Reflections on a coursera course #1

Hi,

This is a series of posts that I will be writing as part of a coursera course that I am pursuing – ‘What Future  For Education’. This is the first post in this series where I have briefly shared my ideas on ‘How do we learn?’

I believe to clearly present my ideas on this topic, I would first like to begin by highlighting the difference between learning and knowing.

Knowing is essentially obtaining a new piece of information. For example, India got independence in the year 1947. This is a factual statement and one can gather this piece of information through a formal (teacher, textbook etc.) or an informal (parents, friends etc.) channel.

Learning, on the other hand, is about building perspective about a topic and being able to express one’s opinion on the same. For example, learning the background story of India’s independence including the contemporary social and political developments and the role of organisations and individuals in the independence movement is actually a learning process, which can happen through in either of the following (and may be more) ways:

a) Listening to ideas and opinions (not facts) of another individual (a teacher or a friend) on a topic

b) Discussing one’s own ideas with another individual

c) Expressing one’s thoughts as part of an assignment (as it enables one to reflect on what he/she thinks about a particular topic)

Comparing this to the learning of a more analytical and objective topic (for example how to find the square of a given number) is a more straightforward process, which can be explained as a step-by-step process:

Step 1: Knowing what ‘square’ of a number means

Step 2: Understanding the process of finding the square. For example, to find the square of a number, multiply the number by itself.

Step 3: Try the learned concept on a few examples

Sharing examples from my own learning experience:

A successful example of where this has worked for me is a philosophy course where users were encouraged to ask doubts outside the class also on a learning forum.

An unsuccessful example was learning Japanese, teachers taught us meaning of different words and gave us written assignments but I couldn’t pick it up because there was no application or usage of it outside classroom

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