How to learn anything: Part 1


superlearning

Let’s face it. Learning stuff can be hard. It’s not easy to go through a new learning curve for new content that you need for work, study, or even just for a hobby.

However, what if it was possible for you to learn anything?

Find an expert right? Get a teacher or a tutor? Join a course? Find a Guru? Go to college or university? Read a book even… Watch youtube videos…

But there’s a problem: People that are really good at whatever it is that you want to learn, aren’t always the best teachers. So you can’t always get the tools that you need from the masters or the experts. Or even from their books.

There’s reasons for this of course. Often it’s because the people that are really good at something, really outstanding at what they do, are often so immersed in their own stuff that they just can’t see or understand that you (and me) don’t already know what they know.

Experts, specialists, master practitioners often become so close to their own content that they simply assume – without meaning to and without awareness that they’re doing this – that you already have certain foundational building blocks in place for whatever it is they want to tell you.

And we’re all guilty of this actually. And just have a think about it. If you’re in business, and unless you’ve got an accounting background, do you really understand what the last thing was that your hot-shot accountant said to you? Or your mortgage broker? Or your IT specialist?

What about if you’re at university, or in a technical or vocational training course, or even at high school? Did you even grasp part of what the Economics teacher just said? Or the electrician? Or the doctor?

You might think that what you’d need is some kind of secret sauce perhaps… Some kind of pill to make you smarter or able to concentrate hard or work better…?

Perhaps not.

What you’d really need is a toolbox of tools to help you. This toolbox of tools would be your super learning system.

Hopefully, it would be a system that you could use again and again with new and different content. It would evolve and develop with you as you evolve and develop.

Learning new stuff will still be hard. It often is. But you can make it better by having the right tools. The right tools for the right job.

What we’re experiencing is an exponential growth in knowledge right now. More and more people are becoming more and more specialised in narrower and narrower fields.

It’s overwhelming. Confusing. Intimidating.

But what if the tools and the toolbox you needed was really simple… really straightforward… What if this toolbox contained a lot of things that you already know and use.

And what if the tools didn’t depend on smart… but on grit.

I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. Not everyone is smart… but perhaps grit is something you can learn too… something that everyone has access to already if they just switch it on in their brain and body.

What if I could show you this toolbox of tools? Would you find something to apply it to?

What would you learn if you could learn anything?

What is school for? Seth Godin wants the education system to Stop Stealing Dreams


stopstealing

This is a great manifesto on education by internet marketing guru Seth Godin. Seth is referring to the public school system in the US. However, I think what he says applies more generally everywhere across education.

Seth critiques the largely broken industrial model of education that we’re still trying to work with in the 21st century. Here’s a taste:

A hundred and fifty years ago, adults were incensed about child labor. Low-wage kids were taking jobs away from hard-working adults.

Sure, there was some moral outrage about seven-year-olds losing fingers and being abused at work, but the economic rationale was paramount. Factory owners insisted that losing child workers would be catastrophic to their industries and fought hard to keep the kids at work— they said they couldn’t afford to hire adults. It wasn’t until 1918 that nationwide compulsory education was in place.

Part of the rationale used to sell this major transformation to industrialists was the idea that educated kids would actually become more compliant and productive workers. Our current system of teaching kids to sit in straight rows and obey instructions isn’t a coincidence—it was an investment in our economic future. The plan: trade short-term child-labor wages for longer- term productivity by giving kids a head start in doing what they’re told.

Large-scale education was not developed to motivate kids or to create scholars. It was invented to churn out adults who worked well within the system. Scale was more important than quality, just as it was for most industrialists.

Of course, it worked. Several generations of productive, fully employed workers followed. But now?

Seth also looks at:

  1. What is school for?
  2. Some themes and ideas on how we could reinvent school.
  3. Life in the post-institutional future.
  4. The problems with mass produced schooling and creating compliant worker drones.
  5. Why the hacker attitude is good.
  6. The coming meltdown in higher education
  7. His take on homeschooling (it’s not for everyone – see point 121)
  8. The two pillars of a future-proof education

I’ll stop on that last one… to add that Seths’s two pillars of a future-proof are this:

  • Teach kids how to lead (including getting better at delivering presentations – check out point number 120)
  • Help them learn how to solve interesting problems

This 97 page manifesto is a great read. It’s the full fat version. But if you want the lite watery version, then there’s a TED talk here.

Comments?

