Tony Gurr

The Future is NOT in LEARNing…

In The Paradigm Debate on 24/02/2012 at 4:37 pm


 

In one of my recent posts – Not All LEARNing is Created Equal – I finished up by using Alvin Toffler’s well-known quote:

…and suggested that schools, colleges and universities really needed to do a great deal of UNlearning and RElearning – if they wanted to get serious about moving from the SUPERFICIAL LEARNing we see so much of and “pick up the ball” in terms of the type of TRANSFORMATIONAL LEARNing our students need.

I began to wonder about this – and did a bit of thunking.

What I discovered was that Toffler did not actually “say” this – what he actually put down on paper was:

“The new education must teach the individual how to classify and reclassify information, how to evaluate its veracity, how to change categories when necessary, how to move from the concrete to the abstract and back, how to look at problems from a new direction — how to teach himself. Tomorrow’s illiterate will not be the man who can’t read; he will be the man who has not learned how to learn.

(Future Shock, 1970: p.271)

And, you can imagine “my shock” when he revealed that he was using the words of Herbert Gerjuoy – after they had had a casual chat! Do I really need to go back and re-edit all my jpegs and pngs???

 

Maybe, the future really is all about UNlearning and RElearning

Maybe, I need to change the name of my blog…

Maybe…

Actually, (if I was really honest) I “stole” today’s title from Kathy Sierra and the wonderful blog she runs with Dan RussellCreating Passionate Users (go on…click on it, you know you want to)!

Kathy’s post is also not that “new” – it dates back to 2005 (so I’m guessing it’s OK to swipe her title). Kathy also lets us know that she was “inspired” – also “code” for “nicking stuff” in learning and teaching circles – by John Seely Brown over a decade ago)!

 

Come on Tony – get to the bloody point, won’t you? There are plenty of other blogs that use far less words than you…and package their sound bites for easier “consumption”!

OK – so the “deal” is that Kathy wrapped up her ideas in a neat little “timeline”:

 

Kathy also explained her rationale:

Yes, we’re under pressure to learn more and to learn quickly, but the future goes to those who can unlearn faster than the rest, because you can’t always learn something new until you first let go of something else. And learning to let go of rules is one of the first things we have to learn to be quicker at. Sometimes that means letting go of something that served you well for a long time. And that’s the toughest thing.

And, finshed up by saying / asking:

 

Now, this is a pretty “sexy idea” – and I can see why so many people picked up on it in the business world. It’s interesting that many of the people who did run with the idea have a “business background” – both Alvin Toffler and John Seely Brown, for example.

Even Kathy’s powerful examples show her background and focus:

  • UNlearn what your target market is (because it just changed).
  • UNlearn the way you advertise and market (because your market just got a lot smarter).
  • UNlearn the way you approach your brand (because it’s no longer within your control).
  • UNlearn the way you teach (because learners need to unlearn and learn simultaneously)
  • UNlearn the way you treat your employees (because before you know it, that “meets expectations” review might come back to haunt you on a blog )
  • UNlearn the technology you use (self-explanatory… we’re all living this one)
  • UNlearn the methodology you use
  • UNlearn the designs you use
  • UNlearn the words you use to describe your business

I agree that these suggestions are pretty critical if you are involved in running a business – if you do not do these things, basically you go out of business! The difference is that “in business” we see a lot more STRATEGIC LEARNing or SURFACE LEARNing that gets us what we want – and we all know that “faking-it-till-you make-it” is a pretty common strategy in business circles.

 

We can’t do that in educationthere’s more at stake than “sales” or “profit maximisation”. SURFACE and SUPERFICIAL LEARNing do not cut it…

Besides, we also need to ask whether UNlearning actually “exists” in the “real world” – whether it is a real “thingy”! Hey, maybe this why Toffler did not use the words we so often attribute to him…he is a very smart cookie…

 

Covey tells us (and you know how I loves me Covey):

What I take from this is that no one ever really UNlearns anything – we just LEARN more and make different choices. Hopefully, we make “principled choices” – and this is the start of TRANSFORMATIONAL LEARNing.

 

One of the key elements of TRANSFORMATIONAL LEARNing is “perspective transformation”.

Mezirow tells us that this:

“…is the process of becoming critically aware of how and why our assumptions have come to constrain the way we perceive, understand, and feel about our world; changing these structures of habitual expectation to make possible a more inclusive, discriminating, and integrating perspective; and, finally, making choices or otherwise acting upon these new understandings” (Mezirow 1991, p. 167).

 

If we are to ensure that our schools, colleges and universities change the processes and practices that have led to the widespread levels of SURFACE and SUPERFICIAL LEARNing we see these days, they need to TAKE a LEARNing Perspective not just “have a perspective on learning”.

This means asking some tough questions – the first of which are:

  • Are our schools, colleges and universities LEARNing institutions or TEACHing institutions?
  • Do our schools, colleges and universities “teach” STUDENTS or “teach” COURSES?


If we are honest (and many institutions have already walked down this path), we see the need for more (similar) questions:

  • What are we here to do for our LEARNers?
  • What really “matters” in an education system?
  • What stops students from LEARNing in our schools and system?
  • What is wrong with the way we are currently “doing business”?


It is questions like these that really get the “perspective transformation” engine fired up – and help us see the need to TAKE action and start walking-our-new-talk:

  • What does it take for a learner to flourish in the complex realities of the 21st century?
  • What can we do to expand and improve the LEARNing of all our students and staff?
  • What can we do to dramatically increase the ability of our schools and our teachers to LEARN and keep on LEARNing?
  • How do we know this?

Hey, with questions like these who has time to worry about UNlearning and RElearning – let’s just get on with the LEARNing and make better choices!

 

Can I keep the name of my blog, now – allthingsUNlearning just don’t seem like such a great idea after all that!


 


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