Weekly Writing 2: Finding nuggets

The memorable learning experience that came to mind for me was not a specific activity or assignment. Rather, it was a comment during a lecture that managed to transform how I listened, took notes, and shared what I learned from then on. During an undergraduate communication class, the instructor was discussing the fact that we are bombarded with a lot of information every day. We only remember long-term a percentage of what we originally hear in class. The instructor said his goal for us, and what he hoped we would come away with, were various “nuggets” of formative information that would stick with us long after we had forgotten the rest of the lecture that surrounded them.

I see reflections of each of the theories in this “lesson” that has stuck with me. There is cognitivism in thinking of nuggets as pieces of information collected for long-term storage. There is consctructivism in thinking of nuggets as the type information learners actively seek out, determine to be personally useful, and connect to prior knowledge. There is even an echo of behaviorism in the fact that my instructor hoped that by sharing the “fact” of nuggets, students would change how they listen to lectures.

This idea of nuggets, meant to describe other, more important lecture material we should be remembering, became a nugget in itself. Depending on your personal worldview, you may want to consider nuggets pieces of Truth, or of truths, or simply tools in a loosely organized toolbox. I personally found the idea of “collecting nuggets” to be motivational. I think we all have these collections in our brain in some fashion. We’ve got a pile of pieces of advice we plan to pass on to our children or others we care about. We have a pile of important facts about topic X or topic Y that we consider fundamental knowledge of that subject.

Nuggets could also be a way of preserving a sense of cohesion in the face of a fast-paced, challenging flow of online information. Siemens (2005) relates connectivism to insects trying to navigate across multiple pheremone paths. How do you decide what to pay attention to and what to discard, so you can claim somewhere in there you have staked out “your” path? The quote that stood out to me the most from the article on connectivism was that “Self-organization on a personal level is a micro-process of the larger self-organizing knowledge constructs created within corporate or institutional environments. The capacity to form connections between sources of information, and thereby create useful information patterns, is required to learn in our knowledge economy.”

For me, staying an active listener by giving myself the goal of gathering take-aways or “nuggets” to remember during individual learning experiences helps me eventually see patterns across the entire collection of experiences. What’s fascinating is, as Siemens (2005) points out, that computers can do a lot of the remembering and organizing for us now. If we take a cognitivist view of nuggets and see that as just another word for some organizing function of the brain, we can also see how technological tools like Evernote can organize those nuggets for us. Why remember an amazing cleaning tip or trick when my Pinterest board can memorize it for me? Well, I don’t know about you but I’ve got several files, online and offline, full of great ideas that I never went back and followed up on…


Siemens, G. (2005).  Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age.  International Journal of             Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 2.

5 thoughts on “Weekly Writing 2: Finding nuggets

  1. Jenny

    I liked your analogy of the “nugget” and felt I was able to take away a few “nuggets” from your piece. I think that it really is one of the greatest challenges of modern education to help students find the “nuggets” of gold when researching quality information versus the other types of less desirable “nuggets.” How do we organize and store those “nuggets” without forgetting them or allowing them to buried in a pile of Pinterest posts? Like you, I have many “nuggets” of interest that are lost to me, but perhaps their value is in serving as inspiration to new activities and lines of inquiry.

  2. Owen

    I like your nuggets insight as well, Alda. Only as a bit of a constructivist, I wish they took the form of some sort of structural building blocks. Seems like we have a greater likelihood of nugget retention if the little morsels fit into an existing framework of experience and understanding. Call it the Lego theory?

  3. kgebauer

    Being able to chunk information into useful “nuggets” as you put it is a necessary survival skill. This is valuable way for both students and teachers to approach the learning process. Your statement, “I personally found the idea of “collecting nuggets” to be motivational” is interesting because I think it made the learning experience less overwhelming for you because you were given a goal or a mission. The learning experience in your class now had meaning and purpose. Your instructor was direct in stating their goals for you as a student and you didn’t have to guess what nuggets of information to take away. I am assuming your instructor’s teaching structure and presentation followed this philosophy so that the students were guided to nuggets of information. I agree with Owen that there needs to be a structure for these nuggets to fit into and preferably an existing one that links new knowledge to a prior knowledge framework. If students can’t make a connection to new information or nuggets it won’t be tagged and stored in the proper place.

    As to your reference to Pinterest and how we are using technology to memorize pieces of information for us I think those organizational tools are sometimes more useful to others than ourselves. Yes it helps us organize the tons of information we are exposed to, but most people are going to do a search of others saved information plus their own. If we only searched our own digital memory that would be too limiting these days. Pinterest and other tools like Diigo are more about connecting with others so that you are not limited by your own nuggets of information.

    Thanks for sharing.

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