Nine words = grow & learn

I got an email the other day from a distant colleague that I respect asking me to sum up my “instructional philosophy” in 75 words. Hmm… well since I’m usually up for challenges, I thought about it for a moment and then easily penned this one that I’ve shared many times within the last three years as I’ve given talks about 23 Things.

“The very first step in learning is simply exposure.”

Yup, that’s really all it is for me …just nine (count ‘em) words. Exposure to new ideas and concepts not only is the very first step in any learning process, unfortunately, it’s also often the most over looked step instructional design.

Trust me on this. I’ve worked in the learning field for over twenty years. Over the last two decades I’ve developed and designed online tutorials (back when they were actually called CBT – computer based training), written courseware and published several technology training workbooks, designed numerous technology classes and logged well over 1000 hours in the classroom. What I’ve noticed from both my training experience and from watching others, is that most instruction design jumps directly to focusing on skill building or performance growth training outcomes. It skips completely over the first step, exposure (which leads to discovery) often leaving learners in the dark without a personal context or framework for them to spring board off of.

It’s been interesting to me to watch and study how instructional approaches differ between children and adults. Early childhood learning is almost completely exposure driven through self-discovery and play. But somehow as we mature in our learning, we have tendency in most of our formal education processes to devalue the self-discovery and exposure phase as performance measures (i.e. teach to the test and grading scales) and skill building (i.e. job competencies) are tied even tighter to personal success.

I’m not saying that performance measures and skill building isn’t important. Both of these are pretty vital when it comes to a person’s ability to achieve a successful life. But without a good learning foundation acquired through exposure and self-discovery, learners often lack the roots (ie personal context) to grow their learning from.

So the bottom line for me is that exposure is foundational. As the instructional designer for Learning 2.0: 23 Things I’ve learned this over and over as I’ve watched other organization’s flourish and flounder with replicating the program. If you don’t focus the program’s design on exposure and discovery, there’s little soil for learners to till on their own and little motivation for them to self-direct and grow their knowledge.

PS: Thanks Char for the prompt. :)


char said...

my pleasure, helene - glad to catalyze such a fine post and wonderfully succinct philosophy. i think you are exactly right about leading with discovery and exposure to new ideas... it's always essential to hook people with the knowledge that you are about to tell them something that they don't yet know, but will wish they always had...(and, having seen you present in the past, i can attest that you certainly practice what you preach).

Josh said...

Nobody can become curious about something without hearing about. Librarians are in a great spot to do favors and be the ones to suggest things that someone might never hear of otherwise.

Exposure can be a great thing and can't be overestimated. Assuming the exposure is decent, of course.

Bravo Helene!

Josh said...

Sorry, Helene. can't type today. Hope that made sense.

Laura said...

Absolutely agree, especially for technology.

Jim Brochowski said...

This really resonates for me. Without the exposure to the 23 things through Learn & Play I would not have found what I think might just be my niche in this big ol' world. i.e. a spot in the social media community, where I continue to learn more & meet more great people everyday.

I always tell my customers it's easy if you do it every day. If you don't, it's okay to ask for help & instruction and not "feel stupid."

Nobody is stupid. They're just uninformed or lack "exposure."

Great post Helene!

Anonymous said...

Love it! as an elementary librarian in a small rural school this has been my mantra for years. Exposure! How can children begin to learn if they are not exposed to things unfamiliar to them?