Education & Learning

A wise system of education will at least teach us how little man yet knows, how much he has still to learn.
J Lubbock, The pleasure of life.

Why do we learn?

We learn to shape our various intelligences. A general definition of intelligence is the ability to create useful products and solve daily problems.

In history the only necessary learning was done on the job to provide a living. Craftsmen passed their skills, knowledge and wisdom on to their offspring and pupils. Today we need to learn to function in a high complex post-industrial western society with the emphasis on information. Education is institutionalized and offered in schools.  Schools are generally differentiated between three phases (this might differ from country to country)

  1. Primary school (basic language skills as reading and writing, mathematics and emotional intelligence),
  2. Secondary school (advanced language and math-skills or algebra, second language, and sciences like chemistry, biology, history, geography, economics, some schools also include social science, sports or gymnastics, music, drama and skill-based classed like first aid, typing, and driving. These last are mostly facultative.
  3. Trade-school or Higher education choosing a profession or a specific science.

We assume that between the second and third phase one makes a good choice and that there is a job or profession that fits the education at the end of these three phases. Nowadays we know we have to “update” our knowledge frequently throughout our lives because of changed technology. This continuous learning effort is called life-long-learning. In politics this needed learning might be reduced to an employability-policy which gives the concept a somewhat negative connotation.


We have several intelligences to learn and develop (according to Howard Gardner / Collin Rose); these intelligences are:

  • Linguistic (reading / writing)
  • Mathematical / Logical (numbers, charts, reasoning)
  • Visual / Spatial (visualizing, direction / navigation)
  • Musical (rhythm / melody)
  • Bodily / Physical (arts / crafts / sports)
  • Interpersonal / Social (read emotions / parenting / teaching)
  • Intrapersonal / Quiet control (self-knowledge)

In 1996 Gardner added an eighth intelligence – Naturalistic – or nature smart. This intelligence deals with sensing patterns in and making connections to elements in nature – observing, collecting, categorizing and analyzing.
Charles Handy (1998) also identifies at least nine forms of intelligence which align with and enhance Gardner’s multiple intelligences (Factual, Analytical, Linguistic, Spatial, Musical, Practical, Physical, Intuitive, and Interpersonal)

When a range of intelligences are involved the learning ability is greatly enhanced. Each type of intelligence represents a different way to explore the subject and provides a different ability to call on when faced with a problem-solving task.

[Source: Brian Tracy Tapes & News article: The Future belongs to the competent]

Learning Systems

The learning-systems we use are based on old traditions and the way society of interaction. The conventional system could generally be described as supply-based linear learning with a clear beginning and end.

New systems should be more flexible and more modular demand-based because of the high differences in experience, backgrounds and different preparatory training which must fit in non-linear learning scenarios which is common today.

In my vision education on all levels should be available to everyone, everywhere, and at any time. My ideal would be a worldwide open-source e-educational system, instantly bilateral translation of all structured meta and content-information (including multimedia) needed for comprehension of a subject.

Open source-education as a concept has many similarities to open source-software. The development of Linux, the most known (and popular) open-source alternative operating system, is therefore interesting in more ways than the related software-products alone.
Open-source software is the process of systematically harnessing open development and decentralized peer review to lower costs and improve software quality. The idea is simple: When programmers can read, redistribute, and modify the source code for a piece of software, the software evolves. People improve it, people adapt it, people fix bugs. And this can happen at a speed that, if one is used to the slow pace of conventional software development, seems astonishing.

[Open Source Initiative]

Because the source-codes or program-instructions are available with the distribution, everyone can change and add functionality to the distributed program, or write its own programs with parts of available distributed content. Because of our current use of information and communication technology this concept of sharing, adapting and improving content (and I also refer to education) may well be the constructive principle of our new information society.

The challenge is to create new ways of combining formal and informal learning processes and worldwide collective agreement on the funding and public use of educational information. Initiatives like open source for the ICT-infrastructure and Transcopyright for the information content could bring mondial educational information exchange within closer reach.

What is learning?

Learning as a psychological concept can be defined in more than one way. The most popular definitions are:

  • Learning: To gain knowledge, comprehension, or mastery through experience or study.
  • Learning is a relatively permanent change in behavior or in behavioral potentiality that results from experience and cannot be attributed to temporary body states such as those induced by illness, fatigue or drugs. (Kimble)

A science requires an observable, measurable subject matter, and within the science of psychology, that subject matter is behavior. The qualification “relatively permanent” in the definition of learning means sensitization and habituation are examples of behavior modifications that results from experience in a relatively short period of time. Sensitization is the process whereby an organism is made more responsive to certain aspects of its environment. Habituation is the process whereby an organism becomes less responsive to its environment.

What is learned may not be utilized immediately. This is a very important distinction between learning and performance. Learning refers to a change in behavior potentiality; and performance refers to the translation of this potentiality into behavior. Not all behavior is learned. Much simple behavior is reflexive. A reflex can be defined as an unlearned response in reaction to a specific class of stimuli. Complex behavior can also be unlearned. When complex behavior patterns seem to be genetically determined, they are generally referred to as instinctive. Instinctive behavior includes such activities as nest building, migration, hibernation and mating behavior. This is also classified as species-specific-behavior. Research supports the contention that species-specific-behavior is both learned and unlearned. A newly hatched duckling would form an attachment to any kind of moving object and follow it as its mother, provided the object was presented at just the right moment in the duckling’s life. (Lorenz) The formation of an attachment between an organism and an environmental object is called imprinting. Imprinting was found to occur only during a critical period, after which it was difficult, if not impossible to imprint the duckling to anything. Imprinting is a combination of learned and instinctive behavior.

Learning is a general term used to describe changes in behavior potentiality resulting from experience. Conditioning (classical or instrumental) is more specifically used as a term to describe actual procedures that can modify behavior.

[Source: B.R. Hergenhahn, An introduction to theories of learning. ISBN 0-13-498874-4]

Intentional learning

While searching on the subject of Intentional learning I found some interesting links I would like to share:

  • Intentional Learning Projects; Learning Orientations describe the primary sources for individual learning differences and the powerful, guiding effects of higher-order psychological factors on learning outcomes and performance… The construct presents a comprehensive, human view that examines the dynamic flow between (1) deep-seated psychological factors (conative, affective, social, and cognitive), (2) learning orientations, (3) subsequent choices for learning preferences, styles, strategies, and skills, and (4) learning treatments and outcomes.
  • An example of Intentional Learning: A Process for Learning to Learn in the Accounting Curriculum (from the American Accounting Association) Our description of intentional learning is an attempt to simplify and operationalize what psychologists call “metacognition” and accounting educators seem to mean by “learning to learn.” We do not claim that intentional learning includes all that accounting professionals need to know or be able to do. We do maintain, however, that introducing the attributes of intentional learning can be an effective way to help accounting students learn to learn and begin to become independent learners.
  • Computer Supported Intentional Learning Environment (CSILE); CSILE (Computer Supported Intentional Learning Environments) functions as a “collaborative learning environment” and a communal database, with both text and graphics capabilities. This networked multimedia environment lets students generate “nodes,” containing an idea or piece of information relevant to the topic under study.
    Nodes are available for other students to comment upon, leading to dialogues and an accumulation of knowledge. Students have to label their nodes in order to be able to store and retrieve them; over time, they come to appreciate the value of a precise, descriptive label. In addition to receiving writing practice as they create their own nodes, students get practice reading the nodes generated by others.
    CSILE was developed by Marlene Scardamalia and Carl Bereiter at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. It has been used in a research program within Toronto schools for over five years.

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