H.M. died on Tuesday. He was a severe amnesiac. At the age of 27 he underwent surgery to correct severe and debilitating seizures. When he awoke, he was unable to remember much of anything ever again–at least not anything in the declarative memory system.

HMinMemoriam

He lived life as the most famous experimental subject in the history of cognitive psychology and neuroscience. I remember reading about him when I was a graduate student in the late 1980's and 1990's. What researchers learned by studying him was that there was more than one memory system. This information led to a revolution in our understanding of human cognition and learning.

After years being known only as H.M., to protect his identity, in death we learn that his name was Henry Gustav Molaison, and he lived his life in Connecticut, on the east coast of the United States.

The New York Times tells his story better than I can. It is well worth the read.

And NPR has a previous story, that you can hear. It is well worth the listen.

And here's H.M.'s wikipedia entry.

The eLearning Guild is offering a $400 early-bird discount if you register for their March Annual Gathering by December 19th. Check it out.

Note: I'll be presenting a workshop (with Roy Pollock) on Learning Measurement, and speaking several other times, so this conference is well worth your while. AND, by saving $400, you can easily afford our symposium. 

The New York Times published an article today saying that college tuition may be out of reach for most Americans. This, of course, is stunning news. If true, it will rip a gaping hole in the very fabric of our society. It will also, make the job of work-learning professionals that much harder.

  1. More remedial training.
  2. More training that teaches meta-cognitive thinking skills.
  3. Dealing more with splinter groups and labor unrest, as we further divide into the haves and have-nots.
  4. Dealing more with globalization as professional and managerial jobs are shipped off-shore.
  5. Dealing more with workers with different language and cultural backgrounds as professionals are imported to relieve shortages.
  6. Making due with fewer and fewer highly-educated workers, as fewer are college educated and more become expatriates escaping the toxicity of a more-divided, more-rancorous, more-economically volatile environment.

On the other hand, perhaps there will be a need for learning professionals who can be really creative in dealing with these issues. Perhaps China is educating them now…

Read this intriguing article in Slate.

It talks about how some people can elicit an emotional response in others that enables optimism and moral inspiration.

Quoted from the article:

University of Virginia moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who coined the term elevation,
writes, "Powerful moments of elevation sometimes seem to push a mental
'reset button,' wiping out feelings of cynicism and replacing them with
feelings of hope, love, and optimism, and a sense of moral
inspiration."

I don't think most training situations would benefit from such elevation, but some might. There's little likelihood that someone learning how to use a spreadsheet could be elevated, for example.

On the other hand, I can see particular opportunities for socially-responsible organizations or initiatives, especially those that are led by elevation-enabling leaders. Perhaps some soft-skill training may benefit, for example, where a management-training facilitator tells stories of others' efforts to help develop the people they work with.

There can be downsides to elevation as well, not least of which is that those who don't feel the elevation think that those who do feel it are either ridiculous or brainwashed. And, elevation by itself doesn't generate changes in behavior.

Haidt's research shows that elevation is good at provoking a desire to
make a difference but not so good at motivating real action.

Still, I think it's worth thinking about how to connect with our learners at a deeper level. It doesn't have to be super-deep, just a little bit deeper may help.

Let's remember that we as learning professionals have a responsibility not just to inform, prepare, and provide practice. We can also increase the likelihood that our learners will actually utilize what we teach by enabling their "motivation to apply" what they've learned. Sure, we can utilize our learners' management to promote application, but we can play a role in enabling the learners to want to apply what they've learned. Elevation may be another tool we can use in our work.