Where is the manual?

When is the last time you opened up the manual from some device  you purchased, sat down and went through the pages to become familiar with your purchase? The chances are a long time ago. To be honest nowadays often items do not come with a manual at all.

This last week we had the pleasure of having Jason Ohler visit our school and work with our parents, students and faculty. One statement that stood out during the day was Jason‘s reference that a sign of intelligence is not how much knowledge you have, but one’s adaptability to learn, unlearn and relearn.

Our students often have a lovely capacity to sit down and just click around a device or software and through persistence, trial and error work things out gradually using the learn, unlearn and relearn strategy at an accelerated pace.

With the sheer volume of online videos, online FAQ, reference sights and web resource available at the click of a mouse it is still surprising to see how many adults need to filter their learn, unlearn and relearning through another person. Somehow for many in the education world, we are quick to engage with the idea that students should be independent learners, work things out on their own, and be able to breakdown complex tasks and create understanding from this process by troubleshooting independently. But then when it comes to us, we seem to loose the capacity to engage with these same attitudes. I witness daily adults when confronted in having to work out a problem or go through steps to understand a process or procedure automatically defaulting to another adult for support.

There is no doubt that the culture of learning many of us have as a frame of reference is one of the sage on the stage, and the expectation and need for all our knowledge and learning to go through such a filter. Granted often it is easier to ask someone to find the answer for you then take the time to do it yourself.


I believe that many adults are not equipped with the tools or skills to be able to take advantage of  the rich mix of resources and mediums available via the internet 24/7 to  learn, unlearn and relearn.

The reality we face not only in our schools, but globally is there is a dramatic shift in what skills and jobs are pertinent for the new global economy. The tragedy is that for many who have worked and lived in a world where they were able to survive on one skill has disappeared. The throngs of unemployed around the world will not be finding the same jobs as many pundits keep reminding us. The only option, and the challenge both emotionally and logistically, is how does one engage with this bitter reality of being jobless, and find the capacity to engage with the learn, unlearn and relearn concept.

It is not really our students that need the mentoring with this, they have got it to a certain extent.  They have grown up in a world where there has been no manual for the devices and online environments they live with. If they are not sure they go to either Youtube, or click around till they bump into enough things to construct their understanding.

The concern is if we have a generation of adults currently who are adverse or not sure how to go about learning unlearning and relearning, mentoring our students and peers we are setting ourselves for some tough times. The world has moved on, and to sit and always expect your company, school or organization helpdesk to have the answers to everything is avoiding the reality that each one of us has to become our own helpdesk. This needs to be the non negotiable under current in our own professional learning communities.

John http://beyonddigital.org/

(this carton shared by pgreensoup from Keith Ferrell)

John Mikton

About John Mikton

Director of eLearning at the Inter Community School Zurich Switzerland, formally Director of IT at the International School of Prague. An Apple Distinguished Educator, Google Apps for Education Certified Trainer, Principal Training Center http://www.theptc.org/ Course Facilitator, and international school educator. I have worked in International Schools in Tanzania, China, Japan, Czech Republic, and currently Switzerland. I have been an elementary teacher, Information Technology Specialist, IT Coordinator and IT Director. Previous to this I worked in Media Sales, in Boston Massachusetts (Warner Communications), and San Francisco California (The Bay Guardian). I facilitate: http://beyonddigital.org, http://beyonddigitalworkshops.org/ and consult for Education Institutions.

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6 Responses to Where is the manual?

  1. Hawk
    hawk February 2, 2012 at 5:28 pm #

    Nail on head John, as always. Very much in tune with the Dan Pink book, “A Whole New Mind,” and very much in tune with my experience in mid nineties with some really smart guys who said, anyone we hire must be able to sort our problems via help menus. We used to sit guys down, give them a problem and watch their reaction to the first pull downs. This frustrates left brain types often as they can’t coordinate the activities. Your point about educators however is not the experience we see here. Many educators in the states refuse to learn, or should I say, relearn, problem solving this way. Excuses I hear, which are absurd, are often, “we should not have to adapt to the computer/Internet.” As if that was some sort of entitlement.

