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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

New learning, old learning

Reading Charles Jennings's excellent post (which of course links in with the LCB Big question of the month) about which skills we should be teaching the workforce of tomorrow, made me think about an ongoing conversation I have been having with a number of people.

Anyone who has had the misfortune to follow this blog since it's inception will know that I am a huge fan of Randy Pausch (the link goes to a video that lasts an hour but it is an hour well spent). The last lecture is a conceit, we should apply to the question at hand.

If you knew you were going to die tomorrow what skills, knowledge would you pass on today?

It rather sharpens the mind doesn't it? But it helps significantly with filtering out all the extraneous noise and superfluous rubbish with which we clutter our lives and our workplaces.

Charles's taxonomy is very good (and I reproduce it in full below)

Search and 'find' skillsTo find the right information when it's needed
Critical thinking skillsTo extract meaning and significance
Creative thinking skillsTo generate new ideas about, and ways of, using the information
Analytical skillsTo visualise, articulate and solve complex problems and concepts, and make decisions that make sense based on the available information
Networking skills

To identify and build relationships with others who are potential sources of knowledge and expertise, within and outside the organisation

People skills

To build trust and productive relationships that are mutually beneficial for information sharing

LogicTo apply reason and argument to extract meaning and significance
A solid understanding of research methodologyTo validate data and the underlying assumptions on which information and knowledge is based

But I wonder if it can be refined even further?

One of the oldest university curricula in the world, which could be argued to predate Christianity but has definitely been around for over a millennium is the Trivium (logic, rhetoric and grammar). It was followed by the Quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy). These two programmes were the core of an early mediaeval liberal arts education which was preparation for life and seem to overlap significantly with Charles's suggestions above.

Now, I haven't got time to teach my daughter or my staff all of the above in my self imposed final day... So what would I settle for?

Probably to encourage confidence and curiosity, tempered with reason. If you have these then you can pick everything else up.


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