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.