We live in the information age. We have more information available to us at our fingertips or on our television screens than we could possibly keep up with on a daily basis. Everything we do now revolves around obtaining more and more information. We think that if we have more information, we will be better “informed”. The issue is not with the information itself, but with the quality of the information. Because we are inundated with information in the form of blurbs, headlines and sensationalism, we peruse through the information like we lead the rest of lives, surface readers. We “surf” the web. We don’t “dive” into it or “immerse” ourselves in the information. We mostly just skim along the surface of that information. Most of us float along, letting the current take us where it will. Why think? That’s hard. Thinking takes effort (and time), the same kind of effort it would take to actually dive beneath the surface and into the context of the information. That’s where the context is, where learning takes place. Thinking through something is a process. We have to take a deep breath and dive in. It’s scary, because we don’t know what might be lurking beneath. But think of what might be discovered as well, if of course, we have an open mind? There is a whole ocean of possibility, of discovery and exploration. But it takes time and a shift in how we think about learning.
What is learning, how do we know when we have “learned” something? How is learning measured? What does it mean to be educated? What are the benefits of education? Without repeating an Epistemology course, these are fundamental questions we should be asking ourselves, especially in the education debate. Why are we not asking these questions?
There are two foundational types of learning. The first is informational learning. Informational learning is the type of learning that can be easily memorized and regurgitated. This is to a large degree what standardized tests measure. Informational learning is important, think of it as the pieces of a puzzle. The details. But is this enough because this is what our education system is focused on? Well, let me rephrase that. This is what the Legislators and corporate influencers are focused on, and they are driving the conversation and the policy. We, I mean “they” like informational learning because it is easily quantified.
What about transformative learning, or contextualized learning? If we think of informational learning as the puzzle pieces then transformative learning is taking those individual pieces and putting the puzzle together. This is also referred to as “critical thinking” or “problem solving” and we as a society are losing our focus on the ability to think through situations, problems and puzzles, critically and creatively. Many of us have the pieces of the puzzle, but lack the skill set to put the puzzle together. Are both aspects necessary? Yes! No one can put together a puzzle without the pieces. However, this type of learning is much more difficult to quantify yet these are the skills business and corporate leaders are asking for in the workforce and our education system is moving in the opposite direction, largely due to policy! Bad policy I might add.