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Friday, January 2, 2009

The heart of learning... is the question

George Siemens's post before Christmas about the Pirate Hoax really got me thinking about how the world is changing. It concluded with the line:

"Information is now validated at the point of consumption, not creation"

I prefer a statement of need:

"Information should now be validated at the point of consumption, not creation"

The problem being that it isn't and it really needs to be. The world is becoming increasingly credulous. To be fair we were pretty credulous before; most people believing what they were told or read in the newspapers or saw on television. Now with a proliferation of information facilitated by Internet tools, it is actually easier to support just about any belief with any number of "facts".

But learning isn't about facts, despite what you may think. Ask any decent PhD supervisor and they will tell you that the heart of learning is in the question. In fact I would maintain that to question is to learn.

As a linguist and an historian I suppose I have two main causes to push, "meaning comes from context" and "validate your sources". I think we need to put these ideas front and centre in any evolution of learning.

I am a British man and I have a love/hate relationship with France and the French (love the former, hate the latter - only joking). But one of the things that I respect most about them is that they have maintained the spirit of the enlightenment in their education system. They encourage the Cartesian ethic of questioning everything from an early age. It is why they are so difficult to manage.

But for the rest of the world here are some top tips for learning in 2009:

1. Look at the atheist ten recommendations, in my opinion a very good way to approach lifelong learning.

2. Seek discussion and dissent. If you surround yourself with people who agree with you, you will achieve little. By finding new sources of opinions you are more likely to find the holes in your own beliefs and ideas.

3. Embrace the idea of "Good enough". You are already, "Good enough". Yes, you can do better. We all can and we should aim to do so. But there is no point in beating yourself up for not being perfect. Nobody is. It is much easier to improve yourself when you already think you are OK.

4. Find time to think.

5. Find time to act.

Have a wonderful 2009!

1 comment:

Peter Edstrom said...

Thanks for the post! I enjoyed it immensely! A lot could be written about validating at the point of consumption - especially when we all seem to rely on Wikipedia a whole lot more than our Britannica. Peter Edstrom @ Project Oriel