The Micro-VCoL Maker™

Theo Dawson
5 min readNov 27, 2023

At Lectica (the nonprofit that owns me), we believe that if everyone had the opportunity to learn optimally, we’d be living in a healthier, more compassionate world. That’s why we created Micro-VCol Makers.

Micro-VCoL Makers allow anyone to create powerful little learning tools that improve people’s lives by helping them build skills for learning optimally. These learning tools are micro-VCoLs.

Micro-VCoLs support in-the-moment learning cycles comprised of four simple steps — set, seek, apply, and reflect. When people practice with micro-VCoLs, we say they are micro-VCoLing.

MicroVcoling supports robust mental development.

Learning through micro-VCoLing is the best way to develop human minds because it recruits the brain’s built-in learning mechanisms, which have evolved to support learning through practice. Learning through practice is often called embodied learning because it involves senses, actions, emotions, and thought.

Micro-VCoLing builds fundamental learning skills.

In addition to supporting mental development, Micro-VCoLing builds micro-VCoLing skills (shown in the map below). Micro-VCoLing skills make it possible for people to steer their own learning. To grow optimally, we all need these skills.

Imagine how different the educational impact of Covid might have been if our children had been equipped with micro-VCoLing skills.

As shown in the map below, we’ve organized micro-VCoLing skills around the steps of the VColing process — set, seek, apply, and reflect — plus something we call “Goldilocks Zone detection.” Each skill area unpacks into various small skills that can be practiced in real-time.

You’ll notice that each one of the micro-VCoLing steps in the map includes active observer skills. To understand how active observer skills are involved in micro-VCoLing, check out VCoL in action: The active observer.

Using the Micro-VCoL Maker

Right now, we’re offering three Makers to the public free of charge. They are all focused on emotional awareness.

To access the Makers, we recommend navigating to the Micro-VCoL Maker from its Intro page, where you’ll find several ideas for putting Makers to work. When you’re ready to create some Micro-VCoLs, navigate to the Maker page. Once you arrive, you’ll see a menu that contains three Makers. If you choose the Noticing Emotions Maker, you will see a skill map like the one below, which lists the Maker’s targeted skills.

The skill map can be downloaded by selecting from the menu in the upper right-hand of the map image.

Our definition of a skill is “anything that develops through practice.” Knowing a fact isn’t a skill; putting the knowledge to work both requires and builds skill.

Many skills can continue to develop for an entire lifetime. I, for one, am still practicing skills for noticing emotions, even though I’ve already practiced them for decades. Over time, my skills for noticing emotions have become more automatic, generalized, and nuanced, but I still wouldn’t claim to be a virtuoso.

Below the skill map is an invitation to create a micro-VCoL. In the image below, we’ve already made a few selections.

You may need to play around a bit to get the hang of making selections that work well together. Feel free to experiment as much as you like before settling on the micro-VCoL of your choice.

After making your selections, click “Make my VCoL,” and it will appear. Once you’ve created a micro-VCoL you’d like to save, be sure to click on the download button to save it as a PDF file.

I created the VCoL above a few minutes ago. It was the first time I’d seen it. As I read the VCoL instructions, I found myself musing about the strength of my own emotions and how their intensity has affected my life. I don’t remember noticing that my feelings were often stronger than those of others until my late teens. I wonder how learning this earlier might have affected my early adult relationships.

Don’t let the simplicity of this micro-VCoL fool you into thinking it’s simplistic. It’s taken us 25 years of experimentation to develop a basic tool that anyone can use — without formal instruction — to develop skills for learning optimally.

If you want to discover the complexity hidden in the simplicity of micro-VCoLs, spend a few weeks creating and practicing them.

What’s next?

Right now, we’re (1) creating more Makers, (2) raising funds to further develop the Micro-VCoL Maker App, and (3) distributing Makers to individual 4–12 (ages 9–18) teachers around the world — free of charge.

If you’d like to support the development and distribution of Micro-VCoL Makers to teachers, you can donate at every.org.

We’re also preparing to build Makers that support learning in business, government, and educational contexts, and redesigning our micro-VCoLing course, ViP, around a special set of micro-VCoL makers. If you’d like to learn to micro-VCoL alongside others, ViP might be right for you.

ViP info | ViP rationale

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Theo Dawson

Award-winning educator, scholar, & consultant, Dr. Theo Dawson, discusses a wide range of topics related to learning and development.