Accumulating Knowledge: Why not What we Learn.

I wonder how people can be committed to teaching things which they haven’t justified to themselves.

Having had holidays to reflect upon the last year of my studies, my current projects, and the tasks which lay ahead of me this year, I realised that my thoughts have been somewhat circular. My reflections have lead me to the same point each time; wondering what the significance of knowledge is.

Whilst this may seem like a somewhat philosophical and abstract question, I believe it relates to our fundamental role as teachers. Whether we conceptualise knowledge as facts, as skills, or as metacognitive awareness, asking why we want students to learn what we push upon them seems to me to be something which needs to inform every facet of our teaching.

I have had to ask myself this time and time again as I work on my current project, building the ”e is for english” website, each time I evaluate a site, application or tool, I wonder, why should students use this? what will it help them learn? why should they learn these things? It perplexes me that some aspects of our teaching could be based on considerations other than these, and puzzles me as to how teachers can be building and scaffolding skills according to something like Bloom’s hierarchy if they are not constantly questioning why students learn the content or skills that they do, and what it will link to. I wonder if this is because I am a person constantly given over to rumination that this model of reflection works particularly well for me and seems central, or whether it is something that all teachers find is a fundamental aspect of their teaching.

I think that these thought patterns can be generalised to our own learning as teachers. So much PD is run simply for the sake of learning, and whilst it can be argued that any learning is a good thing, we must also ask why we are learning something new. I guess this echoes the old saying about “new” not being a synonym for “quality”.

Sometimes I am overwhelmed by all the things to learn, see, read and ponder on Twitter, however I am gradually learning that I can only accumulate knowledge at such a speed. Curation tools have helped a lot, allowing me to reflect upon blog posts, resources and websites for longer and revisit them when I am in a more appropriate mental space.

However, there is still a limitation on the amount of information I can accumulate (can you tell that this frustrates me no end??), and one of my steepest learning curves this year has been to come up with ways in which I can siphon the experience and wisdom of others in a meaningful way, as well as find my own style of teaching and learning. I think this is a particular challenge for new teachers-we feel as though we need to hoard as much information as possible in case it relates to who we might become as a teacher in future.

Question mark in Esbjerg In order to keep these WHY questions in the forefront of my mind with regards to my own learning and professional development, I have come up with some guidelines for PD which I force myself to adhere to (although it is difficult!):

  1.  Cull the amount of people you follow on twitter. Evaluate them carefully based on their previous tweets. In the beginning it was overwhelming because I followed people left right and centre, which made my life difficult when I wanted to follow conversations.
  2. Make lists in Twitter which are thematic as well as geographic and PLN based. I found this particularly useful for when I wanted to research the #occupy movement.
  3. Use ONE curation tool and use it religiously-make sure it is organised! I used to set aside 20 minutes a day to ensure I had been able to translate twitter favourites into categories on Pearltrees. That way, you have to categorise each piece of learning, helping to ensure that you aren’t hoarding information for information’s sake.
  4. Know that if a piece of information, an app, a website is worth knowing about, it will be coming at you from every direction. You won’t miss out, so don’t punish yourself if you didn’t know about it first.
  5. Every resource you download should be altered in some way by you. This will ensure that you are using it in a meaningful way, and understand the aims of the activity. Plus it will make you more confident when you take it into the classroom.
  6. Just because someone says something is vitally important, doesn’t mean it MUST relate to you, how you teach, your particular students, or your personal philosophy. The more I learn, the more I realise how relative each view on education really is (coming from someone deeply dedicated to PostModernism, that’s probably not a surprise).

Whilst we can’t all be infinitely wise, we can ensure that by attempting to model reflective learning ourselves, it will trickle through to asking those imperative questions relating to why we teach what we do.


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  1. Always great to read your posts Lauren. I love my lists on twitter (your point number 2). Great way to organise tweeple contacts AND pass onto those new to twitter to help expland their own PLN. Knowledge is important, in order for us to pass it on to future generations, so they can BUILD upon THEIR own knowledge and make advancements. Without knowledge we cannot make informed decisions or function as humans in society. Of course, we cannot all be “all knowledgeable”. However, a grounding knowledge allows for efficient processing of “life” and further information we come into contact with. The beauty of technology is we can utilize it to organise and assist with our knowledge “storebank”. How exciting is that! More to learn 🙂

    | Reply Posted 6 years, 5 months ago
  2. It wasn’t so long ago I’ve had similar thoughts; I still do but slightly different. Just take care that when you ask the question ‘why’ you are not limiting the answer to functional ones. I think some of the most enjoyable things to learn are far from useful – they’re just really interesting. That process of learning is important even from a neuroplasticity point of view; learning is a skill.

    In life, there are lessons we learn which we may not find out what for…or at least, not immediately. Sometimes they are the hardest ones to learn.

    and finally, I’m with you on Post-modernism; everything is relative.

    | Reply Posted 6 years, 5 months ago
  3. * Elly Connolly says:

    Nicely written, Lauren. I often feel overwhelmed by information too and have to go away and metaphorically hide for awhile until I process everything and work out what I really want to focus on and what specific things will help with that. You have some good tips. And I’m very glad to see that you are working on updating the e is for English site! 🙂

    | Reply Posted 6 years, 5 months ago

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