The mind behind ‘Socelor’: home to ‘learning how to think’

Emergent Thinkers 5 minute Spotlight: with Dr. Jesse Martin, the mind behind ‘Socelor’ – the digital home to ‘learning how to ‘think’

1. Jesse, congratulations on the relaunch of Socelor’s website, an accumulation of a two-decade mission to unlock thinking for the masses, where did it all begin?

Socelor was birthed from the collision of an academic management challenge, and the ignition of a passion for ‘Science of Learning’ from exposure to Robert Bjork’s work on human learning and memory, and its implications on ‘instruction’. My experiment with a new learning format which incorporated as much ‘Science of Learning’ as could be managed unleashed an unprecedented passion for learning from my students. There was no looking back. Diane Halpern, Stephen Heppell, Brett Jones, Steven Wheeler and Carol Dweck further influenced my thinking at the time.  

2.  Why the focus on abstract cognitive enablers you term ‘the thinking skills that enhance thinking abilities’?

Socelor covers a breadth of learning, but there is extra focus on the critical thinking crucial for today’s world. Not the critical thinking that appears on every class syllabus ever written, but that which equips us to solve complex problems without the biases that interfere with so much thinking.

At Socelor we also focus on higher order metacognition. This is not simply knowing what you know, but it entails knowing what you can do. Many academics and professionals acquire abstract cognitive enablers, but because of the problems inherent in transference, these enablers are limited to the domain and context within which they are learned. What makes higher order metacognition so powerful is knowing what you know in relation to these abstract cognitive enablers. Knowing that if you can think critically about chemistry (or whatever subject you specialize in), you can use that powerful enabler in whatever situation you find yourself in.

Our approach also provides the insight that allows you to realize your real limitations. That realization makes it compelling to search out and learn the other abstract cognitive enablers. Those who reach the pinnacle of metacognition have, at their disposal, a full suite of abstract cognitive enablers that they can use in whatever situation they find themselves in.

3. What makes the ‘Socelor’ learning experience so special?

It is a format that facilitates learning to really think. Although this goal is trumpeted in every marketing piece that has ever issued forth from the hallowed halls of academia, if you look at the reality, it simply doesn’t happen. Socelor arose from my frustration trying to get traditional learning institutions to review their approaches. Socelor adopts ‘The Science of Learning’ and facilitates people to think, equipping them with transferrable abstract cognitive enablers.

4. You are a prolific contributor on Linkedin Jesse, what motivates you to share in this format?

I have been asked on numerous occasions why I don’t take a more traditional academic route and publish study after study providing evidence for the effectiveness of what I do. I have simply studied the literature on learning, from a scientific viewpoint and combined that with the literature from the educational field that is robust and can demonstrate effectiveness. I have accessed what is already there and combined it to maximize the potential for learners to learn. Consequently, I refuse to add a few more scholarly articles to the tens of thousands that already tell this story piece by piece. My approach aims to target more people.

5.   What do you perceive to be the biggest challenges for learners facing Work4.0/4IR?

The biggest challenge is dealing with a more complex environment equipped with the tools that were designed in the 1950s to deal with the environment we are leaving behind. Many facets of education still engage the same tools and methods that have been used for centuries. No insight, no real creativity, no abstract problem solving, no abstract inductive or deductive reasoning, just the bare essentials to carry out the tasks demanded. New skills acquired will be out-dated within a few years of acquisition. Gaining abstract cognitive enablers will help learners to foresee the workplace demands that are on the horizon and, not only prepare for those demands, but lead others to the same place.

Socelor teaches you how to think. The content doesn’t matter, the thinking does. Acquiring abstract cognitive enablers is what will make you, not only stand out, but stand head and shoulders above others.

6.   And similarly, for employers, what are the current and foreseeable challenges with the more established approaches to cognitive development?

Employers are a product of the same environment and so see the way forward as a reflection of the past. All of us marvel at the “enlightened” employers that are rocketing to the top of the economic landscape. These companies are led by individuals who have higher order metacognition and are trying to attract people equipped with the same powerful tools. Instead of feeling threatened by someone with these tools, they welcome them and provide them with an environment to flourish.

Socelor is poised to provide a conduit for individuals to become the individuals these companies are looking for.

7.   Do you have any concerns or hopes for future generations that will become more embedded in a digital and technological society?

I dearly hope that we can embrace real learning to harness the most powerful technological tools ever devised to make the world a brilliant place to live in. My fear is that these new tools will be controlled by a few and the billions will become slaves to the tools. We are already seeing this happening. Although questions about the power of these tools are being asked, the questions are naïve and lack well developed solutions, meaning that we are likely to continue with business as usual.

I hope for a utopia but fear that the direction we are taking, without a significant population of people equipped with abstract cognitive enablers, is a forlorn dystopia.

8.   If you could access a philosopher (past or present) what big question would you like to address?

Socrates! I would ask Socrates to help me understand how we have taken the heart of learning out of education, and how we can reinstill it.

Thank you Jesse, for sharing the passion and insight on learning. Any last comment for readers today?

The passion for understanding is not limited to the highest echelons of academia, but is a latent fire within each of us just waiting to be ignited – we are ready and waiting for you at Socelor!

More information on Dr. Jesse Martin, and his team at Socelor can be found at – including details on study options

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