Don’t be Spooked by the MOOC – Handout 3: Talking about the new ALNE qualifications


say mooc

At some stage in my workshop next week I’d like to give people a chance to talk about the similarities and differences between the old and new versions of the ALNE qualifications. Or at least, I’d like just a chance to talk about how the new versions of the two qualifications that interest me might come together.

This relates to the MOOC riff that I’m starting with because I’m nearly 100% certain that delivery and assessment are going to be mainly online.

So the content below is similar to what I’ve already blogged, but I’m going to cut this down as a handout for the talk. Again, I’m pasting in below from the draft NZQA documents which are now out for consultation:

NZCALNE (Voc)

New Zealand Certificate in Adult Literacy and Numeracy Education (Vocational/Workplace)

Strategic Purpose Statement

This qualification is for existing practitioners who seek to develop the literacy and numeracy skills of adult learners within the context of a training or education programme. Graduates will have applied knowledge, skills and attributes required to embed literacy and numeracy into vocational or workplace programmes. This qualification supports the New Zealand government strategy of developing the literacy and numeracy of adults.

Questions to think about when you’re reading the info below:

  1. How are these different to what we’ve got now?
  2. How could we make these new versions awesome for you?
  3. How will they translate to online and blended delivery and assessment?

Graduate Profile Outcomes

Graduates of this qualification will be able to:

Design (10 credits)

Design embedded literacy and numeracy strategies to enhance learner outcomes in a vocational or workplace programme with consideration of New Zealand’s unique context.

Deliver (20 credits)

Foster an environment which gives primacy to learners and their learning.

Assess and Evaluate (10 credits)

Use assessment and moderation of literacy and numeracy processes to enhance student learning. Evaluate own practice to improve learner achievement through embedding literacy and numeracy.

NZDALNE

New Zealand Diploma in Adult Literacy & Numeracy Education

Strategic Purpose Statement

This qualification is for experienced educators who aspire to a leadership role in adult literacy and numeracy education. Graduates will have in depth applied knowledge, skills and attributes required to be effective in a leadership role within adult literacy and numeracy education This qualification supports the New Zealand government strategy of developing the literacy and numeracy of adults. Graduates will be able to inform organisational change and capability in adult literacy and numeracy education.

Graduate Profile Outcomes

Graduates of this qualification will be able to:

Literacy and Numeracy Skills Development (30 credits)

Design for learning to meet diverse literacy and numeracy needs of learners in a range of dynamic contexts. Analyse the learning environment in order to implement literacy and numeracy interventions and improve professional practice.

Issues, Theories and Trends (30 credits)

Analyse the educational environment in relation to literacy and numeracy issues, theories, trends and research as a basis for informing own and others’ decision making, innovation and change.

Utilise theory-based literature to investigate factors of Te Ao Māori to improve literacy and numeracy practice.

Lead (60 credits)

Analyse the learning environment in order to implement literacy and numeracy interventions and improve professional practice

Please support the new Adult Literacy & Numeracy Education qualifications


18160132_3_logo

Well… they’re out for consultation. Here’s the breakdown from the NZQA website. This is just out and it’s now in the public domain for consultation.

Key points first: Please support the need for three distinct ALNE qualifications. These are

  1. the 40 credit NZCALNE (Voc) which replaces the NCALNE (Voc).
  2. the 80 credit NZCALNE (Ed) which replaces the NCALNE (Ed).
  3. the 120 credit NZDipALNE which replaces the NDipALNE

We think it’s going to be a coherent framework. Details still need to be fleshed out however…

The 120 credit Diploma still has some question marks attached. We think there is both a need and a demand. Please show your support for this in the comment section in the online NZQA survey which you can complete here.

Here’s how the qualifications break down. I’m pasting in from the NZQA documents:

New Zealand Certificate in Adult Literacy and Numeracy Education (Vocational/Workplace) Level 5 – (40 Credits)

This qualification is for existing practitioners who seek to develop the literacy and numeracy skills of adult learners within the context of a training or education programme.

Graduates will have applied knowledge, skills and attributes required to embed literacy and numeracy into vocational or workplace programmes.

This qualification supports the New Zealand government strategy of developing the literacy and numeracy of adults.

Graduates of this qualification will be able to:

Design (10 credits)

  • Design embedded literacy and numeracy strategies to enhance learner outcomes in a vocational or workplace programme with consideration of New Zealand’s unique context.
    • Notes: This outcome includes practice informed by historical, political and organisational contexts. Consideration will be given to add these to the qualification specifications, at the next stage of the review process.

