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Dave Snowden

Page history last edited by Norman Jackson 7 years, 9 months ago

 

Learning in a complex world: creating meaning through narrative

and the role of technology in augmenting human sense-making

Dave Snowden, Founder & Chief Scientific Officer, Cognitive Edge Pte Ltd

 

How can higher education be higher if it ignores the higher forms of learning and the agency to create new and relevant knowledge, that characterise learning in the real world outside higher education? I will address this question in this paper and seek to establish a new basis for looking at learning, knowledge and judgement in society, based on insights and learning from the natural sciences. Specifically I will look at the:

  • application of complex adaptive systems theory, sometimes known as the science of uncertainty, to learning  and knowledge 
  • role of the micro-narratives of day to day existence for research and knowledge transfer 
  • use of technology as a tool to augment human decision making, not to replace it
  • issues of measurement failing to produce its intended outcome, and even perverting education

 

Full summary below podcast.

 

 

LIVE STREAMING VIDEO

 

 

 

Summary

There has been a tendency of recent years to think of knowledge as thing that can be modularised, defined and packaged independently of social interaction and context. The world is seen as ordered with desirable outcomes that can be identified and measured. One of the many negative consequences of this is that teachers who inspire students to learn receive no reward or recognition, while those who are adept at creating and monitoring learning plans do. In higher education, designs that entirely prescribe, from the teacher perspective, what will be learnt and what will be valued in the assessment process, are divorced from learning in the everyday world where learning is a bi-product of doing something and is driven by the intrinsic motivations of needs, interests and ambitions.Eclectic learning, making novel connections and achieving serendipitous connections and outcomes is not rewarded, and the taking of risks – putting learners into to truly challenging and unpredictable situations where learning emerges through the initiative and agency of the individual – is avoided. We have to question whether we are really are preparing learners for the complexities of the rest of their social and productive lives, or for that matter preparing them to genuinely advance their field in an academic context. Are we creating too many specialists at the expense of those able to synthesise and create new insights across many fields?The fundamental question is, How can higher education be higher if it ignores the higher forms of learning and the agency to create new and relevant knowledge, that characterise learning in the real world outside higher education?

 

I will address this question in this paper and seek to establish a new basis for looking at learning, knowledge and judgement in society, based on insights and learning from the natural sciences. Specifically I will look at the:

  • application of complex adaptive systems theory, sometimes known as the science of uncertainty, to learning  and knowledge  
  • role of the micro-narratives of day to day existence for research and knowledge transfer 
  • use of technology as a tool to augment human decision making, not to replace it
  • issues of measurement failing to produce its intended outcome, and even perverting education

 

Using these lenses, I will consider the forms of educational designs and experiences that are more relevant and useful to preparing learners for learning, knowledge and decision making in a complex world, and examine the value, opportunity and challenges that the concept of life-wide learning and life-wide education affords.

 

Key words: complexity theory and higher education, role of micro-narratives in learning, technology and human agency, alternatives to outcome-based targets

 

Dave Snowden

Dave is one of the leading figures in the movement towards integration of humanistic approaches to knowledge management with appropriate technology and process design. A native of Wales, he was formerly a Director in the IBM Institute for Knowledge Management where he led programmes on complexity and narrative. He pioneered the use of narrative as a means of knowledge disclosure and cross-cultural understanding. He is a leading keynote speaker at major conferences around the world and is known for his iconoclastic style, pragmatic cynicism and extensive use of stories to communicate what would otherwise be difficult concepts.

 

He is Director of the Cynefin Centre for Organisational Complexity which focuses on the development of the theory and practice of social complexity. The Cynefin framework is recognized as one of the first practical applications of complexity theory to management science and builds on earlier pioneering work in Knowledge Management. He regularly consults at the board level with some of the world's largest companies as well as to Government and NGOs and was recently appointed as an advisor on sense making to the Singaporean Ministry of Defence. In addition he sits on a number of advisory and other bodies including the British Standards Institute committee on standards for Knowledge Management.

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