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What is it like to learn?

Published by i.wilson on

Preamble

I really love learning. It often does not even matter what the subject content is. I am insanely curious and, if I am motivated, then I will search and read and read and search until I know as much as I can about a topic/subject.

Learning is fun. But it is also extremely hard. And it was only yesterday that I suddenly rediscovered how hard learning actually is.

Teaching and Learning

As the new academic year starts I will soon be stood in front of a group of eager learners. Although I teach a range of subjects, my favourite, by far, is the digital learning module. This is where my true passion for information lies and, as I start my first session, I always find myself wondering which skill and/or knowledge I should impart first.

Light bulb in a thought bubble

But what I often fail to recognise is that the learners in front of me are by no means at the same level of learning as me. Indeed, they are probably not at the same level of motivation to learn as me. As I make that statement I am not putting the learners down by any means. At my age I have experienced more, interacted more and even seen methods and artefacts come and go.

As I talk and interact with them I also assume their levels of passion and knowledge for the subject. I never stop to consider whether any of the learners really want to be there, or even whether some of them only took the module because it was the last one on the shelf or appeared to be the lesser of several evils. Passion and motivation within my sessions may vary greatly.

Learning is HARD

Within academia, we have become specialists within our own areas of study. In many cases, the tutors are the leading people within their area. Sadly I have yet to reach this accolade. The people who have, are actually the people who are paving the way! It was while browsing through YouTube yesterday that found someone who was obviously at the top of their field and it suddenly dawned on me how hard learning actually is and, to be honest with you, I was shocked that I had forgotten this.

Here is a little experiment for you. Watch the video below and see how long it takes you to give up, stop and rewind or just decide that coffee is needed.

Learning is hard…

Now I like mathematics. I actually teach it (well primary mathematics) and consider that I have quite a mathematical brain. But I will admit that I was completely lost! Even if I had stopped the video and actually factorised or even had a guess at the possible solution, I was still lost! And when I say I was lost, I was completely lost. Even the mathematics jokes sailed clean over my head!

What we need to remember…

You might be thinking, I’ve read all of this blog and he hasn’t made a point yet. Well, during that video it actually dawned on me that learning is HARD. And when I say HARD, I mean HARD! This is something which I feel I had forgotten and experiencing the pure maths video brought it straight back home, big time!

Man staring at mind map

Yes, I might have eager learners. They might highly intelligent, passionate about the subject and even have read multiple books. But the learning I am going to be facilitating might be hard for them. As an educator, tutor or facilitator of learning my job is to make it easier. I need to break things down, demonstrate small steps, show their application and purpose. Even if those small steps appear super small and simple to me, I need to remember that it is not me learning – it is them and those steps might not be small enough. Basically I need to assume that they know nothing and slowly build things up, explaining theories, providing examples for them to hook their learning on and expanding those frequently used abbreviations.

Outro

To summarise what I am saying. I had a sudden shock yesterday when watching that video. For the first time since my A-levels, I suddenly found what I was learning hard and difficult. I’m not sure why things happen, but the video made me think and ponder over the learning and its complexities.

I definitely took it on board and whenever I think something is easy or does not demand a huge amount of time for explanation or engagement I am going to pause and remember that mathematics video and that learning might be enjoyable and fun, but it is also very hard.


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