Is There a Bit of Phelps in All of Us?

The SXSW 2017 Interactive Festival is fast approaching.

Zach Posner, SVP and Managing Director of MHE Learning Science Platforms, and Kimo Kippen, Chief Learning Officer of Hilton Worldwide have come together to create a panel, “What We Can Learn From Master Athletes & Musicians.” Vote for the panel here!

Study after study has shown that champions across diverse fields are distinguished by the four practices of focus, challenge, feedback, and repetition. Consider the way Michael Phelps uses training gear such as kickboards, pull buoys, training paddles, and snorkels to target incredibly precise muscles in his legs, glutes, upper body, and abs before bringing them together for the perfect stroke. Or Beyonce’s 70-hours a week of choreography practice, all singing aside. Sometimes the obsessions are even cross-disciplinary. Consider writer Haruki Marukami’s belief that running extreme marathons (most famously the Athens Marathon in blistering heat) has equipped him with the focus to write great novels.

It sounds boring and the very opposite of the kind of glamour we associate with champions but every superstar is someone who has mastered the dull process of breaking down goals into a ladder of smaller objectives; finding resources that help them master those objectives; seeking continual feedback and self-assessment; and adjusting practices in accordance. Every superstar is an expert in focus, challenge, feedback, and repetition, in other words.

Can we take these four practices and scale them for everyone? At McGraw-Hill Education, a new venture called Learning Science Platforms has answered the challenge. The team unlocks performance by driving learning mastery and measurable results through a powerful data layer. It can turn almost any content — technical, qualitative, quantitative — into an adaptive course that adjusts in real-time for each individual’s proficiency, confidence, and engagement level. It’s like an exercise machine for your brain, a cognitive work-out that adjusts to your behavior and performance and keeps you in an optimal state of focus, challenge, and repetition.

Are we closer than we imagined to democratizing mastery? With the help of adaptive technology, are we coming into a golden age of mastery for all?

Want to see us explore these themes and more at SXSW Interactive? Vote for our panel, “What We Can Learn from Master Athletes & Musicians.” Leave a comment to let us know how excited you are about #learningscience and #masteryforall!

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