Thursday, 15 January 2015

What is a learnachist?

So today during a productive #pkmchat whilst simultaneously walking the dog (yes, I'm a huge fan of multitasking) I decided to coin a new phrase to determine my mind set.  A self-proclaimed "anarchist" I am.  Of course, that's all well and good but I may be the only one who knows what this is or at least what my intention was for calling myself one! 

An anarchist is often thought about as someone using violent means to overthrow the government, monarchy or leadership structures of their society.  Clearly I don't put myself in this camp with learning, I've never felt the uncontrollable desire to physically attack a learning model (the odd trainer maybe.. but fortunately I've controlled myself thus far) but challenge them?  Now that's another thing.  To me an anarchist is simply one who believes in things without rulers or fixed hierarchical structures.  The action of whether an anarchist is passive or agressive is not defined by the word itself - many anarchists are entirely peaceful just as some are violent and some are insane.

If you hadn't guessed it the term "learnachist" is a contraction of learning and anarchist; a learning anarchist if you will.  So why would someone who's spent over 20 years in the world of education, training and learning (not to mention elearning and learning technologies) class themselves as anti that?  Thing is I'm not anti learning - in fact I'm very heavily pro-learning - but as I chat again and again on learning type chats on Twitter and read articles of others in my chosen field I can't help feeling that I see things a little differently.

What I'd like to see is a world where learning was less formal, less structured, less controlled and more free.  My main reason for thinking this way is that whilst you can make someone carry out an activity like attending a lecture or sitting an exam, that's not the same as them actually learning something.  That's something that's down to the individual, the environment they're in, the motivation they have and the networks and people they interact with.  For me, learning isn't so much an activity it's a way of life or an attitude.  Too often we seem to focus on the structures and rules and actually forget that without the attitude of the 'learner' then learning itself isn't the outcome.

One of the triggers that helped me realise my learnachist nature was the way that people place such a high currency on things like knowledge and (more recently) notes.  If structured learning tells us that you have to take notes (bring back school days memories anyone?) for learning to have taken place then I'm anti that structure.  Don't get me wrong if you want to take notes then that's great, but don't think just because you take notes your learning or conversely that if you don't take notes you're not! What's more important is that because of something you've read, seen or done you've changed your perspective somehow or can do something differently or more than you could before.  I call that theory #evolve.  If you can evolve because of external (or even internal) influence then you're learning - regardless of whether someone structures it that way or tells you so.

So here's my call to action (no, not to attack anyone) but to question things including the learning structures themselves.  Do we really think reading and taking notes is the definition of learning?  Is learning something that happens because of the way we set up activities and resources, in spite of it or independently?  This questioning and looking at things in a variety of ways is at the heart of real learning.  Simply recalling stuff from someone else?  Nah, best left to Xerox I reckon...