There will be an Experiential Learning Master Class in Pune near Mumbai in India over the weekend of the 10th and 11th September. If you are interested contact the Magic Bus Centre. The session will explore many facets of the human experience of learning in an interactive way. Suitable for lecturers, trainers, and facilitators. Join me for the weekend.
In May 2016 I made my first trip to the US as a result of an invitation to work with the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington. I was priviledged to be invited by the Association of Dilomatic Studies to deliver a keynote speech, followed by two Master Classes on Experiential Learning for people who work with Diplomats and Ambassadors. A great honour and a great experience.
I am about to start a new Master Class in Banski Bystrica, Slovakia tomorrow. I have been reading so much on the human brain recently and on the plane out here I read a new book on ‘Neurosicence for learning and development’, by Kogan Page publishers. I enjoyed it as it added a little bit more to my extensive reading and understanding of ‘brain books’. The cognitive era is making a comeback, in a slightly different guise thanks to new hi-tech tools of brain scanning etc. It is the age of neuroscience, and everyone is making connections with how our human brains work.
Tomorrow however I will be exploring how our brains are linked to our bodily understanding as well as our cognitive functioning….the brain needs the sensory data, and the emotional data, and the knowledge content for example to enrich learning. We need to know, to do, to get, to have, to want and to feel. In evolutionary terms the brain is designed now to work with very complex data.
We want our children to learn to do and act (agency), to learn to be emotionally intelligent, to learn to know and to learn to think, and to learn to sense and observe the world with great skill. These things are needed for the good of our global society. These are the basic essentials of education. The higher order things are however much more difficult for educators and trainers to work with, and so often ignored. For the politicians who persistently meddle with educational ideologies merged with polical ideologies, there is much more to do. Working with the 3 Bs, not just the 3Rs is where we ought to be exploring education for the future. The 3Bs are: belonging, becoming and being. The 3 Bs are complex. The human need to belong to other humans and to the community, and the more-than-human global world is essential to our health and well-being, as is our need to become someone, and to be someone.
I met Poorna Malaveth in India last December: a so called ‘lower caste’ girl, who summitted Everest last year, she said she in a speech that she is not inferior to anyone.
I absolutely I agree with her: so who is it and what old ways of thinking block the future for this talented girl?
I am hoping to run a Master Class in Mumbai, India at the Magic Bus Centre in early September, and in China once again (after a spell of not working therefora while) in 2017. Watch out for news.
The Magic Bus Centre is doing remarkable work with young children and kids to develop a brighter future for them, in partnership with their education and they have worked with nearly 300,000 kids last year.
If you are operating in Singapore or Malaysia and you are interested in developing an Experiential Learning one day or two day programme with me in the period of 13-28th August next year please do contact me for prices and outline programme details. The experiential learning courses in 2015 were a great success. These programmes are usually designed specifically for trainers and facilitators, however there is a bespoke programme on experiential learning and creative experiential assesment available for teachers and higher education lecturers. What we know about human learning is evolving fast and it is good to keep up to date with these developments. The programmes are high impact and great fun.
Why am I so intereted in the subject of experience design?
I am currently writing an academic paper on the topic of experience design.
Significantly yesterday I finished delivering a team development day I had designed for a great organisation here in Hong Kong. Our theme was something different for these (very) environmentally aware people: it was based on tribes in the Amazonian Rainforest. We had face paints, tribal dress, dancing and story telling, tribal mergers, animal shrines, the honing of hunting skills (recycled wooden x-bows that fire ping pong balls made by a company set up by young people in Sheffield), visual acuity testing, solving problems, river rafting skills, cryptic clues, lots of collaboration and some competition all built into our day. It was great fun designing the day, underpinned by a lot of research. The design was informed by several books: The Tribe That Hides from Man; The Wizard of the Upper Amazon; Red Gold; Tree of Rivers and other great material. I feel a great sadness that all of the rainforest where I lived in a hammock forty years ago north of Manaus has now been completely detroyed.
Now that brings me on to some other aspects of experience design by big organisations. In a text about the Disney Experience, Loeffler & Church (2015) illustrate the use of scientific knowledge, and in particular neuro-psychology, for the benefit of the Disney Corporation. The proactive human behaviour manipulation through experience design is evident by the remarks of these two authors: ‘Disney’s theme parks have emotion trickling through their every turn of the value proposition’. Loeffler & Church suggest that Disney works with four cognitive drivers to release the natural drugs of positive emotion that stimulate the human brain in reaction to an experience. The four natural drugs they say hook children into the experience are: Serotin, Oxytocin, Dopamine and Endorphin. Research into human behavioural psychology is now being extensively used in the corporate world.
Play, experience, and learn are the three stated components of a new Kidzania concept offering a real, scaled down shopping mall style of outlets, in a mini town where your kids can spend time and money on play and leisure, and they can even earn money by doing work at sponsored outlets. ‘Through each job activity, kids learn about how society functions, financial literacy, adult professions, teamwork, independence, self-esteem and real-life skills’. Here experiential learning educational principles appear at the heart of the Kidzania mission, combined however with a business philosophy seemingly concerned with the appropriation of childhood for investment and marketing interests! I do wonder where all this will lead the human race to! Much of the psychology used by companies to get people ‘hooked’ (the title of a new book by Eval, 2014) is based on an understanding of the unconscious mind, and in particular the basic human oppositional emotional states: notably pleasure seeking and pain avoidance, social acceptance or rejection (affiliation/belonging), and seeking hope or avoiding fear (Gross, 2001; Russell & Barchard, 2002). Damasio (2004) argues these oppositional states represent a continual human struggle for balance between flourishing and distress.
