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I'm a geek working as a distance learning specialist for a large corporation.

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Corporate Learning conference: Day 3

I managed to get to David Snowden’s talk this morning about, essentially, the nature of learning. What does science say about how we learn? Is that different from the way we, as trainers, try to make people learn?

It seems that we are trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. And what we’re ending up doing is, sometimes painfully, reshaping the hole (the trainees) to become square, rather than filing our peg (the training) to become round.

Snowden (and his data) suggests that there is a point at which fragmented information, couched in the right amount of ambiguity, provides the optimal learning opportunity. This is in contrast to “ordered” systems, which provide things like Best Practice documents, Six Sigma (for which he seems to have a special disdain), and other detailed efforts that treat humans as if they were computers or machinery.

There is much that Snowden brings to the table for discussion. It’s a fundamental shift in how we currently act in many companies. I agree with much of his thoughts, though how to actually implement his ideas elude me (though to be fair to myself, I haven’t had much time to think about it, either). At a minimum, selling them to the corporation would be a challenge.

I found the presentation to be very conceptual/theoretical, and not so much implementation strategies.  He mentioned he has a degree in philosophy, and it shows… but that’s not really a bad thing. We need someone to bring this stuff up and challenge the status quo – which is in many cases blindingly obviously broken.

You can access the recorded session (you may have to register first – not sure) at the conference’s wiki (once it’s posted). It’s deep in psychology and cognitive theory, and jargon filled, but worth it – especially the first 20 minutes, which lays the foundation of his theory. I’ll need to go back and listen to that part again. I wasn’t taking good enough notes during the live presentation.

[tags]David Snowden, learning theory, fragmentation, CLTI2007[/tags]

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