Learning How To Learn Online Aritcle

Ask the Digital Power Panel about the good and bad of learning online. Here they are.

Learning How To Learn Online Aritcle

By Jeff Toch

What would happen if you tried to teach what we now consider childhood to children growing up in the 21st century? What would you learn in doing so?

Think about this. If you were to present us with a language as simple as English and teachers would want to teach us how to speak it, we would find that it seemed deeply impossible. For starters, English has transformed in the last century from a language used by speakers of the old English in the English speaking world to one that is broadly used to most of the world in almost every language group. For example, then there are 90 percent of the world’s Europeans who now speak English, and there are almost 100 percent of the world’s Americans who are also speaking English. The idea that we would lose the ability to speak this language is simply impossible. At the same time, if you asked most adults of any age how many days of the month they believe summer begins and ends, they would tell you that it’s always summer. Even though, in reality, it’s usually autumn, for us it always feels like summer. These are just a couple of examples of how the past is no longer an indicator of what the future might look like.

Perhaps you find this difficult to comprehend. In contrast, although we seem to almost forget how children behaved even a few hundred years ago, we still keep many of the past practices alive to this day. In a wonderful new project, Old’s Desk Journal, they show us how those traditions exist. Preserving old traditions is important as the world is changing by the minute and we need to consider how we can maintain the things that are passing on while also learning how to learn new things.

To prove this point, I offer an exercise in learning a foreign language. Learning to speak a foreign language is extremely challenging if your only experience has been seeing live conversation between two people.

To accomplish this, you must learn to place yourself in an environment where you are likely to use a language other than your own. From this world, you will understand what language (or language within a language) might work for someone else. If you can do this, you will be able to translate what you are seeing and learn about the way your eyes see things. You will gain an understanding of what someone else is going through, and you will acquire an awareness of what you can learn and experience yourself.

For example, if you walk into a room and recognize that someone is speaking a language other than English, you can use that knowledge to help understand what that person is saying. If you recognize someone and know the language that they speak, you can learn a little bit about them that way. If you recognize somebody and know the language that they speak, you will be able to learn a bit about that language, too. If you recognize someone and know their native language and have that language in your mind, you can use this knowledge to help you understand what other languages are like. You will be better able to attempt to learn what that language is like and you will be better able to help a neighbor understand how you would write to him if they were to communicate that way.

Your ability to create a bridge between two different worlds—an environment where you are immediately visible—is directly related to your awareness of the emotions and visual cues of the people you know. The ability to provide a small knowledge of their languages will help you understand what they are feeling and determine how you might express yourself in a friendly way to them. Once you know where you can get a better understanding, then you can help them to feel better about their circumstances, which may benefit you in ways that you may not even understand.

And while these lessons are grounded in the past, we cannot ignore the fact that the past is no longer an indicator of what the future might look like. As we adapt to new environments, we must consider how we can maintain the things that we find valuable while also learning how to learn new things.

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