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SMART Learning 4.0 — a Learning Upgrade for Our Times

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Our brains need a learning upgrade today – an upgrade that draws on practical, advanced, and science-based approaches we can use when we are learning alone, learning with others, and when we support others’ learning. It also has to be powerful enough for drawing lessons from past experience, learning in the present moment, and achieving longer-term development goals that require reliable processes and persistence.

Learning 4.0 is this upgraded learning approach for our times – a fourth revolution in learning and a framework that applies in virtually any learning situation. It relates to today’s unique learning challenges and draws on what neuroscientists, developmental psychologists and adult learning specialists know about how our brains work and how learning happens. We can and must bring these advanced and sometimes surprising insights into how we learn and help others learn.

The Qualities of a SMART 4.0 Learner

What’s it like to be a 4.0 learner – a “smart” learner? Try on this description. As a 4.0 Learner…

  • you have an enhanced imagination where the future you want to create for yourself — the future that drives and motivates your development — is so real that you rarely miss any learning opportunity that will accelerate you to that goal
  • you easily access relevant, and often hard to access, parts of your brain/body to help you learn— e.g., your feelings, conscious and unconscious self, short- and long-term memory, motor memory, your brain’s executive functions, even brain waves and other physiological processes — to help you learn
  • you recognize bias and distortion
  • you find patterns, key points, deeper meaning and messages use different techniques for different resources; manage your attention and concentration.
  • you step outside yourself to monitor your assumptions, and you take sometimes difficult steps to change a belief, attitude, or intention.
  • you are a change agent — changing your own habits and influencing people and things around you so that you can bring your learning to life in the real world.
  • you learn confidently and competently anywhere, anytime, with any resource.
  • you help individuals and teams learn, using advanced learning practices.
  • you use new technology to serve you at work and at home; you co-evolve with it. As technology gets smarter, so do you!
  • you are confident in your learning methods and capabilities


Learning 4.0 Practices

Being the 4.0 learner described above, means being expert in advanced learning practices. The seven practices of Smart Learning 4.0 reflect the current scientific understanding of how learning journeys proceed into and through your brain and ultimately into your behavior. We can say with confidence that your desire and ability to excel in each of these practices determines how efficiently, effectively, and enthusiastically you can keep up with change and develop yourself throughout your life.

The practices range from noticing the first glimmers of a learning opportunity (Practice #1) through to using what you learn in life and work (Practice #7).

  1. Hear the Call. Learning opportunities are everywhere. They call to you from the past (a failure or success?), the future (your career goal, the business strategy), outside (a water cooler opportunity), inside (a regret, discomfort), and they arise from wonder and random curiosity.
    4.0 learners notice more of these calls.
  2. Create Future Pull. Our views of the future affect our motivation and what we pay attention to.
     4.0 learners create compelling visions of the future they want to create, knowing that this will help set and keep them on track for success.
  3. Search. There’s a lot of information in lots of formats out there.
    4.0 learners take some time scanning for the best ways to learn something. And they know how to use search tools and access experts and services.
  4. Connect the Dots. Sometimes learning journeys are preplanned. Other times, they unfold from one step to another. Sometimes a journey to a new or updated capability combines the two.
    4.0 learners see their learning as a connect the dots process, with some dots planned, and others added as learning progresses.
  5. Mine for Gold. Information has to come into the brain before it can be processed and sent to long-term memory.
    4.0 learners muster the concentration and attention to bring that new information in. Then they expertly extract the “gold” it contains for their needs. They know that what often seem to be memory problems are actually concentration and attention problems. You can’t remember what you don’t bring into your brain!
  6. Learn to Last. We know that without extra steps to “file” information in long-term memory, most of what we bring into short term memory disappears after 24 hours.
    4.0 learners take additional steps to ensure they convert new knowledge into memories, skills, attitudes and even creative ideas.
  7. Transfer to Life. I’m sure you can cite many examples of things you know and can do, but don’t use or do.
    4.0 learners recognize when they need to take additional steps to change a habit or to make or influence changes in their environments so that their learning converts to action.

Everything we learn happens as part of a learning journey that includes most or all of these 7 practices. Some journeys are very quick — happening only in a minute or two. Others may take years to complete. Also, when you are helping others learn or are learning with a team, it is useful to decide which practice is most relevant at the moment. Then focus your help there.

Learning 4.0 is a science-, psychology-, and adult learning-based framework for designing and managing your own learning. It is an important brain process upgrade that will help you thrive in a fast changing world of work and life.





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