I promise that there is a long line of cool people who think these kinds of questions are important, and not just a waste of time: Socrates, Erasmus, Wittgenstein and a whole pack of postmodernists. We use words all the time where we donâ€™t pay attention to the meaning (nothing like teaching English to teach you that!) or where the meaning changes when we changed the context. love. i love my house, my cat, my partner, my computer chair, fall leaves, the smell of roast chicken, and a whole host of other things in very different ways. I donâ€™t need to explain them, because the contexts are probably familiar to you. But. But if I say, I love Bonnie, you are left asking, who is bonnie and what do you mean love? Words like weird, nice, fun, deadly, terror, smelly and easy are also like this. They require context before they have meaning. If I tell someone that my quodlibetal was funâ€¦ they will probably be confused.
What is learning?
The simplest definition of this is – acquiring knowledge. A slightly longer definition would be To gain knowledge, comprehension, or mastery of through experience or study.
Either way, we have the words â€˜acquireâ€™ and â€˜knowledgeâ€™. Other definitions could be found, but, probably, they would leave with some version of â€˜get knowledgeâ€™. Getting is an action verb, it leaves us with the question â€˜how to we getâ€™. Knowledge is a nounâ€¦ we need to know what it means.
What is knowledge?
This is the tricky part. I like this definition from dictionary.com â€œFamiliarity, awareness, or understanding gained through experience or study.â€ Essentially – what you get from learning.
Weâ€™ve created a circle, and quickly. Thatâ€™s why i told you it was a waste of time. someone might say at this point. But lets ask the question another way.
What does it mean to know?
This depends on what we are talking about.
- know whatâ€¦
- If we are talking about â€œthe generally accepted fact about an issueâ€ like â€œwho is the president of the united statesâ€â€¦ to know is to have the information â€˜George W. Bushâ€™ somewhere in you head. This kind of knowledge is as old as recorded (see the word recorded) history. (often called â€˜know whatâ€™)
- If we ask about a current phrase like â€œwhat is web 2.0â€³ we are going to get a different kind of knowing, as George Siemens says â€œChoosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision.â€
- If we are talking about â€œto know how to fix my carâ€ this may involve knowing how to combine the information form my instruction manual, with my knowledge of how to use tools, and my experience doing it before (often called â€˜know how)
- if we are talking about â€œdo i know how to blogâ€ the answer changes again. The answer to the car question has a limited number of responses. There are a certain number of parts to a car, and a limited amount of ways they can break down. A blog runs on a completely different set of rules. You can add links to other places, images, audio, video, wikis, rss or a bunch of other things that I canâ€™t think about. The technology does limit you, but among the things that are possible are an indefinite amount of choices.
What it means â€˜to knowâ€™ is very different in both those cases. In the case of the president, it is to remember a recognized fact. In the case of web 2.0 it is a far more complex â€˜decisionâ€™. It is actually a decision about what definition to give. In the second set of examples, what it means to â€˜knowâ€™ has far more to do with â€˜decisionsâ€™ about assembly, rather than â€˜interpretationâ€™ or what would be the â€˜correctâ€™ thing to do in the case of the car.
So, letâ€™s return to our original questions.
What is learning, when we are talking about learning how to â€˜decideâ€™ about blogging?
What is knowledge when we are talking about things that shift instead of things that are solid?
What happens to Jeopardy! if there are no right answers? There are certainly right answersâ€¦ as long as quantum theory doesnâ€™t disprove 2+2=4 (whether this is knowledge or not is a whole other ball of twine the cats played with) and we leave sarcasm out of it, facts will not disappearâ€¦ we are, however, adding a new kind of knowing, and many things we used to think of as Truth will become â€˜truthsâ€™. A kind of knowing that we will all have to get used to.
I was having a skype discussion at the same timeâ€¦ and this is what I got from barbara sawhill
Barbara SawhillÂ Reminds me of the argument I have with people about learning a language vs acquiring a languageâ€¦being proficient in a language vs being communicatively competent.
[21:25:24]Â â€¦Â we need to get our terms straight, although i fear that means that we spend 20 mninutes of preamble for every point we want to make setting out the context so we donâ€™t offend, confuse or be misinterpretted
[21:26:01]Â dave cormierÂ trueâ€¦ but were not arguing about tableâ€¦ weâ€™re educators arguing about learning and knowledge
[21:26:09]Â â€¦Â thatâ€™s a good point[you made]â€¦ iâ€™m going to add that.
[21:26:15]Â Barbara SawhillÂ table?
[21:27:25]Â â€¦Â When there is no right or wrong, no right answer no wrong answer, it can be a very linberating thing for students and a very terrifying thing for teachers. But what i have learned in my 300 years as a language teacher is that unless you make mistakes, take risks, piss people off, wjatever, learn ing does not happen.