Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Slow Learning with Clark Quinn

photo by turbulentflow via Flickr
The theme that pops out at me most often in #change11 is the importance of developing the skills of learning.  To a large extent this is nothing new but with accelerating technological change transforming the education landscape it is even more critical to support the development of learning skills.

Clark Quinn in #week13 took a very high level approach to thinking about learning.  He tempted us to shed all the constraints we deal with in real life educational settings for a moment and think about what our own ideal learning situation would be.

For me, a mooc is very close. I thrive in openness and even in chaotic environments.  What would make it even better for me is a little bit more accountability.  Perhaps having the option of being assigned a "buddy" or even to very small group of just 3 or 4 people that would agree to work together.  This would involve getting to know one another a bit and giving each other some ongoing feedback.  It would be conducive to integrating some collaborative, project based work into the mooc as well.  There's no reason something like this couldn't be organized by the participants themselves, even now, in the middle of the course, especially since we've still got 20 weeks to go!  Anyone interested?

Clark Quinn shared some of his ideas about ideal learning.  Slow learning was the title of his week which brought up a lot of different reactions from the participants. For Quinn, slow learning seemed to be about taking a new approach to learning as opposed to the model of dumping lot's of material into the learner and assessing them by how much they spit it back out.  He played a short piece of video (anyone know who was speaking or have a link?) that suggested a 5 minute university since that's about how much material is actually retained in the long run from this style of teaching.  While this was a joke, there is some real insight behind it.  One thing it made me think about was how the value from my university education came only in small part from the classes anyway, and most of what came from classes wasn't about specific subject matter it was about the process. Learning how to learn once again.

My understanding of Quinn's Slow Learning alternative is about Layered Learning which involves learning in the context of real life experience through the strategic use of preparatory materials, aids, and processing that would be provided by a Sage at the Side, a computerized personal assistant. Might sound like science fiction but the technology is here and the limit is only our imagination.


  1. Ben, it's Father Guido Sarducci's 5 Minute University (Comedian Don Novello):

  2. I too was taken by Quinn's session. As a newcomer to all things tech, my experience as been somewhat akin to "a high-speed data-processing machine, a human HAL" ( Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, p. 16). Quinn challenged me to begin moving in a less chaotic direction.

    Your idea of establishing a small group of people to work together, doing some collaborative work and so on, is superb. I'm not aware if any such partnerships have been established in Change, although I recall that Jeffrey Keefer wrote a post about this some time ago. I'm happy to explore this idea with you---how might Change participants be approached? Issue a call for ideas/suggestions/burning issues?

    The video used be Quinn: Father Guido Sarducci teaches what an average college graduate knows after five years from graduation in five minutes.

  3. Ben, I found the Jeffrey Keefer post. Here is an excerpt "I am continually struggling to address my 3rd course goal, Revise my network to be wider and more inclusive. Without a central focus or location, it can be quite a challenge to develop a sense of community, or networked learning perspective. Yes, I am begining to comment on more blogs of other participants, as well as increase my Tweeting, though I am still struggling to be able to connect with others in more than a passing way". Seems to me that his goal is similar to the idea you propose.

  4. Ben,

    Thanks for this post. Your reflection that a MOOC is close to an optimal learning environment for you, combined with your comments about the real value of university education, makes me wonder about how other learning experiences could inform your choice about optimal learning environment. In your profile, you seem to have a great deal of experience in the outdoors. I wonder how reflecting on the learning you've done in other parts of your life helps you think about the concept of accountability- the piece you think is lacking for you in a MOOC. How does boating, fatherhood or mountaineering inform your thinking about your accountability as a learner?