We've always been told that children are like sponges, that they absorb any information that we ever give them. After reading Connectivism: A Learning Theory by the Digital Age and watching The Conflict of Learning Theories with Human Nature , both by George Siemens I've reconstructed the old saying.
A learner is like a sponge in pebbly, muddy water.
According to Siemens, one of the principles of connectivism is "Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen though the lens of shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be the wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision." The water and pebbles represent the ability to choose what information a learner decides to absorb. A sponge will pick up water and some very small pebbles, however it cannot absorb it all. This is much like a learner who chooses what they want to learn.
As we all know, a sponge not only absorbs but when you squeeze it, it will release whatever it has absorbed. According to Siemens, "As human beings we desire, or crave the ability to externalize what's in our heads." Squeezing a sponge is much like externalization. You are taking what you have learned and putting it back out into the world. It is basic human nature to want to share what we have learned.
The process of absorbing and releasing or learning and externalizing can be done over and over.
This should be kept in mind when teaching. You need to make the information you are presenting to your students appealing because ultimately it is up to them what they want to do with the information you are giving them. They can choose to absorb it or leave it behind. It is also very important to give your students a chance to externalize what they have learned. It is basic human nature and should not be ignored.