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Learning Dimensions


Some ideas around the social, the private and other learning lands. I am just trying to understand these concepts by spotting intersections with Connectivism. This is a remix of notes I left out of my previous post, Social Learning.


Take the notion of space and combine it with learning. Informal learning can occur in a variety of places. Incidentally, learning may happen with a teacher, without a teacher or in spite of a teacher. Formal learning happens when there is a school structure acting as an architect of a learning space. Yet, informal learning can take place in a university and formal learning can be seen in a social network. What does this depend on? Perhaps on the readiness to identify marginally relevant conversations in a classroom (residual knowledge). Perhaps some recognition that some instances of learning with networks we come across on the web are nothing but old things in a new medium.

Now take the social ingredient and add it to the learning soup. Social as the people factor. Social as someone who can be friendly with us should we need to pick their brains. Mind you, not your friends who like you or friends of a friend who send requests, but an ever shifting node in the network that can help you learn wherever your drive takes you in your knowledge quest. It may seem that the world is a small town. It does not matter if the node is six degrees away. It's not as much about access as it is about diversity of contribution.

How does this work?
One node at a time. At a learning ripe time. To me, the node is not there to simply share what they know or show you how they have been learning, but to learn together with you. Not social because they pressed publish to their thoughts. Not just transparent about their processes and sources. People learning right there and then, as a natural consequence of the connection and its current conversations. Something like "I can't help learning from you because you learn here and now with me".

This kind of learning timing does not seem to be liable to scheduling. It goes beyond having learning interests in common. I find it closer to personal values and attitudes to nodes and the learning process itself.

Now season it all with the Internet and what do you get?
Acceleration. Sparks. Too much to read in your RSS. Suddenly you affirm digital learning is different. Is the internal learning process (not the observable outcome) really different? Or is the digital dimension more clearly revealing or confronting us with the way genuine, long lasting learning has always been?

Think of a traditional classroom. Imagine students unable to interrupt a teacher's lecture and no mobile phone distractions. Then listen to teachers affirming that what is going on in there is knowledge transmission. Would you, digital citizen, say that the learning which may have resulted in such classrooms was due to transmission? Learning has probably never been too different. What has changed is perspective and description.

Digital learning spaces are providing new evidence. Learning is more complex than our preconceptions. The social and the space are the context of learning. Learning can happen outside context. Hard to keep in a cage called formal or informal. Is learning voluntary or involuntary? Not every student learns the same in one given classroom. Learning revolves around togetherness and individuality. Togetherness is ruled by social context and degree of synchronicity (same place, same time). Individuality is ruled by personal relevance.

Maybe the distinction between formal and informal learning is misleading. Informal learning examples are probably the evidence that formality in education is a fiction. A learning tale. I am not saying I have not learnt anything in a class. All I am trying to say is: what if it was not because of that class? Description as explanation is insufficient.

I see a lot of metonym talk around. The tool as an umbrella term for the venue, process and outcomes. Stretching an idea of learning, surpassing it or destroying it. Learning is not in the tool, but in its shadow.

Far from objective facts, my reality and truth about learning will spring from my unique perceptions and interpretations. To me, learning is experienced as social during conversations. That's how I feel it. However, our perceptions, as Dr. Carl Sagan teaches us, are somewhat limited:



Frankly, I find that most of us work on the outskirts of a true learning land. What we know is not automatically in sync with what we do. It makes me wonder whether authentic learning entails some disrespect for our most cherished illusions about difficulty grading, linearity of syllabus and hierarchies. The world is flat, we say. We are flat landers, busy building our flat classroom business, projecting our models on the dimension of learning spaces for our own individual purposes.

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