We learn by what we see, read, do and teach

The increase in school bus traffic on the roads is a sure sign that the regular school year is underway. What may have been a bus or two on a summer field trip has now increased substantially as numerous students are transported to schools in every community.

Ed Saxton
Ed Saxton

Students of all ages have returned to the classroom and a reunion of structured learning is underway for the 2013-14 school year. It is an atmosphere of positive expectations and one of the first items on the agenda is discussing experiences from the past three months.

Most of us remember this as the “What did you do this summer?” assignment. This concept has evolved and now encourages a review of lessons learned over the break. We ask about opportunities experienced and connect them as an extension of the classroom. We encourage lifelong learning. The term that associates technology with learning is: anywhere anytime. How do these items unfold moving forward?

One of the best conversation starters is a simple request for someone to recall an activity. This question comes in several simple forms: What did you do this summer? Do anything interesting this summer? Did you travel this summer? Read any good books this summer? There are hundreds of variations of the question likely be asked all over America at this time of the year.

This early-fall review teaches a skill that is used virtually every day. Through an informal request, people of all ages are able to share experiences by verbal recall. Years ago, it may have been referred to as storytelling (some stories, truer than others). This  activity has evolved and is often observed as a communication tool. A conversation starter from a friend, a writing prompt from an instructor, an inquiry from a coach and a question from an adviser are all designed to help the recall process begin.

Experiential learning is intuitive. Recently, at our back-to-school gathering, I suggested students have no filter and they learn from everything they observe. I would say most of us shape our thinking and attitudes by association. We learn by what we see, what we read, what we do and what we teach others.

This concept starts at home, is further developed during school experiences and eventually translates into life after traditional school.

We have learned how to observe, process and respond to the information presented. It seems like a monumental task but, collected gradually, these experiences truly do shape us as individuals.

The anywhere-anytime learning model has surfaced as a buzz word for a society using technology to expand learning options and opportunities for all learners. I support that concept and believe it opens doors at an extremely rapid pace. The deeper understanding may surface as we draw on this knowledge and begin to collaborate with those around us.

People have coined phrases over the years to help us understand these unfiltered learning concepts. Have you ever heard: “None of us is as smart as all of us.”

I believe most would agree, learning has been experiential and in an anywhere-anytime format since the beginning of time. Engaging in the learning process has never been optional. Enjoy the opportunities as they surface and embrace the privilege of becoming a “lifelong learner.”

As we all begin to carefully share the roads with buses transporting our students to school, we will begin the formal structure of learning that will be marked in time as the 2013-14 school year. Please work hard, learn as much as you dare and have a great year.

Ed Saxton is the superintendent of the St. Francis School District 16.

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