Responding to a frequent question yet again, I decided to post an answer to the “what about books | conferences?” question.
And, as usual, the transcript.
Once again, after talking about how learning requires meaningful practice, I was asked the seemingly timeless question: “but what about books?” Similarly, I regularly get “what about conferences?” So, for the record, let me say when and why books and lectures make sense. And when not. Hopefully I won’t have to answer another “what about books | conferences?” question.
To start, learning is action and reflection. That is, learning ‘outside’ formal instruction. We act in the world and reflect on it to cement the lesson. It’s slightly more complicated, because certain things, e.g. Geary’s biologically primary things, may not really need reflection. Further some things may be really challenging to learn on your own even with reflection. But basically, doing things and reflecting (which can be reading, experimenting, writing/representing), etc is the way we learn on our own.
Which, as I’ve argued before, suggests that instruction be designed action and guided reflection. That is, instructors should be choosing meaningful activities and scaffolding reflection around it. When we’re designing for novices [link], in particular, when the learner doesn’t know what’s important nor why, we need to do the whole enchilada (darn, now I’m hungry).
Which also means that when we’ve segued beyond novice to practitioner (and beyond), we begin to know what’s important and why, and we just need it. We want resources that can fill in the gaps. We want support for reflection.
So now we can explain why we can attend conferences, read books and articles, and the like. When we’re deeply engaged in something, whether work or a passion, reading a book, listening to someone tell their story, and the like, serves as the necessary adjunct to our activity! They provide the complement to our own endeavors; the reflection to our action!
Now, hopefully, we’ll never again need to discuss this. Realistically, we can point people here when we’ get “what about books | conferences”? At least, that’s my story, what’s yours?