My Brain’s Internet of Things

Somehow, someway, the stuff in my head is connected. They seem like they’re momentarily different things but I know they’re all connected. Lets start with my biggest project and the thing that consumes me day in and day out ‘SlideJar‘. SlideJar was borne out of work I did for the Library of Congress who had a vision of allowing professional development people the freedom to assemble their own curriculum at run time through a portal that contained a library of items that could be patched together and bound in PDF or HTML. The nuance here of course is that the ‘machines’ did the heavy production and development work, but the professional development people did the design. You see, people are self directed beings outside of formal work/school environments. Its almost uncanny how the moment we step outside our work environments and our schools we become self directed beings but as soon as we step into work/school we immediately turn into what others expect of us. The Library of Congress work changed the paradigm and gave control to the professional development people to do what they thought would be best. (By the way – the system was being enhanced by then allowing the students of the professional development people to access their materials and rejig them into usable things for themselves). There were ‘approved’ resources but no one said resources had to be strung together any more, people were free to do as they wish.

SlideJar maintains that paradigm but more importantly it maintains the philosophy of how ‘meaning’ gets created….we create meaning for ourselves through our whole being, all the time, regardless but sometimes in concert with what others would like us to see. Conversations are best when they are ‘yes…and’ type conversations, and the ability to find a meaningful slide and group it with another meaningful slide to generate net new meaning for yourself is a ‘yes….and’ conversation. Recently I had a conversation with someone who felt that taking slides out of context from their original presentation doesn’t make sense because the slide is now no longer meaningful in its context. My question was ‘who cares’. Its about me being able to take that slide out of context and make it relevant to my other work and library of meaningful resources to generate a new ‘yes…and’ conversation. (see my other post on ‘meaningfulness’).

Then there is this thing about ‘memory’ and ‘learning’. People in L&D tend to assume they are one and the same. Here’s an interesting article I found that treats those as separate and also talks about ‘meaningfulness’. L&D is so strange. If we’re an industry helping people pass a test, then we know that spaced repetition and working on ‘memory’ is really all we need to think about. If we’re an industry focused on performance, we need only look out to robotics, bionics, technology type industries to see that our impact on performance is negligible. We’re still in the business of replacing a lost arm with a new arm, instead of thinking about how can we occupy this space with a new thing thats better than an arm. If we really want to get into performance then we need to lose the ‘learning’ thing and start thinking about ‘design’. We need to be having very different conversations than ‘words plus pictures’ help people learn. No, they help memory. I’m not denying a relationship btw – but we learn lots of things that we’re never conscious of nor do we have any memory of and to equate memory with learning is to strip the essence of learning out which is that it needs to be meaningful and personal.

Data – There is no learning data! Learning can not be measured. It can be inferred and plotted along probability lines and translated from data, but it can not be measured.

Experiences – There are no learning experiences. There are just experiences. All experiences teach.

Why is this language thing such a big deal to me? Because when we mistake memory for learning, and talk about learning data and talk about learning experiences, we are embedding false assumptions into our thinking and communicating those assumptions to others.

How are these things connected? My current occupation is ‘entrepreneur’ but I am a philosopher at heart. I am a philosopher that worked in the training and development field and as someone trained in ‘blowing smoke up one’s derriere’ I’ve been trying to expose those elements in the global conscience of training and development people that just don’t make sense. As a professional in T&D, I focused on the idea that learning is chaotic, non compartmentalized and that those things I could influence paled in comparison to creating different environments that changed how people worked. In other words its not about building a course. We will always build a course. How that information gets built, how the course comes together, how the course can be used in different contexts, how the environment is infused with information along with courses is something that I could impact through technology and creative design.

How does this end….like this….

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