Adult Learning Less Than Stella

Adult Learning Less Than Stella

It has been my experience that public libraries are experts in creating learning environments and experiences for children and teens. I do not know why this is, but it might have to do with the focus we have historically placed on early childhood literacy.

As a profession, we do not seem to have the same focus when creating adult programming, even though there is a tremendous amount of longitudinal data available. The best personal and unscientific evidence I can provide is any conference I have attended in the last five years. During the first 10 minutes of the talk, I am generally making myself comfortable and getting my bearings, but once that eleventh minute arrives the speaker’s voice takes on a droning quality that induces me into a mild catatonic stupor. The hypochondriac in me thinks I am developing some acute form of narcolepsy, but the sane part of my brain knows that this is just a moronic way to convey information. I sit and listen and they talk for 50 minutes showing you one PowerPoint slide after another. Replace PowerPoint with writing on a chalkboard or overhead projector.

Let us contrast that with a kid’s program. We will start with a song, my favorite is hands, fingers, knees, and toes. We are all moving our bodies and getting into the flow. Then we spread out on the floor with a blanket and maybe a pillow in a big disorganized pile. Then someone reads us a story, but it is not passive, they will ask us questions and the group will yell back the answers. It is a time honored Socratic method of learning. Ask a question, share a thought, then ask a harder question share another thought, repeat. Next on the agenda might be a snack, I like cheese, raisins or orange quarters that we would use to make orange smiles while running around. I am not looking through the rose color glasses of nostalgia we might also want to pay attention to the science. If you provide a high carbohydrate, high sugar, snack then everyone is probably going to be wired from the glycemic spike and then most probably will crash. Not exactly conducive to learning as everyone gets sleepy both mentally and physically. Yet at many conferences I have attended donuts, bagels, and muffins is exactly what the mid-morning snack looks like.

How do adults learn and how might this information help us develop programming that deals with digital literacy?

The rest of this post is a summary of the article I have cited that goes into the Adult Learning Theory, and it makes a certain amount of common sense. Active Learning is an approach where people work together in small groups; solve problems, and role-play. The work is visual, auditory, kinetic and highly engaging.

Another model is Active Learning Concepts that puts the learner and their learning preferences at the forefront.  I might characterize this as a learner centered approach. It has many of the same elements of engagement as the Active Learning approach.

Problem Solving and Problem Based Learning is where the learner is placed in a situation where there is a defined problem in which they have to solve. Understanding the assumptions and developing solutions or approaches to address the issue. This could be process or people driven. I like the clarity and definition this approach demands, which is why this is my preferred style for learning.

Can you identify your own personal preferred learning style? Are you a spatial/visual learner, or auditory or kinetic. You could be a hybrid, knowing that everyone learns differently how would you design an adult learning program that might provide all these types of learning experiences?

The cited article is only 8 pages and I think it is well worth the read especially if you are thinking about developing programming that is focused on digital literacy.

Next blog post will look at the Novice Digital Learner.



Works Cited

Nilsson, Nina L. “If They Can’t Learn the Way We Teach, Maybe We Should Teach the Way They Learn.” Breakthroughs in Literacy (2012): 103-07. Web.