Engage Learners and Make Learning Accessible

Learning is no longer fun.

Has learning ever been fun? Certainly, there are enjoyable aspects of learning, especially if it’s a subject we are eager to study. We should want to keep this excitement  and enthusiasm alive for learners of all ages.

However, today, learning is merely a requirement. And as with most requirements, it leads to boredom and monotony. Learning feels like an obligation that one must fulfill in world where we’re just racing from start to finish, not caring about the experiences along the way.

Personal Realization

Textbooks are one of the culprits. I came to this personal realization after beginning studies on a topic of interest, specifically tarot. In reading a book on the subject, I was unable to focus. I had to go back pages to refresh myself. And yet this was on a topic of my own choosing and my specific interest. Why was I struggling?

As I continued, I found myself re-reading, not just paragraphs, but sentences for lack of taking anything in. I often did as a child when studying something to which I had no connection.

I realized I was bored. The text itself lecturing me as though I was in a classroom, rather than engaging with my mind and helping me truly connect to what was written and explained. This was frustrating. The book itself was a fountain of wisdom from which I was eager to drink. But I could not connect with the writing.

The Struggle with Textbooks

Textbooks should be as engaging as they are informative. How many times have you had to re-read something in a textbook because it just did not click? It didn’t engage you? Or it didn’t inspire you to read more?

Textbooks themselves are vital and necessary. Students of all ages benefit from having a resource close to home that they can reference outside of the classroom setting.

But we need to start being better at how we address learners—whether they are young children just starting their journey; or teenagers who are determining where their future will go; or university students making that future a reality; or even adults who have decided it’s time to make a career change. All of these individuals deserve to be spoken to not at by their educational resources.

Students are lectured at for hours; they don’t need to be lectured by textbooks. I worry that if textbooks with this tone are the only reading resources we keep available for learners, we will begin to alienate people from learning. There is an obvious need to write in a formal way; it helps ensure that learners recognize the seriousness of their studies.

But it’s equally important that learners feel involved and engaged with their studies, so they begin make those insights and connections that educators work to bring out of them.

This is especially important if we’re working to connect young people to subjects with which they struggle. Engaging students and helping them feel connected to what they’re learning has the potential to help them understand content better. If one struggles to grasp concepts from textbooks on a subject they enjoy, then how can we expect students to thrive with lectures and tedious reading outside of their interested studies?

Accessibility

Another issue in education is accessibility of content. This is an issue occurring both within the classroom and outside it as well.

The accessibility I’m referring to is one’s ability to inherently grasp the concepts being presented. In terms of students, most individuals have their own capacity for certain subjects; most will excel in one subject, while struggling with another, as any student will confirm.

For younger students, we do well at simplifying knowledge into easily understood bits, so that children learn, but not outside their own pace. Work still needs to be done in secondary schools, as teenagers begin to define who they are and what they’ll be doing or studying come the conclusion of their high school years.

But this struggle extends outside the classroom as well. It’s often displayed as information that only select individuals can comprehend, leaving those who struggle to simply “believe what’s being said”.

For example, scientific concepts are explained in such a way that only those with a firmer grasp on science can understand. This leaves those with a lesser comprehension to simply “believe it because it is science”. This puts the subject on a pedestal and even creates a sense of arrogance around the topic. It becomes gatekeeping to knowledge. When that happens, more people become closed off to learning. It is not uncommon for one to struggle to understand a topic, only to give up due to complexity.

Further, the insistence that every person must simply trust the science makes the subject one of faith and belief, rather than of testing and proof. Yes, science does need to be a bit of both, but if the proof working to be achieved cannot be understood by all, then those people are being asked to rely on faith alone. In doing that, science becomes a religion that we insist others believe, even if they don’t understand. While this might be preferable to some, it’s not right or just in the name of science.

If we want people of all comprehension to openly accept and understand subjects, that starts by making knowledge accessible to the average person’s way of thinking. We as a society need to change our thoughts about learning, teaching, and each individual person’s level of understanding. We also communicate better about these subjects. To invite more understanding and compassion into our learning, we create a better future.

Final Words

These pieces may be contributing factors as to why people have become so disengaged and disenchanted with learning. Pressure is put on good grades; test taking; college and high-paying jobs; certain majors and not others; all while removing engaging content. It’s not a priority that students are learning and engaged, and that the content is presented in a way that students of all learning styles can comprehend; it only matters that they’re getting good grades, though that doesn’t necessarily mean they are absorbing the content.

Young people have been taught that learning isn’t fun. Then we wonder why everyone’s unenthusiastic about life in general.

The world needs more enthusiastic learners. The world is in dire need of people who jump at the opportunity to learn something new, who are exciting by the prospects of expanding their minds in all fields—as all fields are valid. Yes, the world needs scientists, engineers, mathematicians, technologists, doctors, but it equally needs the writers, the musicians, the historians, the language-speakers, the artists.

Engage people in what they want to learn, and help connect them to subjects outside their own individual learning sphere. The whole world is improved by it.