Sense of timing from pervasive connectivity

Connectivity is becoming more pervasive. We're getting what's going on online while we're hanging out with others. Mobile technologies and access are increasing our connection to a different realm of information, change and perspectives. We are making a similar adaptation to the time when people stopping huddling around the big radio in their houses and took a portable radio with them to the beach.

McLuhan suggested that new media always have four effects: extension, reversal, obsolescence and retrieval. I see these effects occurring with this emerging, pervasive connectivity:

Extension: Being online anywhere and anytime will extend our sense of timing. We will feel more in tune with everything that's happening. Our minds will be more capable of wondering when to do something and what's going to happen next. It will become routine to experience what we now call "uncanny timing": being in the right place at the right time, happening along with fortuitous timing, experiencing synchronicities. We'll usually be prepared when the time comes. We'll consistently spend the right amount of time in time to make a timely comeback. Our sense of timing will be more powerful, reliable and important in our lives.

Reversal: Pervasive connectivity will over-extend Web 2.0 and cause it to lose devotees. We are taking social networking to an extreme where it will seem like too much of good thing. Getting bombarded by updates from friends and requests to be friends -- will induce burnout. Twitter and Facebook are leading the way from progress to reversal where it's evident how superficial networking: comes with the cost, does more harm than good or has reached the point of diminishing returns.

Obsolescence: Pervasive connectivity will retire broadcast models of distribution. Broadcast content will go straight to archive where it can be tagged, viewed when needed and linked to from other digital documents. Broadcasters will upload to servers just like all of us "amateur" content generators. Goodbye seat time, time slots, scheduled time, reruns and rescheduled times. Offerings that are timed by the constraints of the delivery source will be replaced by the timing of the customer, viewer, subscriber or learner. Content with no sense of the customers' timing will be obsolete.

Retrieval: Pervasive connectivity will retrieve "living under the stars". We will function in our worlds like shepherds and hunter gatherer cultures. We will live by our wits and sense of timing. We think like alphabets and printed pages have not fragmented and sequenced our perceptions. We be immersed in an acoustic, oral and aural world. We'll read the signs for changes and listen to the surroundings for perspective. We will learn from what happens, shows up and comes about -- to trust the timing of serendipity.

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Transformed by giving

There are two schools of thought about professional development. One says we advance as we GET new ideas, different methods and opportunities to practice unfamiliar approaches. The other school says we progress as we GIVE what we find we have to share.

I suspect that blogging is the best of both schools of thought. We are certainly getting lots of new inputs to reflect upon, try out in our worlds and adopt if they work for us. We are also giving a lot by writing our own blogs, adding comments to others and giving other bloggers visibility, admiration or encouragement by quoting or linking to them.

It occurred to me this morning that teachers who appear to be avoiding professional development may be steeped in it "off radar". They may be shortchanging themselves in the GET school of advancement; but they are very likely to be "graduating with honors" from the GIVE school of professional development.

There are several ways we are transformed by giving. All of these advance us professionally as well as personally.

  • We find we have more and more to give of ourselves, our insights, and our unique perspectives -- by repeatedly going within to find something to give
  • We tune into others to choose what to give and become more understanding, insightful and empathetic toward our beneficiaries
  • We realize that giving what comes naturally to us is energizing and fulfilling, unlike the dishing out what took a struggle to come up with that drains us in the process
  • We discover that what we give comes back around or "what we sow we reap".
  • It occurs to us that whatever we get from others seems valuable, useful or beneficial to us because of what we gave of ourselves and changed our minds to share with others
  • We develop a very useful pattern of not knowing what to give, being innocent of our past experiences, and then receiving what to give through our login to our unconscious minds.

So it's possible that classroom teachers are being transformed in these ways by giving to their students every day. In their worlds, professional development through blogging would redundant and less generous with their students.


Becoming a better leader

If you have a different idea in mind from other people whom you know, then you are being a leader. How effective a leader you are depends on the different effects you are having on others. If you don't know what effects you're having, you're in no condition to become a better leader. Here's some effects of leadership to consider:

When people in positions of formal authority are abusing their power and doing more harm than good, confusion abounds. People are kept in the dark and rumors fly around. You may be keeping things in perspective, offering a different diagnosis and seeing the situation from several other points of view. You may be gaining credibility while the people in power lose it. If you are earning this respect, trust and confidence from a following, you're having the effects of an informal leader.

When people are enthralled with "the emperor's new clothes" and spellbound by a consensus trance, paranoid imaginations become a plague. People are dreading what comes next, fearing the worst and avoiding rejection by not speaking their minds. You may be telling it like it is, seeing a better future and calming people's anxieties. You may be getting trusted for your prognostication of changes and your confidence in the unfolding processes. If you are looked up to for a panoramic view of possibilities, you're having the effects of a visionary leader.

When people are convinced they are right and hostile toward their critics, tensions will escalate into fortressed stances. People cannot handle other points of view or contradictory outlooks. You may be adding a context to the content of people's thinking or telling a different story about the undisputable evidence. You may be using different ideas, frames of reference and ways to make sense of situations. If you are getting a following for bridging between fortressed positions, you're having the effects of a thought leader.

