Sunday, March 6, 2016

Binge Learning?

Binge had a negative connotation for a long time. We discussed binge drinking and worried about the impact on our systems.We have this sense that high-intensity short duration behaviors can lead to negative outcomes. The advent of Netflix has transformed the notion of binging into a less destructive more socially acceptable behavior.

In fact, we have been advocating this behavior for years, calling on students to get a lost in a book. We discuss books we cannot put down, or have to read in one sitting. It speaks to a motivation that leads to a very focused behavior.

Right now I am binging on history podcasts. It started with History of the English Language then transferred to History of Byzantium. Yes, I know I am a history geek. But listening to 3-5 podcasts daily (when I walk my dog or drive on my own, I do listen at 1.5 speed) I have started to have questions about learning. I caught my first serial history podcast about 3 months ago. History of the English language has been a deep and joyful experience because by the time I found it it had over 60 episodes. As I listened I enjoyed the level of detail and the build up of facts and ways of thinking. Once I caught up with the podcaster, however, I find it much harder to engage with episodes released once a week or less. I thought I just got tired of the subject so I switched to History of Byzantium, the effect is identical. Once I caught up with the podcasts and have to wait, I find myself a lot less engaged and need a lot more scaffolding to remember where I am in the story.

I argue that binging on content can be a powerful way to experience learning. Intensely sinking into a topic can be powerful and motivating which is exactly the opposite of the way we engage kids in schooling shifting our focus every 20-48 minutes in most cases. Binging on content is of course not enough but it can provide an exceptional starting point for deep understanding. If we follow binge consumption with an attempt to organize the information and then to creating an original product we might have a much better chance of learning. I think this notion fits well into the ideas of project-based learning (PBL) but not limited to it.

As for me, I will keep binging and enjoy learning intensely.

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