Got nodes?

Whenever we're teaching something that other's don't know, we're handing out nodes for their cognitive network. Tribal elders say this generosity interferes with learning. Socrates also opposed the delivery of content:

You cannot teach someone what they do not already know

When we're conducting After Action Reviews, we use the nodes the learner already have. We rely on the fact that "they got nodes" before they come to us. The nodes they will link up are:

  • what happened to them was they tried to take action
  • what effects they experienced from their effort
  • what they were thinking before they started
  • what they realized in the midst of the activity
  • what occurred to them after they stopped

We then ask for other nodes they already have in their cognitive network:

  • Has this happened to you before?
  • Does this seem similar to something you've seen before?
  • How is this different from what you were expecting?
  • How does this fall in line with that you had in mind?

When we give the learners this control, power and respect, they own their learning. "They know they know" this understanding because the content was already theirs. They buy-in to their learning because "it's their baby" from the start. It's their links to their nodes. They are motivated to use this learning, to "transfer the skill" and act this knowledgeable.

All we're doing is showing them what they already know. They may return the favor and ask if we "got nodes?" that link to theirs. They may wonder what we know that helps them with what they already know. But all their asking is based on their nodes, not ours.


  1. Curriculum is based on content because that's the easiest way to do it and it works for education factories. Brian Alger says curriculum is "an illusion that has the appearance of truth".

    Kieran Egan calls content "grist for the cognitive mill". It doesn't matter what subject you learn, it's how you learn that's important.

    If we get rid of subjects and subject-based testing, we can really help to prepare people for the knowledge economy. Curriculum is like a ball & chain that holds all of us back.

  2. Harold: Thanks for the link to Brian Alger and the other validating comments. When I followed the link, I was thrilled to read your comment from January 2007 where you said:

    "Curriculum is developed in a dark arts fashion, where a select group of wizards are sequestered into a closed environment and following some magical incantations arrive at the official curriculum. It's magic!"

    Two days ago, I finally watched the Jennifer James video you recommended. She got me thinking about the relevance of the Harry Potter stories to Gen Y and the changes that are occurring in culture, before education and employment catches up.

    I was also delighted to discover Brian Alger was making connections to McLuhan, print technologies and curriculum as "a medium with a message". I'm getting clearer on the possibility of the technological innovations changing the sensibilities of Gen Y which will get revisions in education, government and business to follow.