Learning – actuated knowledge?

“Connectivism” Interesting, Not Sure It’s a Learning Theory suggests that learning is a verb, not a noun. The author feels that clarity of terms is important (knowledge and learning in particular). I agree. Information is the “raw” concept that is personalized (or processed) to create knowledge. Knowledge is translated to learning when we actually do something. Knowledge that doesn’t lead to a change in thought and action has limited value. Perhaps this is why corporate trainers are drawn to Kirkpatrick’s four levels of training effectiveness – the highest level focuses on results.

Marcy Driscoll defines learning as a “persisting change in performance or performance potential”. I don’t know how accurate that is in the context of what we need to do today. Perhaps we need to rethink the term “learning”. So much of what I need to do today, I don’t possess within myself at the point of need (I find many of my answers via other bloggers, Google, communities, my own personal digital knowledge base, etc.). For me, a change in performance potential is often only temporary – the core conditions change. What is needed is a change in performance right now. This fits with the definition of “learning as actionable knowledge” – i.e. I find it when I need it. Am I missing something?

Learning (in today’s era) isn’t something that we necessarily possess. A few generations ago, fixing a tractor required knowing how to fix a tractor. Today, most of our challenges aren’t physical in nature – they are knowledge based. This requires core skills of the field, augmented with knowing where to go to get the information needed for the task. Things are too complex. Effective workers (especially knowledge workers) need to create a personal network that enables access to answers when needed. Knowing how to do something now requires knowing where to go in order to do something. Learning isn’t always possessed at the time of need.

How does the concept that learning is actuated knowledge relate to the notion that learning can reside in non-human appliances? In a connectivist sense, if knowledge can be used to “do something”, then it can be classified as learning. I don’t have to possess personal mastery in order to benefit from it. If I use a software tool, and I need help, I can use the in-program help. Knowing how to use the help tool requires that I don’t have to know the contents of the help file. When I need assistance, I simply go to where I know I’ll most likely receive my answers. Repetition of the same challenges may result in learning committed to memory…but knowing where to go is the real learning challenge. Learning in this manner can reside in objects in the sense that they (”the answer”) are used for application.

2 Responses to “Learning – actuated knowledge?”

  1. Clarence says:

    I am a grade eight teacher in the small northern MB. community of Snow Lake. I have been following elearnspace for some time and have recently been mulling over the ideas at connectivism. My question is, how do you think that this theory can inform the practices of our present education system? I believe that our present system is much more concerned with socialization and training then it is with edcuation in any sense; therefore I question how a learning theory such as this can actually be actuated in classrooms?
    I have been heavily involved with educational technology for a number of years and definitely see the need to reform and remake our system so that the education our students desperately need to survive in our society can happen, I just wonder how it can be effectively accomplished.

  2. Hi Clarence,
    You’re asking a very difficult question…:). “how do you think that this theory can inform the practices of our present education system?”
    I’m hoping that it will inform the practices of today’s education system in the following manner:

    • Getting educational institutions to realize that their first task is to create competent learners. Learners need to be given the skills to provide for their own learning needs in the future. This involves teaching critical thinking, reflection, the skills to create a personal learning network, etc. Learners need to be taught how to synthesize influences and messages from multiple sources.
    • Extending the classroom. Educators should introduce learners to different tools and resources. This may involve joining a community of practice (virtual or physical), joining listservs, etc.
    • Documenting learning. eportfolios are a great way to assist learners in recording their education and collecting artifacts that prove learning. An eportfolio can be seen as a personal, life-long learning tool
    • Rethinking course design. Not all learning has to start with content. Real life doesn’t. Design courses that are centered around provocative questions. Let the dialogue (not socializing) create the “learning”.
    • Teach learners to review and consider multiple, external, often contradicting viewpoints. Let them understand diversity before making decisions.
    • Use technology as a tool for storing knowledge (i.e. furl, del.icio.us, pubsub, blogger, personal database, etc.)
    • Use technology as a tool for creating connections – blogs, wikis, IM, social network tools
    • Use technology as a tool for collaborating – wikis, groupware, synch tools

    This is a very short list, largely because implementation practices will require much more thought and evaluation. Do you have any thoughts/ideas?