The Art of Learning

There was a time when school was the place for learning. Thirty-five years ago—when I was a young girl—children went to schools where the curriculum included such basic subjects as mathematics, reading, writing, and music and the forums available to us consisted of text books, encyclopedias, and newspapers.

The global introduction to the personal computer (PC)—as early as the mid 1980’s—gave us a whole new way of learning. Educational study suddenly stretched far beyond the walls of our schools and made its way into our homes (the PC) and communities (via the local library).

Today, the pace at which learning technology is evolving has changed the way in which educational content is created, delivered, and used in learning institutions, business, and society. Organizations and institutions are using newer channels for delivering these learning experiences through such means as on-line learning, learning on-demand (anyplace/anytime scenarios), virtual classrooms, and more.

Mediums for Learning—Old and New
As humans, we all learn differently. Many of us use the visual (spatial) learning style (associating imagery while learning), while others may use the physical learning style (hands-on learners). There are actually many more styles of learning, but for the purpose of this blog, I will stick to a few of the basics.

While teachers and instructors act as our guides, much of the responsibility of learning is placed on our own shoulders. We need to learn for a variety of reasons including personal development; to achieve certain goals; or for some form of motivation (e.g., a new job opportunity). Fortunately today, there are many ways in which we can educate ourselves—far beyond the walls of a learning institution. Below are two of the main approaches used today:

1.    BOOKS: While considered a traditional approach, books are still highly effective tools for learning.
•    Libraries (school, public, special, or academic): While the information offered through library books is often dated, they are considered to be a much more reliable source of information.
•    Microfiche: This seems like an ancient method of studying/learning compared to today’s high-tech offerings, however can be quite useful for certain types of academic research.
•    Online book resources: Amazon, Chapters Indigo, etc. offer hundreds of thousands of titles/authors in every genre that can be shipped directly to your home or office
•    Audiobooks: Don’t feel like reading? Have someone else do it for you. Audiobooks can be downloaded (often for free) and played through a number of devices including (but not limited to) mp3 players (such as iPod), iTouch, the Kindle, and more.
•     eBooks: This is the latest trend in digital books where you can download millions of titles through your computer, and then open the files using a reading device such as a Kindle, Sony Portable Reader, iTouch, and more.

2.    TECHNOLOGY: Enables a broader and more powerful learning experience.
•    Internet: The Internet provides a plethora of learning material where one can learn about virtually any subject you can think of, but the sources of information can often be unreliable.
•    Mobile Learning: Enhances the learning experience by providing information via your Smartphone (e.g., iPhone, Blackberry, Palm Pre, Android).
•    Interactive Media (augmented learning):

•    Whiteboards, video, LCD projectors, are all tools that can help to facilitate the learner’s experience.

•    Teachers can use this type of multimedia technology to give more colorful and stimulating lectures.

•    Social Media:
•    WIKIs, discussion groups, and chat forums (such as Facebook and LinkedIn ) are becoming more and more popular for sharing knowledge.
•    Knowledge Webs complement teachers, texts, libraries, and archives as sources of information.
•    Experiences in synthetic environments will extend learning-by-doing in real world settings.
•    Virtual communities enable new pedagogical strategies that facilitate learner encouragement and motivation.

•    Learning Management Systems (LMSs): These systems are used by many organizations to administer, document, track, and report on training programs.

So how does one filter this plethora of information, and keep only the most useful information required for an optimal learning experience? This in itself takes a modern scholastic approach: “Don’t believe everything you read” is my personal approach. I’m joking of course (at least about the modern scholastic approach that is). As a research analyst, I’ve come to learn that often what I read must be taken with a grain of salt. My best advice is: 1) check cited references; and 2) use good common sense!

The moral of the story here is that no matter what type of medium you use for learning (traditional or otherwise), there are a variety of choices available  today and it’s important that you choose the learning style (and tools) that is right for you.

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