I’ve been reflecting on various definitions of learning and knowledge. Often, knowledge acquisition and learning are used interchangeably. I think they are very different terms (at least when used in the context of what it means to learn today). Acquiring knowledge leaves room for a dormant state (i.e. we know something, but we may not actually do what we know). In contrast, learning involves knowledge acquisition, but is defined by use/doing. When I learn, I’m growing in performance capacity based on acquiring knowledge. If acquired knowledge doesnt’ lead to some type of use, I don’t believe learning has occurred (a changed state of knowledge is only half the process. Our discussions of learning usually acknowledge this half, but fail to account for the equally important “doing”).
Some clarification of terms:
- Data: raw facts, symbols
- Information: Data that has been organized, interpreted, processed and made useful (useful being defined as the criterion for which the data was originally collected).
- Knowledge: information in context (i.e. understanding the significance of information) or information with semantic meaning.
- Learning: actuated (or actionable) knowledge, doing something with knowledge
I’ve received some comments from readers challenging the notion that learning is actionable knowledge. Dwelling on organizational learning, personal knowledge management, social learning, and networked learning, I’m convinced that in today’s environment, learning isn’t learning unless there is an action component.