What are you learning today?

March 2, 2017 — Leave a comment

I have always been a reader. In grade school I read hundreds of books on every imaginable subject. I grew up in a rural setting and as a young boy I the read through the World Book Encyclopedia and then used the school library and any other repositories of book as resources to solve many practical day to day problems I faced living on a farm in Northern Alberta. These books became a lifeline to a much bigger and brighter world that I was also inspired to explore. I didn’t know it then, but these books also started me down the path of authentic learning which I define as making meaningful connections with new ideas and using that new knowledge to shape and change my attitudes, skills, and behaviors.

So, anything that would help me to learn was extremely valuable. This was many decades before the birth of the Internet so books magazines, films, records, recordings, stories and insights from experienced people and almost anything that contained or was able to share information contributed to my learning. Unfortunately, this cognitivist focused learning I found so natural was not a priority in any of the behaviourist focused schools that I attended as a child and teen in the 1960s and 1970s. I am not alone in viewing learning as an amazing and natural part of the human experience and have always been frustrated with the fact that learning happens so naturally everywhere but in schools (Thomas & Brown, 2011). Fortunately, I didn’t listen to all those teachers and administrators who said I wasn’t “suited” for school. I had always known that there was much more to learning than just being able to repeat meaningless facts and figures on quizzes and tests.

While I wasn’t “suited” for school, I was suited for learning, and as a result, I focused on learning how to learn more effectively (Harapnuik, 2011). Furthermore, my use of technology to create things, to solve problems, and to enhance my learning was something that I also was prevented from using in school. Therefore, most of my experiences in a wide assortment of educational systems and at all levels confirmed that for the most part the 20th century model of information delivery followed by confirmation via some form of summative assessment was really the priority of school.

As an adult in higher education, I also had to deal with the troubling reality that my passion for learning, which I now refer to as the making of meaningful connections, or connecting the dots, was not as important to my teachers as the processes of schooling, which I also refer to as collecting and regurgitating the dots (Harapnuik, 2015a).

While collecting and regurgitating the dots, or the information delivery model of instruction, is well suited to the industrial age, it is not so well suited for the information age. Unfortunately, throughout my entire childhood educational career and up to the present time, I have been forced to deal with teachers, educators, and many colleagues who still operate in the industrial age of information delivery. Because these people are so trapped by the existing systems of schooling and the behaviourist methods that still dominate our assessment strategies, they mistakenly believe that they can simply take technology and strap it onto existing modes of delivery. As we have learned from Papert (1993), this is no more effective than strapping a jet engine onto a horse cart.

This response by traditional educators is unfortunate because technology has profoundly changed the world in which we live. That change has the potential to improve education in the way in which our students use digital resources to acquire and apply knowledge and more importantly, create new knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors. Despite the availability of these digital tools and resources, most educators continue to struggle to effectively implement them. There are small number of teachers who are early adopters of technology who are making a difference and who are using technology to enhance the learning environment. They are willing to give the learner choice, ownership and voice through authentic learning opportunities. These people are using technology to help create the significant learning environments that promotes growth and enable learners to address what is one of the most important fundamental questions we need to continually ask – what are you learning today? This question leads to the next most important question – What do you want to learn next? And this is the topic for future posts….


Harapnuik, D. (2011, September 4). Not suited for school but suited for learning
[Youtube]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/clv2yr_UhDU

Harapnuik, D. (2015, August 15). Connecting the dots vs collecting the dots. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/85XpexQy68g

Papert, S. (1993). The children’s machine: Rethinking school in the age of the computer. New York, NY: Basic books.

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the
imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, KY: CreateSpace.

Dwayne Harapnuik

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