Category: ideas & tips

Upgrade Yourself As a Learner: Reason #4 (of 5) Help Others Learn

One of the defining features of our species is our ability to codify and pass information on to the next generations. We are all teachers as well as learners.  The social aspect of learning is part of our genetic makeup. Researchers recently noticed that a two week old baby recognizes body language indicating that an adult is poised to teach or show her something.  In the presence of this “learning stance,” the baby, and people in general, naturally refocus their attention in anticipation of being shown something new or important. 

There is probably no day when you don’t teach someone at work, at home, on the athletic court, giving instructions on the street.  Every day you provide information to, coach, mentor, guide, support other people.  The problem is that some of this help may not be what the other wants or needs, or it may be in a form that isn’t helpful (e.g., you start by telling rather than listening). And, the help you provide may not be as skilled as it could be – may not draw on what scientists and learning professionals know about how to help others learn.  Again, the problem for most of us is that we use 19th Century helping methods in 21st Century learning situations.

You are part of a vast learning web that contains all of humanity. When you upgrade your learning mindset, knowledge and skills, you develop the knowledge and master the tools to help others learn and become better learners. 

You may have heard of the 70/20/10 model of learning*.  It is well known in the human resource development field: 70% or so of learning is managed by the learner, about 20% is shaped by people who are not professional helpers (think most parents, work colleagues, even managers), and the rest by professional teachers, learning facilitators and designers, online direction, and even psycho-therapists!

The people in that 20% category (including you, if you are not a learning scientist, coach or teacher) are often well-intentioned and have knowledge and skills to share.  But they may talk when they should listen, may be out of sync with the learner’s needs, and can’t draw from a broad repertoire of practical learning and change techniques and neuroscience insights.


Developing your own learning capabilities has a knock-on effect:  you are better able to help others – your partner, children, grandkids, friends, people at work, people you play sports with, and more.          

*Based on research by Alan Tough and reported in The Adults Learning Projects.



Next up: Reason #5 (of 5) to upgrade yourself as a learner: To evolve yourself and be the most you can be in life

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Upgrade Yourself As a Learner: Reason #3 (of 5) Co-Evolve With Technology

Beware. Under your radar, technology is changing work and life much faster than you think. Machines and software are becoming exponentially more intelligent and influential (even manipulative).  As they get smarter, they do more than make information more accessible, or manufacture tangible things, or do what used to be manual, dangerous, or analytical tasks faster and more efficiently than we can do them. Machines are moving into areas we have long believed are exclusively human!

Technology has always been an extension or amplification of human capabilities: what we could accomplish with our hands (hammer, cooking utensils), feet (wheels, cars), eyes (eyeglasses, tv, microscopes and telescopes), ears (radio, sonar), nose (CO2 detectors). But gradually, like the myth of the frog in the heating pot who doesn’t realize his predicament, computers have been moving into our cognitive domains: analyzing, creating, strategizing, synthesizing, and natural language communicating. Even having and reporting experiences! Machines and software are poised to mimic our prefrontal cortex and are taking aim at consciousness –domains we have always reserved for ourselves.

Futurists predict that, before 2045, computers will become more intelligent than our human brain – which still holds the title due to our 80 billion neurons and 100 trillion connections, and other human capacities.  Futurists call this cross-over point, the “singularity.” Whether or not computers will, like Pinocchio, spring to life, is an open question. But it is time to think about how we will respond to their expanding capabilities.  We can delegate our intelligence to machines – making them our masters.  Or, we can get smarter ourselves, develop our learning and processing power, co-evolve with technology, and ensure it serves us, not vice-versa.

Humans have many untapped capabilities, but it is also true that our technologies are our creations.  Technology is becoming smarter.  So, can and should we! 

Our challenge is to cultivate advanced learning skills and mindsets that keep us in charge, but also draw on what technology can do and provide to augment us.  We’ll need to dramatically develop our own imagination, our agency, our ability to detect when a machine or someone is trying to control us, our ability to use more sophisticated and integrated information, and more.  We’ll need to have a deeper understanding of our own brain/body system and its amazing and often untapped capabilities. We’ll need to ensure that technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI) enable us to become smarter, not dumber! We’ll need to refine our answers to the questions: What does it mean to be human? Who am I and what am I here for?

Think about it.  Are you co-evolving with technology? Who are YOU with technology?


Next up:  Reason #4 (of 5) to upgrade yourself as a learner: To help others learn

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