When people are going around in circles that deal endlessly with the same old problems, frustrations turn into hostilities. People are stressed out by the futility, incompetence and incessant drama. You may be detached from taking sides or positions in the contemptuous conversations. You may be rising above the conflicts to introduce solutions, resolutions and paradoxes. If you are contributing a whole new game to play, you're having the effects of a transformational leader.

Usually we start acting like a leader unconsciously. We merely do what the situation calls for -- without intending to provide leadership or attract a following. Once me make the effects we're having conscious, we can have more of those effects intentionally. We become more effective by being aware of how we came to be a leader naturally.


Avoiding professional development

Bloggers like us are immersed in online professional development. The blogs we read are full of great ideas, better ways to see problems and different approaches to try out. When we think of blogging, we think of learning more about ourselves, our choices, and our conduct in our worlds.

We learn all this by writing our own blogs, commenting on others and quoting some of what we find provocative. We may not work in learning organizations, but our blogosphere is a place of continual learning. We are learning from what happens, what got said, and how others react. We resemble a "community of practice" that practices learning from happenstance.

Naturally, we are amazed when wanna-be bloggers consider the read/write potential while avoiding the professional development dimensions we treasure. Will Richardson, Tony Karrer and Patrick Higgins have each expressed this consternation recently. It's obvious to us that professional development is inherent to blogging. Why can't they see it? Why don't they get the power of this tool? How can something so useful and enticing appear hidden from view or personally useless?

Perhaps they cannot see the learning potential because we don't see their potential through their eyes. Maybe they won't get the power of blogging for their own professional development until we develop further ourselves. Perhaps the thing they are not learning gives us something to learn about them and our ways of relating to them.

Something is not working here that needs us to troubleshoot what's really going on. Here's a checklist of potential trouble spots to scout for whenever we're facing an avoidance of professional development.

  1. Are their plates already full from over-extending themselves as if they are always playing catch up ball and never getting a sense of accomplishment?
  2. Are they trapped inside a "nothing for me" martyrdom story that necessitates thankless heroics, inevitable sacrifices and perpetual suffering which defies awareness, growth or change?
  3. Are they serving a prison term, captivated by bureaucratic policies and accountability measures which punish deviance, exceptional efforts and creative escapes?
  4. Are they going through the motions of a meaningless chore, appearing like zombies who have lost their connection to their personally soulful purpose and unique talents?
  5. Are they conforming to group pressures, infected with the toxic culture, appearing as an offspring of a breeding ground for contempt, cynicism, mistrust and passivity?
  6. Are they misunderstood, starved for respect, or branded as traitors by the administration for empathizing with students, understanding their complaints, respecting their passions and valuing their non-conformity?
  7. Is our status as an outsider with our detached, insightful perspective being framed by them as a dangerous invader, spy or insensitive critic?

As we run through this list, we may learn what we were not seeing in others. Perhaps we'll appear more understanding and then get understood. Maybe we'll show more interest in them and get more interest from them in our outlooks. We might even come across as someone who's professional development includes learning from signs of a something not working.


Take a load off

Whenever we get a new idea, a different method or a better diagnosis, we have a lot of thinking to do. Our conscious minds spin with thoughts like a laptop refreshing a filtered digital image or edited video sequence. When we are doing all this cogitating, we're getting a job done. We are considering our options, linking different evidence together, deciding on an effective approach and choosing a course of action that realizes the effects we want to achieve.

When this thinking is completed, we can forget about it. We've got it already. We can let go of trying to remember it, think it through again or do it like we previously thought to get it done. Once it's clear in our conscious minds, our unconscious minds upload it onto its vast server space for immediate access whenever it's called for.

Conscious minds with no "online" access to the unconscious usually spin out uncontrollably. They appear to be infected with a virus of worries and chronic anxiety. Their conscious reasoning cannot stop searching the hard drive for content that is saved elsewhere. They have no sense of being able to recall at will what they previously thought through and uploaded automatically. They have no experience with "asking and receiving" ideas, reasoning, diagnoses, methods or solutions.  They don't "do the right thing" without further thinking (flow state).

Conscious minds that routinely login into their unconscious "server farm" are virus free. They know they uploaded what they already thought through. They access anything they've had in mind when they need it again. They find the constructs in their server space where it's stored, not on their hard drive where it was uploaded from.

Knowing where their previous thinking can be found takes a big load off their minds. The unconscious automatically "takes a load off" their conscious minds by saving anything useful for future reuse. The only content not saved was useless at the time it was considered. When we work with the way our minds are designed, learning seems natural and satisfying. We are capable of learning what interests us as if the requisite capabilities are inherent in us and everyone else.


When will schools change?

All of us blogging about much-needed changes in schooling, educating and learning are in the front seat of a car. We are looking out the windshield (windscreen) and seeing the road ahead. A bend in the road is not an end in the road for us because we see how to make the turn. We foresee the exits before we get to them and take the off ramp before it's too late. Because we see what's coming before it gets here, we function as visionaries, prophets and entrepreneurs for the other passengers.

All of those who are slow to adopt or opposed to changes are in the back seat of the same car. They are short sighted and can only see what's in the rear view mirror. If they turn around, they can look out the rear window. They don't see the bend in the road or the exit until it's too late. The lag effect from not seeing what's coming -- makes them unresponsive, slow to turn and incapable of proactive solutions. Because they keep the car on the straight and narrow road, they function as bureaucrats, factory workers and administrators.

