Posts Tagged ‘ autonomous learner ’

To Grok, or not to Grok – That is the Question

I’m still working on the article that is supposed to be here  – so in the interests of providing a more consistent output – I give you this expansion on a brief comment I wrote on another blog regarding how I learn and the epiphany I had when I stopped gazing at my own navel:

When I was young, and by young I mean 39 (LOL), I couldn’t grasp that people just didn’t think the way I do about learning. For me – when I want to learn something, I research everything I can about the subject in books. In fact, I’m fat, dumb, and happy when I have an excellent book on the subject, and a computer at hand to try things out for myself just to see how it really works.  My stint in the military also had a similar pattern, both as a student and as an instructor the method of study was always 1) read the manual, 2) get some hands on to verify your knowledge; as an instructor the pattern was 1) lecture, 2) give the students hands on – the only difference being in an instructor lead course the instructor can critique and show the students proper methods as well as answer questions to help them clarify their knowledge.   As a student, I rarely if ever had to ask questions, or needed the instructor to verify my work – I was an autonomous learner – and could never quite understand why others around me needed help in this way.

One day it started to click for me. It was the day my wife decided to take a C++ programming course. Now, I’ve been trying to get her interested in geeky things – including programming for years – and I gave her reading lists and some of the best books on the subject – things I wish someone had done for me back when I was just getting started.  As much as she tried – she just never got it alone… or especially, it seems when I would try to explain it to her. For her the ideal learning experience is in a formal classroom setting with a emotionally distant teacher she can ask questions without feeling she was being judged, and a solid curriculum with homework and all the rest – the works.  90% of communications is nonverbal – and try as I might, she would detect or think she detected a scolding when I would attempt to explain.  I won’t go into all the reasons she may have come to that impasse.  Suffice to say – she required a different approach than I was capable of giving.

I knew something significant was going on when she started talking to me with excitement about her first project – the archetypical hello world program. When she came home with an ‘A’ in the subject – I knew there was a qualitative difference between the different modes of learning – and those modes are different and unique for every person.  Everyone is capable of learning just about anything – the key is to put them in the right learning environment for them.  When that occurs, they will be more likely to be motivated, and the subject matter will be more accessible to them.

After sulking for several years, I have now come to accept that reality – and by doing so it has helped me communicate with and help others find their best way in spite of my own limitations in this area.

So the upshot of my torturous journey is to tailor education for the students – and today we have more than enough CPU cycles to go around to make that happen technologically at least.  So – how can we do that for the large majority of students who are not autonomous learners?

I need to think about that – and I’ll get back to you.  In the meantime – let me know what you think should be done, both in terms of technology and the practice of teaching, in the comments section below.