Learning is about Q’s, not A’s (pun intended)

Education still has it the other way around…for the moment. But it was good to hear that’s changing in the presentations and conversations at Alan November’s fantastic Building Learning Communities conference in Boston last week. I’ve noticed in general that the talk in education is moving from what’s the newest app/device to richer conversations about purpose.

These are themes I heard bubbling up in almost every session I attended at BLC this year. Taken together, we see new education emerging as something that is socially constructed–another idea the ancients stole from us.

Learning is public (pink bubbles)

  • learning is no longer a private transaction, but happens in the open; think Reddit
  • learning is about networking as much or more than about knowing things, a reflection of the idea that learning is not about knowledge transfer but about socially constructing knowledge; it also reflects a shift from an absolutist to a nuanced view of knowledge; again, this idea itself is nothing new, but it is new to see the  conversation entering the mainstream
  • education’s traditionally a self-referential position is looking anachronistic; generally speaking, education is a conservative, not innovative, system and schools will find inspiration and  best practices outside

Learning is about questions, not answers (blue bubbles)

  • a collection of ideas centered on the idea that learning is generative and that the engine of education is questions, not answers; or maybe better put, more learning happens through asking good questions than happens through learning correct answers; though we might call this new learning, it’s really a very old way of learning

Students are participants (purple bubble)

  • if we believe that knowledge is socially constructed, as the conversations at BLC suggest we do, then we must see students as participants in the conversation, otherwise we literally have no knowledge; this is both a synthesis and a condition of the ideas above;
  • there is a moral dimension connected to ideas of identity and self-actualization; though most of our students are not at the age of majority, they still have rights that inhere as human beings, namely ownership of their learning and indeed of knowledge, knowledge which has been–perhaps immorally?–withheld and meted out

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