Analogue Learning: an introduction

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Clearly there is rarely, if ever, a good time to introduce a new educational concept and the start of the Christmas vacation could well be the worst possible time. However, I’ve been mulling on this for a while and I’m increasingly convinced there is something in it, so here goes.

Firstly, let’s be very clear from the start, this is not an attack on digital learning. I am as intrigued by gadgets and new bits of software as the next person. This is not about a binary opposition between new and old technology. Indeed it is precisely not about binary opposition at all. It is my contention that over the years education has been repeatedly damaged by people, often very well-meaning, who insists that their approach/method/technique is the only one worth using and everything else is damaging to learning. This is the mentality that has led to ticklists and ridiculously complex lesson plans and a de professionalised set of teachers who try to follow the latest mantra or apply someone else’s theory without understanding it, owning it or even, in some cases, having a very clear idea how it can help to improve learning.

I have thought for some time that the whole educational establishment, well large swathes anyway, is far too hung up about teaching and not concerned enough with learning. The latter is a messy, mysterious process that proceeds along often obscure, unclear or meandering paths. The important thing is that it should continue to proceed. Some teaching processes seem to be designed specifically to impede the process.

And, of course, it is very difficult to gauge the speed and direction of this process. Some activities and environments can help to provide the conditions which ought to encourage progress but often the direct causal link is very hard to discern and then the factors underlying the provision of these conditions can come under attack – particularly if they are relatively expensive. I am thinking here of school libraries, the encouragement of wider reading and the provision of extracurricular activities, – a lot of the nebulous work of people in schools which helps countless learners to understand the world and their place in it but which may not directly contribute to your school’s league table position in any easily quantifiable way.

So, it is my contention that schools would benefit their learners if they emphasised the analogue nature of learning. Not analogue in the sense of comparing something with something else in a revealing manner – though this process is central to creative thinking, and the concept of analogue learning is in itself a form of analogy. No, I’m thinking instead of the continuously variable aspect of analogue. Effective learning can come about as a result of a wide range of different teaching styles, and mature, confident schools have a sufficiently sophisticated range of measures in place to be able to distinguish the most effective and then foster these, through well-developed communication systems. In schools like these, teachers are trusted as professionals to develop learning schemes in ways that their experience and well-honed educational intuition tells them will result in effective learning. If they have supporting evidence to back up their practice, all well and good, but by definition real creativity and innovation, being in essence original, lacks supportive research evidence.

So, that’s a brief introduction to the concept. Hopefully future blogs will add detail and exemplification. Merry Christmas!

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