Tuesday, March 5, 2013

When Presented with Path A or Path B

I needed to take a short hiatus from my blog to respond to a little chaos that showed up. You know the kind when you find yourself on Path A knowing that you are supposed to be on Path B, but the exit signs aren't well marked?

Well, eventually the signs began to reveal themselves. Now then, as we know being the learners that we are, picking ourselves up wherever we are (be it a professional or personal situation) takes a bit of effort. To rise from inertia of our every day practice, even if it's unhealthy in any way and doesn't fully serve our highest good and best self, isn't so easy. We form habits and rationalizations to make peace with and/or tolerate whatever reality we are in.

Oddly, while the human body with millions of cells changes every day, we can be so adverse to adopting new behavioral approaches and outlooks. We are prone to staying right where we are, strapping ourselves in for a ride within our comfort zones by our own fears and insecurities.

But I do believe we all inherently know when another path offering greater happiness is before us. We all know when we need to put the blinker on and edge our way to the exit sign to the other path.

If you find yourself in this situation, as a lifelong learner, here are some tips to assist you as you course correct and map out a new direction for your personal or professional life:

1. Take notice of your surroundings. Are you in an environment, on a road, that feels right to you? We all have an inner compass that directs us. Notice where yours is pointing due north. Double check to see if the compass is working properly by asking some question about how you feel about certain situations where you know yourself well. Ask your inner compass to answer. Does the answer align with what you know? If not, double check that your inner compass isn't being magnetized and pulled off by someone or something else. Calibrate your own compass with your wisest self.

2. Once calibrated, watch the landscape. Are you in territory that you WANT to explore but makes you really uncomfortable for whatever reason? If "Yes", proceed and notice what is making you uncomfortable and why. Lean into the discomfort. You could be at the edge of your comfort zone. Ask for support from those you trust for a reality check that you are learning and growing in a way that serves you.

3. If you are on a path and you are not sure whether you want to stay on it, and you are in territory that makes you uncomfortable and have noticed this is a repeated experience, ask yourself this very important question: Do I need to learn anything further by being on this path? If the answer is "Yes", then ask: Is there anyone or anything that can assist me in making this feel more comfortable? Seeing that you are in uncharted territory, get the support you need to stay on the path until the answer to the prior question is, "No". If you have learned everything you needed to on this path, if you have taken it as far as you can, then prepare to leap with faith.

3. Start to look for the signs that show the way to your next path. Explore options that make good logical and intuitive sense over emotional comfort. You will know you are on the path that serves you best when you feel a sense of invitation, less resistance.

Remember, growth comes with discomfort. It requires effort. All paths lead to deeper awareness of self and contentment when mindfulness is practiced. When faced with Path A or Path B, listen deeply. Redirect and adopt a new path when you see the road signs that indicate you are indeed ready for a new landscape.

And, always be grateful to those with whom you have travelled any path. They have been instrumental in your growth.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Drive Behind Advances in Learning Technologies

I just returned from the Learning Technologies Conference in London. Amid dozens of vendor booths, I found myself wandering the exhibit floor halls asking this question: What's driving the advancement of learning technologies? Is it technology itself or the needs of learners?

What I enjoy most about the LTC is that the conference keynote speakers and presenters often ask the attendees to consider why we are doing what we are doing and how is it impacting pedagical and andragogical practices. For example, Nicholas Negroponte from One Laptop Per Child shared his research about children receiving tablets without any instruction in remote parts of the world. Within weeks, these children were singing the ABC's sans facilitation by a teacher or preacher. The children also discovered how to hack into the system within 2 months. His keynote reinforced the human nature and desire to learn, explore, and investigate unprompted by an authoritarian figure.

Gerd Leonhard shared his futurist examination of technology and how it is shaping and driving our capacity to interact with each other and information in ways that the Matrix asserted. We are downloading apps and data to have ready at our fingertips for immediate command and execution in carrying out our primary roles and responsibilities at work or play. We are realizing a world where technological innovation is only confined by the limits of our own imagination. What we can dream we can now manifest at least virtually if not in real time and space.

Tony Buzan who brought us the mind map reminded us that we come into this world innately curious. We are scientist, poets and artists. All we need do is watch an infant explore a sheet of paper to reconnect with this fundamental nature of being human. The infant will examine through all senses what a sheet of paper can do: does it make noise or music, can I use it to communicate, does it provide shelter, can I eat it?

Sadly, up until the last 15 years, we have been hobbling along though with outdated pedagogical and andragogical approaches, stemming from the industrial age.  I humbly submit, we have been funneling youth and workers through prescribed content like widgets on the assembly line for too long. We have designed curriculum with content in mind over context.

Thankfully, we are now entering this age of connectivism supported by technology because the human spirit is predisposed to seek, find, and explore; to hypothesize, synthesize, and analyze concepts; to share, connect and collaborate - all without imposed limitations. Witness the increase in home school programs for youth and online programs for adults; all self-directed learning.

We are stepping into an era that is going to turn our educational systems upside-down and our authoritarian management principles inside-out. Think about it:   Today we have 100,000's of apps being tapped by children in Ethiopia to executives on Wall Street. Academic institutions and professional organizations are inundating the World Wide Web with enough content for any person with an internet connection to get an ivy league education in their home, at a library or coffee shop for the mere cost to acquire broadband connection. We are moving into an era shaped by our natural born instinct to learn and thrive --- to be scientists, poets and artists -- without the confines of school fences or corporate firewalls.

Learning technologies, pedagogy and andragogy are inexplicably intertwined at this point. One is feeding the other; there is no division or separation.  It is a fluid dynamic. And it is all stemming from the best source: the human spirit's desire to learn, adapt and thrive!