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Lessons from “binge learning”

Posted on: July 12, 2014

I did something recently to prompt a reflection: Was there such a thing as binge learning?

Part of my process of giving myself a break was “binge watching” TV series I missed over the last few years. I did this in part to reward myself with entertainment I had denied myself in order to get work done.

Video source

I also did this to get up to speed on my cultural knowledge and to understand memes and YouTube parody videos of popular TV shows (like the ones above and below). No one was going to test me or think less of me if I did not understand a popular culture reference. But I reasoned that it was better to know why a joke was funny than to have it explained to me.

Video source

So over a period of several weeks, I watched all seasons of Breaking Bad and the debut seasons of Orange Is The New Black and House Of Cards. Amongst a few others, of course. All had critical acclaim and did not disappoint.

Binging has a negative connotation because it is linked to the over consuming or rapid eating of food over a short period. This is not healthy and symptomatic of other problems.

However, my binge watching was part of my desire to learn about something I was curious about and happened during time I had set aside for myself. I was binge learning.

Perhaps I should take “binge” out of the phrase. I was just learning by watching with a passion or purpose. That is how people learn a new language, dance moves, a musical instrument, culinary methods, or any assortment of things with the help of YouTube.

There is learning that you have to and learning because you want to. The former is forced, often a process of schooling and training, and frankly necessary at times to build a foundation for other learning opportunities.

The latter is something most teachers would like their students to do, but they go about it the wrong way. Learning that is truly self-directed 1) can happen without a teacher (at least, the traditional understanding of what it means to be one), 2) occurs when time and space are designed outside a curricular race, and 3) happens when the ownership is passed on entirely to the learner. The sad thing is that these three things are what schools and teachers are least willing to let go of.

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