“You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives.” This was the vision of Clay P. Bedford (1903-1991), an industrialist who was an adherent to the application of technology in classroom instruction. This editorial focuses on ‘learning to know’ and takes you on a journey of the importance of developing one’s own tools for learning. The voyage shows that learning to know is essential and depends heavily on the efforts that you put in it as a person and the guidance you receive to master the skills to become a perfect ‘learn-to-knower’. Above all, in the 21st century policymakers and teachers alike should respond to the curiosity of the learner to learn.
Skills to be able to learn well
Learning to know is a concept that is not easy to describe. As UNESCO puts it, “Learning to know implies learning how to learn by developing one's concentration, memory skills and ability to think”. Hence a kind of framework of skills needs to be built around the concept of learning to be able to for example master certain maths formulas. I believe that successfully acquiring knowledge depends very much on the learning environment that you create for yourself and that is created for you. One needs to put effort in one’s own learning process in order to effectively acquire the right skills to learn.
Education and hence schools and teachers are important players, but also your own family. After all, children first learn from their parents and later from teachers when they go to school. Concerning education, I would argue that learning to know in the contemporary world requires more effort and a change of mind of both the learner and the teacher. Why? Well, simply because the education system has to adapt to the world that is becoming ever more complex.
Where in the 1000s learning was aimed at the individual and in the 1850s universal education arose, nowadays in this globalised and interlinked world with the support of ICT, education becomes increasingly student-centred. Learners should develop those skills that enable students to take their learning process in their own hands. Therefore active learning is extremely important. This means that learners give meaning to their learning process and that they actively search for information, learn to think critically and learn to act in a responsible way.
Active learning also requires teachers to adapt themselves to this new way of learning. Where teachers used to literally transfer their knowledge to learners and where they used to have an explanatory role, teachers have to become coaches that facilitate learning. The teachers need to activate learners to learn. Nevertheless, to be able for this to work, the right environment needs to be put in place. Learners should enjoy learning and teachers should therefore respond to the learner’s curiosity. This curiosity can be fostered by letting learners collect the relevant learning material themselves. This can nowadays easily be done by means of using Open Educational Resources and educative apps on smartphones. Hence, curiosity can be ignited when the teachers and the student can make the learning process attractive and when one feels comfortable with this kind of self-sought tailor-made learning process. It requires effort from everyone involved in the learning process. Hence don’t kill curiosity, but support it!
This new way of learning to know demands from learners to reflect critically upon the information they have collected. Learners can give their own meaning to learning. This does not however mean that teachers lose grip on the learning process and that learners should look for information entirely on their own. In contrast, information is to be shared so that even a better understanding of a certain subject is fostered. Working together and sharing information can improve the quality of output and can add to the social skills of learners. Such active learning gives a new dimension to learning to know and feeds in to the greater demand for people in the EU to be critical, responsible, independent as also group learners and to have great search skills and e-skills.
Learning should be fun and learning should be challenging. Therefore it is important to:
Learning should not only be about what to learn, but how to think and learn. Hence in the right environment, learning is not a process that is denied by learners and is seen as something one must do, but will happen automatically and is something that one wants to do. Isn’t that the way it should be? I guess it is!
by Charlotte Geerdink
In February I had written a first editorial ‘An introduction to four in-depth editorials on quality education’ as a kick-off editorial of another four editorials on the four pillars for quality in education, which comprise learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together and learning to be. This editorial was the first one, to be followed by an editorial on ‘learning to do’ in August 2012.
Neth-ER editorial: An introduction to four in-depth editorials on quality education.