Learning and knowledge are difficult terms to define, yet are elements that are integral parts of our existence as humans. How can something that is so ingrained in our identify be such a challenge to talk about? Probably because learning and knowledge are highly complex activities that are highly variable from person to person, from moment to moment, and from experience to experience.
This is a summary of three key components of my knowledge base and the learning experiences that nurtured their development. They are the non-formalized learning experiences I’ve had in my field as a professional educator, the individual learning journey I took as an entrepreneur in my career as a music professional, and the informal learning path I took as a creative in the field of music. This last part will focus on my learning in the realm of traditional Hawaiian acoustic string music.
The purpose behind this writing is as part of an assignment in my graduate studies in Educational Entrepreneurship at Oulu University of Applied Sciences. It is an examination of the variety of learning experiences that have shaped my purpose behind establishing a formal community of practice around capstone education in the United States.
My knowledge as an educator has relied tremendously on a variety of non-formal learning experiences. We can define non-formal learning for our purposes as learning that exists outside of a formalized learning structure commonly found at universities, colleges, or trade schools. While I do have training and certification in the field of English as a Second Language instruction, my current professional domain is primarily in Mathematics instruction.
After a number of years of on the job training as a substitute teacher and tutor, I was given the privilege and responsibility of delivering a formal grade 8 algebra curriculum. My process of gaining knowledge in this domain was through consistent attendance at conference-style seminars. I also consumed literature on mathematics instruction which was primarily introduced or facilitated through the experiences I had at professional development seminars. Some notable conference experiences were at the Visible Learning Conference and at the conference of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
These experiences have had a tremendous impact on developing my knowledge as a professional mathematics instructor and educator in general. I have since delivered presentations within small professional learning communities as well as my school community at large. I have also become more involved in shaping the mathematics curriculum at my school. These opportunities were only made available to me through knowledge gained by these non-formal learning experiences.
As for individualized learning, this has taken place in my experiences in the entrepreneurial field as a professional musician. I am defining individual learning as the process of gaining knowledge through self-directed means. I developed this applicable knowledge in the areas of website design, pricing, marketing, tax laws, logo and branding design, and live sound engineering. The manner in which I gained this knowledge was through reading books, podcasts, online articles and journals, observation, and basic trial-and-error. Over time this leads to a fully operational business that I called “Dagan Music” that has generated consistent income for me. At the moment due to COVID and my focus on developing my career as an educational professional, I have shifted my priorities away from supporting this entrepreneurial venture, but I plan on continuing this field as a supplement to my educational career.
The final area of knowledge acquisition I’d like to share is in the domain of Hawaiian acoustic string music. This is the most personal to me as it carries with it not only the surface level knowledge required to create this style of music but the cultural knowledge behind it as well. In fact, it is part of the cultural construct of learning this type of music that is typically bound to the informal delivery mechanism.
For this final domain, I will be defining informal learning as learning from experience. In the case of Hawaiian acoustic string music, the knowledge is commonly delivered through watching, listening, and participating in unstructured jam sessions called kanikapila. These often occur at social gatherings at homes, backyards, or the beach where people gather to socialize, celebrate, or sometimes mourn the loss of a significant community member.
My experience growing up embedded in the Hawaiian community on Hawaiʻi Island I had exposure to these informal jam sessions and spent many hours at first observing, watching, and listening. The knowledge gained from these experiences was then developed at home through the disciplined practice of the various musical canon associated with this type of music. After many years of this learning, which could be categorized as self-directed, I slowly moved towards immersing myself in the music-making part of the experience. At this stage, the knowledge was accelerated through the mentorship of individuals who were established as masters of this craft.
The final stage of gaining knowledge in this field was through considerable time spent in additional kanikapila. Here the finer points of Hawaiian acoustic string music were emphasized and developed through these mentorship relationships. Finally, the experience culminated with full acceptance into the community through professional opportunities to perform alongside the purveyors of this craft in public settings. This final stage establishes you within the community as having gained the relevant knowledge to be a practitioner of this form of music.
These three separate learning experiences have had a significant impact on my desire to establish a formal community of practice around capstone education in the United States. They all overlap at an intersection of creativity, entrepreneurship, and explicit knowledge. These are the three things that I feel will guide the development of educational models in the coming millennia. All three are legs on the stool of learning. Creativity is the phenomenon of forming something new, entrepreneurship as the act of extracting value, and explicit knowledge as information that has been codified in order to be transmissible. It is my goal as an educational entrepreneur to build organizations that can facilitate the development of these educational models.