Schools will change when the need to change shows up in the rear view mirror. The economy and culture will already have made the turn and changed direction without the proper education to do so. The know how to invent new models, enterprises and social constructs will not reflect how the innovators were taught, graded or indoctrinated. The change agents will have gotten their education from what works (evidence based), what seems inspired (unconscious guidance) and what makes the most sense at the time (reflective practice).

What road will we be on when the need to change will be obvious to the back seat drivers? Here's what I'm foreseeing:

  • The digital economy will become a creative economy where everyone is consciously creating their experiences
  • The network infrastructure we call the Internet will be called the SafetyNet as we utilize our world wide connectivity to support anyone who is giving their talents to create safety in the offline world of danger, deprivation and disconnection
  • The Wild West experiences of the online world will become synchronistic experiences of an inline world -- where what consistently shows up serves what we need right now

Then all of us that have had so much to say about Web 2.0, eLearning, and School 2.0 will be able to say "I told you so" when schools finally catch on or fizzle out.


Factory schooling

For the past week, I've been reading Mark Federman's McLuhan for Managers and rereading some of McLuhan's books. I first read Understanding Media when I was eighteen years old and have been thinking about the effects of technologies ever since. This morning I realized how the persistence of factory schooling makes sense in spite of all the advances in Web 2.0 technologies.

The introduction of any new technology creates a painful displacement of people wedded to the old economic order. Feudalism established a class of peasants who lost out on having land, dignity and freedom. The printing press resulted in a million deaths over the century that followed as warring factions were torn between the authority of the church and the new printed page. Each new way to win creates losers who become more of a problem and catalyst to yet another change.

The introduction of any new technology also brings about a resurgence of an old mode of operation. The automobile brought back chivalry, jousting with other knights on their charging steeds, and showing up in shining armor to rescue swooning damsels . Television brought back sexual seduction, baiting, and teases that radio had no business conveying. Each new way to extend our capabilities brings back an obsolete way of interacting.

The digital economy has created a new displacement and resurgence. There are those who are online and those who are not (the digital divide). The building of the huge digital infrastructure brought back factory organizations. The vast amount of work to code the software involved long days of slave labor inside factory organizations. The shopping online reverted to more menial labor inside distribution warehouses and trucking firms.

When systems go down, the IT department does their magic to debug and restore the infrastructure while the peasants feel powerless and vulnerable. The smokestacks are now on SUV's while the coders commute to their cubicles to crank out more infrastructure for the back and front end systems. The digital economy has created a class of losers and throwbacks to the Industrial Revolution.

In this context, factory schooling makes perfect sense. The perceptions about "the best way to educate" react to the existing economy. Administrators look in the rear view mirror for best practices. Courses prepare students for the kinds of employment that will be obsolete when they graduate. Factories are the way to go backwards and school systems maintain social order by going there.


The laptop and the server farm

Our minds function with a small, rechargeable conscious and a vast, 24/7 unconscious. The conscious mind is a a laptop with Internet connectivity. It recharges when it sleeps and burns up lots of glucose when functioning. The unconscious mind is like the server farm for, or The unconscious operates nonstop with access to huge amounts of useful, accessible information.

Most conscious minds rarely access the unconscious mind for solutions, inspirations, and intuitions. They are like laptops that search their hard drive, but do not go online to search the Web. The unconscious mind can guide us into perfect timing so we are in the right place with the right idea in mind to make the right difference. If we ask, we can receive what we need to know, learn what we need to do next and change what we need to upgrade.

Our conscious minds have a protocol for logging into the unconscious, just like a laptop has protocols for dial-up, LAN and Wifi connectivity. Our minds remain offline when they are thinking. The CPU is preoccupied and cannot access the internal web. We connect to our vast unconsciousness when we get to the point where there is "no more thinking required".

Here's some login protocols to access your unconscious and initiate an online search in your mind:

  • I know this much about each alternative but I don't know which to choose
  • I understand the constraints I'm facing but I don't see the creative freedom within them
  • I have identified the problem in detail and need to come up with an inspired solution
  • I see the issue's complexity and intend to receive a satisfying resolution from within
  • I've thought through the difficulties and have no idea where to go from here
  • I've anticipated every possible objection and let go of controlling the outcome
  • I've realized the limits of my thinking and allow for better ideas to come to mind
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After the frontier settlements

When a barren terrain shows the first signs of organic growth, weed species have taken hold. Other grasses and flowering ground covers will unsuccessfully attempt to take root. The new species die off until the weeds have been through more generations of composting to provide enough top soil for new species to grow. The weeds then attempt to choke out the growth of invading species which are less hardy and drought tolerant. The more robust the weeds are, the thicker the topsoil becomes for the invaders. Eventually the growing conditions are "too good" for the weeds and the grasses and ground covers win out.

When an unsettled region shows the first signs of civilization, trappers, cowboys and criminals are on the prowl. Attempts to establish safe homesteads and quiet villages falls prey to the outlaws. Forts, saloons and whorehouses then provide a stable environment for the footloose ruffians. When polite society tries to set up shop and homesteads, the sociopaths continue to terrorize the settlers. The more successful the deviants are, the sooner they become their own worst enemies. Sidewalks, banks and schools become established in their wake.

