Tuesday, December 04, 2007

What did you learn about learning in 2007?

This is the big question over at LCB this month. Originally, I had thought I'd give it a miss, since I couldn't name one specific thing that I had learnt about learning - it's all been fairly intangible.

Then I realised that, in fact, that's the whole point. That encapsulates what I keep trying to say about learning, so I thought I'd give it a go - but I doubt that it will be very coherent.

I can't pick out one thing that I have learned and put hard edges on it. Does this mean that I have learned nothing of significance? Far from it!

I have been engaged in an ongoing conversation with hordes of people. Some of them have become, well... friends, I guess. Those relationships were already in place - they just moved forward this year. These interactions have contributed to my own personal development.

I have bumped up against people with opposing views to my own. Debating with them has firmed up some of the boundaries of my knowledge set, while moving others. I have even had the unenviable experience of being vilified in the discussion forum of an online publication.

I have encountered opposition at work, and had to defend my position. I have drawn pictures, waved my hands about and foamed at the mouth. I have champed at the bit. I have used every moment of downtime (and, for a while there, there was a lot of it) to learning about this business. I have given thought to my professional future. I have thought about where the learning industry is going and where I want to be.

I have attended lectures at university. I have researched assignments. I have spoken to people I might never otherwise have encountered. I have read material I almost certainly would not otherwise have read. All these things have added to the sum of my knowledge, and impacted on pre-existing knowledge.

I have attended conferences. I have sat through sessions which have set me a light and others where I wanted to stand up and shout, "What a load of claptrap!" (and still others which bored me silly). Both of the extremes stretched me (while the boring ones afforded me time to reflect, I guess).

I have tried innumerable times to explain to people what it is that I do. I'm getting better at it, but it still needs work. In explaining, I find that I think about learning and what I understand it to be.

Some of these situations have taken place online, some face to face. Some in a group, and some one-to-one. Sometimes the situation has been a specific learning event, other times the learning has been so embedded into a situation as to be indistinguishable from it.

I have been a learning professional of one sort or another for close to two decades now, and one thing that has become increasingly clear over this past year is that I don't deserve the title. I'm not sure anyone does. The more I learn, the more I realise what a learning amateur I am. Perhaps that is my "one thing," although even that realisation didn't spring into existence fully formed during the space between 1 January 2007 and now.


Inge (Ignatia) de Waard said...

I soooo understand your trial and error on telling people what you/I do. They always have this look and than say 'ah'. The 'ah' is already filled with a sort of boredom... Now I change my definition to shape it into something that is linked to them. After which the first dull 'ah' is changed into 'AhAAA'. Which gives me a better feeling.

Anonymous said...

Ignatia - thanks for the input. Generally, people tell me that what I do sounds very interesting, but the frustration for me is that it takes so long for me to explain! I can't just say "I'm a..." as I could if I were a teacher, plumber or movie director. So I've been trying to find the shortest possible explanation that is still effective.