I’m currently advising several organizations on their approaches to the use of technology to support learning. Moreover, I’ve been doing so for more than two decades, and see a lot more such situations as well. One of the things that I struggle with is seeing folks getting all agog over new technology, yet without getting the design right beforehand. Thus, let me make a simple suggestion: get the basics right first!
So, we know what leads to good learning. Heck, I’ve written a book summarizing what’s known about it, and I’m not the only one. Despite that fact that humans are complex, and increasingly so are our learning goals, there exist robust principles. We know that we should provide a sufficient quantity of appropriately challenging contextualized practice with aligned feedback, for instance. That is, if we actually want to achieve an outcome.
Yet, too often, we don’t see this. We see, instead, information presentation. Sometimes even with a knowledge test! Yet, such an effort is unlikely to lead to any meaningful change. That is, the investment’s wasted!
Worse, too often we see this being done with fancy new tools. Sure, I get as attracted to shiny new objects as anyone. However, I want to understand their core affordances for learning. Anyone had the dubious pleasure of attending a slide presentation in a virtual world? Or maybe being presented with animated presentations of lots of facts? The new tools may have a short-term effect of novelty, but that’s it. The fundamental aspects of how our brains learn are what’s going to make, or break, a learning investment.
On the other hand, if we start with getting the learning right, first, then there may be additional value coming from the tech. Adaptivity, on top of quality learning design, can accelerate the outcomes. Immersion, at the right time and place, is better than not. Language models, properly used, can have big impacts. However, it comes from knowing the specific capabilities, and matching them to the need.
While I haven’t done the ‘back of the envelope’ calculation (I’m not a financial whiz), I can state with a fair degree of comfort that you’re better off doing simple learning with good design. Bad design with shiny tech is still bad design! You’ll more likely have an impact putting your investment into learning quality than using fancy tech to deliver dreck. Of course, once you’ve done that, the investment in tech can do a lot more!
I’m not against new tech, heck I’ve written on games, mobile, and more! What I’m against is new tech in lieu of good design. And I’m even more enamored of good tech on top of good design. So, get the basics right first, then add in the shiny objects. That way you’re going to have a good return on your $$, and that’s a good thing. Right?
PS, speaking of basics, we’ll be running a debate tomorrow (11 Oct) discussing the Learning Experience Design (LXD) label. I’m sure we’ll unpack critical issues. Check it out.