Article : Learning is a Community Experience : By …. Article : Learning is a Community Experience : By Adele Goldberg – “Perhaps it is obvious – you do not learn alone, but you do take responsibility for your own education. (14-pages, 206 KB PDF)
* Go to Learning is a Community Experience, published in the July/August 2002 edition of the Journal of Object Technology [SynapShots]
Adele was one of the creators of the Smalltalk programming language. She worked at Xerox PARC with Alan Kay and later became the CEO of ParcPlace Systems where she worked to commercialize object-oiented technologies. This article contains her reflections on introducing object-oriented technologies and thinking to the technology world. Lots of good material.
I was struck by this definition of an educated person:
We think that an educated person is one who knows a little about a lot, and a lot about some focused subject area – one who reads broadly so is conversant on many topics, but one who holds his or her tongue when the hard data is not there to back up the inclination of that tongue.
Wouldn’t the world be a nicer place if more of us took that advice to heart?
Some other excerpts:
learning on your own is preposterously hard given the quantity of new material regularly generated. Both filtering and selection techniques have to be taught so as to be able to focus without losing sight of the intellectually stimulating neighborhoods that surround any focus of attention.
Here is a small experiment to try when in a room with a group of 10-30 people.
Step 1. First, ask each individual to decide whether the group should consider the individual to be an expert in object technology. If you are an expert, then signal (by standing up) and remaining standing. (Note definition of expert vs proficient professional or virtuoso as defined by Peter Denning in the August 2001 issue of the CACM.)
Step 2. The non-experts, those who did not stand up, should find an expert to be physically near (they should physically leave their seats and move near the expert so as to be able to converse).
Step 3. Each non-experts should think about a question that relates to object technology, one whose answer the non-expert does not know and that is a reason why he or she is not to be considered an expert. Ask this question of the expert near you.
Step 4. If the expert was asked a question he or she could not answer, could the expert now designate himself or herself to be a non-expert and look for an expert who has the answer? After finding an answer, the individual can decide whether to stand up again as an expert.
An interesting outcome of this experiment is that, ultimately everyone designates him- or herself as a non-expert at some time in the process, with minor exception. And the exception is typically a developer who, although acknowledged to be an expert, can always find an unknown as a learning challenge but who, in the context of the experiment, was not stumped
Although, Goldberg’s focus is on object-oriented technology, her observations apply to learning and knowledge management issues in other settings as well.
Finally, I have to share one other comment from the article for those of us who have been afflicted with the programming bug at some point or other in our careers.
my colleague David Leibs likes to joke: programming is a personality disorder that you can test for