37. What is the value of unpersonalized learning? #LifeWideLearning16@bhwilkoff
— Zac Chase (@MrChase) February 6, 2016
The lecture will never die. In one form or another, there will always be someone who wants to stand up in front of others and spout off about what he/she knows. There will always be those who want to sit and listen too. Both because it is easier than active participation and because there are good many things that can be conveyed by telling rather than showing or doing.
It doesn’t mean that it is what we should strive for. It doesn’t mean that lecture is going to get the kinds of lasting outcomes that practice and direct implementation tend to have. But, it does mean that from time to time we will be faced with the reality of sitting in a chair for a longer time than seems comfortable to do so and watching as someone gives a lecture.
This is deeply unpersonalized. The lecturer is not catering to your needs. You do not have agency to learn about and explore more relevant topics. You are not communicating with others and establishing a context for the words that are being said. You are not being reflective about your own practice and making plans for how to apply new learning and change your approach. You are sitting, in a chair, listening.
And if that is true, you are doing it wrong.
Other than judgmental looks from a few colleagues, there is nothing stopping you from personalizing the learning experience. There is nothing to stop you from getting out a device and starting backchannel or taking hyperlinked notes to resources that are being shared. There is nothing to stop you from asking your network for additional research or personal experience to provide greater context for what you are hearing. Indeed, there is nothing stopping you from making each moment more relevant than the last by making plans that incorporate the lecture into your next body of work. Beyond that, there is also nothing keeping you in the chair. As a person, you have agency. There may be consequences for you getting up and leaving, but if a unpersonalized learning experience does not meet your needs and you have developed an idea for what would meet your needs better, get up and walk out.
The value of unpersonalized learning is to demonstrate your agency. You can use this moment to develop your skill set for personalization. A deeply irrelevant message can be challenged and built into a lasting learning experience. In fact, it may be even more important to do so in times of lecture than in times of collaboration. No one can take your learning away from you, unless you let them.
If the lecture has any value it is how we react to it and make it our own. It is in supporting one another through sessions that feel out of sync with our own goals. It is in the community that builds events and spaces that are reactions to the unpersonalized and the disconnected that the power of the lecture shines through. It is in finding the nuggets of truth within a vast cavern of wordy powerpoint slides.
Personalization isn’t about always having a perfect environment for learning. Instead, it is about always creating that environment from the resources at your fingertips.