Learning in lockdown: how was it for you?

By Mike James | 10th July 2020 | General

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Sports Injury Fix member Jon Tibke  of Personal Best has a background in academic writing and has many years of experience studying, and teaching the subject of education and learning worldwide. He is even a published author on the subject! Here he examines learning in lockdown from an entirely personal perspective.

I started thinking about this blog at about the same time I started to feel a curious anxiety about all the learning opportunities I have been trying to capitalise on during lockdown. I hope this examination of my experience helps you take stock of aspects of your own learning experiences during this period and please comment in agreement, disagreement or bewilderment as you see fit. My blogs are sometimes a bit academic-writer in style, but this is very much a personal exploration.

Exciting Start

Let me state clearly, I am an eternal lover of learning, of pedagogy, of research and debate about what constitutes learning and how it can best be achieved and I should be too, given that for more than 30 years before moving into therapy I was a teacher, then university lecturer. 

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The rapid emergence of many super-reliable learning opportunities early on in lockdown really did excite me and I think we should acknowledge all the people who have offered free content with absolutely no guarantee that it might later on lead to some signed up, paying customers. I’ll name some names too. There are plenty and plenty I’ve missed, but the offers I engaged with from the outset came from Movement Therapy Clinic, through which Mike Grice offered heaps of clinical reasoning case studies that opened up all manner of areas of knowledge. Mike also collaborated with Dan Lawrence to offer webinars focused on particular issues.

A key thing about these is that as well as opening up areas of knowledge they also led to great sources for further investigation; how did I ever manage without the Essential Anatomy app? Actually, I know the answer to that – with various books and charts, that good as they are cannot compete with the versatility of the app. The question ‘are you playing with that app again?’ has been asked more than once in our house recently. Playing? Studying, if you don’t mind.

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I spent three days in Australia, well, ok three days at an online Running Symposium that featured sessions from people like Brad Beer and Stacey Sims. Dr Sims set me thinking about a host of issues for female athletes, exercisers and non-exercisers, some of which I was vaguely aware of but her expertise really brought these into focus. Encouraged by her ‘women are not small men’ mantra I bought her book ‘Roar” and am continuing to learn.

I also bought Brad Beer’s book on running free of injury, not to mention other books ordered since. My small number of online consultations was failing to keep up with the cost of books at this point! Signing up for a strength and conditioning qualification with Brendan Chaplin’s S&C Education company dug into the reserves too, but as a lot of the content is online this is something I could get straight on with. Maybe I didn’t need to order a 7-foot Olympic barbell, but I was keen to practise what I was studying; inspiration from the course meant I wasn’t going to wait until my gym re-opens.

We should also acknowledge how Sports Injury Fix and Mike James in particular have kept debate and discussion active and positive through all of this, along with various blog contributions from members. These are always received positively and constructively.

I am Mike’s co-moderator of the SIF member Facebook network and it is a great source of learning and connection. It’s also the easiest thing ever to moderate, as everyone is so thoughtful about what they write and interact so warmly and professionally. 

Small Cloud Gathering

So it all sounds wonderful, yes? And it truly was/is, but after a few weeks of jumping on everything I could, I began to feel a growing disquiet. It baffled me, I was loving all this learning, so what was the problem? And then it hit me. All this learning was teaching me loads, but it was also reminding me of how little I know. I found myself re-running in my head treatments and plans I had undertaken with clients previously, in the light of some of my new knowledge and feeling mild panic that there were things I might have done and advised but hadn’t, not to mention things I might have chosen not to do or missed altogether.

Then it concerned me that I might not retain all the widening possibilities of what might lie behind my clients’ issues. I also felt some anxiety that there were yet more webinars and opportunities that I was not accessing, partly because I was becoming screen-weary, but also because I had got into a feeding frenzy without thinking about how to prioritise best for my continuing development.

I needed to examine my perspective, keep track of the good things and reconsider how to engage with all this.

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Clarity

As an educator I already know that no one knows everything, about anything. There is always more to learn, people to learn from and many true experts are humble and modest about their incredible knowledge and skills, because they understand this. The best therapists do the best job they can with the knowledge they have at any one time and keep that knowledge as up to date as possible. 

I needed to look at my ‘office hours’ too, as I began to realise I was on some sort of learning alert all the time, worried about what I might be missing or that I was in a race against time to ensure that no one would find out that there are things I don’t know, shock horror. That looks a bit ridiculous now I have typed it, but it points to a trait of confident therapists – the capacity to admit that from time to time they do not always have the answer.

Big Take Home

This comes as a surprise for me. For sure, I have learned a great deal and have lots of avenues to explore further, along with some further clarity about what my learning priorities and interests are. But it is the approach to learning that has taken me by surprise.

As you might guess, I have always been an advocate of the social dimensions of learning, the significance of being in the room with a teacher and other learners, the shared confusions and challenges and the different individual and collective ways of tackling those. But for weeks now, I have happily studied alone.

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Not sure what the teacher just said? Go back and listen again. Still not sure? Send a question, you usually can. Want to copy that chart into your notes and then listen to what is being said about it, instead of trying to do both simultaneously? No problem (and plenty of neuroscience research has revealed that so-called high-level multi-tasking is simply jumping back and forth between tasks, with focus diminishing per ‘jump’ – references available).

Something come up that you need to deal with? Fine, hit pause and come back later. There is no one is the class trying to take discussion in some unhelpful direction, no traffic to contend with or carbon to add to, travel time to factor or large campus to find my way around.

I am not suggesting there is no place for collective study or that we all become learning hermits, but I have come to see much greater possibilities in online learning than I was previously prepared to concede and also that face to face and online learning can work together to huge effect.

We have talked about many pragmatic developments in recent months that are now here to stay. Online learning and in different times blended learning should be a part of that. We’ll need to ensure the quality of what is offered is as good as the sources I have mentioned and the many others that you might add.

We also need the online platforms to truly serve our needs, free of gimmicks.

Online learning is not new, but I wonder if like me other people have discovered that rather than being second best to the classroom it has its own merits. 

Right, where’s that cadaver course booking form? Can’t do that online! Oh, and Therapy Live!

Jon Tibke PhD

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