The amount of information available to us has increased incredibly with the increase in the use of technology and social media. Does that make us more productive as learners though?
With the availability of information, on call and just in time, it would seem that there is not the same need to be a more productive learner. The abundance of information may increase the breadth of knowledge at our disposal, but not the depth of our learning. Among best learning practices are those recommended to increase the focus of our attention on our learning intentions.
Focus your learning
Focus your learning on to a topic area. Direct your reading and viewing in this way. Filtering out the information that is not relevant influences a critical ability to “perceive information … remember it and then to make decisions about it …” (Plummer & Wilson, 2018). This also enables you to use new information to build on previously consumed information, creating a depth of knowledge in the area.
Frameworks are the mental scaffolding we use to store and organise the information we receive. These structures help to process information in a consistent way. This helps in the retention of information by association within a a structured and “repeatable” pattern. By following a pattern of extracting and storing information eg reading and making notes/drawing diagrams, you can create a framework for your learning. As you read and area exposed to more information, you can add it to your existing framework – making changes to your already stored information and incorporating new data.
To synthesise your learning means to put parts together to form a whole with an emphasis on creating a new meaning or structure. Bloom’s taxonomy of cognitive development provides a series of objectives that highlight the learning process engaged in. These range from knowledge recall to making evaluative or defending judgements about things. As the sophistication of the skills required increases, the learning develops as it is synthesised into different formats.
Using learning feasts & famines
There are times when incoming information about a topic is plentiful and those when they are sparse. Accordingly there are times to focus on the acquisition of information and others when reviewing, considering and applying already acquired information are the best approaches.
With the abundance of information available, learning productively requires a critical eye and effective management of the data in-flows to suit your purpose.
Plummer, Matt & Wilson, jo. 2018. Become a more productive learner in Harvard Business Review. 5 June 2018.