Archive for the ‘Learning’ Category

About Learning Styles or Why Inventors are Always Bothering an Organization

Saturday, February 16th, 2008
At ABN AMRO I was responsible for one of the biggest training projects ever started. The complete IT-Staff and their customers had to be trained in “the ABN AMRO-way-of-working” after the merger took place.
We were able to use the most advanced people and tools to accomplish this aim. It made it possible to meet “the best minds on earth” and to learn about their vision and experience. Later we used this knowledge in every part of the bank.

One of the major targets we wanted to accomplish was to minimize training. People with IT-Skills are very expensive and every day they spend at a training costs a lot of money.

Minimizing training was translated into “Training on the Job”.

To minimize training we started to investigate where and why people were trained and we found many “hidden costs”.

People (mis-)used other people to learn. One of them was an Expert and the others phoned or mailed the expert to ask questions. The expert loved to do this but by “helping others” he (or she) was unable to their “real job”.

We gave them “time to help” but we started to investigate why (and how) one person became an expert and why the others did not spend much time to “learn the trade themselves”.

Experts are people who Explore everything in their own way. They have an internal priority to find out for themselves “how-it-works”. Experts are Explorers.

The others needed to be programmed (or a better term Instructed) and the best way to do this was (of course) Programmed Instruction. The funny thing is that “programmed instruction” can be programmed in a program.

When you create software you are able to create a kind of “meta-layer” that helps (it is called Help) the user. Creating a user-friendly help-system is very difficult to do. You have to balance between compact (Do This) and Extended Information (Why?).

When you develop a software-system the best way to do is to design the “help-software” first and the “real software” later.

Another category of “users” are the Inventors. They are sending a new Idea or Enhancement every day. Inventors are a burden to the organization because they are “way ahead” of the others and the “others” are a majority.

Most of the Inventors are “technology-watchers” and want “new gadgets” build into the System. With Inventors you have to apply the 80/20-rule. Skip 20% of their specification and the essence appears.

If you read this blog I have showed something called “Learning Styles”. Some people have to be Programmed to learn others Invent or Explore.

Learning Styles are created by combining the “Internal Organs” of the Human Being.

These organs are the Imagination, the Emotions, the Sensory-Motor System and the Cognition (“Thinking”). The fifth organ, Consciousness, monitors the balance between the other organs. It acts as the Observer.

When you combine the Four Organs you are able to create six (or twelve) combinations. When you want to put your Ideas in Practice you are an Inventor and when you want Apply the Rules you want to be Programmed.

The six combinations can be combined in a pattern (a triangle, a square) and if you arrange the people with different learning styles in the right pattern they can Help the others to learn.
If you arrange this pattern in the “wrong way” your Organ-ization will stagnate and Innovation will stop.
Perhaps the best way is to “let it go the way is goes” (the flow) but this is something Managers, People who want to Instruct, don’t like at all.

About Learning Styles

Friday, February 15th, 2008

E-Learning is one of the results of the E-Commerce Bubble. During the E-Commerce Bubble everything you can imagine would be changed into a booming business if it was combined with The Internet (a Website).

When you would use the Internet you could learn Everywhere at Every place at Any time. Every “old-fashioned” system that was supporting an Educational Institution was E-ed. It was provided with a “web-site”-interface. Behind this interface nothing changed.

The “old-fashioned” E-Learning packages were designed to automate a professional educational environment. The only thing that changed was that the books (or the PPT’s) were put on a screen.

E-Learning is an example of a technological view on Education. Every new technology that emerges has-to-be used because they (the learners) use it and because they use it it will help them to be educated.

We HAVE TO use the mobile phone and wiki and forums and web-cams and 3-D and games and web 2.0 (or 3.0) and …. If we don’t do that we will be out of the competition..

The big question is are new technologies really helpful to improve the current learning environment?

My answer is that it matters and it does not matter. It matters because we have to stay in contact with “real life”" and it does not matter because an effective learning environment has nothing to do with technology in general.

We learn by practicing and every environment that is related to the practice we want to acquire works fine. So if you want to become an account-manager and to sell you need an mobile-phone you have to learn to use a mobile phone.

But when you want to learn how to fight terrorists you need to learn to use other tools also.

