For the introverted view...
Learning is changing one's
mind by adding new stuff, repudiating old stuff, or by making connections.
But how does one change one's mind?
Metaphors We Live By
posits that all thoughts are relative. And most are expressed in words.
This aligns with the popular wisdom that we learn from stories.
The Mind's Past
talks about the internal conversation always going on in our heads.
Listen for a minute. Yeah, that's it. The book also describes a mediator
between the brain and the mind called "the interpreter."
Let's call the subconscious,
autonomic brain simply "the brain;" it's attached directly to the senses.
The conscious, aware portion of our gray matter, we'll call "mind."
The brain gets sensations
first. It rejects most of this sensory input and makes basic decisions
about what to do next. Later, "the interpreter" creates a story to provide
a rational explanation. The interpreter weaves together a plausible
story to bullshit the mind into believing it's rational and in control.
In fact, most decisions are made before they enter consciousness.
Got that? Your don't make
up your mind; your brain makes up your mind. Its interpreter spins yarns
the way you do when recounting a dream. A lot more of the brain comes
with mechanics "factory-installed" than we like to think. As Bernard
Malamud has observed, "All biography is ultimately fiction." Gazzaniga
says, "Autobiography is hopelessly inventive."
Changing one's mind consists
of convincing the interpreter that the facts of the matter or memories
of the past or one's self-image or the rules of the game haved shifted.
The changed interpreter puts a different spin on the stories it tells,
for those stories must seem internally consistent. The stories must
also maintain the fiction that the mind is calling the shots, not the
What might be the nature
of this interpreter? Clearly, it needs an image of who its owner is
and what the owner is capable of. I'll call this the secret resume,
for like a printed resume, it's a very selective and self-serving sense
of one's past. The interpreter also needs a worldview or meme library,
the rules by which things operate. And the interpreter must retrieve
memories, for this is the content of thinking. Changing either the secret
resume, the worldview, or the memories changes the interpreter's stories.
This is learning.
The Mind's Eye
tells us that "the brain is not primarily an experience-storing device
that constantly changes its structure to accommodate new experience.
From the evolutionary perspective it is a dynamic computing device that
is largely rule driven; it stores information by manipulating the value
of simple arithmetic variables We are a finely honed machine that has
amazing capacities for learning and inventiveness. Yet these capacities
were not picked up at a local bookstore or developed from everyday experience."
They were, as the author says, "factory-installed."
Our brains have a built-in
macro library from which they select responses to environmental challenges.
"We don't select sentences preformed, like Tickle-Me-Elmo dolls. Rather,
we put together fragments to form the whole. So, too, with our thoughts.
We think by selecting objects." Our memes are constructed from meme-objects,
the grains that add up to a beach of thoughts.
Time Group on eLearners
Ellen Langer's The
Power of Mindful Learning profoundly shaped my thinking about
how to improve education. Absolute truth is a fantasy. Look at things
from different points of view. Change your approach, improve your learning.
|"I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I
do and I understand." -Confucius
|"If I hear and see and do and teach and practice, I understand
even better." -Jay
|Information is not instruction.
Learning Professional Development Model
Lee and Bowers (1997) studied a group of university students to determine
under which set of conditions people learned best. The participants were
given a pre-test, they then learned the material, and then were given
a post-test. Their learning was compared with the learning of a control
group that took the same pre- and post-tests, but studied a different
topic in-between. When compared with the learning performance of the control
group, the people in the different groups always demonstrated more learning:
Hearing spoken text and looking at graphics ? 91% more learning,
Looking at graphics alone ? 63% more,
Reading printed text plus looking at graphics ? 56% more,
Listening to spoken text, reading text, and looking at graphics ? 46%
Hearing spoken text plus reading printed text ? 32% more,
Reading printed text alone ? 12% more,
Hearing spoken text alone ? 7% more.
"Spoon feeding in the long run teaches
us nothing but the shape of the spoon." -E. M. Forster
"Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself."
"Prosperity is a great teacher; adversity a greater."
Century Learning Initiative publishes wonderful, provocative, leading-edge
white papers and articles on education, primarily K-12 in the UK but universally
of Educational Reconstruction, Roland Meighan
"Effective teaching requires much more than being an instructor: welcome
the 'learning coach' and the 'learning travel agent'."
or Free Range Chickens?, John Abbott
"You see learning has to do with a hunger to make sense of something.
The whole brain, including the emotions, has to be engaged. If you separate
emotion from intellect you court disaster."
Course (1999-2000). "New understandings about the brain; about how
people learn; about the potential of information and communication technologies;
about radical changes in patterns of work, as well as increasing economic
inequality and social divisions within and between nations, necessitate
a profound rethinking of the structures of education."
