Reflecting on learning and seeing the world in exciting new ways.

Learn, unlearn, relearn

I am interested in Alvin Toffler’s statement about learning:

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.

Converging coloured jigsaw pieces imageI see learning as a continuous process which develops and evolves with every single action, reaction, or non-action we take. It’s impossible to turn learning off. Its cyclic nature allows us to constantly conceive of concepts and ideas, allowing them to converge or diverge as more information is added and processed, then start all over again. However, as this quote suggests, how we learn will ultimately define our ongoing success and effectiveness as learners. I don’t believe that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I do acknowledge, though, that it can be difficult to get an old dog to change or modify their current tricks.

What does this look like in practice? As I was giving a colleague a ride home from work yesterday, she told me about her driving lessons. She wishes she’d learned how to drive when she was younger and had less fear about all the damage she could potentially cause in a car. I wonder if her fear of danger is something she’s always had, a natural human reaction to managing hazards in our works, or has it developed and grown over the years? What might have contributed to it? What effect does media reporting about road crashes, or an awareness of statistics about road safety, have on our psyche? Where is the fine line between acknowledging fear as a protective mechanism and overcoming it? Feel the fear and do it anyway, we’re told. This, in itself, is a huge concept.

In 2012, all New Zealand drivers are going to have to relearn one of our traffic rules as the right-hand intersection rule is changed to align us with the rest of the world. Introduced in New Zealand more than 30 years ago, the right-hand rule is no longer used in any other country which drives on the left side of the road. Just as New Zealanders had to cope with the change back in 1977, they will need to adapt and adjust their driving to accommodate a shift to a new law. For some drivers, this will involve relearning the driving practice they changed from in 1977. For many drivers, this will require unlearning the only intersection rules they have ever known. New drivers will have to learn the new law from drivers who will either have to unlearn or relearn it themselves. Will this be a problem? It’s hard to predict, but this motoring column suggests that it will be no big deal.

I’m wondering who is going to face the biggest challenges with this rule change: the new drivers who have to learn what to do at an intersection, the current drivers who will have to unlearn the only rule they have ever known at intersections, or the experienced drivers who will have to relearn an old rule they might have once already known?


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