unlearning learning

Years ago I had the opportunity to work with Jamie McKenzie and we were chatting about change, and how in institutions change agents within the organization often have the most challenging time. He said “There are no prophets in your own backyard.” to this day, as I myself have been involved in facilitating and leading change in schools and organizations, this phrase has stuck to my mind, and often I have found solace with these words. A couple weeks ago our school hosted John Davitt, writer, teacher, software developer and mentor. He spent a few days working with my IT Team, our faculty, students, parents and administrators.  John at many levels surprised our community, even though a software designer, information technology advocate, and gadget user, his focus, interactions, conversations, and emphasis over the three days was always on learning. For many who expected someone so closely involved with information technology and software development to be very IT focused.  His pace, lens, perspectives and conversations he facilitated continually revolved on what environments do organizations need to leverage with adults and students that makes learning both engaging and meaningful. With any change this process is critical, and to focus on the tool or mediums is an error. John provided us with the opportunity to re-frame our own evolving understanding of integrating information technology in schools. We  had been trying as an IT Team to engage our faculty to this understanding but we are not sure folks are always hearing us. It is only about learning! John from the outside of our backyard provided the push and shift for others to understand this.  Engaging with this understanding is what will provide the meaningful change for any organization. The tools and mediums will come and go, but learning is timeless and in whatever context or environment you live in, without this key “verb=learning” nothing changes or evolves.

I think we as schools and organizations are at different levels coming to terms with these dynamics and structures that facilitate engaging and meaningful learning. I am not convinced we have yet come to terms with, as schools and organizations,  the unlearning required  before we can relearn or learn new concepts and essential understandings that our digital world and economy are now requiring us to engage with.

I know for myself I am much better at learning something new, than trying to unlearn something, and then have to from scratch re-learn or learn. Today with the volatility of our world and the realities that surround us all, many of the learning we have adopted and been carefully groomed with will not sustain us long term. For a significant change to occur and allow us to re-frame our understandings of learning, we will be more successful if we equip our schools and organizations with environments which support unlearning in a compassionate and meaningful way.

Okay I am not saying everything I have learned is useless, no!  I believe when trying to re-learn or learn, to often my previous learning pigeon holes me into a mindset that prevents me from engaging with fresh, uncluttered perspectives and an open mind to all learning possibilities.

The days ahead of us, will be different, very different, whatever we may hope and believe. For schools and organizations to ensure that we are equipped to engage with these challenges, we need to develop a clear set of structures and pedagogy that provide us with meaningful and engaging environments to unlearn….. because through this process all of us will be better learners.


14 thoughts on “unlearning learning

  1. John:

    You’re on the right track. If you ‘re ever looking for some ways to help your staff/colleagues unlearn, I invite you to poke around my website (www.unlearning101.com). There is a category called “strategies” which might prove helpful.

    Best wishes for your continued unlearnin!


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  4. Absolutely so! Just wrote a bog myself on “Fear of Failure”, something that I see around me all the time from teachers and students. It links with your comment of unlearning, we need to get rid of it (or use to our advantage) before we can get to learning and/or offering it.


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