Is it possible to learn “how to design” on a computer?
Is it possible to learn to meditate on a computer?
Is it possible to learn “to be creative” on a computer

We don’t learn to play the piano on a mobile phone and we don’t learn to use a mobile phone on a piano but a computer (or better software) could be programmed to simulate a piano.

Is it possible to learn mathematics on a computer?

I ask you these questions because I hope you feel that they are related to different “fields” of learning.

You could learn “how to meditate” on a computer but practicing meditation is something else.

You could use the computer to create but painting and singing and making poetry needs something else.

They need an “internal tool” that has to develop itself. This internal tool could be called a talent and a talent is a “given thing”. We are (by definition) born with a talent. Goethe called the “internal” tools organs.

We are not only equipped with fysical organs but are also equipped with other non-fysical organs. They make it possible to see and to hear. Organs or talents are specialized structures or functions that are there when you are born. They have to be trained by invoking them.

They are invoked by giving them a challenge. Sometimes the challenges is a “cognitive” challenge (mathematics, patterns) but others need a “manual” challenge. They are “handy”.

When “handy” people are forced to do “cognitive” training they are not challenged and they fail.

The current System is not aimed at developing a talent. Some Systems are specialized in certain talents (Art, Top Sport) but some talents are not recognized. They are not recognized and even “killed” by the System.

I was born with a Mathematical Talent. Later I found out that this talent was inherited from my mothers family (Van Biezen). My talent was merely killed by the System.

It was killed because my talent is a specialization and a specialization implies also short-comings. One of my short-comings is my memory. I am able to remember (and recognize) patterns but I am not able to remember lists. I failed school because I was unable to learn the lists in foreign languages.

The strange thing is that I don’t have problems learning to speak a language. A language is not a list of words and learning a language is not about learning a list that maps words. If translating one language in the other was that easy the perfect translator would be on the market for a long time.

The fact that people are different creates a big problem when you want to create an educational factory. The factory is only able to do its job when the Input is “the same”.

If the input is divers you have to create a diversity of production-lines and you have to navigate the resources through these lines at the right moment.

When everybody is different the problem is unsolvable but when we are able to determinate a limited amount of differences current logistic approaches are capable of solving the problem.

The current logistic system in the Educational Factory is aimed at optimizing the activities of the Teacher (Class, Subject). He (or she) is the most important asset and the pupils have to follow the planning of the Logistic System.

If we would change the priority and put the learner in the centre and we would recognize that the development of a talent is the most beautifull thing a human being is able to do we have to change the logistics. Computers are beautifull tools to help to accomplish this.

The interesting point is that it is possible to determine a limited amount of “learning-styles” related to certain classes of talents. To my surprise nobody is using this knowledge. Just one learning style is used called Instruction (Telling “How-to-do-it”).

About “Just-in-Time”-Learning or Why we are still Waiting for Educational Simulators

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

Learning is an autonomous process. Human beings (and other organisms) respond to a change in their internal or external environment. We are not able to adapt to every change but small and gradual changes are implemented without noticing.

When you play the piano and pay attention to the notes your fingers are playing, your fingers will remember the notes they are playing. After some time you are able to find the notes by “letting your fingers go their way“.

Education is forced learning. We want somebody to acquire knowledge or a practice in the timeframe we have defined. Some people are able to do this with ease others fail.

In the old days children were educated in the context they lived in. Most of the time they copied the activities of their parents. The girls became a mother and the boys took over the practice of their father. Some of them failed and went their own way.

At this moment children are unable to learn in the context they live in. School is a completely artificial context where people are forced to learn what the “policy-makers” have defined.

Children learn without any force outside the school-environment and in certain situations this environment is an environment the “policy-makers” don’t like. Children learn to survive in a ghetto and are trained to become a thief or a seller of drugs.

What we see is a conflict between “real life” and “constructed or abstract life“. In about a hundred years we have created a highly abstract environment and this environment needs workers to sustain itself.

The abstract environment changes with an increasing speed. When somebody is trained to repair a car the car is changed into a highly computerized system and repairing is only possible when the computer tells the mechanic what to.

Adding numbers and multiplying numbers was educated at school. The calculating machine changed the game. The only thing you have to learn is to use the calculator.

