|Americas National Learning Foundation
time when the majority of people are life-long learners -
when constant learning is a widely-practiced natural
instinct motivated by joy - a joy rooted in human
biology. Well beyond self-directed learning, people in
this age will be self-motivated learners. Everyone will
have the talent to be a knowledge worker. Notably,
when this day comes all of society will be vastly
different, for learning will be an integral part of
societal interactions. The seeds of the Learning
Society are already sown. Nothing short of a nuclear
return to the dark-ages can stop it. Lets take a
peek at the future......
The year is 20xx and you are 12 years
old. A long time ago you would have been in the sixth
grade, and like most of your classmates, convinced that
others were better cut out for that
readin-ritin-rithmetic stuff. You know this because you
are a history buff at the moment, and have spent most of
the last month researching what a 12 year olds life
was like in the USA in the late 20th century. Youve
just about had your fill of this subject and are starting
to direct your learning activity into human evolution -
youve discovered that they are related - no change
so dramatic has happened to any species on earth so
quickly as the recent human evolution in learning, and
its global impact on societal behavior.
Only two decades
ago marked the point when self-motivated learning became
the dominant method of education globally - adding
rapidly to the growing ranks of agile learners
moving into the power structure. Already human society is
permanently changed in unprecedented fashion: bigotry,
terrorism, oppression, violent crime, war, escapism
drugs, and similar old-time societal pestilence is all
It used to be
that most people lost their natural learning abilities
early in life, until science showed how to keep the
brains learning function active in everybody.
How could things
change so fast, sweeping through an entire species
globally in just a few decades? Youve found no
precedent in the annals of evolution. But then, there is
no other animal like the human. The distinguishing
feature being the human propensity to generate, grasp,
and apply knowledge - to understand whats going on
and take advantage of that understanding.
evolutionary change may appear in history as a snap-point
discontinuity, this didnt just all of a sudden come
from nowhere. Knowledge grows on itself. The more there
is the more gets generated - so new knowledge comes
faster and faster.
The critical mass
emerged in the late 20th century when new knowledge
development in physiology, psychology, genetics,
information theory, and artificial intelligence combined
to give insight into how the human brain functioned. All
coupled with communications technology that put the whole
world in touch with all of these understandings.
focused on knowledge and learning the concept of a personal
computer took on real meaning. Physiological and genetic
understandings illuminated the methods of learning and
the differences of intelligence, and personal computers
became like personal trainers. But technology didnt
cause the change in society. The real breakthrough came
when people understood that the focus had to shift from
teaching to learning. Somebody said teaching was like
stuffing a sausage and learning was like drinking a
milkshake through a straw.
how life was at the beginning of the century you feel
lucky. Nobody helped kids figure out how to learn things,
so most never did, even when they grew up. Your mom says
they were just unlucky. She says all people are good
learners inside, but back in the stuff-the-sausage days,
if you were unable to learn the way your teacher taught,
you felt inadequate, you started to believe that learning
was too tough, and you got ignored. Pretty soon that part
of the brain that liked learning gave up.
Those kids went
to a place called school everyday where they sat and
listened to teachers talk about things the teachers
liked. You go to a learning center sometimes, but
thats not like school was. Theres no teachers
there, just learning mentors. And you dont sit in
classes, you work in study groups, or you do research in
the library, or you spend time with your mentor.
Sometimes the learning centers have special exposure
sessions where adults talk about what they are learning
where they work, or they give you a whole series of
introductions to interesting subject that you might want
to study, or they have an expert in some area that will
answer questions, or somebody shows you new places to get
information from for your own studies.
center also has regular learning-how-to-learn sessions.
Mostly theyre about learning how you learn things
easy, and thats different for everybody. You also
find out how to learn things in a group where other
people learn things differently than you do. You learn a
lot about how your brain works, that anothers brain
may function differently, and you do a lot of brain games
to strengthen other learning styles.