When an industrialized economy shows the first signs of pervasive connectivity, web presence has taken hold. Other gift economies and support systems will attempt unsuccessfully to supplement the ecommerce foothold. Cyber citizens will be terrorized by:

  • scam websites and hacker code redirects from valid web pages
  • spam emails, blog comments, so-net invitations and wiki entries
  • viruses, spyware and poison cookies
  • phishing, identity theft and corrupted passwords
  • flame wars, ganker attacks and griefer snark
  • porn, online predators and sexual bait
  • digital piracy, violations of IP rights

The more successful the dark side of ecommerce becomes, the sooner it will become its own worst enemy. Planetary learning, healing and transforming will take hold.

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Creating clients

Successful freelancers are usually highly networked. Additional work comes their way through their numerous professional and personal connections. Their reputation precedes them and sells new clients on their value before they ever meet the freelancer. They already understand how marketing is really about conversations and relationships. When incoming work slows down, there's no obvious way to "try harder" because so much has come about through their network. It's not clear how to get more aggressive with marketing, sales or strategy efforts.

Most marketing books I've read are written by ego maniacs. They recommend pushing the features and benefits of the freelancer's services on the world. A few recommend a "soft sell" approach but then do a hard sell of their own services. The advice to "push" assumes this tactic will overcome ignorance, hesitation and resistance in the marketplace. Sales pitches and promotional materials are presumed to be effective at correcting the misconceptions of the sales leads and potential buyers. The marketing gurus dismiss the freelancers' misgivings, call reluctance and avoidance of these tactics as:

  • a lack of commitment to success
  • a pattern of self sabotage, squeamishness or failure
  • a lack of intent to overcome resistance and conquer the market
  • a lack of self esteem, confidence or courage

Ego maniacs cannot connect the dots between buyer remorse and sales pressure. They fail to see how their "overcome the resistance" approach does more harm than good to repeat business, customer loyalty and referrals. They assume they are right and free lancers are wrong. 

I recommend trusting your misgivings about marketing books, gurus and their advice. Estimate that most of what they point out as lacking in free lancers is what they lack themselves. Start looking for a different approach to get more aggressive. Here are some ideas to get more creative:

  • What if prospective clients are detectives looking for clues? How easy is to find out where you are, what good you do, how it applies to their situations?
  • What if prospective clients are consumer watchdogs? How do your attempts at self promotion come across to others: hypocritical/authentic? hype/truth-in-advertising? over-promise/deliver as promised?
  • What if prospective clients are disaster relief services? How can they help you, contribute new ideas to what you deliver, restore full functionality of your offerings?
  • What if prospective clients are students learning from you? How are they making sense of what you've given them, figuring out what difference you make and identifying how you fit into their situation?
  • What if prospective clients are wandering in a forest where you are guiding them to their destination. Where are they getting lost, confused, misled -- as they try to find what they are really looking for?
  • What if prospective clients are cat lovers and you care for dogs? How can you translate what you do to be of service to feline kinds of  leads?
  • What if prospective clients are playing hide and seek with you? Where might they hide where they expect you to never investigate? Where do you always look that they know to avoid?

When free lancers get this creative about their marketing, they say "our product is customers". They see the thing they create is not products and services, it's the clients. The trust, buy-in, loyalty, referrals, and repeat business are the creation of how the leads get treated, informed, guided and encouraged.


Through the eyes of the learner

Whenever we are acting like factories and delivering content, we cannot think of the customers' points of view. We cannot consider what it's like to be on the receiving end of what we're dishing out. We fail to connect the dots of evidence that we are unresponsive to the customers.

An incredible number of books on business innovation each speak as if they invented the idea of looking through the eyes of the customer. Three of my favorites for making this point are

Each identifies the perils of pushing a superb product onto customers that appear "too stupid to appreciate a good thing when they see it". This issue came up again on Monday with Tony Karrer's Pimp My Course and several links to the original provocation and comments.

I've been pondering why it's so difficult to look through the eyes of the learner when we are creating instructional experiences. Here's some possible explanations:

  • Grasping other's outlooks calls for our listening, observing and reading body signals that cannot occur in our minds when we are busy presenting information
  • The learners' viewpoints are hypothetical and "not empirically validated", so they are easily dismissed when we are afraid of making conjectures, going out on a limb or blue-sky theorizing
  • Binary (dichotomous, black & white, either/or) thinking requires that we be right and dismisses the possibilities of both being right, being wrong or sharing frames of reference
  • The kind of thinking we do automatically in the face of threats, dangers and enemies (instinct, fight or flight, defensive, adrenal) does not allow for insight into the other points of view
  • Empathy for other viewpoints only becomes possible after our own pride, conceit and self-righteous outlooks have been humbled where we can see others eye-to-eye
  • Taking responsibility for our own unresolved issues (hot buttons, insecurities, intolerance) is a prerequisite to regarding others non-judgmentally
  • Understanding the learners' frames of reference calls for creativity, thinking outside the box and playing with the meaning of unquestionable facts

These explanations suggest that we don't need information or improved methods to look through the eyes of the learner. Rather its a question of personal maturity, cognitive development or consciousness raising.