The educational system is far behind the abstract world we are creating. It is forcing young people to learn things but they are unable to motivate why. The industry needs people to operate the machines but when they have trained their employees the world has changed.

The outside (abstract or imaginary world) is distancing itself from the internal world of human being and the real world they live in. The communication industry creates its own imaginary world that is shown in movies and games.

Why do young people have to spend so much time in a constructed environment that is totally disconnect from every part of the outside world it was aimed at?

The solution to this problem was invented a very long time ago and it is was called Life-Long-Learning. If we start to learn something we really need we learn without any problem.

Why is life-long-learning or “just-in-time”-learning not implemented?

Why are policy-makers writing big documents about this issue but are not implementing their vision?

The main reason is that they want to implement this concept in the “old fashioned educational system” using the old fashioned tools and the old fashioned employees.

The world has changed everywhere but the Educational System is still in the state of 50 years ago. This is really a very strange situation.

The first problem we have to solve is when “just-in-time“-learning has to start in life. Let us pick an age. Say 13 or 14. It is the time when many children start to have a job.

In the vision of “just-in-time-learning” this is the moment to give them the opportunity to make mistakes and ask questions that are “to-the-point”.

When children change (= learn) and are “adapted” we could change their environment and add complexity. In the end some of them could become even brilliant scientists. There are many examples in history of “self-made” scientists (Faraday).

I can imagine that you have a lot of arguments to show that this is a totally unpractical solution.

We could do something else. We could simulate “real-life’ and change the educational environment into a game.

Again I ask you why this has not been done until today. Well the first answer is that it has been done and there are already very effective educational games on the market. Some of them are even for free.

The second answer is that they are blocked by the educational publishers that make a lot of money by selling books and of course they are blocked by the teachers who don’t know what to do when children are learning without them.

Why the Education Factory is Producing Products Nobody Wants to Buy Anymore

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

I have been involved with the Education System in many roles. I have been responsible for the education of children and adults and I have advised many companies and institutions (including the Dutch Ministry of Education) about education.I want to write a few blogs about this issue. This is the first one.

The first issue I want to write about is the System itself. I think the System is at the end of his life-cycle. It is dying.

The current System was created just after the war to handle many children (now called the baby-boomers). It’s focus was efficiency.

To be efficient the System was organized according to the paradigms that where part of the “Spirit of the Time” at that time. The main paradigm was the Factory.

The main product of the Factory is of course a product and the product has to be tested (exams).

There are many product-lines and they deliver products of high (University) and low quality.

The product-lines produce workers who are prepared to work in the product-lines of the next step, the real product-lines in the factories.

They deliver the norms for the previous step. At this moment the factories are using robots and we don’t need human robots anymore.

The current educational factories don’t know what product they have to deliver.

One serious problem is the Input. The Input has become more conscious every year. When I was at school we were accustomed to being programmed. We listened to the teacher and tried to do our utmost best.

This attitude changed of course when we got older and created big problems in the state of puberty. The state op puberty (resistance to power) now starts at a very early age. Females are much earlier in this state than males.

The big problem now is motivate children to learn something. They are easily bored and need an exiting environment to become motivated.

This environment is provided by commercial companies. They attract and manipulate young people with ease and provide them with goals in life that are very unrealistic. They also provide them with tools (games) that are much more exiting (and educational??) than what they are getting at school.

The last point is that we live in a highly materialistic society. This society provides simple goals that are related to making a lot of money. Many parents support their children in these goals and “making a lot of money” determines the major choices made in school.

At the end of the assembly-line the product looks around and is very dissapointed. There is no work available  or the speed in which they are able to reach their materialistic goals is much to slow. The effect is a mid-life-crisis at thirty.

If you read this blog you see that the Educational System has to compete with the Mass Communication Industry and this Industry is very wealthy and global.

The Educational System is local and poor and is not using the Marketing tricks of the Mass Communication Industry. It is certainly not able to follow the speed of innovation in this industry. The current Schooling System is completely out of tricks.

To solve their problems we have to restructure the System but this is not possible for the simple reason that Old Systems are resistant to change. The only thing we can do is to wait for is a total collapse.

What can we do to change the Factory Scholing System?

We have to Speed Up the process of dying.


By creating exciting educational games!


How to create Educational Games