Learning Community Structure and Benefits
A 21st Century Learning Community optimally exploits “electronic tools” (tools like the Internet and the Cloud) to improve the ability to learn the skills we need to thrive.
Table of Contents on This Page
- What’s Actionable on this Page
- Why we Need 21st Century Learning communities
- The Problem and Solution to Getting Good Information
- The Communication Foundations of Learning Communities
- Examples of Learning Communities in Physical Systems (Cellular Networks)
- Key Features of a Learning Community
- Putting it all Together
- How to Build Learning Communities
What’s Actionable on this Page
- Understand the key foundational activities of a Learning Community: Focusing, Filtering, Dynamic Course Updates, & Defined Learning Communication Codes.
- Begin to see how you can apply the Learning Community approach to your life, the lives of your family, friends, and/or co-workers.
A Learning Community uses an Open Source Algorithm to assign meta-tags to information so it can be more easily filtered and focused to help maximize each of our unique learning opportunities.
Why we Need 21st Century Learning Communities
In the old days, inquisitive minds, like Ben Franklin and Isaac Newton before him, could conceivably have read all the important books on a particular subject.
That is impossible today. There is just too much information within easy reach of everyone.
The Problem and the Solution of Getting Good Information
One way to describe both the Problem and the Solution of “Getting Good Information” is to use a classic old parable about a number of blind researchers trying to describe an elephant.
This parable suggests that while each of the individual researcher’s perspectives could be correct, each of their realities are inherently bounded by the physical limitations of human perception.
And this problem, of really knowing stuff, is order of magnitudes worse today because there is so much more stuff available to us.
But, despite the hurdles it is still relatively easy to overcome some of our perceptual limitations; by using the same tools that are creating all this information in the first place.
By using 21st Century electronic tools we can take practical steps to optimally manage all the information.
My Proposal to Fix the Problem
I propose a 3 Step Process to help manage all the Information Available and Overcome the Perceptual Limitations of being human.
The challenge to knowing stuff is: One could actually experience “truth,” but that experience of “truth” does not rule out other experiences and other truths.
So, the first step to knowing stuff must be to understand our perceptual limitations.
There is more information than any one person can optimally process. So, we need a Learning Community to help us optimally manage all this information!
The Communication Foundation of Learning Communities:
Learning Communities facilitate the optimum movement of information between people by connecting small groups of individuals (“Learning Communities”) with other small groups of individuals using a “Shard Communication Process. (How small the Learning Communities are depends on the context of the learning desired.)
Click Here for More Information about the @lantis Learning Community Communication Structure.
Overview of The Learning Communities Communication Process That Facilitates Optimum Information Movement
Here is a brief description of the Learning Community Communication Process:
- The Community captures as much raw data (in the form of Text – .doc, .txt), Pictures – .jpg, .png, Music – .mp3, and Videos – .mp4) as they can.
- Then the data is analyzed and assigned “meta-tags” that help the community process the information optimally.
Transparency is Key
I describe these meta-tags in more detail in Learning Community Communication Architecture. But, let me provide a high level overview here.
- Data is the easiest to describe. Data are simply the 1’s and 0’s in a computer. They are the PDFs, JPEGs, MP3s, MP4s, or any text, pic, or video formate. Meta-tags for data would be all the usual things one would expect, creation date, creator, name, keyword descriptors, etc. Additionally there would be multiple copies to help ensure integrity.
- Recommended Actions are also pretty easy to describe. They are simple statements of what do with the data.
- Facts are somewhat subjective, so there must be a method in place to remove all, or at least, some of the subjectivity. (Click here for more details on “Facts.”)
- Conclusions are totally subjective. They should be taken as such and we should not try to make them objective.
- Actions test of the process. If the actions yield the desired result then the conclusions can be consider “valid.”
Option 1 – Individual members of the community study the raw data for facts. The facts are accumulated and based on those facts conclusions are drawn with the intent of action.
