The Self-Learning Revolution Is Our Future
In his remarkable article, Dr. Tassos Anastasiades writes: “Deep learning has never been more important! The future requires deep learning.” Deep learning and self-learning are often used interchangeably to refer to the ability of a machine or Artificial Intelligence (AI) system to learn and improve on its own without explicit programming. Humans could use deep learning techniques to analyze patterns in large datasets and identify trends or insights that might not be immediately obvious to an observer.
The Future Requires Deep Learning
Dr. Tassos believes that deeper learning happens when students engage in active reading, reading comprehension, right/wrong thinking, rewriting, and making meaning that they can transfer. This belief is based on the definition of deep learning as the ability to learn how to learn, know oneself, and care about others and the environment. This definition sounds empty since it needs to be more informative about what the term means and what it does.
Humans Cannot Use Deep Learning
Deep learning is a feature of machine learning and AI systems. Humans cannot use deep learning in the same way as computers can, because human brains work differently and don’t have the same capabilities as deep learning models. Whenever we talk about learning, we need to specify if we are talking about conscious learning (seeking out new information as knowledge) or subconscious training of new skills (through repetition or exposure to new situations). Conscious learning refers to the deliberate and conscious effort to learn, understand, and retain new information. In contrast, subconscious training refers to acquiring skills or knowledge through repetition and exposure, without conscious awareness.
Two Types Of Learning
To accommodate these two types of learning, our mind uses two different systems: the conscious mind and the subconscious mind, which have different mechanisms and processing speeds. Unfortunately, we often apply the conscious mind to acquire skills instead of the subconscious mind. For example, adults consciously try to acquire second language skills and demonstrate historically low success rates, because language skills should be acquired subconsciously.
Frameworks For Deep Learning Are Based On Industrial Age Learning
When we consider the frameworks on which deep learning was established, we understand why humans cannot use it directly. Cambridge, British Curriculum, Common Core standards, and International Baccalaureate (IB) frameworks are the overlying guiding structures for deep learning. Let’s apply critical thinking to these frameworks.
The British Curriculum has evolved, with the first national curriculum being introduced in 1988. The Common Core State Standards (CCSS), published in 2010, exemplifies a federal overview. It is the result of a state-led initiative to establish clear, consistent standards for what students should know and be able to do in English language, arts, and mathematics. The IB framework emphasizes critical thinking, intercultural understanding, and personal responsibility. The International Baccalaureate was founded in 1968. Today, the IB is offered in over 150 countries worldwide, and is recognized as a high-quality and challenging education program.
Unfortunately, the above frameworks are based on Industrial Age learning methods and historically have shown poor results. That is why deep learning should not be considered the primary tool for improving education. Most schools worldwide are teacher-centered and curriculum-driven, all to pass examinations. Deep learning reinforces this paradigm! It does nothing to counter the schools’ trend to be robot-like, graduating or failing students as if they were automobiles on an assembly line.
National Math And Reading Scores Hit Historic Lows
According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, two decades of progress are nearly gone: national math and reading scores hit historic lows . In the most recent round of PISA testing conducted in 2018, the United States ranked thirteenth in reading, twenty-third in math, and ninth in science among the 79 participating countries and economies.
Before we consider the second concept of our title, “self-learning”, I want to stress that the meaning of a word depends on context. The same word in various contexts often acquires entirely different meanings. For example, self-learning applied to a system means deep learning. Self-learning applied to a human being incorporates features that completely change the learning paradigm.
Let’s begin with the definition of self-learning, a term coined by Dr. Jeannette J. Vos in her series of books on the self-learning revolution: “Self-learning means self-directed and authentic learning, personalized self-empowerment for every learner. Self-learners create meaning and free themselves to learn in their unique way, in their own time.” Traditional teaching, geared to the conscious level, can be tedious. Teaching through self-learning is geared toward both the conscious and the subconscious mind.
Teachers As Coaches, Facilitators, And Mentors
Teachers become resources as coaches, facilitators, and mentors. Books, always helpful as a resource through self-learning practices, become something to experience, not just to read! Students can learn quickly and easily if the education system encourages them to retain the self-learning ability they had as little children.
Self-Learning Creates New Mindsets
The difference between an ordinary learner and a self-learner is in their mindsets. Even with all the good habits and learning tools in the world, without a mindset that moves you forward, you find yourself running in place and going nowhere, like a squirrel on a running wheel. Teachers have to do more facilitation and coaching than directed teaching. They need to provide projects, using self-learning tools that encourage lifelong learning. Most teachers assume that students learn because teachers teach. In a self-learning classroom, students teach themselves. The goal is learning to learn and think for themselves, transforming the students’ lives!
Most traditional teachers only ask questions after a lecture. Teachers in self-learning classrooms ask questions before and after the lecture. Students discuss the questions before the teacher provides answers. This way, the teacher inspires students’ curiosity, creativity, self-motivation, and self-management. In other words, this is how the students find their innate self-learning ability and tools to change their mindset. In education, this is the first time humans can make a positive difference by creating reality according to their vision of the future and playing an active role in it.
 Two Decades of Progress, Nearly Gone: National Math, Reading Scores Hit Historic Lows