Routine successes and failures

Cognitive neuroscientists often use college students as their guinea pigs. Students are given tasks, puzzles and games which conscious reasoning cannot figure out how to solve. The students succeed "in spite of themselves" because their unconscious resources succeed. Upon several repetitions, the unconscious can do this automatically without thinking.

Cognitive neuroscientists have also studied successful college students. These students excel on tests without the performance anxiety of other students. They have the motivation to study, get good grades and turn in assignments on time. Their unconscious minds support playing "the grade & grad game" successfully. So much of what college requires, these students can do without analyzing, hesitating or dreading the challenge. They are not "making themselves" do what is required. They feel the urges, energy and inspirations to do whatever it takes to succeed.

Students who struggle and sabotage themselves in college are not supported by their unconscious minds. They routinely fail to get enough sleep, study before tests, think clearly during exams and keep ahead on assignment deadlines. They see the same challenges as successful students, but the requirements appear confusing signs of opportunity and danger. They hesitate to react because a routine failure may occur. Their unconscious mind may bring out their worst, sabotage their ambition and embarrass themselves in front of peers.

We all have routine successes and failures in mind that we can execute without thinking. Students who routinely fail at "the grade & grad game", may be "unconsciously successful" at dating, partying, friendships, sports, employment or independent study. The successful students may be routinely failing at those other adventures. I suspect there are many students who "run their failure routine" in classes that seem useless, boring and "only good for the grade". Those same students "succeed without trying" when a course appears useful, engaging and good for their career objectives.

Which routine we run depends on our read of the challenge. If it appears as a game, we go for it with a ways to succeed without thinking. There's no comparison or contrasting context. We're looking at "green on green" and pursue our obsession.

If the challenge appears to send mixed signals, we hesitate to react and face dilemmas, Catch-22's and no-win gambits. If we're facing clear danger, we sabotage our involvement and fail without thinking.


The enchanting side of feedback

Feedback provides objective information about how well we did, what we accomplished or how our result compares to standards. Feedback also tells a story about the nature of learning and how we play along.

We get told a dreadful story when the feedback we receive says:

  • You've now completed the fourth module
  • Your score on this section is 88%
  • You rank in the top 30% on this skill area
  • You made (3) mistakes in this unit

We find out our personal experience through the content-laden process does not count. We realize we are pictured as redundant pawns in the instructional system. We discover we are not respected as self-directed learners with unique questions, passions or purposes. Our ambition is imagined to be limited to higher scores and faster completion of modules. Our curiosity and creativity is presumed to be deficient or absent.

 We get told an enchanting story when the feedback we receive says:

  • You've worked through all four obstacles to perceiving this challenge accurately
  • You've proven you can discern the difference between these superficially similar things
  • You changed strategies in order to avoid that dead end and get to this location on your own
  • You found this new resource for your quest by changing your selective perception of the confusing evidence

We found out our experience through the process counts. We realized we are pictured as competent gamers who are making valuable decisions to move through the system. We discover we are respected as self-motivated learners. Our ambition is imagined to include: learning how to learn, to reformulate our questions and to revise search strategies.

When we learn all this from feedback, we become enchanted with possibilities. We anticipate how much we can learn on our own and how satisfying it will be. We are energized by the opportunities to get creative and adventurous. Our inquisitiveness is fired up by the seeming mysteries and contradictions in the terrain. We accept the story about how we learn.


Comparing old to new media

New media has a spellbinding effect on us. It has no comparison that allows us to be conscious of what does to us. The new media takes effect out of our control. It transforms cultures, institutions and economies effortlessly. Printing presses did this. Railroads, automobiles and airplanes took effect this way. Telegraph, telephones and cell phones invaded the status quo without anyone's permission. Film, television and 3-D games enchant us in disruptive ways too.

While new media have no comparison to make us conscious, they provide a comparison for the old media. We can suddenly see what we were doing to ourselves, the spell we were under and the assumptions we embraced unconsciously. Here's some of the old media we now have a way to compare and become conscious of its effects:

  • We now have tools for manipulating digital content that expose the limitations of ink on paper for anyone of actively writing, quoting, linking and tagging text.
  • We now have "publish this" buttons in our web site, blog and wiki software that let us see the restricted pipeline of literary agents, acquisition editors, publishing houses, publication page limitations and magazine/book sellers shelf space.
  • We now can teleport to gatherings in Second Life and wonder why spend the time, pay for the lodging, and burn the fuel to do F2F in Real Life.
  • We're learning by experimentation by playing MMORPG's, adopting new technologies and using the latest software - how formal instruction has the effect of controlling choices, disempowering learners and disrespecting self-direction.
  • We can compare our pervasive ideal of demonstrating what we learned by "putting it into words" (print literacy) as foregoing the demonstrations of learning by "putting it into action" (game play literacy) and "putting it into pictures" (iconic literacy).
  • We can question the sanity of imposed curricula, required content, and factory models of education -- now that they are getting compared to the functioning of free lancers, cultural creatives and collaborative customers.
  • We can challenge the use of bloated bureaucracies that dish out diplomas to four year students -- now that we are experiencing continual job changing and life-long learning that set new standards.

The obsolete media will fall by the wayside. Their premises will stop making sense to everyone enchanted by the new media. Their harmful effects will be transparently obvious to everyone. We'll only indulge in those old media for nostalgia, personal amusement and low-functional pursuits.


