World Futures: Education, Training, Learning And Knowledge: Part Three

Los Alamos World Futures Institute

Returning to the bubble model discussed last week, a mother or father bubble is at the stove heating a pot of water to boiling. The child bubble reaches for the stove and is stopped by the parent bubble who explains the following.

“I just put one liter, one thousand cubic centimeters, of water into the pot at a temperature on 3.98 degrees Celsius, equivalent to 277.13 degrees Kelvin or 39.164 degrees Fahrenheit and I want to raise the temperature of the water to 100 degrees on the centigrade scale. One milliliter of water, one cubic centimeter, requires one calorie of energy to raise the temperature by one degree Celsius (centigrade).

Therefore, I need to add 96,020 calories to the water, or the equivalent of 96.02 food calories. Plus, I must add more energy to heat the pot in order to effect energy transfer to the water. The energy comes from the stove, which must be higher in temperature than the pot temperature in order to accomplish the energy transfer through a combination of convention, conduction and radiation….” Or does the parent bubble merely say “NO. it’s hot!” while pulling the child bubble’s hand away from the stove? Or does the parent bubble allow the child bubble to touch the stove and really learn not to touch the stove when in use? How do we learn? What is the hierarchy of learning and what do we really need to know as an individual bubble and as a bubble in the huge bubble called humanity and everywhere in between?

Per Wikipedia, “learning is the process of acquiring new or modifying existing knowledge, beliefs, skills, values, or preferences.” While the list seems short and straightforward, it can quickly become complicated when how the learning occurs is considered. At a simple level of description there is active learning (student-centered) and passive learning (teacher-centered). A couple of examples might be useful.In 1954, I was in junior high school and was bullied. Going from my parents’ house (mine also) to a destination, the bully and his buddy stopped me on the street and began harassing me including pushing me around. Having had enough, I popped him in the mouth and split his lip, after which he avoided me.

Two or three years later at high school football tackling practice, I was paired against person that liked to bully me. The whistle blew, he ran toward me with the ball, and I tackled him much harder than we were “supposed” to do at practice. No more bullying.  My student-centered (me) active learning from 1954 told me what to do.  Experience was the teacher and the knowledge was retained.Several years later (1985) I saw Harrison Ford in the movie Witness. In the movie, Ford is in an Amish community and confronted by one of the villains (not from the community).

Having had enough of the villain’s threats and bullying, Ford pops him in the mouth. The audience cheered. But assuming it was a teachable moment in the film, how many viewers learned from it such that when confronted by a bully, they would instantaneously reason and take appropriate action? And what is appropriate action? Was my action in 1954 appropriate? In a sense, the movie was passive learning-teacher (movie) centered.

As a bubble moving through the fluid of knowledge and information we acquire knowledge randomly based on experience. There are other bubbles, however, focused on delivering information to us that should or may alter our own knowledge. This is called education and training.

Again per Wikipedia, “education is the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs, and habits.” Note the word “facilitating.” The student must want to learn for education to be effective. I did a count of my years in formal, passive education and came up with 20. I must have been motivated because it increased my knowledge – or was it my information storage? I didn’t really learn how to use the information until subsequent experience. Then I would agree it became knowledge.In contrast, per Wikipedia, “training is teaching, or delivering in oneself or others, any skills and knowledge that relate to specific useful competencies.”

As an example, one might attend a training class on using a word processor. Since the word “training” is used, it is assumed that it is a “hands on” class. When finished, the attendee bubble might have acquired some level of skill in pushing the correct keys in order to make the software and computer do what is desired. Of course, the “training” could have started with an exploration of binary code, how semiconductors work, and so on – just don’t touch the hot stove.
Education and training involves knowledge, information, and beliefs. And if you don’t believe me, come back next week….

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