Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Redefining Learning for the Knowledge Era

To learn is to improve one's fit with one's ecosystem.
It no longer serves any purpose to define learning as what someone is able to do all on his or her lonesome. This is not "Survivor." Knowledge workers of the future will have instant, ubiquitous access to the net. The measure of their learning is an open-book exam.

136M American adults now use the Internet. That's 67% of Americans. 87% of teen-agers. 50% of home owners have broadband. In a typical day, 82M Americans will be on line. 71M of those use email...9x the number of people who use the postal system. 41M used a search engine. Broadband teenagers are more likely to get their news online. 14M did online banking, 5x the number who visited a bank. 4M googled someone they were about to meet; 1M googled themselves.

79M have participated in online support groups for a medical or personal problem. 7M have made political donations. 5-88M swapped files even as the Supreme Court was hearing the case.

There were 9 gaps. Only the gender gap has vanished.

Most important: Age.
Employment status: Students rule.
Education: More important than income as an indicator of Internet use
Disability: Only 38% of those with a significant disability use the Internet
Language: English is an indicator
Community type: Ruralites are less likely to be online than urbanites
Parental: Parented households are more likely
Race and ethnicity: Less significant than other indicators.

How does connectivity change us?

People who use the Internet "grow their social capital." People (especially women) use email to enhance their social networks. 84% of Internet users belong to online groups — that's 115M people. "ePatients are creating a new healthcare model where the all-knowing, omnipotent, gate-keeping doctor is being replaced by a new model — online advice and support. (Half of the people doing medical research online are looking for info for someone.) And there is an increase in civic engagement.

He does point to a down side: Evidence shows heavy use of the Net can cause stress. Not to mention bad people doing bad things via the Net.

When I attended business school in the mid-seventies, four-function calculators cost $100 (about $400 in today's dollars). I had a desktop model and couldn't justify buying a handheld as well. Lucky for me, ours was the last cohort at Harvard Busienss School who were not allowed to bring calculators to exams. Prices soon fell low enough that calculators became commodities, and students were permitted to take them to midterms and finals. Why not? No one in business uses a pencil -- or a slide rule -- to estimate discounted cash flow.

Performance is the measure of learning.

It's like the tree that falls over in the forest and makes no sound.* If a person gets something into their head but make no new connections and doesn't change a whit, that person has, for all intents and purposes, not learned at all.

Internet Time Group has found that people learn best when they...

Engagement. Attention. Uncertainty.

Conner, M. L. "How Adults Learn." Ageless Learner, 1997-2004. http://agelesslearner.com/intros/adultlearning.html

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