What d'ya think about your situation?

Your conscious mind thinks about everything. Your unconscious mind takes that thinking as asking and delivers per your requests. What you get from below depends on what you ask for -- which results from what you're thinking.

Take that situation you've been thinking about lately. Do you think that's a real problem? Your unconscious mind will respond by giving you the urge to figure out who caused this problem, complain about their incompetence and blame them for making you unhappy. Do you think it's really a solution that's doing somebody some good somehow? Your unconscious mind will respond by giving you inspirations for even better solutions, easier methods, and more effective approaches to work out with the other people.

Are you thinking that situation poses some danger to you, jeopardizes your reputation or exposes your own shortcomings? Your unconscious mind will respond by giving you the urge to take flight, justify your actions or make flamboyant excuses. Do you think the situation is really an opportunity to explore a welcome challenge? Your unconscious mind will serve up some hidden resources for handling unfamiliar situations, learning from setbacks and getting creative when "trying harder" is backfiring.

Are you certain that situation is unacceptable and needs to be opposed by you? Your unconscious mind will respond by filling you with anxiety, urges to take control and confidence that you're absolutely right. Are you fascinated by how the situation is multi-faceted and includes many ways to be interpreted. Your unconscious mind will deliver better questions to ask, and changes in your outlook to see the situation "in a new light".

Are you reacting to that situation like it's objective evidence, established facts and unquestionable proof of a crisis. Your unconscious mind will respond by showing you how win at other's expense, make the problems worse and damage the key relationships. Are you thinking about different ways to perceive the situation and changing how you frame the evidence? Your unconscious mind will respond by giving you different diagnoses of the obvious symptoms, alternative definitions of the underlying problem and metaphors for playing with the meaning of the evidence.

In short: When you want it to be this way, you get it to be this way every time.

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That growing illiteracy rate

One of the worries about the 50% dropout rate from schools is the growing illiteracy rate. It looks like a bad thing that so many citizens will be functionally illiterate. It seems realistic to anticipate a widening divide between literate and illiterate citizens. Are we headed back to feudalism with an arrogant nobility and under-privileged peasantry? I think not.

There are two kinds of literacy: literal and iconic. Literal literacy can read text, printed words, books. Iconic literacy can read signs, situations, games in play. I suspect our cultures are becoming less literally literate in order to read the world better than ever. The dropouts are preparing for the future while the graduates are preparing to live in the past.

Iconic literacy can read:

We cannot learn to read the signs from texts. We have to learn the landscape by immersing ourselves in it. Iconic literacy is discovered by exploring, experimenting and failing.


Ink on skin

When automobiles were first invented, they were called "horseless carriages". They were framed as a variation of the existing technology. Once horse-driven carriages were obsolete, they became an amusement ride in settings that replicate the bygone era. All attempts were abandoned to provide efficient transportation and to compete with other purveyors of horse & buggy services.

When printing ink was invented, it was put on paper. Ink on paper created bound or folded publications. Ink was eventually threatened by toner cartridges. Toner on copier paper could make one copy of an original with much less set-up than the plates on printing presses.

Tape players, VCRs and DVD players then offered viewers several buttons that print publications do not have: Stop, Fast Forward, Pause, Rewind, Eject. This did not bring an end to "ink on paper" because reading the printed word can make all these moves without pushing any buttons. We can always skip ahead, jump around, reread and put down the document. Talk of the "paperless office" was premature.

Then came Web 2.0. Print publications (books, magazines, direct mail, handouts, forms, worksheets) are getting compared to the functionality of our online experiences. Paper usage is getting factored into global warming. Here's some of the reasons "ink on paper" sucks:

  • There's no way to select, cut, copy and paste to a clipboard or open document
  • There's no search window to find what we just read, vaguely recall or want to find other mentions of
  • There's no comment box or ways to annotate the text that the author will see
  • There's no zoom button to enlarge the portion we're examining
  • There's no way to show what we're reading to someone who happens to be in another place right now
  • There are no hyper links to open other windows and connect different ideas in our minds with ease
  • There are no animations to watch that illustrate the ideas in the text, add an audio dimension to the experience
  • There's no way to tag what we're reading with our own words to come back to this exact spot with the click of a mouse the next time we want to see this
  • There's no way to save a printed document without cutting down a tree, burning up some petroleum and releasing some carbon into the atmosphere

So were approaching the time when ink will move from paper to skin. We'll use ink for decoration, instead of information transmission. Mass production of printed pages will be replaced by individual craftsman creating tattoos. The act of using ink will resemble the scribes of the Middle Ages painstakingly copying illuminated manuscripts. Paperless schooling, business and journalism will overtake the low-functionality of ink on paper.

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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.


Closed and open minds

You may have seen the bumper sticker that says:

The mind is like a parachute, it only works when it's open

Clearly the author of this has never walked down the aisles of a convenience store while wearing a parachute. Closed parachutes work superbly when the people wearing them have their feet on the ground. Open parachutes work great in free fall.

Closed minds are a problem when "unconscious incompetence" is getting acted out. The autopilot is "missing the destination and flying into the ground". A chronic bad habit needs to be broken. Antagonistic bigotry begs for a comeuppance. Over-zealous determination asks for a wake-up call. A persistent bubble of idealism is "cruising for a bruising" by some realism.