  2. Fred February 2, 2012 at 9:27 pm #

    I found this to be somewhat incoherrent.
    For example, consider the sentence:
    “I witness daily adults when confronted in having to work out a problem or go through steps to understand a process or procedure automatically defaulting to another adult for support.”

    I take that as meaning:
    “Daily I witness adults that, when having to work out a problem or take steps to understand a process or procedure, turn to another adult for help.”

    Whatever happened to thoughtful, coherent writing?

    As for “learn, unlearn, relearn” I think “learn” is the only relevent term. Once you learn something, the process of ‘unlearn, relearn’ is still just ‘learning’, learning what you got wrong.

    If you are good at learning it will serve you your entire life; if you are not good at learning you will be handicapped in a society of accelerated change such as we find ourselves in today.

  3. Hawk
    Hawk February 2, 2012 at 10:21 pm #

    You must be living in Utopia if you’re not familiar with the need for so many to have to unlearn and relearn in this world. Bad habits abound and many in the world of education can’t be taught anew without proper background and a fundamental baseline understanding of how things work. I’m not sure if you just have nothing better to write, but thoughtfulness was not obvious in your comment. John was pointing out that critical thinking from many individuals is missing. Many of us are not willing or capable of going through the resources available to sort things out on their own. It is surely missing here in the states from our educational system and our educators.

  4. Fred February 3, 2012 at 3:44 pm #

    “many in the world of education can’t be taught anew without proper background and a fundamental baseline understanding of how things work”

    I guess I am just stupid, but I don’t actually know what you are trying to say.
    Are you saying that educators can’t learn something new “without proper background and a fundamental baseline understanding of how things work”? That makes no sense, learning doesn’t require proper background in anything, the ability to learn is inherrent in virtually all living things. The process of learning itself is the process of reaching “understanding of how things work”.
    It is certainly true what you say that “critical thinking from many individuals is missing”, but I posit that some form of critical thinking is necessary to true “learning” as opposed to simply absorbing something without actually understanding it.

    My point is that “learn, unlearn, relearn” is just “learn” disguised as something more complicated.
    For example, “unlearn, relearn” is just the continuation of “learn” with the understanding that learning is never complete, you never learn everything so learning is always an ongoing process of constantly improving your understanding.

    • Hawk
      Hawk February 3, 2012 at 3:52 pm #

      I agree that they “can” learn something anew, however, I think there are other obstacles that prevent many folks from embracing new techniques, new ideas and, especially, new technologies. I think it is fundamentally an educational problem, and, my own opinion, believe there is some sort of drag or lack of ambition or, perhaps, a sense of entitlement to not have to be swayed from their own idea of what it means. It isn’t universal as we see lots of elderly folks embracing the “new economy” of ideas, but I’ve personally witnessed and listened to many drone on about how they simply “can’t” do it. I guess we have gotten off on a semantic riff but I suspect we are on the same page. Keep pouring light on the subject because it needs lots more discussion. cheers, rm

  5. R James February 16, 2012 at 2:02 pm #

    The branch on the right side of the first decision block in the flowchart (“I can’t find one … Pick one at random … I’ve tried them all”) shows why us left-brain people can be much more productive when we start with the manual. When you get down to “Google the name of the program …” then you are really burning through the hours. I’ve followed all the flowchart branches on various applications through the years, and I’ve been the victim of wrong information and information black holes a number of times as the result of Googling, Youtubing and random clicking. Today’s missing-manual paradigm is the result of intellectual laziness (“Our app is intuitive!”) and cost-cutting. The result of this is untold hundreds of thousands of lost hours of productivity as we unnecessarily “learn, unlearn and relearn.”

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