Learning the basics is important but the bigger questions is what basics are we talking about? Learning the basics is necessary when we are learning certain subjects (may be math and chemistry or a certain language). I don’t believe that this rule applies universally to everything. It is not a simple black and white concept in my mind. It is not an all or nothing approach. It really depends on what one is learning. It is crucial to first agree on the definition of what learning means. Some people consider learning just happening in formal institutions (K-12, college, graduate school), in my opinion, learning can happen at any time and anywhere as long as one is willing and ready to engage with something new that they are interested in (or it is needed). Learning can be skills (like communication and listening and there are no pre-defined basics or methods that one needs to follow). There are appropriate ways of learning but it is not a one size fits all concept. The simplification of learning the basics takes away from the learning process and imposes that if one does not follow a certain path to learning, then some how the learner is deficient or so how the learner is missing out on pertinent information. The bigger question for me is what is the end goal? where is one trying to go with the learning and what is to be achieved or accomplished? Who is responsible for learning?
Langer poses the question if text books inform mindful learning? I agree with her that textbooks help in ones learning process and the way one writes these books can impact the ways in which people learn, but I believe there is more to textbooks. Books are written by those who are some sort of experts in their fields and believe that the information provided is what one needs to know about a given subject. I believe that just because you have the knowledge (credentials, some expertise about a topic, issue or subject) does not automatically mean that you are a good teacher. Similarly, just because the experts write the books in the way they learn, communicate in the form of textbooks does not necessarily mean that these books can teach an individual everything they need to learn. Textbooks are a starting point for learning, they are not the end, especially now with the information one can find on the web about any subject, text books are just a way to start the thinking process, they cannot and should not be the only way one engages with the materials presented. Additionally, textbooks are important for learning but it is equally important to know why one is engaging with the textbooks, what are the motivations, intentions and needs one is trying to fulfil with utilizing textbooks? It also means that teachers need intentionality on their part to find creative ways to engage the students in the learning process other than textbooks (mindful teaching is equally important).
September 8, 2015 @ 8:17 pm
I definitely agree with your comment about it not being a “one size fits all concept.” I think it is inevitable that there are certain ideas we need to know in our fields that are going to be learned from textbooks (or rather any other sort of “boring” medium), but if there are other ideas that are able to be taught using a creative way to engage students then that is where we can drop the textbooks and try a different method.
September 9, 2015 @ 6:44 pm
I agree that ‘Learning can happen anywhere’. But one cannot read a single textbook and know everything there is to know. Really, variations in textbooks are often not on the basics. The basics are usually what is accepted by the experts of the field. What is built on the basics is left to the imagination of the author. Also, part of learning is learning to learn. One should be able to learn from any textbook no matter the style of writing and this is what good teachers do as they sift through different textbooks and present the best combinations (that encourage mindful learning) to their students.