Option 2 – Individual members of the community study the data and generate conclusions. Then based on those conclusions facts are found to support those conclusions. Option 2 is an interesting option. It is the basis of the “Scientific Method.” In the “Scientific Method” one asks a question, constructs an hypothesis, conducts experiments to generate facts that support the hypothesis. Yet, this option has the potential for an extremely serious flaw in that it lends itself to the emotion-biased decision-making phenomenon known as “Motivated Reasoning.”
Fortunately Learning Communities can offset the negative consequences of this option by insuring that all relevant facts are considered. Let me give you an example here. Go back to the parable of the blind researchers describing the elephant. Let’s say Bob is the blind researcher holding the trunk. Bob concludes that an elephant is long and thick. Under motivated reasoning, the Bob would stop there because the facts support Bob’s conclusion. But, because there are other researchers providing other data, if Bob is reasonable than Bob would have to admit that the facts as Bob knows them are not the only facts that influence the conclusions of what an elephant is.
Two Examples of “Learning Communities” In Physical Systems – The Telescope and Cellular Networks!
Fortunately there are two excellent physical models that describe the basic architecture of a Learning Community, The Telescope and Mobile Networks.
Both illustrate how we can improve information gathering and processing by linking smaller groups together.
In both cases we found:
- One large Lens or Mirror in a Telescope or one large radio transmitter in mobile networks, while effective at first, was not optimal for maximum information processing.
- By breaking the process down to small cells and then linking the cells together we could improve the information processing of Telescope and mobile networks by many orders of magnitude.
Telescopes went through three distinct designs. The first design was a “lens”
Problem was that a “Lens” could only get so big. So we invented the “Reflecting” Telescope. The Reflecting Telescope uses a large Mirror to gather more light.
But, as with the lens based telescope, the mirror could only get so big. So the next development was to break the one large mirror (no pun intended) into smaller mirrors and network them together. This same architecture is seen in the Telescope mirror at the Keck Observatory in Hawaii. In the Keck Mirror, a lot of individual mirrors networked together.
Before there was what we know of as the “cell” phone, there was the “car phone.”
The first car phones had only 1 large “Cell” that covered a large area. The problem was that, like the telescope, that architecture could only handle a small amount of traffic. (This traffic could also be called “bits of information.”
One could say that early telescopes and the first car phone system could only handle a small amount of “Bits of Information.”)
The problem of limited traffic was solved the same way we solved the telescope problem, but using a lot of small cells and networking the cells together.
Personalized Learning PlansClick Here for a much more detailed description of Personal Learning Plans
Personal learning plans (or PLPs) are one of the three necessary foundational elements of a thriving Learning Community.
PLPs are critical to the Learning Community because the PLPs drive the “Filtering” and “Focusing” process. By knowing the goals of the receiver, information can be valued based on the likelihood it will promote achievement of those goals.
PLPs need to be as long term as possible. Their is no reason way everyone cannot have a PLP for their entire life long educational journey. The key to maintain a life long PLP is to continually update the plan as you and your environment changes.
Personal learning plans are based on the belief that learners will be more motivated to learn, will achieve more, and will feel a stronger sense of ownership over their education if they decide what they want to learn, how they are going to learn it, when they are going to learn it, and why they need learn it to achieve their personal goals.
The general goal of a personal learning plan is to bring greater coherence, focus, and purpose to the decisions we have to make as we face life in the 21st Century.
To help our community members develop personal learning plans, the community provides a number of Personal Learning Plan templates that help the learner map out the most appropriate learning plan.
Learning Plans are in Constant state of Review and Modification
Personal learning plans are continually revisited and modified to reflect changes in learning needs, interests, and aspirations.
I understand that skepticism and criticism may arise if it is perceived that personal learning plans are burdensome rather than useful tools for life management.
Personal learning plans may also be viewed negatively if they are poorly designed, if they tend to be filed away and forgotten, if they are not acted upon, if they are not meaningfully integrated into one’s life.
In other words, how personal learning plans are actually used or not used, and whether they produce the desired life improvement results, will likely determine how they are perceived.
Click Here for a much more detailed description of Micro-Learning
I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught.”- Winston Churchill
Micro-Learning is based on Small (3 – 7 Minutes) Learning Packets (called “nuggets”) designed to be easily digested and managed. This is directly opposed to the traditional approach of learning through hour-long, day-long, or semester-long courses.
