Skills for the 21st Century

Cognitive and Literacy Skills for Success in a Fast-Paced Technological Age

Seeing Patterns – A Medieval Tech Support Example

Posted by durencls on April 27, 2010

OK, this video has been around a while,* but we really like it. Medieval Tech Support demonstrates, for us, several common cognitive skills needed to deal with changing technologies. 

Do your students “generalize”?  Are they good at seeing patterns and using those patterns to solve similar problems?  Are they solid logical thinkers? Or are they like Ansgar here?

As we may have noted before, the inspiration for this blog came from many many technological support experiences  with folks similar to Ansgar.  We kept (and keep) seeing the same folks make the same mistakes over and over again in dealing with different technological experiences. We also see the same kinds of mistakes come up again and again across different ages and types of users having widely varying educational and training backgrounds. 

So then Bill and I got some Tech folks together and asked,  “What SKILLS do our problem users seem to be lacking when it comes to dealing with technology?”  The draft 21st Century skills list was the result. [Thanks to everyone who has so far given us feedback!]

As we talked with other Tech folks, one thing we came up with again and again was the concept of “generalization” – the ability to transfer knowledge from one venue or situation to another.  Ansgar here, cannot generalize the issue of “it opens from only one side”  from the larger tome to the smaller “manual.”  He also cannot generalize from what he knows –  if you roll up a scroll, the text is not lost – to this new format – if you turn a page, the text is not lost.

We also regularly came up with the idea of “logical or experimental thinking” – the ability to analyze what you already know and use that information to come to reasonable conclusions or make reasonable predictions. Ansgar treats scrolls and books as two totally different things – when in fact, they are still both just ink on parchment. If you cut the scroll up into several parts and stacked them one top of one another, you’d essentially have a book. For the most part, what is true for a scroll is true for a book, so you should be able to make predictions about books based on what you know about scrolls.

We think one key to developing these skills is regular practice in finding patterns and making predictions based on those patterns.   Knowledgeworks’ 2020 Forecast agrees that the skill of Pattern Recognition is, and will continue to be, critical to learning in the next 10-20 years. 

So our question to you is:
How do you teach pattern recognition, generalization, and logical thinking in an adult education classroom?
[We think these are HARD to teach – especially within the limits of adult literacy education.]
Any ideas? Any directions you recommend for research?

* This particular clip is about 3 years old, an English subtitled version of a video originally created for the Norwegian Broadcasting company (NRK) in 2001. It was performed on the show Øystein og jeg, starring Øystein Backe (geek) and Rune Gokstad (despondent monastic user), and written by Knut Nærum.

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