Old-model societies, dreams of the ’50s, were built on concrete social structures bolstered by strictly-defined social relationships. Our elders presumed primitive stereotypes and implemented a mechanistic vision of community: The cop, the addict, the car salesman, the wetback, the teacher, the clerk, the JD, the housewife, the jock.
This old model is crumbling in the face of new technologies and escalating pressures from a fragile environment and scant resources. Our parents’ compromises are not ours. Unable to train for a secure social position, we face demands to re-invent ourselves and our social relationships on a daily basis to fill the shifting needs of communities in crisis.
First, this means that learning is not boxed up into times or processes – learning is life-long and boundless.
Second, it means that collaborative, grass-roots efforts have an advantage over the rear-guard actions of embedded privilege – we are more agile, more resourceful, less comfortable. Oh, and brutally honest.
Opportunity in community
How does one accumulate skills and knowledge in a dynamic society? Through immersion in impromptu communities of subject experts, tech-wonks, artists and other assorted life-long learners.
Within these communities, skills are developed, invented and refined by direct, personal engagement using a 5-step, pro-active process:
Picture it. Visualise the action steps and skill-sets required to reach objectives.
Do it. Step by step, without flinching, without shame, using the talents, skills and resources at hand. However you can.
Evaluate it. In community, to improve individual skill and expand the group repertoire, evaluate accomplishments, failures, investments, opportunities seized and missed. Re-assess objectives, raise benchmarks, discover ways to better use talents and other resources.
Fix it. Do it over, with knowledge gained. Get closer to your objectives – efficiently, effectively, reliably.
Teach it to someone else. What you learned. So they can refine and apply it. You learn by doing; you learn more by teaching. Both individuals and the community build, through sharing, necessary skills and insight.
What dynamic learning looks like
Learning structures draw on the community skill and talent. Teams of learners and supporters collaborate to build useful skills and gain knowledge around a dynamic, open framework.
The Framework is assembled by experts in learning and community development. A Learning COR begins with a defined skill foundation and charts a path to the accomplishment of learner-defined objectives in a general field of endeavour.
Experienced practitioners provide a sounding-board to help each learner Focus personal talents, with efficiency and effect, toward the achievement of objectives. This mentoring approach takes on each challenge from complementary viewpoints: Limitless-opportunity and Been-there-done-that.
Technical rescue teams provide First-Aid to keep trivial processes and procedures from becoming learning roadblocks. As near-peers, these teams also challenge learners to take risks and trust their instincts.
Feedback from learners, tech teams and practitioners enables the program to continually re-invent itself, retain relevance and gain in power. The tree of learning keeps growing.
Companies where I work generally have a fundamental need to make learning a profit generator. Which is why they can hire me. The stability of a profitalised corporation helps keep continuity and authenticate outcomes. The volatility and responsiveness of more anarchic community operations keeps the work alive and relevant – as long as common energy is sufficient to sustain a quality effort.
In both scenarios, the enabling product is a Learning COR, the framework that structures, guides and rewards the learner throughout a project. I’ll talk about that in my next article.
Meanwhile, I’d love to hear from y’all about your learning and teaching experiences, good and bad, and what those have led you to value in the learning process.