The Landscape of Learning

“We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience.” - John Dewey

If you were to take all of your learning experiences throughout your entire life and plot them on an area graph, what would it look like?  This is the question that I asked myself in order to make sense of the learning process that occurs when we acquire new knowledge and skills.  I call this visual representation of one's education, the landscape of learning.

I define the landscape of learning as the distinctive features of a learner's educational experience. Everyone's landscape of learning is completely unique and valuable.  In fact, each person's landscape of learning looks a little bit different, just like our fingerprints.  We all have individual ups and downs, zigs and zags, and peaks and valleys.  And rarely does learning ever appear in a straight line.  If we look at the two images below, we can imagine what someone's landscape of learning might look like. 

Figure 1: Landscape of Learning

Figure 2: Cityscape of Learning

In each of these images, the learning looks completely different. The highs and lows are in separate locations, depicting totally independent learning experiences. 

In order to take a snapshot of my own landscape of learning, I decided to take a look at the history of my blog posts. Back in 2011, I created this blog as a way to organize and creatively express my thoughts on education in a public space. With every new post, I saw myself become a better writer—I learned more about information literacy, acknowledged author and creator rights with attribution, and engaged in various forms of social media. Blogging afforded me the opportunity to write meaningful content, share it with an authentic audience of educators, and it helped me to refine my writing skills. I truly believe that taking this creative risk significantly helped me to learn more about education, social media, and the writing process.

Figure 3: My Landscape of Learning

The image in Figure 3 is a line graph that shows the number of views my blog received from the time of inception in the fall of 2011, to the spring of 2022 when it reached a milestone of one million views.  As I began to investigate my own landscape of learning, I realized that my knowledge of different topics in education had completely transformed over time.  After looking back at some of my earlier tweets and blog posts, I noticed that my knowledge of content is now more cultivated.  The reason for this is simple. By reading lots of books, connecting with people on social media, and writing blog posts, I noticed that I was engaging in a process that continually changed my thinking.  I realized that on any given topic I would learn, unlearn, and relearn.  I was engaging in a cycle where the more I learned, the more questions I asked. And the more questions I asked, the more I learned. 

After reflecting on my landscape of learning, I asked myself a few questions:
  • What made my learning peaks so strong?
  • What was going on in my life during my learning valleys?
  • What caused my learning slopes to be positive or negative?
  • How could I have improved my mindset or environment during my learning valleys?
  • How might I replicate the conditions that maximized my learning peaks?

I am still trying to answer these questions with the hope that it might shed some light into discovering how I function best as a learner. As I continue on my learning journey, I can't help but wonder how my knowledge of learning will evolve, and how my landscape of learning will transform.