We Want to Live Tomorrow, Portal on Global Digitalization
Helping Executives Get It (5/99) Datamation
Futurework: Trends and Challenges for Work in the 21st Century. loaded
with stats. (Department of Labor)
Learning Outcomes, Center for
Curriculum, Transfer and Technology
Review of Cliff Stoll's High-Tech
Heretic: Why Computers Don't Belong in the Classroom and Other
Reflections by a Computer Contrarian (and crank)
|"I have learnt silence from the talkative,
toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet strange,
I am ungrateful to these teachers."
in Learning in Action, David Garvin posits four preconditions
- openness to new perspectives (the provisional nature of knowledge)
- awareness of personal biases (we see what we want to see)
- exposure to unfiltered data (not watered-down interpretations)
- humility (don't have all the answers)
these are really the same thing stated four times. essentially, "the
truth is not out there." everything flows. nothing is certain. meaning
is defined by context, and context is forever subject to redefinition.
our senses are untrustworthy. what we see isn't really there. it's a construct,
a creation of our mind. (consider the bandwidth required to pull in a
high-res movie of what's going on around us.) bias (filtering) warps everything
this uncertainty challenges the individual to refine and internalize
his or her take on things relative to his/her environs. this is what learning
is - mapping a subject's relative position. this ties right in to the
mindfulness work of langer: tell 'em it's uncertain and they learn more
that if you tell 'em it's absolute truth.
|| Schools That Learn
by Peter Senge et alia.
A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, Parents, and Everyone
Who Cares About Education
I read the Orientation and Primer to the Five Disciplines thoroughly.
This book is 600 pp. and I was only interested in the parts that apply
to adults as well as children. I flipped through the sections on Classrooom,
School, and Community, sampling whatever appealed to me, perhaps a third
of what was there. My reading chairs were provided by Southwest Airlines
and Frontier, so distractions were few but sleep was an ever-present temptation.
Everyone remembers a "special connection" with their early teacher, a
moment of respect, pride, and learning. Pity they aren't more common.
Our schools are obsolete and we need to re-create them to serve students
who will grow up in a post-industrial world.
The five "disciplines" are ongoing bodies of study and practice that people
adopt as individuals and groups. I think of them as touchstones for Senge
followers. Examples throughout the book identify which discipline(s) apply.
The big five are:
1. Personal mastery. Knowing who you are and where you want
to go. This creates a personal gap awareness.
2. Shared vision. Commonality of purpose.
3. Mental models. Reflection and inquiry skills. I expected to
find some nifty algorithms and rules of thumb. This is the least well-developed
"discipline." The recurring model is the "ladder of inference." It's
important to reflect with models because "in any new experience, most
people are drawn to take in and remember only the information that reinforces
their exsiting mental models."
4. Team Learning. This is conversation, dialogue, discussion...what
I call community.
5. Systems thinking. Taking a holistic approach, understanding
interdependencies, feedback, and complexity.
All learners construct knowledge from an inner scaffolding of their individual
and social experiences, emotions, will, aptitudes, beliefs, values, self-awareness,
purpose, and more. In other words, if you are learning in a classroom,
what you understand is determined by how you understand things, who you
are, and what you already know as much as by what is covered, and how
and by whom it is delivered.
Senge gives a marvellous rif on the industrial-age heritage of schools.
The world as a clock (Kepler, Descartes, Newton), an assembly of parts.
Fred the great, fascinated by mechanical toys, wanted soldiers to perform
as interchangeable parts. Industrial organizations bought the military
model (hence, line and staff, chain of command, training). From 1770 to
1812, labor productivity increased 120 times over in the British textile
industry. Schools took up the methods of the assembly line. Like any assembly
line, the system was organized in dscrete stages (grades). Uniform speed
(bells, schedules, fixed curriculum). The school factory was separate
from daily life.
Human reason is a form of animal reason, a reason inextricably tied to
our bodies and the peduliarities of our brains." Human cognitive development
involves just as much "body knowledge" as it does "mind knowledge." Maturana
and Vella: "All doing is knowing and all knowing is doing."
Life's interdependencies tend to remain invisible to the fragmented academic
theory of knowledge. Reality is composed fundamentally of relationships,
not things. (Somewhere today I read that "The most important things in
life are not things.")
autopoesis = self-producing
double-loop learning = thinking about how you think, i.e. metareflection
Schools That Learn didn't meet my objectives. Great stuff for fixing
up schools but not that useful for reconceptualizing adult learning. It
also put me to sleep several times as I entered the land of diminishing
got 50 pages of the book for free.
From earlier notes, while reading the first section
from a library copy of the book:
- Knowledge is constructed, not transferred. It's built out of known
chunks. It's always linked to the situation, thus "situated." Skills
and knowledge do not exist outside of context. Everything is connected,
in mental, physical, or social space.
- Learning = constructing mental models. Bootstrap these by making them
objective and analyzing
- There are no empty vessels. Beware of fragmentation and malrules (buggy
- "The search for teachable, general learning abilities is as old as
the history of education."