Sometimes, a barrier to innovation is that we are too focussed on the most obvious expressions of complex problems. This is how we often miss the bigger picture and the opportunities that surround it.
To get beyond these mental hurdles, at Formula D, we often ask ourselves “What if…?”. By producing scenarios, we challenge our mind to look beyond the familiar silos. In the following are five ways of reframing the topic of learning. Hopefully, this will bring about opportunities for discussion and learning about learning. A starting point.
1. What if learning were fun?
Our predominant concept of learning is that it means “work”. How often do we tell our kids that fun and games only start in the afternoon, once homework is done? How could fun be beneficial to learning anyway?
Neuroscience research confirms many benefits of fun for learning (Judy Willis, 2007). One example is that when we have fun, the brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that stimulates memory and promotes the release of acetylcholinem , which increases focused attention.
On the other hand, cognitive psychology provides evidence that stress, boredom, confusion, low motivation and anxiety can interfere with learning (Christianson, 1992). If we believe our kids, these experiences seem to be intrinsically linked to our current school education.
So how can we make learning more fun? A starting point could be to better understand what is and is not fun in learning.
2. What if learning were culture?
Culture in human societies is manifested through people’s values, norms and social behaviours. It’s an important driver for any societal development. In business, many successful organisations have realised that establishing a culture of learning gives them a critical advantage in a changing and competitive environment. Learning culture can be promoted in various ways, for example, by elevating learning to a core organisational value in all communications and incentivising team members for participating in learning activities.
But how can we establish a learning culture on a national level? Imagine learning would be so deeply rooted in the culture of our young nation, that it would be reflected in our national anthem. What if 50% of public radio and television would comprise of entertaining learning features?
3. What if learning were measurable?
Tests and exams are designed to measure learning progress of kids and adult students, but is learning really measurable? How much does a matric and diploma certificate say about the actual learning level of an individual? Artificial Intelligence expert Noriko Arai designed the Todai Robot, that performed in the top 20% of students on the entrance exams for the university of Tokyo – without actually understanding a thing.
The certificates generated by learning institutions are so inconclusive that an industry of assessment specialists has evolved to help companies with recruitment. These assessments are often less concerned about checking on a candidate’s learning content retention, but more about social and communication skills, cognitive abilities, strengths and personality traits. Would it make sense to adopt similar means of proficiency tests in schools?
4. What if learning were shared?
Over the last decade, a plethora of services and businesses has emerged, often referred to as the “sharing economy”. A leading principle of these ventures is the more efficient and profitable use of resources through peer to peer networking and sharing. Many of these services have been made possible through the large-scale distribution of mobile, networked devices. With geolocation, user needs, and profiles available, “match making” has become the driver of an entire industry. Let’s think about how we can unlock opportunities for learning by making the right match at the right time. What if learners could tap into “unused” teaching resources, such as unemployed teachers or academics, or school facilities during the holidays? What if we created links between old age homes and primary school kids?
5. What if learning were everywhere?
This seems like a rhetorical question. Of course, learning happens everywhere. But how is it that schools and universities are the first things that come to mind when we think about solving the challenges we have with education?
Learning experts know that part of the performance problem at our schools is that we are not paying enough attention to the supporting environments. Parents are fundamental to the education of their children and are not always equipped to give kids what they need. Early childhood education has been identified by child development specialists as the most critical phase which sets the foundation for all future learning.
How important are informal learning activities like reading a book, visiting a museum or doing an internship at a local company for the overall education of a person?
What if our education system would be ubiquitous, with a curriculum guiding our learning throughout all stages of life, wherever we are? We could learn in trains and buses or patient waiting rooms.