Learning = making good connections

Another Look at Learning, 2003

Networks are everywhere.

Our era could well be called The Age of Networks. Humanity is awakening to the realization that everything’s connected. If something’s not a node, it’s a connection. Each of us is enmeshed in social, communications, information, and neural networks. Furthermore, our bodies and brains are networks. Scientists are still conceptualizing the human protocol stack but they affirm that our personal neural intranets share a common topology with those of chimps and other aniamals. Maybe recognizing that people are more similar than different from, say, squirrels, will rid us of the silly notion that mind and body operate separately. Learning is a whole body experience.

For the most part, we are unaware of the firewall that filters the connections between our personal neural nets and the teeming mass of networks on the other side. Many people have failed to change the default settings their personal firewalls came with, even though the factory-installed settings haven’t been upgraded since 1 million B.C. Without changing our mental macro libraries, we continually snap into flee or fight mode. Being alert to minute movements is a survival skill on the savannah but not in the executive office.

The point of learning is to prosper within our chosen communities. Learning enables us to enjoy relationships and knowledge. Learning involves exploring new ground, making discoveries, and clearing paths that let us go deeper. To learn is to optimize one’s networks. Taking advantage of the double meaning of the word “network,” learning is making good connections.

Designers of learning environments can borrow tools and techniqes from network engineers. They would focus on such things as:

  • Improving signal/noise ratio
  • Installing fat pipes for backbone connections
  • Pruning worthless & dead material
  • Promoting standards for interoperability