Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

7 December 2011

Making Slow Learning Concrete #change11

Clark @ 1:30 AM

It occurs to me that I’ve probably not conveyed in any concrete terms what I think the ‘slow learning’ experience might be like. And I admit that I’m talking a technology environment in the concrete instance (because I like toys).  So here are some instances:

Say you’ve a meeting with a potential client.  You’ve been working on how to more clearly articulate the solutions you offer and listening to the customer to establish whether there’s a match or not. You’ve entered the meeting into your calendar, and indicated the topic by the calendar, tags, the client, or some other way. So, shortly before the meeting, your system might send you some reminder that both reiterated the ‘message’ you’d worked out, and reminded you about pulling out the client’s issues.  Then, there might be a tool provided during the meeting (whether one you’d created, one you’d customized, or a stock one) to help capture the important elements. Afterwards, the system might provide you with a self-evaluation tool, or even connect you to a person for a chat.

Or, say, you’re walking around a new town.  Your system might regularly suggest some topics of interest, depending on  your interest showing architecture, history, or socioeconomic indicators.  You could ignore them, or follow them up.  Ideally, it’d also start connecting some dots: showing a picture from a previous trip and suggesting “Remember we saw an example of <this> architect use here?  Well, right here we have the evolution of that form; see how the arches have…”  So it’s making connections for you.  You can ignore, pursue further, or whatever. It might make a tour for you on the fly, if you wanted.  If you were interested in food, it might say: “we’ve been exploring Indian food, you apparently have no plans for dinner and there’s an Indian restaurant near here that would be a way to explore Southern Indian cuisine”.

Another situation might be watching an event, and having extra information laid on top. So instead of just watching a game, you could see additional information that is being used by the coaches to make strategic decisions: strengths and weaknesses of the opposing team in this context, intangible considerations like clock management, or the effects of wind.

And even in formal schooling, if you’re engaged in either an individual or group problem, it might well be available to provide a hint, as well as of course tools to hand.

The notion is that you might have more formal and informal goals, and the system would layer on information, augmenting your reality with extra information aligned to your interests and goals, making the world richer.  It could and would help performance in the moment, but also layer on some concepts on top.

I see this as perhaps a mobile app, that has some way of notifying you (e.g. it’s own signature ‘sound’), a way to sense context, and more. It might ask for your agreement to have a link into the task apps you use, so it has more context information, but also knows when and where you are.

This isn’t the only path to slow learning.  Ideally, it’d just be a rich offering of community-generated resources and people to connect with in the moment, but to get people ready to take advantage of that it might need some initial scaffolding.  Is this making sense?


  1. “The notion is that you might have more formal and informal goals, and the system would layer on information, augmenting your reality with extra information aligned to your interests and goals, making the world richer.”

    I love where this is all heading, with one qualifier: I think the ultimate goal is not to *provide* the richer world, but increase the resolution of the user/learner so the un-augmented world IS richer for them. In other words, use the system you describe (which is awesome) I’m a strategic way to help the user build the richness within their own head.

    For example, the layer over the game would be a perfect thing to do *after* they have first experienced the game un-altered, as a form of deliberate practice. And the use of “hints” as you describe them is also a VERY powerful (and underused) tool for pretty much everything.

    Thanks again for making my world a little richer :)

    Comment by Kathy Sierra — 7 December 2011 @ 7:56 AM

  2. Still struggling with this, Clark, but looking forward to live session to explore further. Somehow the technology side sounds like it would be ‘fast’ – like pop-up bubbles on a music video that tell us what the director was thinking in a particular scene or some other interesting tidbit about the performer. I am still not sure what is ‘slow’ about your proposal?

    Comment by brainysmurf — 7 December 2011 @ 8:49 AM

  3. Clark, aren’t these sorts of apps already being developed? I know you used it as a simple example for slow learning (great example) — but what does this mean for next steps?


    Comment by Jeffrey Keefer — 7 December 2011 @ 10:23 AM

  4. Clark – I may just be slow, but I still somehow don’t get “it”. Why do you call this “slow” learning?

    When I initially read your posts (great stuff) I at first thought your main proposal was that our brains needed time to make connections to our real worlds, make connections, have time to reflect on the meaning of the new impulse or provocation and then learning as sensmaking/wayfinding will “arise” from this.

    But in this latest addition to your proposal “Making slow learning concrete” I get a sense that it is anything but “slow” but more like “just-in-time” learning or “real-time” learning?

    If I am to be prompted by continuous reminders/links/more info as I engage with my work – it may be anything but slow?

    The second somewhat worrying aspect of these “apps” that will prompt learning/reflection will be that their prompting will depend on their algorythms – and that may result in a filter bubble increasingly showing me a world based on previous choices/searches. This may take away the serendipitous nature of a lot of learning – or do I miss something.

    Thank you for your post. Although I somehow did not get the “slow learning” bit, the references were great!

    Comment by Paul Prinsloo — 7 December 2011 @ 10:08 PM

  5. […] convinced, to get habits, to get used to, to understand, to discover, to be disappointed, etc. When learning slow, one could become aware of differences in learning and […]

    Pingback by Learning different #change11 « connectiv — 8 December 2011 @ 2:18 PM

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