Learning to Do

30 09 2010

My colleague Narendra Laljani and I were talking about learning about “how to do things” the other day. This may seem vaguely odd coming from business school people, but it shouldn’t. We are genuinely interested in getting beyond the model I’d written about earlier by Huczynski and similar models by others where they present a continuum from learning about through to being able to do. Memorisation and writing essays which integrate various facts is actually not that hard. Genuinely learning to do things is much harder and reaching expertise is even more difficult. Gladwell popularised the concept of 10,000 hours of practice. For what it is worth, and typical of the popularisation of academic thinking, Gladwell is not the originator of the idea. It stems from a 1993 article by Ericsson, Krampe and Tesch-Romer at the Max Planck Institute of Human Development in Berlin.

 So the challenge then is how to get beyond knowing about and to approach 10,000 hours of practice without spending 10,000 hours at it! The easiest place to start is simply to do what one is reading about. In business schools, some claim that case studies are better than just reading. Well, sure, but they do not actually get to “doing” anything. Simulations and role plays go a step further. The problem here is that if the simulation is not credible, then it carries no weight. What it does attempt to do is to compress time and allow multiple rounds of decision making to act as a proxy for 10,000 hours.

 In some cases, one really can do concrete things rather than play act. Here at Ashridge, we do something called newsday where a team puts together a news programme. I’m thinking about how we can fast forward that activity into the here, now and tomorrow. In this thinking, I’m being helped along by my #PLENK2010 course which is into the third week of it’s data flood, discussion, and illumination. We are way beyond web 1.0 where traditional teaching is simply ported online (I did that sort of thing in the late 1980’s at IBM and in the early 1990’s in Rotterdam and it really is a bit dull). We have just passed web 2.0 where learners learn with the facilitator and there are no constraints on which learning tools are allowed. Yesterday we looked at www 3.0 stuff like datasift, twazzup, foursquare and storify. Most are still in alpha phases, but they do look like fun. In some cases, I can see piecing together things to amuse myself in others, piecing together interesting narratives. In all cases, it gives one the impetus to actually do, rather than just to see, and that, after all, is half the battle.

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The learning economy

14 09 2010

I’ve never really liked the term “knowledge economy”. Knowledge, in isolation, serves no purpose. Knowledge in use is better. But you are unlikely to get famous by wittering on about the “knowledge in use economy”. I think that learning is where it is at. Learning to develop skills, and judgement, and discovery, and curiosity. So perhaps the “learning economy?”

Over the past years, I’ve been working on a whole range of activities around learning. This has ranged from developing courses – both f2f and e, writing, teaching and generally having an opinion.

 At the moment, two thoughts are driving my work. First, that one learns 10% in the classroom, 20% from one’s peers and colleagues, and 70% from actually doing things. The second guiding thought is that we are not as sophisticated as we ought to be about putting in place the range of necessary learning perspectives. In my mind, we need to consider five: cognition, behaviour, didactics, technology and neuroscience. They are clearly linked but distinct enough to provide a compass.

 So, why the blog?

 Well, my blog mates have been bugging me for some time to write things on the www rather than in academic publications. Second, I signed up for PLENK2010, a massive online open course which is run on the back of a National Research Council of Canada grant. The course is about enforced structure vs freedom to explore in on-line learning systems. For me, it is ultimately about how education works overall. An enforced structure assumes that knowledge resides in individuals and is diffused to students. An open structure assumes that there is knowledge in the network which is shared between learners. The lecturer is effectively replaced by the “jolly them along” facilitator.

 Over the next while, I’ll do my best to combine thoughts about the “learning economy” in general with some specific insights from PLENK2010 – and hopefully find a nice way of combining cognition from peers and previous generations with discussions and with practice. Let’s see!