Myth #8 (of 12): Learning is past tense

Learned. Learn. Learning

When we make the statement, “I learned ‘X’ the hard way”, it assumes that any learning associated with ‘X’ is complete. All learning is in the present = we are always adding, adapting or unlearning based on present circumstances.

For many years I used to say ‘I learned to drive when I was 16.’ (Sixteen was legal in the mid ‘70s). But now I say ‘I got my license when I was 16.’ The difference between these two statements is HUGE!  Learning is always ongoing (whether we are conscious of it or not), so learning is always in the present. We may have accumulated facts in the past, but that does not mean learning stopped.

I recently commented on an interesting post in LinkedIn about ‘learning from the future’. In a response to my comment the author mentioned intention as a key issue. Intent was also a key issue for people who actually complete a MOOC course. (See Myth #2) Much has been written in the business press lately about concept of mindfulness. “Kabat-Zinn … defines mindfulness as the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally, to the unfolding of experience, moment by moment” (Kabat-Zinn, 2003).” (Roush, 2015). Based on this definition, how mindful are we? I’m sure not many of us would consider ourselves close to becoming a master. Yoda however, was a master of mindfulness.

With the release of The Force Awakens, I – like many of you – partook of some serious binge watching for the previous Star Wars movies. My favorite has always been The Empire Strikes Back (movie release 2 – episode V). I specifically recollect the scene where Luke has just met Yoda and they are now in Yoda’s hut and he is dialoguing with Obi-wan about why he should not train Luke. His main reason for not training Luke was: “All his life he has looked away to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was…what he was doing.”  Sounds a lot like ‘paying attention on purpose, in the present moment’ doesn’t it?

This also reminds me of a section of Paulo Coelho’s (1993) The Alchemist. About three-fifths through the book Santiago (main character) and the Alchemist are travelling through the desert. Santiago asks about being able to learn alchemy (turning lead into gold). “Perhaps if you were in a laboratory of alchemy” the Alchemists says, “this would be the right time. But you are in the desert so immerse yourself in it. The desert will give you an understanding of the world…” Sorry if this is too metaphysical for some, but they are excellent examples of paying attention on purpose and being aware of the unfolding experience.

The most interesting aspect of the above mentioned definition of mindfulness if the nonjudgmental component. Is this a pathway to when Turner (2015) believes that students will invest in their learning if there is a real curiosity and passion? How can someone be a ‘sponge’ to new ideas and concepts if they are judgmental about the content, who is presenting it, or who is also present at the time of the activity? Is being nonjudgmental not what all the anti-bully, diversity and empathy training is all about?

This is why ‘spiral sequencing’ (Reigeluth, 1999) is such an integral aspect of instructional design. The constant ‘revisiting’ of information and experiences within the new context of present circumstances is essential for life-long & life-wide learning.

Final thought: “We see in the past only what is important for the present, important for the instant for which we remember our past.” (Frank, 2012, p.83)

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