There is a reason why this site is called Create a Learning Site. The name combines two of my main passions, learning and creating. I love to learn, and I love to share what I am learning. I created the learning site as a platform to learn and to share.
I was reminded of this the other day watching a TEDx Talk on YouTube. The subject was how to know your life purpose in five minutes or rather, in five questions. Question two was: What do you love to do? What do you feel supremely qualified to teach other people?
I don’t know if I feel “supremely qualified,” but I do know the answer for me must be: “To learn!” This led to the idea of writing an issue about learning itself. After all, if we teach and train others in some way, if we lead, or if we preach, we need to keep growing or we will run out ideas and our ideas will run out of freshness. Therefore, we need to keep learning. How?
What Happens in Learning
First, a warning: learning can be unsettling. According to Jean Piaget, a pioneer in the field of developmental psychology, learning takes place in one of two ways. Most commonly, we learn by integrating new knowledge into what we already know. By connecting the new with the old we manage to make sense of it.
This assumes the new can be made to fit with the old. This does not always work. There may be contradictions or tensions producing discord and dissonance. This is where learning gets unsettling. We may therefore reject or explain away the new to save our previous framework of knowledge. In this case, we probably do not learn much. As an alternative, the tension may lead us to reconsider what we thought we knew and significantly change our beliefs, assumptions, former conclusions, and so forth. Obviously, this second type of learning goes much deeper than the first and it may be accompanied by a period of uncertainty and even anguish.
In other words, learning is dangerous. If this does not hold you back, here are a few ideas.
1. Take Responsibility for Your Learning
In a traditional understanding of teaching, it is clear who carries the main responsibility that learning takes place. It is the teacher. In a more modern understanding and especially in adult education, this is not the case. Much of the responsibility and the decision-making power (what are we going to learn?) goes to the students.
If this is true in formal education, it is even more so when we go our own way by choosing our own learning objectives. You are in charge. So take responsibility for your learning.
2. Figure out How You Learn Best
That there are different learning styles is well established by now. We commonly distinguish between four styles:
This means we learn best either through seeing things, hearing and speaking (about) things, reading and writing about things, or moving about and doing something.
There is more to it than this, of course; there are not just for different types of human beings. Some of us need a challenge, perhaps even competition, to learn well. Others need formal or informal accountability. Some of us learn best together with others and in a formal, structured setting. Perhaps it needs a degree program, diploma, or course to provide this kind of environment. Some of us learn well by themselves. In this case, perhaps a written goal or statement is helpful. Beyond a few main categories, we all have to discover and define our own learning style.
3. Ask: What Would I Like to Learn?
As with any journey, it is vital to decide where we want to go. What makes me curious? What is something I need for the next phase of life and ministry? What question has been nagging in the back of my mind?
Learning, of course, is not merely about acquiring new knowledge. In education, there is something called “Bloom’s taxonomy of learning objectives,” a systematic overview of possible goals in learning. It includes many verbs, each representing a type of learning objective. These objectives are organized into three groups:
- Cognitive goals (knowledge)
- Affective goals (emotion and attitude)
- Physical or action-based goals
To put this more simply: objectives deal either with head, heart, or hand. Under cognitive goals, for instance, come activities such as remember, comprehend, apply, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate. There are different ways of “knowing” something! Do we want to be able to recite information on a topic? Or do we want to form an opinion on an issue? Or do we finally want to understand a difficult concept?
Either way, the question is: What do I want to learn?
4. Set a Learning Path
Once we know what we would like to learn and how we learn best, we are in a position to determine how we are going to go about learning what we want to learn. Depending on our preferred learning style, we will look in different places to get what we need. Is it a book? A YouTube video? An MP3 lecture? A course or seminar to attend? A mentor we need to find? Etcetera!
5. If Necessary, Do Little Bits at a Time
Many of us do not have large blocks of time they can allocate to learning. If so, look for little blocks of time. 5 or 10 minutes of reading here and there add up in the longer run. This way, even the toilet can become a learning site (but be considerate to your housemates). Maybe we will need to switch to audio (books, lectures) in order to have learning time while traveling or doing other things.
When we work with wood, it is crucial to regularly sharpen the saw. Providing our mind with fresh ideas has the same function: it sharpens our saw. Don’t let your mind go dull!
6. Find a Way to Share
There is deep wisdom in the saying that we have not really learned something until we can teach it to someone else. In fact, one of the best ways to learn is to prepare to teach something. If you have ever prepared to teach a book of the Bible, for instance, you probably still know this book well. This is part of the reason why I created the learning site: I learn much better if I have to condense my newly acquired insights in the form of a monthly input.
7. Pay Attention to What Others Are Doing
Our best ideas may come from noticing what others are talking about or doing in relation to our field of interest. There may be something to emulate.
This is one reason why I follow a number of blogs using Feedly as a blog reader. Every once in a while, I scan through the titles to see if there is something that catches my interest. I probably read fewer than three in a hundred articles and posts, but every now and then, I find an idea for an issue of Create a Learning Site.
8. Make a “to Choose List”
To do lists are handy but we probably don’t need more of them; we face enough pressure as it is. The problem with such a list is that every item must be done. But how about creating a to choose list? This is a collection of ideas we may want to pursue in the future, without pressure or deadlines to ever complete all or even more than a few items on the list. We collect them so we have something to choose from: they are options, not must dos.
I keep a list of potential subjects for an issue of Create a Learning Site. Whenever I run into an idea, I make sure I add it to the list. I may never write an issue on it, but it is nice to have this to choose list. Plus, I make sure I don’t lose or forget a good idea. They are too valuable to rely on memory.
Similarly, I keep a long list of books I may like to read someday. I use an Amazon wish list for this. Its purpose is not to read every book on the list; it is to always have books to choose from when I asked myself: What will I read next?
So how about starting a to choose list with learning ideas?
9. Use the Toolbox
It is that time of the year when I revise and update the Digital Toolbox, my e-book with Internet resources for studying and teaching books of the Bible. The new edition came out a few weeks ago and is available to subscribers of this blog (you can sign up here).
If you don’t have any ideas what to learn next, perhaps the Toolbox is a place to start. Scan through it and see if there are any links or subjects that capture your interest, any resources that you might like to learn how to use. Explore and find something to learn!
Attribution (in Order of Appearance)
Learning: Pixabay, https://pixabay.com/de/klassenzimmer-bildung-schule-379216/, CC0
Students in a Tanzanian Classroom, One World Secondary School Kilimanjaro: Seemannaufland, https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datei:Students_in_classroom_Tanzania.JPG, CC BY-SA 4.0
Wanderer: Pixabay, https://pixabay.com/de/wanderer-rucksack-wanderung-weg-455338/, CC0
Pencil sharpener and pencil: Alexander Klink, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sharpener_with_Pencil.jpg, CC BY 3.0
Share: Pixabay, https://pixabay.com/de/%C3%B6konomie-wirtschaftlichkeit-625919/, CC0
Camera: Pixabay, https://pixabay.com/de/fotograf-fotografie-kamera-linse-80122/, CC0