Digital is Different

“The most important thing is not to optimise what you do, but to find out and decide what you should be doing… find out where you should really be and to make sure that you are climbing the tallest peak, not just a false summit…If you get stuck on a small mountain, you get to the top and look around and you find you’re on the wrong mountain. A mile away is a mountain that’s twice as tall…Learn how to search the landscape very widely, and to make sure we find the tallest mountain to climb – that we find the right thing to do. And having done that, if we find ourselves on top of a false summit…In other words we’ve got to get down the mountain, and cross that desert, and come up on the tallest peak. And that’s called letting go, killing a product at its peak.”

(Via Brave New World: Rethinking the Future: The Digital Divide)

This might sound quite abstract by itself — as a ‘thing to do’, but when you read the full article, you will know that it makes perfect sense. Martyn Daniels asks why the publishing industry is still stuck on the print model of the product and tries and retrofit this model in the digital world.

Digital is different and needs to be approached differently — not just as a medium but the social context of what digital is, how it is consumed, and how it is produced. There are no more ‘passive consumers’, and the more we treat them as such, the more we are alienating them from consuming our products. While Martyn makes a specific case in publishing, I suspect it is true across industries; education being no exception.

Hat Tip: Eoin Purcell

Creative Use of “Boring” Tools

Michele Martin, in her Bamboo Project blog, links to a great post from Sarah Horrigan and laments how instructors use learning systems, specifically VLEs.

It’s Not the Tool That’s Boring. It’s You.: “That’s the thing about technology and learning. People are quick to blame the tool, rather than looking first at their own behavior with it. It’s PowerPoint that’s the problem, rather than how it’s used. Or they hate web conferencing because it’s ‘dull.’ And don’t even start with social media–blogs, social networks, Twitter et. al are just a ‘waste of time.’”

(Via The Bamboo Project Blog.)

It may be a worthwhile debate to discover if most VLEs out there have somehow contributed to the boring aspect of online learning. Sarah talks of how we look at a box vs. how we would have looked at it when we were younger. There may be more to enabling engaging learning through VLEs — these systems (and the people who made these systems) will need to first engage with the instructors with a “map” of how interactive and engaging learning can be made possible — beyond PowerPoint and Lecture Notes. What were they (those who built the systems) thinking when they built the systems? What vision of online learning did they have? How would they like the instructors to make best use of the systems?

The onus, to create interesting learning online, I believe, is not just on the instructors.