Despite much research on human learning, little is known about cultural conceptions of learning.

I realised while researching the subject of how the brain deals with data it receives that the whole subject of conceptualisation is somewhat placed on the back burner by designers of some learning programmes, especially those delivered by eLearning.

I was side tracked to reading about Kim Peek, the real ‘Rain Man’ who despite his advanced abilities to read and soak up data has no idea or knowledge of how to conceptualise any of it. He can read two pages of a book in 23 seconds (average 4 minutes for the rest of us). One page with his left eye the other with his right, simultaneously! To make matters worse (or better) he then has all the information buried in his brain for future recall.  He remembers everything he ever read like this, 40 or 50 years worth.

Living in Salt Lake City he spends much time in the library, he reads on average 20 books a day. The human Google.

The issue he has is Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum (ACC) is a rare birth defect in which there is a complete or partial absence of the corpus callosum. Agenesis of the corpus callosum occurs when the corpus callosum, the band of tissue connecting the two hemispheres of the brain, fails to develop normally, typically in utero, resulting in disconnected brain hemispheres neurological links that have formed in place are quite unique, making him a super savant.

However he can’t tie his shoes, brush his teeth or understand when he is standing too close to another person invading their personal space. 

What he has is a method to link items together. Beethoven’s 5th, di di di dah, the letter “v” in Morse code, and V for Victory in the famous speech by Winston Churchill. What he lacks is any way to use this information other than to answer questions in one of many high level speaking roles his father arranges for him. Not too dissimilar to the freak shows of the turn of the 19th century, even if they are held at places like Oxford University.

The conceptualisation of the data is completely missing. 

Kolb highlighted conceptualisation in the learning cycle process, calling the stage Abstract Conceptualisation, the time where we make sense of what we have heard or read or done, prompting questions so that we can make even better sense of the material at hand.

It is this conceptualisation stage that is so important in learning, especially in eLearning that are missing and fail to help the learner understand how to use the information and they will surely discard it at the first opportunity.

Many have tried to fix what they think is broken in eLearning. You may have been party to discussion or a conference presentation that suggests eLearning has failed but the latest technology will make it better. The truth is whatever technological gimmick you are offered will not fix the issue of the basics of conceptualisation.