others.

So – I think that means – if you are a teacher, you are creating a network, an environment in which people can derive personal learning.

Text in graphic: Developing personal knowledge is more like exercising than like inputting, absorbing or remembering

Slide from Stephen Downes Presentation - Week 25 - Change 11 MOOC

He proposed that communities don’t share anything except connections with each other.

Collaboration <=> Group

Co-operation <=> Network

Whiteboard showing differences between Collaboration in a group compared with Co-oepration in a network

Slide from Stephen Downes' Presentation in Week 25 - Change 11 MOOC