Right time and place

Institutions of higher ed presume to tell their students when the right time to learn something is occurring. The administration's  timing gets defined by the dates the course is offered online or on campus. That timing may also get constrained by when the classroom or faculty member becomes available. As this frame of reference extends into the premises of students, timing gets further scheduled by meeting with project teams, study groups or tutors. College and universities cannot chase after the teachable moments of individual students. They hope the assemblage of students enrolled in a course offering will create a sense of opportunity and timeliness for everyone at same time. As a result, most college teaching occurs at unteachable moments. The course comes at a bad time. The timing is off in the experience of most students. Bad timing can easily be bad for our brains.

Opportunities to learn come at a good time when the learner is in the driver's seat. Being in control of the speed of learning, direction being pursued and the stops along the way help synch up with personally good timing. The timing feels right to anyone when it occurs in a context of his/her own immediate need, fascination, curiosity or use. A similar issue arises with the location of learning.

Accredited institutions of higher education once required seat time to ensure compliance with quality standards. As online learning took hold, more of the students' activities were allowed to occur asynchronously. However colleges and universities continue to maintain a stranglehold on where the educating happens. If not in their classroom, lab or faculty office, then it is necessary to log into their LMS (learning management system) to get educated in their "right" place.

Opportunities to learn seem well-placed when they occur in the midst of our own applicable situations. We're in a place where we know what we're trying to do, why we're they, how we intend to succeed and what we could get out of it. This is how learning occurs through handheld devices, on the job or within immersive games. We feel efficacious in that situation. Whatever we're trying to accomplish defines unknowns, further questions and needs for greater understanding. In that place, we are:

  1. open in new information, ideas  and approaches
  2. willing to make mistakes, look foolish, try things without assurance of success
  3. eager to discover what works, what's really going on here and what difference can be made
  4. motivated to inquire further, to refine our questions and to deepen our exploration
  5. inclined to connect the dots, to make more sense and to get a bigger picture of our situation
  6. in a right mind to recognize patterns, to discern what's missing and to challenge our preconceptions
  7. getting taught by feedback from our experiments, by surprising outcomes and by uneven successes

Learning in the right time and place can be very good for our brains. The timing and location lowers our anxiety wasting our time or barking up the wrong tree. They lower our stress level as we experience being in control of our activities and free to change what is not working for us. They maintain a sense of meaning and purpose when things do not go as we planned. We're each framed as someone who is competent, effective and successful at moving forward. We're getting rewarded intrinsically through our own self-structured efforts. We are free of dependency on authority figures, bad examples or excessive structure, which then enhances our self respect, self reliance and self motivation. We're being good for ourselves which rubs off on others who can follow our example, lean on us for guidance and use us as resources in their own explorations.

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