The Evolution of Human LearningBy Richard Hart – www.richardhart.ca
Our Unique GiftsI believe our species has been endowed with at least 4fundamental gifts that combine to make us unique.1. We have been given the gift of not only adapting to aparticular environment, but the ability to adapt tochange itself.2. As far as we know, we are the only species with thepower to envision a future which has not yet come topass and make such futures reality via our actions.3. The ability to work together and share knowledge4. Our ability to create and use technology
How did we get where we aretoday?In order to understand how we got to where we aretoday, we need to look at where we started out.By understanding how human learning has evolved,we can better understand our current state andpossibly gain insight into how things may change in thefuture.
About 200,000 Years Ago....● We clusteredtogether in smallgroups/tribes forsurvival● Knowledge learnedvia experience andobservation andmimicry● Primary storagemedium forknowledge was thebrain.
Before 3500 BC● Most knowledge waspassed down aurallyvia stories, rituals,songs and legends.● Spoken languagecontinued to develop● Good memory skillswere still vital aswritten language didnot exist.
3500 BC – First WrittenLanguages● For first time everknowledge and ideascan be written down!● Low literacy rates● Larger populations● Agriculture advancing● Get new ideas viatravel● Learn by watching anddoing● Good memory skillsstill vital
15thand 16thCentury – Rise ofModern Science● The modern scientific method develops● the systematic pursuit of knowledge involving the recognition andformulation of a problem, the collection of data through observationand experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses● We now had a powerful new way of learning about whatever wefocused on
1450 – Printing Press● Apprenticeship is common.● Literacy becomes a real advantage.● Books, mail and newspapers exist to those who can read.● While books havebeen around for awhile, they were hardto come by for anaverage person.● Most people had noformal schooling● You could now massproduce informationand distributive it tothe masses.
Early 1900s● First state run public schoolsbegin to surface in NorthAmerica.● School is mandatory up to acertain age and modelled after asystem from Prussia (Germany).● Formal education becomesavailable to the masses.● In many ways you can look atformal education as atechnology.● You have access to school,books, newspapers, pencils andslates and chalkboards.
Early 1900s continued...● The electric light is invented,which greatly increases ability tostudy and read printedmaterials.● You can share now ideas andcommunicate over longdistances via the postal system.● The telegraph and Radios alsoexist and become new ways tosend information greatdistances.● Literacy rates begin to climb.● The typewriter is inventedopening up new possibilities forcontent production.
The Classroom/Lecture Modelof the 1900s● The state decided on the knowledge it wishes to convey to thestudents/citizens.● The state hires and directs teachers on how the knowledge shouldbe taught.● Students are broken up into age groups and assigned to classes.● Each class has a teacher assigned to it.
The Classroom/Lecture Modelof the 1900s● Students typically sit in desks and listen to their teacher lecture● Students are evaluated by some criteria and if successful in meetingcertain criteria advance to the next grade level.● If students complete all the required grade levels, they graduate fromschool.● Much of the population would complete at least elementary school andthe a fortunate few would continue on to higher education.
The Only Thing you Can Count onis Change!● This model has more less survived intact over the past 100years but ...● We live in a much different world than existed in the early1900s.● The rate of change we see in our world is accelerated bytechnology.● Weve moved from the industrial age to the informationage.● The technologies of language, writing, the postal system,books, and television had a huge impact on the amount ofinformation available and the ability to extend and shareinformation with others.
Technology Timeline● 1928 first TV broadcast● 1951 First video recorder allowed for storage and playback ofinformation.● 1958 Educational Television , new opportunities for largenumbers of kids/people to learn from home● 1969 – ARPA --> The Internet is born● 1980s --> Personal computers appear.● 1993 --> First Web Browser (Mosaic)● 1998 --> Google● 2000 --> Rise of the smartphones● 2001 --> Wikipedia● 2004 --> Facebook● 2007 --> iPhone
Age of Computers and ExternalizedThinking● Computers represented a quantumleap for humanity in that not only didthey allow enormous amounts ofinformation to be stored andretrieved at will, they also unloadedthe need for information to beprocessed by a human brains.● Computers could performcalculations, follow algorithms andprocess data in volumes and atspeeds that simply just were notpossible by a human beings. Thyallow us to examine and tackleincreasingly complex problems.
Computers Continued..● Computers have also extended our ability to simulate reality and toexplore future possibilities and scenarios far into the future.● With the introduction of the personal computer in the 1980s thenature of business, education and learning were changed forever.● While the industrial age allowed humanity to augment our muscle,computers allowed us to augment our brain power in the age ofinformation.
The Internet and Computers are aGame Changer● Computers not only gave us the ability to offload information andretrieve it at will, they also gave a powerful tool for learning that canbe used both in and outside the traditional context of school.● In addition to offloading information, computers also allow us tooffload a great deal of thinking as well.● Computers allowed us to enhance our ability to play with reality andto envision new possibilities. Computer simulations can allow us toovercome our short term thinking as a species and envision theimpact potential decisions may have on our future.● The Internet gives an ever increasing portion of our species access toour entire collective knowledge base.● It also greatly facilitates the sharing and distribution of information.● The amount of information available to an average human and theease in which this information can be added to and shared isunparalleled in our history.
Moving Into the Future● Human knowledge is growing at and exponential rate, aided andaccelerated by computing technologies and the Internet.● How do we deal with information over abundance and constantaccelerating change?● The model for education established in the 1900s may be illequiped to deal with this new reality. How can we improve it or dowe need to reinvent it?
Some Tough Challenges Aheadfor Humanity● When presented with a crisis, our ability to learn and adapt as aspecies is unparallelled. There are many challenges that we canalready foresee on the road ahead including:● Climate change● Energy Crisis● Poverty and starvation● Overpopulation● And then there are the events and challenges we can notpredict...● We will need the entire collective will and knowledge of ourspecies to solve these challenges. Everyone of us counts andeveryone of us can decide to work together to build a brighterfuture.
Whats Old is New AgainSo how do we cope with information explosion andaccelerated change we are experience and move into afuture we can not predict?● Remember that evolution gave us the ability to adapt tochange itself. We as a species have the unique ability topretty much adapt to anything that gets thrown at us.● Remember that we have the ability to imagine an infinitenumber of possible futures for our species, and the abilityto work towards making them reality.● Remember, that we are strongest as a species when wework together, learn together and share knowledge andideas with each other.
Final Thought“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”John Dewey
Want to learn more?www.richardhart.caFollow me on Twitter at @richardhartca