Tuesday, May 24

Simulations, Microcosms, Apprenticeships, and Skunk Works

I wrote a book called Learning By Doing, all about the use of computer simulations in formal learning programs. But in many ways, it should have been called "Learning By Doing Part I."

Other, critical "learning by doing" techniques includes Microcosms, Apprenticeships, and Skunk Works.

Microcosms are small, controlled, comparable, but "real" worlds or projects, such as growing a garden, planning a party, running a meeting, baking a cake.

Apprenticeships are learning from someone with more experience, often in exchange for performing some menial task.

Skunk Works are teams that are trying something that has never been done before, with the goal of getting real feedback from the marketplace or enterprise.

The role of technology in all of these can be transformational, suggesting projects or"matching people up" at the beginning, giving real-time workflow centric advice during, and then tracking results afterwards.


Stuart Kruse said...

Making things happen

Clark, I admire the fact that you have just written a book aimed at customers. I think the biggest criticism I can aim at the learning design community is we spend too much time talking to each other and preaching to the converted. There are lots of 'new' exciting learning design ideas: learning by doing, informal learning, workflow learning, communities of practice, etc etc - yet, in the UK at least, the electronic course/book still reigns? Why? IMHO, we haven't sold these ideas to people holding the purse strings in a way that they can relate to (i.e. cost/improved performance). We can spend forever talking with each other about these ideas, but if we want to make something happen we have to start evangalising to our customers in terms they care about. Why are electronic courses so appealing? Well, they are cheap, they are like something business did before and they are easy to understand (oh, quick too). An easy sell. We need to present our 'new' ideas in ways that are just as appealing (we can't just say, 'you've got it all wrong, your training methods don't work'). We need a learning design equivalent of Cooper's Inmates Are Running The Asylum - aimed at customers and written in an entertaining and appealing way. Perhaps your book will meet this need Clark. I also feel we need some big, well publicised success stories where different uses of e-learning have proven their worth to a large company and made great cost/performance improvements over traditional methods. Let's start taking the conversation to the people who can effect change - let's make something happen.

Clark Aldrich said...

I agree desperately that we have to bring more people into the tent.
In Simulations and the Future of Learning, my counter-theme was food. There are dozens and dozens of food references throughout the book. This was done both because it is a good analogy to learning in general, but also to make the book more accessible to non-techies.
In Learning By Doing, my counter-theme is executive lifestyle and perks. There is talk of sports cars, golf resort communities, spas, and rabid football fans. This is fun for anyone, I hope. But I hope it is especially appealing for want-to-be senior executives, whom I very much wanted to attract. The goal for the book is to be one that training people can highlight a few chapters and put in front of enterprise leaders, who then find the material surprisingly accessible.

jay said...

Clark, why stop with Simulations, Microcosms, Apprenticeships, and Skunk Works? How about trial-and-error, blogging, instructional video, and hanging with one's peers? Informal learing need not be costly.

Oh, I get it. Those are the topics of my forthcoming book. :-)

Clark Aldrich said...

Absolutely. Since you were handling it, Jay, I knew it was in good hands!

Anonymous said...

Two things pop to mind based on this discussion. First is the relationship of people to computers/media: Reeves and Nass (1996) (cited in Meyer, 2003) found that people treated their computers politely when asked to critique its work, seeming not to want to hurt the computer’s feelings as though it were real; at the same time they maintained that technology is a mere tool without feelings. Is this a problem of an (increasing) inability to distinguish real and virtual?
The second is a paper by Carol Twigg (2001) called "Innovations in Online Learning: Moving Beyond No Significant Difference." She examines online education on the basis of quality, access, and cost-- not separately but as the intertwined entity it actually is – and how to do with technology what could not be done otherwise. Case studies are offered of leading post secondary institutions that attempt innovative use of technology in education -- by analogy moving the ATM machine out of the bank lobby to its optimum 24/7 ubiquitous placement in malls, supermarkets, etc. One of the conclusions reached by symposium participants was that the current paradigm of individualized faculty practice and standardized student learning should be reversed: individualized student learning and standardized faculty practice.

Amy P said...

You wrote:

"One of the conclusions reached by symposium participants was that the current paradigm of individualized faculty practice and standardized student learning should be reversed: individualized student learning and standardized faculty practice."

Fascinating! What types of things faculty do to make this change? Amy

Anonymous said...

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