Deliver (20 credits)

  • Foster an environment which gives primacy to learners and their learning.
    • Notes: Environment includes a values-based framework that respects: the mana and diverse cultural backgrounds of learner, the Treaty, the unique characteristics of adult learners as individuals (including literacy and numeracy skills) and what they bring to their learning, collegiality with colleagues, professional relationships with learners, … This outcome is not to be assessed separately but in conjunction with assessment of other outcomes.)
  • Apply embedded literacy and numeracy strategies in a vocational or workplace programme with consideration of New Zealand’s unique context

Assess and Evaluate (10 credits)

  • Use assessment and moderation of literacy and numeracy processes to enhance student learning.
  • Evaluate own practice to improve learner achievement through embedding literacy and numeracy.

New Zealand Certificate in Adult Literacy and Numeracy Education (Educator)
Level 5 – (80 Credits)

This qualification is for educators who seek to develop specialist expertise in adult literacy and numeracy education.

Graduates will have broad applied knowledge, skills and attributes required to apply a literacy and numeracy framework to a range of teaching and learning contexts.

This qualification supports the New Zealand government strategy of developing the literacy and numeracy of adults.

Graduates of this qualification will be able to:

Design (30 credits)

  • Design for learning to meet diverse literacy and numeracy needs of learners in a range of contexts.
    • Notes: This outcome includes practice informed by education theories, Māori literacy and numeracy concepts, approaches and frameworks, and current trends and research. Consideration will be given to add these to the qualification specifications, at the next stage of the review process.

Deliver (30 credits)

  • Foster an environment which gives primacy to learners and their learning.
    • Notes: Environment includes a values-based framework that respects: the mana and diverse cultural backgrounds of learner, the Treaty, the unique characteristics of adult learners as individuals (including literacy and numeracy skills) and what they bring to their learning, collegiality with colleagues, professional relationships with learners, … This outcome is not to be assessed separately but in conjunction with assessment of other outcomes.)
  • Select and apply adult literacy and numeracy teaching strategies and activities to meet learner needs.

Assess and Evaluate (15 credits)

  • Select and use assessment processes to identify specific literacy and numeracy learner needs and strengths.
  • Evaluate own adult literacy and numeracy practice using a range of sources for continuous improvement.

Collaboration (5 credits)

  • Collaborate with other education professionals to enhance literacy and numeracy outcomes.

New Zealand Diploma in Adult Literacy and Numeracy Education Level 6 – (120 Credits)

This qualification is for experienced educators who aspire to a leadership role in adult literacy and numeracy education.

Graduates will have in depth applied knowledge, skills and attributes required to be effective in a leadership role within adult literacy and numeracy education

This qualification supports the New Zealand government strategy of developing the literacy and numeracy of adults. Graduates will be able to inform organisational change and capability in adult literacy and numeracy education.

Graduates of this qualification will be able to:

Literacy and Numeracy Skills Development (30 credits)

  • Design for learning to meet diverse literacy and numeracy needs of learners in a range of dynamic contexts.
  • Analyse the learning environment in order to implement literacy and numeracy interventions and improve professional practice.

Issues, Theories and Trends (30 credits)

  • Analyse the educational environment in relation to literacy and numeracy issues, theories, trends and research as a basis for informing own and others’ decision making, innovation and change.
  • Utilise theory- based literature to investigate factors of Te Ao Māori to improve literacy and numeracy practice.

Lead (60 credits)

  • Analyse the learning environment in order to implement literacy and numeracy interventions and improve professional practice
  • Notes: Literacy intervention = 30 credits. Numeracy intervention = 30 credits

What are adult literacy theories?


Adult literacy theories are ideas about how adults learn literacy skills, like reading. There are a range of theories and different educators tend to subscribe to different theories – although sometimes without really knowing. Here’s a selection of some of the main adult literacy theories:

  1. Functional. This refers to the ability to read and write in order to do things, such as carry out a task at home or in a workplace. Literacy skills in this approach are a kind of technical skills that learners need because they are the foundation for other higher level functions.
  2. Sociocultural. Literacy is shaped by social practices and it’s also culturally specific. In this viewpoint, literacy is often about multiple literacies. The sociocultural approach holds that the main purpose of literacy is is to encourage greater understand, challenge the status quo, and perhaps contribute to social justice movements.
  3. Freirean. This approach is based on the work of Brazilian educator and philosopher Paulo Freire who say literacy as a means for oppressed or marginalised groups to rise to critical consciousness, collective social action, and eventual overthrow of oppressive structures and political or other discourses. Freire’s social justice approach grew into the critical literacy approach that encourages learners to analyse texts from a critical point of view in order to uncover the underlying messages.