Three key features of Micro-learning
- Brevity: Microlearning events are short, though there is no defined duration.
- Granularity: Due to their brevity and purpose, microlearning focuses on a narrow topic, concept or idea.
- Variety: Microlearning content can be in the form of a presentation, activity, game, discussion, video, quiz, book chapter, or any other format from which someone learns.
Micro-learning, blended with mobile and “Cloud” technologies, enhances learning effectiveness by making learning contextually personalized and dynamically up-to-date.
By integrating mobile devices and the “Cloud,” Micro-learning becomes device, time, and location agnostic. Also, making learning mobile helps integrate learning into the daily flow of life, which encourages “continuous learning.”
Micro-learning, combined with the power of emerging technologies, makes learning more powerful and natural.
Why Mico-Learning works today:
- Information changes quickly
- People find it difficult to keep up with things
- Resources are freely available online
- Newer technologies support it
Based on Cognitive Science
Micro learning works within the constraints of the human brain with respect to our 3 – 7 minute attention span.
Micro-Learning aligns with research that proves we learn better when engaged in short, focused sessions, rather than long sessions that can easily result in information overload.
Micro learning is not a newly invented approach but rather a realization of 30 years of fMRI research into how the human brain is wired to learn.
Highly Successful Examples of Micro-Learning
- TED Talk
- Grovo: Teaches professional skills with 60-second videos
- Coursmos: Platform that supports micro courses
- Daily Bits Of: Short courses delivered by emai
Micro learning is going to be the future of learning.
It is all set to transform how we learn both for our personal as well as our professional needs.
I can easily see micro learning tools evolving into an essential component of any enterprise learning toolbox.
“Just in Time” LearningClick here for a much more detailed description of “Just-in-time” Learning
We live in an Information Age. Finding the “Information Sweet Spot” is one of the today’s most important skills to master.
The reality is that everyone perceives information through their “nature and nurture” created lenses. The challenge then is finding your unique information sweet spot. Of course, finding your own unique information sweet spot for every life situation becomes more difficult as we acquire new information. Because not only do we have to store and access all the stuff we already know, but we also have to optimally incorporate the mountains of new information being created constantly.
One way the @lantis® family of learning communities help find the information sweet spot is by giving the learner the tools to help filter and focus on the most important information. Also, the @lantis® family of learning communities employ a Learning Management System that uses device and location independent, self-guided micro-learning, and context sensitive databases intended to help learners filter out noise and focus on the critical “nuggets” of information needed to perform specific tasks and solve problems at the best time to solve those problems.
A Learning Community makes obsolete the traditional class where learners are expected to waste a lot of time sitting through traditional classroom courses.
The mind-set of just-in-time learning is: “As soon as I have this little piece (of information), I’m out of here,” explains Heinrich Koenen, vice president and dean of The Masie Center, a learning and technology think tank in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
Just-in-time learning incorporates Internet/Cloud-based applications as well as physical CDs, Satellite channels, and traditional publishers.
The benefits of Just-in-time learning are manyfold. Perhaps one of the best benefits, is the reduction of travel and education costs. The other big benefit is that learners like the just-in-time approach because they can train at their own pace, using the most convenient device, wherever, and whenever they like.
Couple just-in-time learning with Micro-Learning, Learners constantly customize their training to fit their needs and engage in online collaborative learning communities, where they can exchange experiences and access the latest opinions from around the world.
Examples of Just-in-time Learning
Electronic learning is big at IBM. The company saved $200 million in internal training costs related to traditional training sessions and time away from work, according to Rick Horton, general manager of IBM Global Services’ Learning Services group.
IBM provides its 6,000 business partners with 10 satellite channels of partner and product information. The system was set up because IBM partners said they weren’t getting information fast enough to sell IBM products, says Horton.
Satellite receivers can be installed at any location, and for $1,500 per year, users get access to the most recent product-specific news and partner-related announcements. IBM also set up a Web-based application to supplement the satellite system.