So for a rest from writing I went and sat ‘people watching’ over a coffee in the nearby shopping mall here….and the triggers set up to develop the habit of regularly checking our phones are evident all around, as is the addiction to spending hard earned money on shopping and eating! Zoologist Desmond Morris must have had fun writing his book ‘People Watching’……something which is quite cheap to do – it only cost me a coffee!
Phew. I have just finished the Experiential Master Class, then an HEI keynote at a learning and teaching conference, and a day of lecturer development – all in Singapore. I then flew to Kuala Lumpur and delivered more lecturer development programmes. Lots of experimenting with new materials and ideas. I already have a lot of organisations looking to book days for 2016: so it has all been worthwhile. Home now for a few days before returning to the ‘office’. Kids, chickens and good old UK weather (unpredicatable). Log splitting therapy ready for the winter woodburners. Lots of academic papers to finish off, one on experience mapping, one on peer assisted learning, one on experiencing ‘luxury’, and one on problems of experiencing language. Hong Kong again soon, to deliver a team development event….with an interesting but secret theme…..!!! Different to the usual team days…..and then back to Malaysia in November for a keynote and some more experiential HE lecturer development work. New advanced communication material is going down well so far….
I am reading a few new books. On the flight to HK I read The World Beyond Your Head by Mathew Crawford…..some really interesting ideas, and focussing on how much we live in an age of distraction, where everyone is fighting for our attention…..and how our mental lives are so fractured and disrupted. He give one example of someone who was about to open a beer at a BBQ and relax, but the phone blipped and it was a work mesage and he started to think of things he still had to do and , and , and………yes demanding our attention and mental effort all the time. The book is quite good, well reasonable, especially the section on embodied perception, and the contribution of neuroscience has made to the recent understanding of the human experience. There is a section on how new technology can mediate the human experience, and that we accommodate this sometimes in an unconscious way, we simply embrace it and make it work for us….gesture based technologies are doing this in my view, merging once again the human cognitive processing with bodily gestures and new movements. This has potential if used and developed in the right way, to help humans overcome the limitations of one dimensional writing and speech. The end of the book has some interesting advice for higher education: there is reference to the students sitting in class with a silent conviction that what is on offer is undeserving of full attention and engagement….this problem he says is exacerbated by the availability of the hyperpalatable mental stimuli…..but then he says he believes this is really due to the disembodied nature of the curriculum, which divorces the articulate content of knowledge from the pragmatic setting in which its values become apparent………only beautiful things lead us out to join the world beyoind our heads! The digital invasion of the teenage mind is in full flow I guess…..the book can seem a litle slow and drawn out in some places…No Logo by Naomi Klein is good on this topic but from a different perspective, as she really focuses on how the corporate world has occupied most spaces in order to capitalise on the human gaze…and she suggests that there are few private spaces left…..even the slips sent home to parents from schools in the states have advertising on, and the head rest on the taxi in HK had advertising on as we drove past the giant post airport advertising boards featuring the big names in handbags, perfume and fashion…………………..I guess eventually the human species will grow tired of this and enter a new era after the product-experience hybrid consumption something else will follow….as the stores now all look the same in the shopping malls wherever you go. There is a growing sense of a need for a potentially transformative era and it may be on the horizon – but it does seem a log way off. I have also been reading Sapiens: a brief history of humankind, by Yuval Harari, the Establishment by Owen Jones (very revealing about our British society), and a new book called Touch: the science of hand heart and mind, by David Linden……and a few other books on various forms of human sensory capacities. BUT I have really enjoyed the Wizard of the Upper Aamazon….the story of Manuel Cordova-Rios who was kidnapped by a tribe when he was fifteen years old and was groomed to become the future chief…..his stories are amazing especially of the processes of entering the spirit world of jungle plants and animals in order to gain understanding and guidance for leading the tribe and for expertise in feeding and hunting etc., under the guidance of the chief (and ayahuasca). Today the drugs are different. There is a new book out called Experience, about Disney World and how the understanding of the four natural drugs of pleasure have helped them design the Disney Experience for your kids: Endorphines, Serotin, Oxytocin, and Dopamine…..not sure I am ready to read that yet!
My hammock is proving to be useful again as I have pitched it on the edge of the forest here on Tai Mo Shan. One participant enjoyed it during one of our Coffee and Papers sessions – trying out the art of reading in a state of relaxated alertness in a hammock. People were reading about Planned and Emergent Learning, and the balance of planning to learn and taking opportunities to learn from emerging experiences. At the end of the paper there is reference to the work of Rennie Fritchie and two fundamental questions she asks when life planning: 1. what kind of human being do you want to be?, and 2. what do you want to do with your life?
Now they are big questions……