Something’s been bothering me…
Many leading thinkers in our field, and many practitioners like myself, are very excited about the new tools for learning available with the explosion of possibilities on the web. RSS feeds, blogs, research tools, access to gzillions of web pages, podcasts, university courses…. wow. I’ve been advising designers that we should be working on linking our learners to our favored resources rather than trying to repackage what we’ve found and thereby virtually ensure that our learners miss out on updates that are posted all the time. The Learning Suite concept is one way of doing that (it organizes and annotates links to internal and external resources and courseware).
But… a few challenges are nagging me.
> Many of the resources that we’re linking to are not as well-organized as I’d like, and they’re not necessarily designed with learning in mind.
> Many of our learners have never used these kinds of resources for learning, and are overwhelmed by them.
So if we build it, they may come, look at the mess we’ve invited them into, and leave without learning a thing. Yikes!
I’ve had colleagues and students tell me they don’t know how people learn from blogs. They get the idea of an RSS feed, but not how to use if for learning. They can’t find the gem web sites and get overwhelmed by search engine results. If learning professionals are challenged by how to use these tools, then it isn’t much of a leap to come to understand that our learners – many of whom are very used to being “spoon fed” – won’t know what to do with all of this either.
Personally, I’m a reader – I read a book to learn how to use an I-pod. So access to all of the content on the web really perks up my learning antenna. But that’s me, a self-described geek. Most learners aren’t like that.
So I’m coming to the conclusion that at least part of our agenda needs to be helping people learn how to learn using these new tools. Not an earth-shattering conclusion, maybe, but an important one perhaps. So when we create a learning suite, it must be well-annotated, and it will be extremely helpful for us to provide some learning exercises so that the learners who need more support have some direction on what they can do.
I’d love to hear comments…. Do we need to take some active steps, or will folks figure it out on their own once we guide them to the right resources? Do we just wait until the digital natives take over the world? If we build these learning suites, will they learn?