online learning – one link at a time

March 15th, 2010  |  Published in Commentary, Finnland  |  1 Comment

How do you learn?

Well, in your brain at least, most of learning works by connecting these things called neurons to one another. So you take one thing and link it up to another.

But instead of diving into the theories of that, let’s go straight into the use of this information.

In practice it means, when you see stuff, you go back to memories and compare it to previous activities. Like riding a bike. Once you learned the mechanics of it (keep pedaling, don’t shake the handlebar constantly) it’s quite simple and hard to forget.

That’s quite handy to survive in life, and is basically the process that education is supposed to be really good at encouraging: Getting you to link the stuff that’s thrown at you – inside your head. By practicing it, using it, ripping it apart and most importantly – by linking it to other stuff you already know. That’s what learning journals, group work and reading other people’s texts is all about.

So when technology (esp. the internet) comes into the picture, things are actually quite simple. Thanks to Sergey and Larry and the way Google search works, links are really important. And because everybody wants to be found through search, links are a way of discovering things everywhere.

the problem with wikipedia (XKCD)

the problem with wikipedia (XKCD)

No matter if it’s a blog, a wiki or a regular website: a link helps to jump to another concept, so you can follow your curiosity. But that’s how other people have set things up for you.

How do you use linking to improve learning for yourself?

If you want to use this concept in a more active fashion, the easiest way is to keep using it yourself. Start a blog, link your stuff like crazy and see what comes out of it.

And if you’re too lazy or not narcissistic enough for that, go to a wiki instead.

I came up with this post while I was talking to one of my classmates (Juho) from IBS about the (internal) course wiki we started.

He just finished linking up a list of 20 words in our breakout glossary for the case study, to get the crew up and running with it.

I put together the initial list of words from top of mind, he’s now digging deeper into some of them. Everybody profits. And everybody did less.

So what’s next? Getting this attitude to work in the whole team and during the whole term of our third module.

So everybody can become a synthesizer (at least a little):

Are You a Synthesizer? - by David Armano

Are You a Synthesizer? - by David Armano

The general idea: information is a commodity, the internet is a copy machine. Only how you interpret the bits and pieces (and form knowledge, understanding and wisdom) and how you then put them into action is what can provide real value to your specific context.

What have you been linking up today?

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