When we switch from a problematic closed mind to an open mind, several other changes occur. What we did without thinking -- now takes lots of mental processing. What occurred to us faster than we could reason through -- now slows down for elaborate consideration. What took no energy to "jump to the same old conclusions" -- now drains our stamina while we rethink our basic assumptions and routines.

While our minds are open, we learn to stop doing more harm than good. We realize how we've been affecting other people and figure out how to touch the world gently. We change strategies by changing the premises that our priorities were based upon. We disrupt our literal interpretation and play around with what-if questions. We consider different combinations of resources and formulate a beneficial synthesis of opposing constraints.

Open minds are a problem when we need focus, speed and stamina. We close our minds again to get into a flow state. We then act out our "unconscious competence" in the moment. We do the right thing without slowing down to think it through. We suspend our analytical reactions and lose ourselves in the activity. What comes to mind will be seen as perfect timing, balance, proportioned response -- when considered in hindsight. While we are getting continually inspired, the flow state will simply evoke gratitude: "Yes! Sweet! Awesome! Thank You!"


Selling the benefits of blogging

I've been to two picnics in the past week where I heard myself describe the enjoyments and benefits of blogging to others. I watched people try to deal with something so different from email in their experience. Yesterday, Tony Karrer got me thinking again about the value of blogging with his: Writing, Learning, Knowing - Help Needed. The comments added to Tony's post are full of insights into the value we are realizing from this read/write process.

As I thought more about "selling blogging" to others, I realized it's an easy sell to people who share its purposes. It's like handing people the keys to the car they've already bought so they can drive where they want to go. People who don't buy the underlying purposes of blogging are a tough sell. We're handing them keys before they have a car.

What are the purposes of blogging? Here's a start. If this was a separate web page, I could make it longer and more detailed. If it was a wiki page, WE could assemble a comprehensive list together.

  • Formulating better questions to be asking, exploring, researching
  • Integrating opposing viewpoints, unfamiliar frames of reference
  • Making sense of turbulent changes, mixed messages, confusing signs
  • Identifying "the real problem", underlying issues, hidden purposes
  • Recognizing emerging trends, patterns, change models
  • Giving to a community of shared interests, concerns, problems
  • Strengthening one's "voice & viewpoint" by getting read, quoted, comments
  • Gaining confidence as a valued member, worthy contributor
  • Becoming more creative, innovative, unique

These purposes don't grow in hostile environments. In situations rife with office politics, conformity pressures or shortages (of time, attention, funds) blogging will serve no apparent purpose. Blogging may appear as a contrivance that only pretends to be useful or connected to desired outcomes. It may look like an indulgence that would be nice to do with more free time. Blogging may even show up as a threat to stability, staying on mission or survival.

When blogging appears to defeat the work of an enterprise, something is missing:

  • The epistemic ground may not support risk taking, speaking up, honesty or deviating from group norms that are inherent in blogging
  • The value networks may overemphasize tangibles at the expense of intangibles that: build in personal capabilities, empower individuals and reward intrinsic learning
  • The learning may only be formal with an absence of mentors, communities of practice, after action reviews, PLE's, etc.
  • The process of innovating may be confined to unconscious replication, thinking inside the box, incremental improvements, trying harder, etc.

Thus a sales pitch about the benefits of blogging will fall on deaf ears if the audience is working on hostile ground. Change the context by filling in what's missing, and blogging will sell itself. When blogging does not make sense, talking about blogging is futile. Talking about "fulfilling your purposes" makes sense.

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Catalogues networks and ecologies

At the turn of the previous century, catalogues became a big breakthrough. Retailers distributed mail-order catalogues that listed everything they sold. Libraries maintained card catalogues of every book they housed. Colleges published course catalogues of every class they offered. The information glut of one hundred years ago was handled by indexes, categories, cross references and identification numbers. We were keeping track of things. Content was the main thing. Formal instruction and content delivery were in tune with the times.

The advent of the Internet made networks the next big breakthrough. Retailers created e-commerce web sites that delivered unique search results and recommendations. Libraries digitized their catalogues to enable searches by subject, keyword and adjacent books on the shelf. Colleges put their course schedules on the web to automate enrollment, wait listing and monitoring of fulfilled prerequisites. The information glut of the nineties was handled by tagged data, large data arrays and search algorithms. "Added connections between nodes of content" was the main thing. Informal learning and conversations were in tune with the times.

It's already time for the next big breakthrough. Generation Y has begun to graduate from schools and enter the workforce. The generation gap experienced by Gen X with Gen Y at home and in school -- will now invade the economic engines and cultural infrastructure. The meaning of the words: "network" and "ecology" will change.

When most people speak of ecology currently, they refer to a combination of nodes. "Ecology" and "network" are nearly synonymous. They are addressing the change from working in isolation to including partners and alliances. As Dave Pollard wrote recently:

A network is actually a fabrication of knots (nodes) designed to trap, rather than connect. Our use of the term to describe n-to-n connectedness of a group of people through multiple degrees of separation is novel, I suspect because such connection does not occur in nature.

Thinking of ecologies as nodes maintains the imagery of "content with added connections". It justifies large corporations with weakened governments beholden to their commercial interests. It perpetuates institutions for textbook education and surgical/pharmaceutical health care. It misses out on the value of ecologies as the next big breakthrough.