Professional Reading

The background to the listening, speaking, reading and writing progressions outlines a mostly sociocultural framework.

Review the questions below then read the article

  1. What are some of the groups mentioned here that illustrate how they can both influence and be influenced by the communications of its members.
  2. What are some of the reasons critical thinking (and critical reading) is important?

Sociocultural practices

Written and oral language practices exist within specific social and cultural contexts.13 This means that individuals are members of a society (which consists of groups or organisations that are not all organised on a formal basis) and the language practices of individuals can be seen as part of the activities of those groups or organisations. The group both influences and is influenced by the communications of its members. For example, consider the graffiti and rap music associated with hip-hop culture, in which the graphic and oral forms of communication are important parts of the identity of the group. The legal jargon used by lawyers is another example of the way in which a group influences the form of communication used by its members and is in turn influenced by it.

This has implications for adult education, where social and cultural factors are particularly significant for adults who are developing their expertise with written and oral language. Adult learners bring a wealth of diverse social and cultural experiences to most learning situations and belong to a wide variety of social and cultural structures, all of which influence and inform their learning.

Purpose and audience

All oral and written texts have a meaning and a purpose. The ability to distinguish between the different purposes of texts may be developed through examining the purposes that adults themselves have as they prepare to listen, speak, read or write. These purposes can be very diverse, for example, to entertain, to build a friendship, to get something done, to comfort, to influence, to subvert, to deceive, to persuade, to build community or to shock. The purposes can be direct, indirect, or a combination within one text. The purpose may be to express the writer’s or speaker’s point of view, perspective or attitude and these may be expressed in direct or indirect ways. Listeners and readers who think critically are able to consider different perspectives along with the different intentions of texts.

Given that all texts (oral and written) have a purpose, it follows that all texts have one or more intended audiences. Even personal diaries have the writer of the diary as an audience. The audience may be obvious (a children’s picture book is usually assumed to be written for children), less obvious, or even obscured (sometimes adults may speak to children in a way that carries a different meaning for an adult audience)

Vocabulary

The concept of vocabulary, as used in the progressions, encompasses understanding as well as recognising words in written and spoken language. More than this, knowledge of vocabulary includes knowledge of how words work in relation to each other and within specific contexts.

Learning vocabulary is a complex and sometimes difficult task for adults. For many adults, understanding the differences between oral and written language can pose problems. The fact that about 70 percent of English words have more than one meaning14 adds to the complexity of the task and the different ways in which words are learnt can make it even more complicated. Learning new words takes time. A word is unlikely to become part of a learner’s vocabulary after a single exposure to the word or one definition of it.

Adult learners have several different and overlapping kinds of vocabulary. Stein (2000) identifies the following four:

  • Receptive vocabulary. The words an individual understands, either orally (heard) or in print (read).
  • Productive vocabulary. The words an individual is able to use orally (by speaking) or in print (by writing).
  • Oral vocabulary. The words an individual can use or recognise in speaking or listening.
  • Reading vocabulary. The words an individual recognises in a printed form.

Because of this complexity, word learning is incremental and occurs over many exposures. For example, the word bright has numerous shades of meaning and it takes multiple exposures to the word in different contexts to understand the full complexity of its meanings and applications (The light is bright; The future looks bright; John is bright; Sarah has a bright personality).

Critical thinking

Texts are never neutral. The values and beliefs of the writer or speaker affect the messages that are communicated. For this reason, it is important for adult learners to develop the skills for thinking critically about the texts they read, view or hear. Thinking critically involves analysing and interpreting meanings, responding critically to texts when reading and listening, and being critically aware when writing and speaking. Adult learners need to develop their awareness of speakers’ and writers’ different perspectives and purposes in order to gain deeper levels of meaning, to avoid being manipulated by writers and speakers, and to gain insights and enjoyment from the texts they engage with.

Journal Task

Write at least 250 words on how some aspects of literacy theories underpin your teaching.

If you need a prompt to get started, answer one or more of these questions:

  • What aspects of your teaching or training embraces aspects of a functional approach to literacy? Why? Can you give examples?
  • What aspects of your teaching or training embraces aspects of a more sociocultural approach to literacy? How? Can you give examples?
  • Does any part of your teaching lean more towards a Freirean approach? Explain in more detail.