Making Connections Between E-Learning and Natural Learning

Making Connections Between E-Learning and Natural Learning

Geoffrey Caine (Caine Learning Center, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5085-3.ch001

Abstract

This chapter develops a model of learning that takes advantage of the ways in which the brain naturally functions in any learning situation. This model is framed in terms of a set of 12 principles called the brain/mind principles of natural learning. It is the sort of learning that helps all people adapt and adjust consciously and unconsciously to an ever-changing world. The core point is that every person is an integrated living system, which means the body, brain, heart, and mind are all involved in learning. Whether working face-to-face or online students need to employ their natural systems to learn well. This chapter gives teachers more ideas about the teaching/learning process to assist their students to deploy their knowledge and skills in the real world. This chapter argues that instructors should understand and implement learning in ways that assist learners in using their natural perception-action cycles.
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Introduction

The results of e-learning can be radically improved when it is consistent with the ways that people learn naturally. The goal, here, is to explore those links with an emphasis on social learning. This chapter will show a few ways of adding value to e-learning through personal processes and the use of publicly available and inexpensive networking tools.

Through a review of research in the fields of neurology, psychology, and education we (my partner and I) have developed a model of learning that takes advantage of the ways in which the brain naturally functions. We framed this model in terms of a set of 12 principles – what we call the brain/mind principles of natural learning (Caine & Caine, 2011). It is the sort of learning that helps all people adapt and adjust consciously and unconsciously to an ever changing world. The core point is that every person is an integrated living system (Fuster, 2003; Damasio, 2005) which means the body, brain, heart, and mind are all involved in learning. This chapter introduces the reader to the principles that help educators think about how they teach and how students learn.

More specifically, this chapter argues that the social aspect of learning is critical to the process. Educators should consider these three questions: 1. What happens if a learner’s preferences, likes, and dislikes play no part in the training and development? 2. What happens if there is no social learning? 3. What happens if a learner is under so much stress to produce that he or she feels helpless? The short answer is that when most natural learning capacities are disregarded, the perception-action cycle is sabotaged or is incomplete, and so the learner ends up with some knowledge that cannot adequately be deployed in the real world. Caine and Caine (2011) argue that the real problem with poor learning does not result from the poor transfer of knowledge, but rather the real issue is that the knowledge was never developed so that it could be a useful part of the learner’s perceptual field and psyche. These principles and issues of learning apply in all learning situations, children or adults and face-to-face or online. So, this chapter argues that instructors should understand and implement learning in ways that assist learners in using their natural perception-action cycles.

To make this point more clearly, the chapter describes a real case in which MillerCoors had to develop a new reporting system related to sales that would be used by 1,200 employees. Their solution was to develop and use online training and development that was intentionally grounded in social learning. The results for MillerCoors were very satisfying because not only were the employees successful in their experiences, but the company also saved money in the process. The company developed an online community of practice in which people were encouraged and supported to work collaboratively for the sake of each other and the company. MillerCoors engaged in three very successful natural learning processes. First, the company intentionally designed-in and supported social learning. Second, the company created a supportive real world context for their learners. Third, they took advantage of the natural emotional and cognitive processes that help learners. Employees were encouraged and supported to become reflective in their learning and in their work. All of this occurred in an online environment that intentionally attempted to integrate the brain’s natural processes with real world work in a socially and emotionally supportive environment.

Here are my final thoughts for this introduction which I believe sum up well how online learning and social learning are not only compatible but are critical partners in any real world learning environment:

A human being is neither a computer nor a machine. Learning is an organic process and knowledge and skill describe the ways that a person interacts with his or her environment. Knowledge is not stored or accumulated, it is processed. And skills always combine changes in perception and action. This holds true for both physical and virtual environments. An important key for those using e-learning is to appreciate the benefits of technology without losing sight of the fact that real people are involved, and that their natural learning processes need to be acknowledged and incorporated. E-learning does a lot. But it does not and cannot do everything. Once that fact is accepted, paradoxically online learning can become even more effective.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Student-centered Learning: This process of teaching and learning places the students in the center of the process. Students are given the authority and responsibility to own their learning. Teachers in this system become facilitators of learning. The goal in this system is to empower student learning by working through student interests and needs through an ever-expanding release of power and authority given to students.

Social Learning: Learning usually does not occur effective in isolation. Through observation, discussion, and feedback the social aspect of learning is an integral piece of the learning puzzle.

Perception-Action Cycle: All people interact with their environments in a constant cycle of information gathering. As people learn and function in the world they are acted upon and act with and on their environments. The goal is to effectively and efficiently use the information and interactions with the environment to learn and live well.

Engaged Learning: In this concept, students are encouraged to be active participants in their learning (instead of passive receivers of information). Students learn by integrating all of the mind/brain principles as they work in complex ways to develop their intellects and skills. Students work individually and in cooperative groups to develop critical thinking skills as they approach real world [problems and/or simulations.

Brain and Learning: By integrating the research and expertise of multiple disciplines (e.g., neuroscience, psychology, sociology, and education) teachers develop techniques and attitudes that take advantage of the natural system of the brain to learn.

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