I love learning, and it can be even more enlightening to learn about learning.
An excellent example of learning about learning is the HarvardX class Leaders of Learning, offered through edX.org. Although it quickly became apparent that the class was intended for educators, I decided to complete it anyway.
My final grade was 99% and I earned an Honor Code Certificate (pdf) for successfully passing it.
Modes of Learning
The class closely examined four modes of learning, based on the various combinations of these two independent qualities:
- Collective or Individual
- We can learn either in a group or alone
- Hierarchical or Distributed
- We can learn in either a formal environment, where the reward is a grade, perhaps leading to a degree of some sort, or in an informal environment, where the only reward is the additional knowledge
There are certainly other ways to look at learning, and at first these terms can seem a bit foreign. But this is how we analyzed the act of learning, and how education is changing, in this class.
Analyzing Four Ways to Learn
Because these qualities are independent, we can view the various combinations of them as quadrants in a table:
|Hierarchical||Hierarchical-Collective learning often takes place in a classroom in a public school or at an accredited college or university||Hierarchical-Individual learning takes place when a more knowledgeable person teaches a student one-on-one, for example, when tutoring|
|Distributed||Distributed-Collective learning is the learning children might experience in a playground, when learning a sport, or what adults experience at meetups and conferences||Distributed-Individual learning takes place when we read a book, on our own, to gain the knowledge therein and nothing more|
The class began with a self-assessment. On the initial assessment, I scored much higher in the Distributed-Individual quadrant (73%) than I did in the others (20-30%).
The assessment was accurate because, since graduating from college, I have been mostly keeping up-to-date with technical advancements on my own, specifically by reading O’Reilly books.
Venturing into Other Quadrants
The class encouraged self-awareness and flexibility in crossing into other quadrants.
The class was intended for educators, and stressed that these four quadrants represent the playing field. With the internet changing everything, it’s important to know what your strengths and options are.
As a life-long learner, it’s also easy to see that flexibility on my part can lead to new and improved learning opportunities and experiences. In fact, this class was one of the things that encouraged me to start going to meetups and taking more MOOCs.