Learning as a Spectrum

Lately I’ve been asking myself, What is the line between learning and just… being. When does something become learning? Especially in open learning, there isn’t as much of an (artificially enforced) line desgnating the beginning and end of “learning.”

Of course, really it’s a spectrum. There are gradients of learning. An activity is not JUST learning or JUST not-learning. It is not binary. And the way that learning emerges is also not just that some switch is flipped and you are or are not in learning mode. A spectrum in space, and in time.

With respect to P2PU, is the goal (or should it be) to provide a place “for learning”? By designing our community around courses and study groups and challenges, are we drawing (and accidentially enforcing) artificial boundaries, reinforcing old notions of learning as a discrete activity, separate from Everything Else? What does “a place for learning” even mean, when often we don’t even know to what extent a given activity will involve learning or not!

Going back to the notion of a “reflective practice” from Minds on Fire (PDF), perhaps a different way of looking at peer-based learning would to focus on providing a space for reflection amongst peers, when and as learning does occur. A place where we are not trying to define and capture the structure of a learning activity, which happens everywhere and anywhere, but instead, a place to get and give feedback, advice and perspective on whatever the learning activity is. What would that look like, what features would it have?

Alison in her barista-glory.

At P2PU, Philipp is a mustard maker and Alison is an award-winning barista. An example I keep coming back to in my mind is, why doesn’t Philipp have a mustard makers group on p2pu? why doesn’t alison have a coffee group? These are both activities that they have pursued, learning techniques and cultivating expertise. What would it look like to have a space online where those activities could naturally and organically translate to a reflective learning practice. Not to atificially introduce a bunch of overhead in the form of social interaction, but to provide real value-add for Philipp and Alison (and in turn others who want to be mustard makers and coffee brewers).