Learning Made Easier Leveraging Drupal's Social Construct

When I walk along with two others, from at least one I will be able to learn. 
 – Confucius

Drupal development as a career is usually also a commitment to constant learning through ongoing professional development.  Whether you make it a point to read blog posts or watch screencasts, sign up for some type of live-instructor training, or partake in co-working and meet-ups, on-going learning is a critical piece to being a professional Drupal  developer. Years ago, when DrupalEasy was presenting our Drupal Career Technical Education program exclusively in-person (now Drupal Career Online), the lab-portion (where we met in a less formal way than classroom sessions) became so popular with students, that we decided to continue to host them after graduation for anyone who had taken the class.

Six years later, these "office hours"are still going strong, now online and attended by people weekly from all over the country. It’s amazing to see the developers who first learned how to spell Drupal years ago in our riverside classroom in Cocoa, Florida; now the veterans assisting and connecting with those from recent sessions. People from former sessions, even those who attend at different times, also support each other beyond the labs, which has all contributed to the development of, what we think, is a pretty cool DrupalEasy Learning Community.

Weekly on Thursday afternoons U.S. Eastern Time, you can find DrupalEasy’s Mike Anello leading Go-To-Meeting ofice hours sessions, which are open to anyone who is enrolled in, or has taken any long-form DrupalEasy training courses. It’s a loose session devoted to helping anyone overcome issues, figure out how to approach something, share insights on particular modules and also talk Drupal. Learning experts call this collaborative learning, and it has even more advantages than we realized, which explains why it is so popular and seemingly effective as both an initial learning strategy and ongoing professional development tool. Everyone learns (Even Mike).

The Cornell University Center for Teaching Innovation explains that  “Collaborative learning is based on the view that knowledge is a social construct.”  (Wow, that relates to Drupal and open source projects on so many levels!)  They also explain that there are four principles to the ways collaborative learning happens, including that those who are learning are the primary focus, it is important to “do” and not just listen, working in groups is key, and the group should be learning by developing solutions to real problems.  

DrupalEasy’s learning community organically grew and developed all of these principles over the years, which is a pretty good confirmation that from both learning and solutions perspectives, we are on the right track. At the onset of each week’s office hours session, we say our hellos and figure out the first problem someone is having, or had, and the group works together to come up with a solution. There is of course also a bit of Nerd banter that keeps things fun and allows us to get to know each other a bit more. Cornell’s experts also confirm that group learning contributes to developing a lot of the soft skills (oral communication, leadership,etc.) that can help make a good developer great. We agree!

We also especially appreciate the value of the problem-solving approach to teaching, and also use it in our structured training. Cornell again has some great insight into the types and characteristics of problem solving as a mode of teaching that really resonates with us. They go in pretty broad and deep with references and explanations, so let’s pull the one element they cite that we feel we can attribute a good part of the success of our programs: “The problem is what drives the motivation and the learning.” (Boom!)  

So, knowledge is a social construct and problems motivate us to learn and figure out solutions. Working together as a community to overcome problems and build viable solutions. It’s all very Drupal-y, don’t you think?

The next session of Drupal Career Online begins March 26th. Two no-cost Taste-of-Drupal information sessions about the course are coming up at 1:30pm EST on February 28 and March 14.  Sign up!