Right now you are
in two study groups that meet once a week at the learning
center. Everyone shares what they learned in the last
week and you talk a lot about how you learned it. Well
actually, you talk a lot because youre strongest
learning style is linguistic and auditory. In one of your
groups almost everybody is like you, but in the other
almost everybody is different. You get to change your
study groups any time you want.
dont go to a learning center every day. Sometimes
you stay at home and do research on the Internet, or
build your next learning presentation for one of your
groups. Other times
|you go visit
places, or you work with your Dad, or you work with your
mom, or work with someone the learning center finds for
you, or you just do anything you want to do.
Your dad and mom
are almost 40, and among the first generation of what is
called agile learners. Shes a psychologist
and hes an industrial engineer. Most of your study
plans come from things you find interesting when working
Like two months
ago you started working in your dads latest
innovation group - thats what he calls it - along
with three older kids. He said youll be part of
these workshops maybe twice a year now that youre
old enough - its all part of how his company does
their learning. This time you are spending one day a week
with nine people from his company and the other three
kids to find a better way to make one of their products.
Your supposed to help them understand the problem they
are working on. Sometimes your job is to tell them what
you think they said, other times youre supposed to
ask questions if you dont understand something.
Your dad says if they cant explain it to a 12-year
old they dont understand it themselves. But the
most fun is when its your turn to make suggestions
- especially after youve finished an all-kids
grows on itself.
Everybody gets an
assignment to do in-between workshops. You and the other
three kids work together between workshops to explain why
it was hard to understand something at the last workshop
and how it could be easier to understand.
Dad says they do
a lot of this at his work as part of their learning
program. Usually they work on real problems or real
opportunities - but sometimes they make up imaginary
situations in order to learn about something really
different that might help them later. In a few years when
you start your part-time situational-learning you want it
to be at your dads company.
been using you in her work as a guinea pig for a couple
of years now. She develops consulting media
to help people learn how to use new computer
applications. From your own research you know that this
used to be done with books called user manuals. Those
kinds of books are hardly used at all any more, now you
get on line, real time multi-media materials matched to
your individual learning style.
learned that instructional books were part of what they
call the old teaching push paradigm. Now the
emphasis is on the learning pull. Your mom
invented the what-do-you-want-to-know-now concept
of consultant media. She builds these consultants to
communicate with every learning type. When she first
started out she had a lot of the older learning-is-difficult
people to reach. She says her generation of self-directed
learners are more demanding, though, and that your
generation of self-motivated learners is even worse.
audio learner best, so you usually choose a vocal
interaction, but sometimes you like the interactive
animations if the subject is complicated. Your mom says
her biggest challenge is the kinesthetic learner. They
need to be physically involved with their learning. She
has specialists in each type of learning working with her
- and the kinesthetic people are the most fun.
Theyre always making up new exercises and movement
games that you like to test out for them. Youve
noticed your own learning profile is changing, and
youre starting to use kinesthetic interaction more
Mom does a lot of
her continuation learning at the same learning center you
usually go to. Sometimes they even use her as a learning
expert for special sessions. She says she likes that
because she always learns something even though
shes there as the expert.
"In a time of
drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future.
The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a
world that no longer exists." Eric Hoffer,
Philosopher and longshoreman.
That this vision is inevitable is
irrefutable. All forces are aligned to make this occur.
The increasing speed of knowledge generation provides
both a need and a desire for an increased ability to
grasp and apply knowledge. At the same time, new
knowledge about how we learn is shedding light on how to
increase our learning abilities -- and we have come to
understand that people are born as natural learners,
loosing this ability for lack of nurturing, not to the
aging process and not to a bell-shaped one dimensional
So we have a dawning awareness of both
the need and the means to satisfy that need. The wheels
are already set in motion and some portion of our society
is already becoming a conscious product of these
understandings. On a macroscopic level, however, we have
resistance to this change in the form of general apathy,
entrenched institutions, and fear of change.
But time marches on. Probability law
says that if it can happen it will happen - eventually.
Time is infinite and time is patient. We are neither. How
can we hasten the coming of the learning society?