Ecologies fill in gaps with growth. Ecologies replace obsolete growth in stages. Ecologies restore balance disrupted by extreme growth. Ecologies grow innovative solutions to problems created by replication. Ecologies thrive on emergent outcomes of highly interdependent invasions, changes and reversals. Ecologies do not manufacture goods, fail to recycle waste products, or stockpile inventories. Content is incidental, disposable and recyclable. Connections is everything.

Because its not here yet, this change is unthinkable. The early signs are "off radar" and seemingly ludicrous. The best way I've thought to picture the next breakthrough so far is "a network with no nodes". In lieu of things that get connected, imagine highly interdependent voids. Instead of linking capable resources, picture joining together "gaps". Rather than tagging content by how it will be used, appreciate the central importance of unknowns, mysteries and unanswered questions.


Business models for free content

Education Revolution's recent Manifesto (worth reading!) includes this link to a protocol by Mike Masnick for developing business models that offer free content. Over the weekend, I tried out these steps. This is another sequel to Indie Professional Development and Meetings of the Mind.

Here's the protocol:

1. Redefine the market based on the benefits
2. Break the benefits down into scarce and infinite components.
3. Set the infinite components free, syndicate them, make them easy to get -- all to increase the value of the scarce components
4. Charge for the scarce components that are tied to infinite components

1. Redefine the market based on the benefits: Inventors and content creators naturally define the market based on tangibles, things and deliverables. It's far from easy to redefine the market in terms of benefits. When we are benefiting from making things, we lose sight of the experience of users, receivers and explorers of our thing. In this blog, I've been redefining the market as follows:

  • It's not the content, it's the context of the customer who uses the content as a solution to their own problems, difficulties and confusion.
  • It's not the delivery of content, it's the discovery of the timing, applicability and self motivation to put the content to use
  • It's not the nodes of information, it's the links between those nodes that make the learning meaningful, valuable and rewarding

2. Break the benefits down into scarce and infinite components: Content is ubiquitous, searchable and taggable. It's becoming "everywhere all the time" as we evolve from WIFI to handhelds with broadband connectivity. Context is scarce. An individual's need to know, readiness to consider, time to reflect, and situation to change -- are all rare, hard for others to find and temporary in nature.

3. Set the infinite components free: Give away the content. Write blogs. Contribute to wiki. Write comments, tag other's content, quote and link to other content. Do all this like we were being paid to do it -- even though we're not.

4. Charge for the scarce components that are tied to infinite components: If all the learners need is the content, they get satisfaction for free. If the learners want a more valuable experience, they "come inside and pay at the door". Perhaps the learners want:

  • the content broken down into steps and simplified so its easier to grasp
  • the content translated into visuals that make it possible to picture how it all interrelates and comes together sensibly
  • the content put in the context of other knowledge or ways it is applied in other situations so it seems useful and worth remembering
  • the content presented in narrative form so they can identify with characters, get immersed in the plot and pick up the underlying message by osmosis

These experiences are economically scarce, more difficult to come by, and worth some money. They are tied to the content that everyone can get anywhere. The infinite content increases the demand for the more valuable experiences. Freebies become monetized without charging for the free content.

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Getting value from Facebook

After sitting with the questions I inventoried in Learning new questions socially, and pondering the comments on that post, I've made some sense of Facebook. This is "subject to change with notice" and open to your ideas for revisions.

It's who you know: For us bloggers experiencing "professional development on steroids" (from writing, subscribing, quoting and reading blogs) it's WHAT we know that counts. Our particular content is valuable to each other. Facebook plays by different rules: It's WHO you know, HOW you know them and HOW they will make you look good -- that counts.

We've already met: Facebook appears to be designed for maintaining previous acquaintances. It works great for people who took the same class, stayed in the same dorm, went on the same trip,  graduated with the same major, worked at the same employer, dated in the same circle, etc.

The more the merrier: Facebook creates a network for the mutual monitoring of friends. The more friends you watch, the more that can watch you. The bigger the web of interconnections, the more network effects that can kick in. Someone who doesn't know you will have heard of you, know what you do, considered that recent change you made, thought of you when something else came up, etc.

Protecting your brand: Facebook accelerates the formation of a personal brand. Reputations are created by what comes through each friend's newsfeed for others to read. Making good impressions depends on choosing your friends wisely. Subscribers are careful to not friend their parents or "the sexy trash" they are dating because all that uncool news would come through their feed where their other Facebook friends could read it.

Viral adoption of changes: One friend's change of embedded API's goes into his/her newsfeed. Other friends will see the change and consider doing the same. Their friends will see the newsfeed of that change. Change is Made To Stick and prone to catch on like wildfire. Many entrepreneurs see huge revenue potential in this.

Cashing in on college: Most alumni report being satisfied with their college experience. They see themselves as more mature, articulate, clear minded and confident. They credit the people they met and the activities outside of class. Most college graduates see their classes, homework and tests as useless. All this fuels the meme that the main benefit of college is "who you meet". 

Making connections only pays off only if we stay in touch. Going our separate ways undermines the main benefit of that huge tuition bill. Facebook changes that by creating newsfeeds of friends. Staying in touch is ongoing and easily done. The chances of the deep debt paying off is much improved.