Another initiative, called Sales Compass, a Web-based application that gives IBM salespeople the latest information about their customers prior to making sales calls, helps salespeople make effective pitches, says Horton.
Charles Schwab & Co.’s electronic brokerage unit launched an interactive Web-based learning center in December to provide free investment education to prospective and existing customers. Although the brokerage expects that a reduction in customer information requests will cut costs, “that wasn’t the driver,” says Janet Lecuyer, vice president of electronic learning at Schwab’s electronic brokerage unit. Educating customers reduces their fears about investing and “moves them along in making a decision to invest,” she explains.
Schwab’s online learning center, which offers courses in the fundamentals of investing and will later offer material for more advanced investors, was set up so customers can go through an entire course sequentially or choose only topics of interest.
The Schwab learning center is designed to be convenient to use, because customers said they “didn’t have time to commit to a specific curriculum,” Lecuyer notes. “They wanted to be in control.”
Putting It All Together
The key here is that the “Learning Communication” that flows between the various @lantis Learning Communities should be as “transparent” as possible so that each Learning Community can value that information optimally for themselves.
How to Build Learning Communities
At one time a Classroom with a few basic books and a teacher was sufficient for any community. One teacher could teach all the necessary stuff a student would need.
But, as the number and diversity of students increased and the quantity of information and the ability to access information exploded having one large class was no longer optimal.
The evolution from first single room schools to classes divided by subject and level and then to “Learning Communities” follows the same evolutionary path as telescopes and Cellular Networks.
Rather than having one large learning institution, we need to break learning into a lot of small communities. Each one can then focus on much more narrow interests.
The challenge for learning communities is the same as the challenges for cellular networks and telescopes in that the challenge is linking all these communities together optimually.
Again, this is where the telescope and the cell networks are informative. The way both of these technologies accomplished this linkage is through a communication “Standard.” Once the “Standard” is defined, the number of “cells” or “learning communities” that can be linked together become quite large. (It may even be infinite.)
So, just as the telescope and mobile networks found that breaking down the information processing to small cells and linking the cells together, so to, can learning be improved by breaking the learning down into small communities of interest and then linking those communities together.
The Learning Community Architecture is made up of three fundamental activities:
- Filtering & Focusing – Concentrating on the important stuff and blocking out the noise
- Dynamic Course Updates – Improving the course continually
- Defined Learning Communication Codes – Standardizing the way people share information
While traditional education uses these same activities, it is the use of 21st Century “Electronic Tools” that sets the Learning Community apart from traditional education structures.
Using 21st Century tools allow the community to implement this new educational paradigm. (Here is a link to a Post that will provide some additional support for this idea.)
Filtering and Focusing help us sift through all the information available to find the nuggets of actionable information. Much like a miner filters and focuses the mining efforts to create a new end product, filtering and focusing information helps a learner create new learning.
Dynamic Course Updates is the process where the benefits of the filtering and focusing are stored and paid forward to the next class by updating the course real time as each learner contributes to the class. In the past, a class would be created and taught to successive classes virtually unchanged. Any learning that might have accrued is lost the moment that learner leaves the class. Rather than seeing individual learning as the end product of a class, a Learning Community sees the end product as the overall learning of the Community.
In a Learning Community a learner and teacher are both contributing to the entire educational process. The goal of the learner is not only learn for themselves, but also to contribute to the learning of all other community members that come after them.
Defined Learning Communication Codes are the specific “Meta-Communication” codes used by the Learning Community to move bits of information between learners. In order for optimal learning to occur the members of a Learning Community are better served if they use an agreed upon method of communication, which includes syntactic, semantic, and cultural codes. This is exactly why scientists use the Scientific Method.
The Learning Community is set up to seek out new knowledge and add that knowledge to the total accumulated knowledge of the community. Every learner is encouraged to, not only find new learning that helps them personally, but also find new learning that helps the entire community.
In this way classes are dynamic in the extreme. Every new learner taking a class should be able to add value to the next learner taking that class.
The idea that learning exists only in a classroom and disappears as soon as the class ends is anathema to a Learning Community.