Archive for the ‘Accelerated Learning’ Category

One of the short falls of today’s education and training is that is built on old ideas and an older way of doing things.  I’d like to put out the question.  If you could start with a clean slate and design education any way you wanted what would it look like?

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I’ve been unsually business doing Learning Paths projects.  Each time I learn something new and the process gets better.  I guess that’s the goal of process improvement.  For those of you who have read the book or have done initiatives on your own, I’m going to do some blog posts on what we’ve learned and changed.

One of the things we know like to do at the end of the first phase is do a formall stakeholder analysis as a way of building a communication and implementation plan.  This helps us identify those who were not on the team that might be major allies or obstacles.  While it takes some time to do, it’s worth it.

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Math, history, geography, team building, sales, political science and dozens more are popularly taught topics or subjects.   If you asked the question, why is education divided into these topics, the answer is probably… it’s seems logical, it’s one way to divided up everything or it allows teachers to specialize or I don’t really know.

These are silos of knowledge and skill.  In the academic world, it makes sense to separate them because it’s easier to teach.  However, in the real world things aren’t separated like this.  What’s missing is all the connections and links between topics which makes them easier to actually use. 

A faster way to learn is to forget about topics and start to think about outcomes or what you want to be able to do.  Then work backwards across topics and subject areas to come up with a better curriculum.  For example, if you want to learn how to manage your personal finances so you can have the type of lifestyle you want, you need to apply a lot of different skills to achieve this outcome.  It includes math, planning, budgeting, maybe a little history and more.  You learn quickly because you have a stake in the outcome and you don’t have to figure out how to put together all the pieces and parts.

 Copyright LPI 2008                     5 of 101

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Learning at Light Speed, 101 Ways to Speed Up the Learning Process

#1:  Experiment

One of the important things we learn from the quality movement is the importance of experiments.  If you know how long something takes, you can set up experiments to see if an approach to learning is faster or not. 

So if you test a reading assignment versus a lecture or a game or elearning, you can see which one actually effects learning speed the most.  Other experiments might involve looking at the amount and timing of practice or the effects of different types of feedback.

The big point is that if you want to speed up learning, you need to know how much time it takes now and then experiment to make things faster.

Copyright LPI 2008.

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I’ve decide to draft out my new book on my blog.  The book is about how to you can shorten your own learning time as a student or shorten the learning curve for others if your a teacher, trainer or instructional designer.  I’m going to write this for everyone who is involved in any kind of learning. 

As a starting point, we’re going to assume that there are tremendous benefits in being able to learn faster.  This doesn’t mean taking short cuts or skipping things.  It means that if you have a choice of learning exactly the same thing to the same level of competence, you would almost always choice the one that gets you there faster. 

If you think that learning needs to be like fine wine that needs to be savoired, this book is not for you.  However, if you’re someone who thinks that the faster you learn, the more you have time to learn, you’re going to see some interesting thoughts and techniques.

I’m going to start the next post out with idea #1 and continue until I get to #101.  When I finally write the book, I’ll add more content and arrange the ideas into a logical sequence.  I’ll also take into account the feedback in the comments area.

copyright LPI 2008, all rights reserved

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There are lots of ways to speed up the learning process…and what I mean by speed up the process is that you get the same or better result in less time.  Here are some of my favorites.

  1. Eliminate the Waste – Waste in education and training is anything that is taught one day and forgotten the next.  If it’s still something that’s really important, than you have to find a different way to teach it.
  2. Focus on Speed – This may seem odd as a suggestion but the longer it takes to learn something the harder it is to keep the learner motivated.  Looking for ways to increase speed actually will increase speed.
  3. Blend Hard and Soft Skills – the slow way is to teach hard skills and then soft skills and then try to meld them together.  It’s really hard to make good connections this way.  Instead teach how to do different tasks and skills that require using both hard and soft skills.
  4. Teach in short segments – People tend to remember the first and last parts of any lesson.  With short segments, you have more firsts and lasts.
  5. Don’t Talk so Much – Often the more your talk the less learning is happening.  Others often have to say the words to learn something and they can’t do that when you’re talking.

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I’ve been blogging about accelerated learning for months now.  I’m surprised by all the resistance to speeding up the learning process.  I’ve yet to see the value of slow learning but there are a lot of people adamant about it.  Remember the story about the tortise and the hare, well I’ve put another animal in the mix.  That’s the cheetah.  Not only did the cheetah win the race, he also ate the tortise and the hare.

The first thing that has to happen in this discussion is to assume that the results are different but one method is faster than the other.  For example, if you can read a book with 100% comprehension is it better to read it in one hour or six.  The value of going faster is significant.  This means I can read 6 books in the time it takes you to read one..or I could read the same book 6 times.  I know you’ll say that you’ll pick up more of the nuance if you read slower.  I’d say that’s more a function of your reading ability that your speed.  But again, we start with the assumption that the results are the same.

Take the example of learning algebra.  Let’s set the results at being able to solve any algebra problem.  You know the ones about the trains leaving different stations.  Would you prefer to get to this level in 6 weeks or 6 months.  Same result, only the time is different.

So who might have something to lose if students learn faster?  Well some might think it’s a threat to job security for teachers.  Indeed if students learn faster, it reduces teacher time as well.  If K-12 became k-8 with identical results, that’s a big reduction in teachers.  The upside is that people who know more and learn faster want to learn more.  So teachers could expand their offerings.

Interestingly in a business setting, learning faster is at a premium.  Executives understand the costs of not having employees up-to-speed.  In fact, if the training was only an hour that would be okay.  It’s the resutls that matter.

So in the argument about slow versus fast, if the results are the same I can’t think of any situation where fast doesn’t win. 

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Education traditionally focuses on knowledge acquisition and retention.  However, it usually misses a key element.  That’s the element of speed.  In other words, of fast can you recall information and how fast can you apply it. 

While there is usually a time limit on tests, it’s usually not at the speed of rapid recall.  You usually have ample time to think of the answer or to figure out the answers based on how the test is written.

If you really want to know who knows their stuff, try cutting the time you have to take the SATs in half.  Try cutting the time allowed for a multiple choice test to the time it takes to read all the questions and circle the answers.

So why the concern for speed?  If you have a fluent knowledge of something, it shows itself in terms of speed.  Think of learning a foriegn language, you have to get to the point where you know all the words well enough to keep up with a conversation especially when others start to speak quickly.  In fact, keeping up with a conversation is a good measure of how fluent you are in a language.  The same can and should hold true for other subjects.  With speed comes competences or vice-versa.

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I’ve corresponded for serveral years with Dr. Carl Binder partly because I like to know if it’s raining in Seattle and partly because of his expertise in the training and performance improvement world.

 He does a great workshop on how to build fluency that is really a key component of learning that most people leave out.  Think about fluency as the speed and ease by which you can do something.  Can you answer a series of math questions given enough time to work them out or can you respond in a rapid fire way with confidence? 

In the second case, you really have to know things a lot better.  You have reached a state of performance where everything is natural and easy.  I think I’ve posted before that someone who gets 700 on their SATs in half the time is actually more knowledgeable and fluent than someone who takes the entire time.  This is not a difference in style but a difference in fluency.

So how do you add fluency to learning or education?  You have to set up practice sessions that contain timed activities.  Not just once but many times.  You can go to Carl’s website http://www.binder-riha.com to get lots of good ideas.

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I’ve seen lots of videos that really make a point about learning, training and business.  I’ve tried to post many of my favorites.  What are your favorites?

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