Input Easy

updated May 5, 2000

"There are no easy methods of learning difficult things; the method is to close
your door, give out that you are not at home, and work."
Joseph de Maistre

That said, there is nothing easier or more natural than learning. In fact, learning is easier than breathing. Even before we take our first breath, we are already learning. Learning can be time-consuming, but it should never be difficult.

Learning is also a very satisfying activity. Children all enthusiastically love to learn before they start school.

Every person masters a tremendous number of facts in their lifetime. It is my opinion that the "problems" in our educational systems right now are not due to the students, parents, teachers or administrators. These people are all better qualified, richer, more experienced and better equipped than ever before. The problem is that there is no way to quantify knowledge. If you can quantify knowledge you get three benefits. People can negotiate clear and precise expectations, they can measure performance explicitly, and you can automate the process.

I feel that all that is needed is the addition of a good theory, a good method, and a good software tool. What I present in this document is an easy way to solve "The Teacher's Dilemmas", the "Student's Dilemmas", the "Parent/Employer/Sponsor Dilemma" and the "Administrator's Dilemma". It also presents some simple and powerful methods to make teaching easier than ever, turn testing into a fair and exciting learning experience, and to make "grades" motivating.

The "Teacher's Dilemmas" are these: the captive customer and the heterogeneous learning group.

A good teacher knows that 25% of their classroom job is to impart facts to students and 75% is motivation, socialization, project coordination, and the development of various types of thinking skills.

The problem is that the students (their captive customers) see imparting facts as almost 100% of the teacher's job - with everything else just a corollary to that. In fact, many students will resent a teacher if they even mention that socialization is part of their job.

If a teacher can do that content teaching 25% of their job impeccably well in a measurable way, then students will be extremely satisfied customers. The teacher will enjoy the "goodwill" that comes from having satisfied customers.

Secondly, teachers need an extremely fast and easy way to keep students synchronized while learning. After summer break, they need a way to quickly refresh the knowledge of the students. During the learning, they need a way to check what progress students have made. Finally, they need a way to synchronize students who get behind (for any reason) so that they won't hold back the class.

My theory, method and software address exactly that 25% of the teacher's job, and offer a tool for student synchronization

On top of that, it also offers an excellent tool for "Proactive Learning" (my term), and helps a teacher organize curriculum, testing materials, and grading. All this is explained in the theory and examples section.

The "Students Dilemmas" are this: confidence and re-learning.

In other words, how do they know that they really know? Secondly, how can they be confident that they have covered all the material? Thirdly, how can they quickly recover previously mastered knowledge after a break and be confident that they have recovered it?

The method (which allows you to quantify knowledge) and the software (as the crystallization of the method and theory) allows students to be absolutely confident that they have a complete and accurate mastery of a body of knowledge. It also allows them to quickly relearn previously mastered material.

The "Parent/Employer/Sponsor Dilemma" is this: quality control. How can it be proven that the student actually mastered the knowledge? How can I be certain that the knowledge will be fresh and accurate enough to be useful at the precise moment in future time when the student will need it?

By providing a common, complete and detailed testing basis at 100% recall for students (self-testing), teachers (test preparation) and sponsors (quality control testing), everyone can determine cost-effectively that the student has mastered the knowledge.

By providing a convenient and powerful re-learning tool, everyone can be confident that the natural process of knowledge decay over time can quickly be rectified.

The "Administrator's Dilemma" is this: communication. How can I quantify the knowledge that we will be imparting to students and make it available to all interest groups to achieve a consensus on curriculum? How can I prove in a fast and inexpensive way that the school/teacher is meeting performance expectations? The theory, method and software provide an explicit medium of communication between all interest groups.

Input Easy was born out of my own learning needs. Several times when I changed jobs, I had to learn about a new culture, company, products, customers and a foreign language as quickly as possible. To accomplish all this learning, I had one tired hour at night. I simply did not have the time, structure and energy required by traditional education methods. Since I am in the software business, I started to develop some simple software tools to help me to learn faster.

The final result of over a decade of working on automating learning tasks has produced this deceptively simple looking software product, the theory and the method. Input Easy is the automation of my learning method based in my theory of learning.

The most common objection is that it is just a fancy flash-cards program. That is like comparing a distributed, quartz crystal time system with a sundial. Both systems tell time, both have their appropriate uses, but it would be hard to run a company or university with sundials. On top of that, the theory and method are not technology dependent.

The theory, method and software product are useful for students, teachers, tutors, seminar leaders, book publishers, not-for-profit organizations, salespeople and company training departments. (Note: It has been suggested that it may be able to help people with learning disabilities - such as Alzheimer's Disease - to learn and re-learn things faster but I have not tested this).

You don't need to know anything about my theory of learning or method to use the software effectively. Below is just a short overview of each topic.

My theory of learning is called "A Theory of Learning Linguistic Behavior based on The Power of the Question" (ATOL).

ATOL harnesses the power of the question to greatly improve learning effectiveness and learner motivation. It also allows you to quantify both knowledge and the time a learner will need to master a body of knowledge. Quantification can be very useful and motivating. For instance, many areas of science would be impossible with the time concept of the "second".

The method derived from ATOL is called "Critical Path Learning" (CPL). This method gets most of its effectiveness from using tight feedback loops and enforcing information accuracy. Firstly, students waste no time learning and reinforcing incorrect knowledge, which they then must then unlearn before they can learn the correct answer. Secondly, granularity (level of detail) and precision ensure that each fact is learned as a crystal clear piece of knowledge. Building a body of knowledge is a bit like building a house. The stronger each brick is, the better the building will stand up to the ravages of time.

The software Input Easy automates many overhead functions in existing learning/teaching, offers some interesting new possibilities, and provides a compact and portable format for storing huge amounts of information. A major benefit is that any learning files you create (such as class notes) can be shared by everyone on Earth because you can email the files, you own the copyright on your files, and the software is free.

Another major benefit is that you can easily, inexpensively and conveniently store your learning files for a long period of time. You can take your learning files with you when you travel. And finally, you don't have to type anything if you don't want to. You can do all the learning exercises with a pencil and paper, and one by just sitting in front of your computer.

The theory, method and product "only" address the matter of learning anything that is represented as linguistic behavior (words and sentences). This does not mean that you can only learn textual information and "basic facts". When the "question" is a sound, picture or video of a bird, the "answer" is still represented as a linguistic phenomenon (the name of the bird).

ATOL, CPL and Input Easy do not replace the need for lab work, project work, analytical reporting, inter-student interaction, the development of various types of thinking skills, or the incredible work that teachers can do when they structure and personally present knowledge.

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