Friday, April 01, 2005
I believe that every new tool or technology usually goes through 3 main phases:
- Phase 1: Look at what this thing can do!
- Phase 2: We can do a lot more, but we keep replicating our old ways of working. Is there a way to be more efficient, effective, and creative?
- Phase 3: Here’s a methodology that will streamline our processes, reduce duplication and focus on quality output.
ITC is a spectacular example of that. Just think of when new programming/analysis paradigms (OO) or business applications (CRM, ERP, portals) arrived. Each followed pretty well the 3 phases. A more recent case is e-learning/learning. Inspired very much by OO, the learning object concept was coined as a possible solution for reutilization and productivity, with mitigated success. While working on the learning object concept, I remembered conceptual analysis classes I attended at Université Laval with Daniel Pascot, Robert W. Mantha and Dzenan Ridjanovic. Most conceptual views of system design usually focus on identifying critical information first (database structuration), and then build treatments and interface upon it. The justification is rather simple: data is the most stable part of an information system. Treatments and interface are more likely to change often as opposed to data. This 3-tier architecture (database, treatment, interface) is now a de facto standard in system development, although it is sometimes criticized. Nonetheless, this formalization of system development has led to impressive gains in terms of productivity, quality and persistence.
Let’s translate this stability imperative to the learning field. What’s the most stable element of the learning experience?
- Content/Information? Certainly not.
- Systems? Nope.
- Social networks? Not even.
- The learner? That is indeed the most stable element of the learning experience. The one that is the less likely to change.
The learner is also to least understood element and the most difficult to conceptualize. There is no way the learning experience can get significantly better without a clear representation of what a learner wants and needs in terms of learning. Sorry folks but all the rest (learning objects, collaboration tools…) is gravy. Learning objects won’t make a huge difference, neither social networking. They are all related to creating a learning context, but that in itself is inextricably linked to the learner concept, the foundation of learning.
No gain in the understanding of the learner, no gain in the learning. I don’t think our R&D efforts go at the right place…