I had the chance to sit down with Danny Iny, founder and CEO of Mirasee, best-selling author, host of the Business Reimagined Podcast, and the creator of the acclaimed Course Builder’s Laboratory training program.
To say Danny understands the finer points of education is an understatement. Iny has lived, breathed, and loved the world of online learning for over a decade.
Danny shared his take on the three steps in the learning journey, the context of online learning post-pandemic, and what innovation in educational technology looks like today.
“Learning is about having that spark in you that you allow your environment to feed.”
We've all known at least one kid in class who got straight A’s, lived by the book, and was the teacher's pet; Danny was that kid. That is until he realized his classes were a slew of regurgitated information that didn’t serve his hunger for learning in the slightest.
“In the ninth grade, it was like a switch flipped in my head.” Danny recalled, “I was sitting there in class, and it was so boring. I couldn’t take it anymore. And so I cut a few classes.” he continued, “And I came back a few days later, and they were still talking about the exact same thing.”
After cutting more and more classes, he realized he needed a plan. That plan turned out to be dropping out of school entirely and heading full force into entrepreneurship.
“I've always believed very strongly in the power and value of education and self-led learning and exploration.” Danny affirmed, “And I love to read, and I've always loved to read. And at the same time, I always felt bored to different degrees, depending on how much my teachers were willing to let me color outside the lines.”
There was something about formal education that didn’t land right for him. The structure didn’t lend itself to the type of learning Danny believes in.
“To some degree learning is always self-directed.” Danny explained, “And it's about maintaining curiosity and exploring and connecting the dots between what you already know and what you are trying to learn, and expanding that horizon of what's within your realm of ability to imagine and dream and understand. And it's the most wonderful thing that we do as humans.”
If you ask Danny, there are three main steps on a learning journey. He helped break down what those core steps are, and why they’re essential.
Step one is the consumption of information. In short terms, this is where you:
Or any other means of consuming the material.
“Information is great for some things, but it also has its limitations.” Danny elaborated, “It's a great way of expanding your horizons about what's possible and integrating new knowledge into existing expertise. But it's not very good for developing competence; we don't get good at things by reading books or watching videos.”
Step two is application, in other words, taking what you’ve learned and doing something with it.
“Application can be theoretical, like exercises and worksheets, or it can be practical by doing things in our businesses and our lives,” Danny explained.
Finding ways to apply what you’ve consumed to your immediate needs and routine is how you figure out what you retained, what you understood and what you still need to figure out.
“When we apply our new learning, we're gonna get some of it right, and we're gonna get some of it wrong. And the difference between a beginner and an expert is partially the muscle memory to do it.” Danny continued.
Step three is feedback that allows us to refine and integrate knowledge. The role of a teacher, a coach, or a curriculum can make feedback more directed. Timely and insightful feedback supports a more well-rounded view than experimenting on your own can provide. Helpful input comes in the form of differing perspectives.
“I'm essentially paraphrasing the structure of mastery learning, which is not new. But this approach is not applied nearly as much as it should be, given how robust it is, in terms of support by research in terms of how we learn.” Danny clarified.
This method of traversing the learning journey isn’t cutting edge—it’s based on the root structure of how people learn. How does that impact what we’re doing with online learning today?
In the context of online courses and online learning, COVID-19 has accelerated trends that were already coming into play—for better and for worse.
“People were forced to overcome legitimate challenges and learn how to do things well and innovate.” Danny shares.
The trial and error of the sudden shift to online learning created some aversion for the tools and methods available. To the stressed teacher and student, it seemed like a death sentence for effective education.
“Some people have taken that to be an indictment that online learning doesn't work.” Danny said, “It's like ‘no, lousy online learning doesn't work. In much the same way that lousy in-person learning doesn't work.’” he continued.
The silver lining of trial-by-fire online learning is that people discovered the benefits, as well. They experimented with new ways of teaching that may have taken years to adopt otherwise. Distance learning can be just as effective as in-person education when leveraged properly.
“If we could divide the pandemic into two years, the first year we saw everyone's scramble, and the second year, we saw a lot of people start to really shine and thrive in how to do it really well,” Danny said.
There’s always room for innovation in the classroom—virtual or otherwise—and Danny has high hopes for the future of online learning.
“The nature of innovation is that it starts in little pockets, and then it spreads.” – Danny Iny
Teachers are constantly asked to go out of their comfort zone to meet needs on all sides, with little to no preparation. “There are two very different tasks that go into supporting a student to learn,” Danny says.
According to Danny, the two main supporters of effective teaching are:
Teachers are more often than not expected to do both, along with all the research it takes to craft memorable learning experiences.
“Hollywood should be producing our learning videos.” He joked, citing their ability to engage and inspire. “Let the teachers focus on working one on one with the students and helping them do amazingly well.” Danny continued.
This unbalanced expectation is one of the long-standing plights of the education system. With the production of online learning material rising in quality and demand, there’s the hope of evening out the standards through ready-made lessons and courses built for all types of classrooms. Ideally, leaving room for the one-on-one attention that serves students best while also encouraging self-directed learning.
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