Usually in this space, I gripe about school and the continuing nonsense that presents itself as reform and change in education. The “changes” accomplish nothing because they fails to address the real issues of the problems with what we teach and how we teach it. But today, I find myself irritated by the corporate training world instead which, of course, misperceives education in exactly the same ways as the school reformers do.
My irritation comes from this e-mail sent to the president of Socratic Arts the other day from an executive responsible for e-learning in a big company.
Good to hear from you again. Hope all is well with you, Roger and the company. Can you please provide me with an update about the work you currently do? Do you do have Web 2.0/3.0, Serious Gaming or any new and innovative learning approaches?
Why is this question irritating? Entailed within it is the assumption that the problem with the training that this man’s company provides is that it isn’t fun enough or high tech enough. His company’s employees are not learning to do their jobs because they just don’t have video games that will teach them their jobs.
On the surface this doesn’t sound all that unreasonable. A cool video game that looked exactly like an employee’s job would be a good way to teach him or her that job. Right?
People who believe that probably also believe that you could learn to be an NFL coach by playing Madden’s NFL 09 or learn to be a criminal by playing Grand Theft Auto.
So maybe this guy just doesn’t know much about learning. Uh. Well. Sorry. The “experts” agree with him.
I was asked to make predictions for 2009 for two on line e-learning magazines this month. Here are the links.
In the former one, I saw these three predictions:
Alternative interfaces will be big this year: more Wii toys hooked up to computers, orientation-sensitive interfaces, gesture-based presentation software, even brain-wave and body feedback games.
2009 is the year when the cell phone and the laptop emerge as the learning infrastructure for the developing world. Initially, those educational applications linked most closely to local economic development will predominate. Also parents will have high interest in ways these devices can foster their children's literacy.
I see the emergence of several new corporate-focused Virtual Learning Worlds (VLWs) or Massively Multi-Learner Online Learning Environments (MMOLEs) nudge out interest in consumer-oriented versions of 3-D worlds that haven't made the adaptation to corporate needs.
These predictions may well come true. But, let me ask a simple question. How will any of this make anyone learn better? Is the reason that people fail to do their jobs well the lack of Wii body feedback games? If education were available on a cell phone would that make it good education?
This stuff all makes the assumption that the real issue in education is accessibility and fun. Those are issues to be sure, but they aren’t even in the top ten of the issues that I care about for education in school or in corporations.
What are in the top ten? Here is my list:
1. Moving away from a system that assumes that conscious factual knowledge is at the heart of what needs to be learned.
2. Moving away from a system that thinks that the teacher’s role is to know the answers and tell them to you.
3. Moving away from a system that does not allow enough time for practice.
4. Moving away from a system that thinks failure is a bad thing (while learning.)
5. Getting expert knowledge delivered just in time to those who need that knowledge not years before because they “might need it.”
6. Understanding that a learning environment means one where people are always learning and that one shouldn’t have to go to school or go to training.
7. Getting rid of classrooms in all forms.
8. Getting rid of courses.
9. Getting rid of certification that is more important to the students than the learning itself.
10. Getting the reward system right.
I could go a long time making this list before I started worrying about Wii, cell phones, or 3-D worlds. Let’s try fixing what is broken and use technology only if it helps us do that.