In her latest Learning Rebels blogs post @stipton writes Look up! How high? Up to the blue sky? Or is it enough to look around me, into the tired eyes of the other zombie workers? I think she's talking about the tendency many of us have to be so immersed in our work that our days rush by without us. There are at least two reasons for this. One, we fear falling behind and getting replaced by someone who can keep up. Two, our jobs are so satisfying we're in flow from that first sip of coffee until.. when? I don't believe it's flow. I think it has something to do with empathy and the systems we work in.
Simon Bernard-Cohen, explaining Empathizing-Systemizing (E-S) Theory describes five brain types. Two of these, E (Empathizing) and S (Systemizing), are of interest to me as I learn more about designing transformational learning experiences. Empathizing is the ability to feel what others are feeling. Systemizing is the ability to analyze and construct systems. I wonder if when we construct learning systems and training, particularly in online modalities, we give enough consideration of learners' feelings about that learning?
I learned that empathy has two scales: affective and cognitive. Cognitive empathy leans towards systemizing. In a recent Google Hangout I tried, I think unsuccessfully, to make the point that it's possible for instructional designers to scale empathy by producing learning experiences that:
- Have learners spending less time sitting in front of a computer
- Use story as hooks to engage learners more deeply
- Encourage learners to make artifacts that visually evidence they "get it"
In a traditional face-to-face classroom I think most teachers can sense what their students are feeling. I have met a number of teachers recently who leverage empathy to get students moving.
Kinesthetics are the missing piece in online learning, especially when that learning takes place 1:1 (computer:learner). There's so much more to learn and prototype about that.
Getting back to @stipton's Look Up! While you're up there, ask yourself: What has you working long and hard: worry or flow? The cartoon in Look Up! has someone observing two others pushing a cart with square wheels. To the observer the problem is the wheels. They could expend much less effort if the cart had round wheels, like the one the observer is holding. But from my perspective it's the two pushing who are in flow. Maybe if the observer made the effort to empathize with them the cart would have round wheels sooner rather than later.