Learning how to learn

learninghow-to-learn No1 educational magazine india

We are living in volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world and are in a constant flux. Change is fast be it in the industries and technology. New business models and technologies are emerging and consumer behaviour is changing like never before and evolving all the time. To top it all artificial and machine learning is affecting almost every aspect of human activity. As Andrew Ng has famously said “AI is the new electricity”.

This ever-increasing pace of change can be especially demanding and forces us to understand and quickly respond to big shifts in the workplace and how work must get done. In the words of Arie de Geus, a business theorist, “The ability to learn faster than your competitors may be the only sustainable competitive advantage.” There is a general consensus that ‘learning’ is the key to prosper and the way is by becoming a lifelong learner. A correlated question is ‘What is worth learning?’. But it boils down to ‘Learning how to learn’ what we want to learn. The focus in traditional education is entirely on what the learner is mandated to know, rather than on how to learn. And learning is assessed at the lowest level of Bloom’s Taxonomy by the ability to ‘write what is in the prescribed book(s) without looking at them during examination time’.

In learning to learn, success is not linked to the content a person acquires but to their development as a learner, so that when faced with situations in the future they have the personal capability to find new approaches or fresh information, and they are able to apply these in an effective manner. 

Educational content remains important, but there is a shift from a concern with delivery and assessment, towards the use of content in helping learners gain new learning skills. Connected with learning to learn is the ability to determine your own learning needs and to reflect continuously on the learning process. Another perspective on learning to learn is how to combine personal priorities with learning opportunities. Learning to learn makes sense in a world where nearly half of all job titles are now expected to change within 20 years and personal values cannot be linked to fixed measures of success. But the rethinking and techniques that are required for learning to learn are neither easy to acquire nor easy to teach in a classroom. Becoming a self- managed learner is not enough, as at least part of the problem in learning is too many options and unclear aims. The next steps include recognising that learning to learn is worth the investment in time, and looking for learning frameworks that bring together opportunities for learning around a mindful and reflective approach to life.

It isn’t as if we don’t know how learning happens. It’s just that the education system ignores it. Healthcare improves over time because the outcomes of medical research are implemented as medical protocols, but the outcome of educational research continues to be buried in conference proceedings, research papers and Ph.D theses and the practice of teaching continues completely oblivious of all these valuable insights.

To acquire learning skills one can draw upon the research and thinking already done to build upon them. We can draw upon the findings of Cognitive Science, identify the barriers to one’s learning and one’s learning resistance, use our metacognition to facilitate learning, overcome the illusions of learning and try to apply the Feynman technique for learning anything. In the recent past there are a whole range of possibilities for learning in the online world: Wikipedia, online courses and MOOCs including SWAYAM, Podcasts, TED talks and other YouTube videos, BBC learning, Wikiversity,

The new opportunity for learning how to Learn is in the form of mobile Smartphones and a large number of Apps, some Generic and some for specific purposes. The Generic Apps are like: Gmail, Evernote, Keynote, wordpress, Twitter, YouTube and Whatsapp. The specific purpose Apps are like: Khan Academy, Blinkist, Duolingo, NCERT e-pathshala etc. In addition one can use services like Google alerts to be regularly updated on topics of interest, one can post queries on Quora.com and also continuously learn from queries posted by others and the responses to them.

Subscribing to thematic newsletters is also of great use. Curating related content with tools such as Padlet, Pinterest is a great way of collating and sharing information resources Using mindmaps as a methodology to organise knowledge and building concept maps is a great way to make learning easier, and well designed Infographics can communicate very effectively to the Self-directed learner. To really pursue learning how to learn, one would have to make a commitment to oneself. Overcoming procrastination and finding time for learning is the first step. Gradually this will lead to the formation of the habit of learning. You will have to do things that foster positive learning situations and try to reduce or totally remove the negative elements that come in the way of your learning.

Many great persons in the past were auto-didacts.
See https:// en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ autodidacts

But they were the exceptions and naturally driven. Today we can help a person become a self-learner.

Learning to learn makes sense in a world where nearly half of all job titles are now expected to change within 20 years and personal values cannot be linked to fixed measures of success. 

One must appreciate that today there is a very significant change from the earlier learning environment.

Four key changes are:

1 A shift from discrete learning events (classroom, seminars, workshops) to learning processes that blur the difference between formal and non-formal learning resulting in Omnichannel learning

2 A shift to remote from face to face. Learning is an everyday experience that we can routinely participate in remotely, typically online and, more often than not, through mobile devices.

3 From dependency to empowerment. Self directed learners take a greater responsibility for their own development. Empowered learners enjoy being in control; they expect quick solutions to their problems; they don’t take any one person’s opinion as gospel; and they realise that everyone, including them, is now a teacher as well as a learner. The days of the ‘sage on the stage’ seem numbered.

4 From synchronous to a-synchronous and fast a-synchronous; allowing a space shift, time shift and device shift in the learning.

In short, there are several options, only if one is willing to take