Learning webs: What I call “LIFE”

Interesting reading this week on learning webs and “deschooling society”…  It resonates, because the design of a learner-driven learning web is how I personally have experienced my best learning.  Technology has evolved to the point that if a learner takes on this responsibility – seeking out objects, models, peers, and educators that fit their needs and nourish their curiosities – achieving the outcomes is not only possible, but truly real.  However, this approach hasn’t replaced traditional schooling, merely supplemented it.

Makes me wonder how we would be evolving as humans if either (a) it did replace traditional schooling, or (b) began at a younger age.  I think many people start seeking out these things on their own in early adulthood; what if it began at school age?

A couple of things clearly and squarely landed with me – objects and artifacts… digging in and taking things apart to understand how they work… experimenting to experience how the world works.  To this day, I remember my mother walking in on me in my room when I was about 12… with a telephone taken completely apart, phone_1887073ipieces all over my floor.  “What are you DOING?!” was her immediate response…  “I took it apart – I wanted to see how it works,” my reply.  She was aghast, and I’m sure also completely convinced that the phone would never be restored to working order.  But it was.  And I had gained knowledge and understanding, in a very real experience.  Her reaction and my experience were a perfect illustration of experiential learning – having not experienced taking the phone apart, but merely seeing dozens of pieces laying on the floor she had no way of comprehending how I might begin to put it back together.  But having taken it apart, I knew exactly what to do.  And had higher-level knowledge about the technology to boot.

Second, the idea of seeking out skill models…  It’s astonishing to me how often this falls short, even when it is sought.  I’m struck at how far we’ve come from apprenticeship type experiences and relationships.  In so many of the settings I’ve participating in – when teaching people a skill, the experience falls so far short of someone accomplished actually modeling the skill.  Rather, it is more often directing or telling someone how to do something – possibly also then giving feedback to refine the performance.  But how often do experts actually show a learner how to do something – modeling technique?  Demonstrating trouble-shooting?  The only way to build skills is to practice them – the best way to start to understand what to do is to see someone else do it…  Where do we miss opportunities to show rather than telling someone how to perform a skill?

As educators and leaders, where are we missing opportunities to empower learners to take ownership for seeking out the opportunities and connections they need to explore the knowledge and skill areas important to them?  Within or outside classrooms?  How can we help learners discern and identify valuable role models and mentors?  It seems to me that we can achieve greater transformation from within by encouraging this mindset…