Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Virtual Education in The K-12 Years - Learning, Retention and Technology

"During a learning episode, we remember best that which comes first, second best that which comes last, and least that which comes just past the middle!"
Sousa, D. (2006), How the Brain Learns, Corwin Press.
Simply stated, learning takes place when we are offered information that our brain deems important in the moment to take on. Learning can take place anywhere, for any reason, at any time when the brain is receptive to outside stimulation. Retention is a different issue altogether yet is connected to successful learning episodes to varying degrees as the brain sees fit.
Learning occurs when:
o The learner interacts with the environment and acquires skills and information.
o We find ourselves requiring information to help make sense of a situation we are faced with.
o Meaning is needed in order to make sense of new surroundings experiences or emotions.
It becomes clear that learning is not restricted to a single environment labeled "school". It also is very apparent that the "school" cannot possibly emulate every circumstance that a person may come across in other environments. We perhaps need to consider the ramifications of conditioning our children to grow up believing that "learning" predominantly happens in schools.
Retention: What is it?
Retention is the process where the long term memory stores information that can be later retrieved accurately for a specific purpose. The process of retention is not an exact science and a little unpredictable in it's occurrence.
Keys to more successful retention:
o Attaching sense and meaning to a learning experience will improve retention success.
o Giving the learner time to "rehearse" new information . Rehearsal is geared towards having the learner process the information in numerous ways.. Repeating the process in it's entirety supplies meaning to the experience and enables the brain to make sense of it also.
What retention is NOT:
Retention is NOT learning. Learning can occur yet the information learned in the moment may not be retained. For example you may remember a phone number until you no longer need it. This could be 5 minutes or 5 days. However you are in the position of learning it initially.
Becoming aware of learning as an integral part of being human can bring us all closer to the realization that there are a myriad of answers to the question of "how " to educate ourselves. Moving away from "conditioning" people to "school based" learning could be a huge step forward. To be open to "learning all the time" will provide more people learning opportunities best suited to their particular style of learning. It has the potential to impact retention in an enormous way.
Technology in the home has the potential to bridge the gap and change the way we condition ourselves in regards to where and when we learn. Should we choose to embrace the radical change technology can bring to education we may begin to see the full potential of the human brain.

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