Monday, September 25, 2006

Day Seven - Learning Communities - Use it or lose it

Today, the throttle is wide open. We are moving at speeds we never thought were possible. In fact, we are learning so fast that we surprising ourselves. Now, we are whizzing through learning communities and quickly recognizing their qualities and make-up. In fact we are not entering a community that will help explain this phenomena and get us to thinking about how we can provide faster learning in our learning communities. Up ahead is Brain Connections, the on-line learning community of the Scientific Learning Company. It's sister learning community, Posit Science, actually is spread out accross the U.S. in various F2F communities, in a number of Universities and can actually be ordered installed in new Dell Computers. Both are communities established by Dr. Michael Merzenich, based on his theory of Neuro- or Brain Plasticity, which posits that learning can actively and delliberately be acheived by action on the learniers part. Duh? you say. Well, at first it doesn't look like much, but this theory has profound effect on adult learning. It means, that humans can continue to learn as long as they want to, and as long as they actively (let me repeat that - ACTIVELY) pursue learning.

Now, here's the reason I wanted to visit these two communities. Information is coming at us so fast to day, that in order to keep up, we must remain adaptable and we have to become fast learners. Neuroplasticity, allows us to see that we all have the capability to adapt to new learning. And through action coupled with attititude we can learn at amazingly fast rates. So there are two elements here that should be important in your learning community. One is involvement. If people perceive themselves involved in something they really want to learn, the weil learn much faster. And secondly, it has to be something they WANT to learn. One of the beauties of on-line learning communities, is that people generally join them because they truly want to be there. There are some few exceptions but by and large if you are still a member, then it's because you really want to be there. And the speed by which you learn something you really want to know, re-inforces your desire to learn which in turn allows you to continue to learn at fast rates.

Common sense? Well you'd think so, "Change or Die", and see if we normally follow these rules of common sense learning. I think you will be surprised at the results of the surveys described. If you were truly given a choice of changing or dying, you would choose change...right? Wrong. There is good statistical evidence to suggest that you wouldn't. In fact, in this article, the odds are nine to one that you would not. Remember what I said about "attitude" being an element of "fast learning". You indeed, have to want to change. Learn more about how to invoke that kind of attitude in your community members by reading the article.

Finally, how does this all apply to you as the facilitator. I beleive that much of what we learn in a situation has to do with modeling. If you are going to model "fast learning" for your community, then you have to model it for them. We have already noted that there are three distinct phases in a learning communities existence. We can take that same model and apply it to how we learn in a daily environment. What do we need to do to prepare our selves for fast learning in the start-up phase (learn before doing), in the middle (learn while doing), and at the end (learn after doing). By modeling a few techniques to our community members we can effectively facilitate faster learning on their part. Read "The Future of the Future: Learning Fast to Stay Relevant in the World" and let me know if these are things that you do or want to do in your life.

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