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It’s Time to Rethink What People Need to Learn


Sandra told me that her cousin shared an article about how schools were no longer teaching analog time telling in school. Wait. They were until now? Why?

Whether we’re talking about kids in school or grown ups in the workplace, it feels like the majority of what people are learning comes from old and outdated premises.

We forget that a lot of learning is tied to technology because it’s now OLD technology:

  • Analog clocks – because we didn’t have other ways to visualize time
  • Cursive writing – because we didn’t have keyboards and phones with predictive typing and speech-to-text
  • Classic literature – because this was a tool for teaching important life lessons
  • It’s not that literature is bad. It might be that classic literature is a very slow and dense delivery system for a lesson that could be taught better and through different media. Moby Dick is around 600 pages. The lesson? You could pick them up in much simpler, shorter, easier-to-consume forms.

    The same way we don’t all live on farms and raise sheep and cows to get our food, we somehow think the “old days” of learning is sacred. But is it? Do we need to learn what you/we THINK we need to learn?

    Think About That Defensive Feeling

    Somewhere in your belly, you might be feeling a lot of resistance. “Oh, but having a solid foundation is vital for learning.” I never said a single thing about NOT having a solid foundation for learning. But there’s a vast difference between ‘You have to eat’ and ‘You might want to eat more plants and fewer animal proteins.’ Right?

    Why do we “dress up” at work? Because that’s how it was always done? Why do we work together in offices? For management, mostly. Sure, collaboration is easier in person, but beyond that, how much of your work would be better suited to silence and privacy?

    Do we need to own a house? No we need a place to sleep, to eat, to keep our stuff if we have any.

    We’re Not Preparing People for Reality

    The last few years and the next 10-15 years will find you hearing (or saying): “Robots won’t replace MY job.” I hate to break it to you (no, I don’t). Robots *can* do most everything you can do, and most of it better.

    But that’s not really the story. Because the goal isn’t to preserve JOBS. The goal is to do work that matters. To work in service of those people we most want to help.

    The story is this: nothing is sacred when it comes to breaking apart and then rebuilding what we need to learn for skills and capabilities.

    20 years ago, it was smart to learn HTML. Even ten. Even five. Now, it’s a waste of time, unless you want to be part of something esoteric. I can pop a site together with zero coding skill whatsoever. 25 years ago, no one was learning HTML.

    Why are we teaching spelling? “Because you never know when you won’t have a phone with spell check nearby.” Who cares?

    Teach communication. That’s VERY different than spelling. Teach comprehension. Teach structure. Teach proper journalistic method and reporting and storytelling.

    But spelling? Who cares? (And I’m really good at spelling.)

    Why Isn’t There a YouTube/Twitch Streamer Star Course in High School?

    Some people might read that and think “Oh, how cute” or “There goes the neighborhood” but there are plenty of people in the NEW entertainment industry that can edit the heck out of something with Final Cut but who don’t know how to structure a sponsorship deal.

    There are more people watching esports and live streaming channels made by amateurs than are watching most professional US sports right now. And yet, we still discount this as a potential job our kids might have (or that we might want).

    Where are the AI courses?

    With all the shifts in technology, why aren’t we prepping people to learn how to interact, how to query, how to do all that will be required to link together and interpret and sift through all this information?

    Someday is Now

    If you’ve been “thinking about” learning something new, now’s the time. Do it. But check first. Is it something that’s not all that important to learn in the first place? Believe me when I say there are plenty of things NOT to learn.

    But we need better skills. You. Me. Kids. Everyone. And what’s out there isn’t really going to work for the most part. Not for long.

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    8 May, 2018

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