Sep 22/ Learning to learn

I’m late to the VUCA party – the acronym was coined in 1987 to reflect Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity1. I’ve since come across it a few times in relation to the nature of society, with particular regard to the rate of change in the digital world and the natural environment.

It’s hard to disagree; the Climate Emergency will cause much larger fluctuations in our ecosystem than we have been used to, requiring us to throw out much of our experience of dealing with relatively benign and predictable climatic conditions, and forcing our communities and organisations to be able to deal rapidly with complex (rather than complicated!) systems2.

This will require new forms of leadership, governance and system management. It will also require us to produce young people (or old!) who have new ways of learning that build on new digital tools for information management; and new ways of acting that build on soft skills of empathy, understanding and story-telling.

I’ve been thinking about this recently with a specific example. I’m a keen user of Logseq, a non-linear note-taking app that is quietly creating ripples in communities of learners and practitioners online. Having experienced the power and elegance of the platform I’ve added it to the list of open source projects to which I contribute financially.

My Logseq information space after 10 months

Some people describe it as a ‘second brain’. One is enough for me, but there have been instances where it’s helped me recall people, organisations or concepts in a way that my real brain would have struggled.

Logseq – or other non-linear note-taking apps – can be used systematically to build insights and understanding. And it could be part of a digital curriculum in Wales. Why not start in primary school?

Some readers might think this is far-fetched, but my experience from letting my own daughter loose on the platform shows that the concept is quickly understood, and in that one case study has led to near-delight in seeing how the information space evolves and grows.

A primary school student’s first attempt playing with Logseq

I know next to nothing about formal education. But with the things I’m doing at home (including encouraging learning the Dvorak touchtyping method3), I’m hoping to help shape people who think beyond ‘normal’; see that systems are often in place due to inertia, and that there are a myriad of ways of approaching problems or situations, some better and some doubtless worse than ‘business as usual’.

How to take these conversations to ‘real’ educators, to see whether there’s any benefit to wider society. Is there a benefit? How can educators participate in this new digital world of learning?

I have very few answers. I will try with my own children, and I am enthusiastic to work with others to consider how these concepts can become part of a more mainstream discourse in education. Could Wales leap-frog other countries in the rate of adoption of these new tools?

Greater VUCA demands more powerful ways to handle data and work with others. We must move more quickly to equip the people of Wales with the tools to match the challenge.


1: Volatility, uncertainty , complexity and ambiguity, Wikipedia
2: The difference between complex and complicated systems is covered by Dave Snowden and summarised here
3: My brother introduced me to this keyboard layout in 2007 and I haven’t looked back since. Wiki article here.



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