Meta-Learning

Clark Quinn mentioned The Meta-Learning Lab during #lrnchat today and it brought back a rush of memories. 14 years ago, Clark and I, along with Claudia Welss and Claudia L’Amoreaux, founded the Meta-Learning Lab.  We were ahead of our time.

Our foundation beliefs were that…

  • Everyone has the capacity to learn but most people can do a much better job of it. Learning is a skill one can improve. Learning how to learn is a key to its mastery.
  • Learning is the primary determinant of personal and professional success in our ever-changing knowledge age. People and organizations that strive to succeed had better get good at it. Our goal is to help them.
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    These foundations help me understand what’s going on to this day:

    “The best learning happens in real life with real problems and real people and not in classrooms.” Charles Handy

    “Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.”H.G. Wells

    “The world we have made as a result of the level of the thinking we have done thus far creates problems that we cannot solve at the same level (of consciousness) at which we have created them. . .We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humankind is to survive.”Albert Einstein

    “Never underestimate the power of a small but committed group of people to change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

    “We learn by conversing with ourselves, with others, and with the world around us.”Laurie Thomas & Sheila Harrie-Augstein

    “It is by logic that we prove, but by intuition that we discover.”Poincaré

    My metaphor for Meta-Learning was “going up to the balcony” to observe what was taking place below. (I’d just returned from a trip to Guatemala where I looked down from the colonial style plaza at the teeming crowd below and realized I was watching a tableau of learning in action.)

    What I witnessed remains an essential part of my thinking about how learning takes place.

    balcon
    From the Meta-Learning Lab site: Learning is so integral to human nature that it’s often overlooked. We have to rise above the day-to-day to recognize its presence.
    balcon2

    Walk with me up the stairs to the balcony.

    Rise above everyday rules, conventions, and sacred cows. Let’s find a vantage point that enables us to see what’s really going on.

    Look at the people in the plaza below. We see elaborate social exchanges where roles and status and self-image come into play. Some learning is planned; other learning just happens. Some learners are active, others merely receptive. Some are gaining information, others pick up new skills, and yet others are developing something deeper, beliefs. Teachers learn. Learners teach.

    The activity on the plaza stimulates some but distracts others. Some are adept at learning, others not. From a distance, we see patterns. We are looking at meta-learning.


    It’s humbling to realize that I am still on the same quest 14 years later. The Aha! Project is built on the same principles, the touchstones Clark, the two Claudias, and I came up with at my house in Berkeley at the turn of the century.