Thinking about terminology: knowledge and dimensions of learning

For my thesis I am exploring professional learning and how twitter as a tool supports learning. For months I have been interrogating learning theory, paradigms research and trying to put my own voice on what I think learning is, and how learning happens. In my head, and on paper, its like a big mish mash……..

This is my latest thinking on knowledge and learning

Today I have decided that I dislike the term ‘knowledge’ – why? Well I think that as a ‘noun’ it suggests that ‘knowledge’ is immovable and unchanging. For me ‘knowledge’ is not a concrete object but a dynamic always evolving entity, influenced by my experiences and changing over time as my awareness and consciousness progresses.

Rather than refer to what ‘I know’ as the noun ‘knowledge’, I prefer to articulate that ‘knowing’ or ‘coming to know’ is a process, as I believe that I am in a constant phase of ‘coming to know’. This is a process which, in my view, is best described as an action, as a process and for this process I choose the verb ‘learning’.

Learning is primarily a process, and for me it is how this process transpires that is of major interest. I recognise that when people engage in the process of learning that an outcome emerges. So I am interested in 2 things: the process of learning and the outcome of this learning process

The term ‘outcome’ also suggests an endpoint, but similar to ‘knowledge’, outcomes do not stand still. Outcomes capture what is known (or learned) at a point in time. While outcomes are commonly used to show others what has been learning or achieved, I think that outcomes are most useful when we combine them with reflective practice, so that we acknowledge our own learning evolution to ourselves. In this way we become more conscious of our learning, and how we have changed as a result of the process of learning.

Experience contributes to our learning and experiences can be underpinned by social, cognitive or emotional dimensions. These dimensions influence and how we interpret new forms of knowledge, experiences from these dimensions contribute to our understanding of the world around us.

Our emotions matter in learning. Feeling safe and trusting both people and processes is important to how learning will happen for any person. A shared sense of trust with other people enables social learning to happen and allows our cognitive processes to work at their best.

Learning is a social experience, and we can all think of occasions where we learned from or with other people. Learning online supports a social learning experience but in the online space as learners we can struggle with feeling a sense of emotional safety and trust.

So that brings my thinking about learning to how we use Twitter for learning…..

Learning is socially constructed through interaction with the tool, using twitter as a tool people retrieve information and might (or might not) integrate this new information into practices. Learning is instigated by twitter through active participation with other people, by connecting and chatting to others.

The data from my participants shows that some of them socially engage with others more easily in Twitter, suggesting that they feel a sense of trust. Others have said that they have uneasiness about exposing their thoughts and opinions online to others. Is this trust issue a barrier to engagement that could really useful to learning? How or can we enable more trust of virtual environments like twitter so that people can engage with others?

That’s enough for now….I know that I have not cited any references here, but they will be incorporated into thesis  🙂


About Muireann O'Keeffe

I am an educational developer currently working at DCU. I have a passion for researching and evaluating technology that can support and enhance learning. In the past I have taught on Masters programmes (Msc Applied elearning & Postgraduate Diploma in Third level Learning and Teaching) as well as Leadership development programmes.
This entry was posted in learning, life, participation, philosophy, social media, twitter, values and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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