Many of us have been educated in schools built to produce good Industrial Revolution era workers. Learn by the clock, perform to standard, don’t question the teacher.
When I pursued my graduate degree in Instructional Technology (early 2000s) – much of the conversation centered around how a child’s brain developed. Adult learning theory focused on embedding any new information into the frameworks that adult had already developed. Though there was a sense that humans continued to develop once they hit adulthood, there was an implicit assumption that continued development was limited to a select few and everyone else quit growing.
This assumption mapped to Frederick Taylor’s belief that there were a select few “college men” (i.e. managers) who were capable of making all the decisions and everyone else could do the work.
Maslow’s “self-actualization” level was a “nice-to-have” if you got lucky.
The past 20 years has produced research confirming the plasticity of the adult brain. These findings are only now appearing in the popular culture.
The ability to learn new things quickly has become increasingly important as our environments evolve at a seemingly faster pace than ever. Knowledge rapidly becomes outdated. Years of mastery becomes irrelevant.
Harold Jarche has put together a nice framework that helps us practically learn new things quickly – Personal Knowledge Mastery.
Harold sees Personal Knowledge Mastery as consisting of three interwoven processes:
- Seeking – Finding and receiving information.
- Sensing – How we make sense of the information we find and receive and putting it to use (or not).
- Sharing – Exchanging what we learn with another. Making the necessary adjustments as we receive feedback.
In my experience, the Seeking process starts with a question and getting a general lay-of-the-land.
The Sensing process has me finding or developing frameworks to organize that information and begin discerning the information’s importance. Is the information important, or is it noise? Do I need to unlearn something from previous experience to incorporate this new information? Does the framework I currently hold still work or do I need to find or create a new one? What assumptions are behind the information? What assumptions am I holding as I engage this information? This reflection, processing, and integration time is invaluable, nevermind the practice. New knowledge and skills don’t stick unless I honor this space.
Sharing allows me to refine that information and challenges me to make enough sense of that information such that I can either ask questions (I find that I need to understand enough of what I don’t understand about the information to be able to create a question that makes sense to another person) or communicate what I have learned and request feedback.
Learning how to learn will allow us to keep our technology skills up to date – no matter what happens to the user interfaces and functionality of the tools we use.
- The core of my career and writing over the past 12 years has focused on adult education and reskilling. Despite the refocus in my vocation, I don’t see that changing. Learning, and providing the space to allow others to learn, remains my primary personal value.
- Harold Jarche was an early supporter of this blog when I first started. I’ve been thrilled to see his work finally get the recognition and citations it deserves. To learn more about Harold’s Personal Knowledge Mastery framework, https://jarche.com/pkm/
- If you aren’t convinced that the ability to learn new skills quickly isn’t important – Yuval Noah Harari has identified some trends based on what he is currently seeing with AI. His takeaway – we all need to develop mental and emotional flexibility. Learning to learn is part of that.