Tuesday, October 11

Stepping Out: The Application Becomes the Platform

AJAX. Heard of it? You will. You've already seen it in action on the Web somewhere. How about Widgets? No, not for Mac (although that's where they come from) - for Windows. I actually made on the other day. Heard about Google's API's being open? How about the Google sidebar? MSN revealing its APIs? America's Army (the free game) now has a site touting its availability (the game's) as a platform. How about the fact that the highly anticipated release of Civilization 4, the latest installment in one of the most profitable game franchises ever (and one frequently cited as educational), is being built from the ground up in way that will empower people to change the game in more ways than have ever been possible before?

What is all this pointing to? Simply my new mantra - the application is becoming the platform. Wikis, blogs, podcasting - all part of the same dynamic. Call it what you will but things that we used to think of as "applications" - discrete programs used for specific purposes, a search engine, a game, are becoming platforms for development. The first browser was an application unti people started developing for the Web instead of the Net. eBay was an application, an auction site, until people started developing programs that were based on eBay - like automated auction programs.

This isn't exactly breakthrough thinking here but my question is really...where is this dynamic happening in the learning world? This is as much me actually asking the question and looking for answers as it is a rhetorical device. I want to know. Who are the folks creating "learning platforms" on which future learning applications will be able to be developed? If the answer here is silence or even a muted reply, then the next question must be why? Why, in the face of such staggering successes in other fields (computer gaming really took off with the release of the first DOOM in 1993 and that was largely due to two factors - they gave away the first three levels for free and it came with an editor - that's right, from its release it was sold, marketed and exploded at least in part because it became a platform.

So one final time and then I'll be quiet - who is developing learning products which can both serve a primary function as a learning product but are also designed to act as development platforms - at little or no additional cost?


DIsplay Name said...

I've been asking the same questions for months now. Why aren't we applying Web 2.0 concepts to learning? I call it Learning 2.0.

It's hard to find any examples.

I would say the web is the platform, not the application. Then we have a collection of "loosely joined" microplatforms like flickr, del.icio.us, and salesforce.com. Which leads to your question:

Where are the cool microplatforms for learning?

Flickr sometimes deploys new builds every half hour. When we launch a learning module, how often does it get revised? The wave of blogs have taught us that it's not about publishing, it's about participation. Where are the collaborative learning platforms?

I could go on, but I am attempting to elaborate on these issues in my blog at www.learning20.com.

Thanks for bringing this issue to the forefront!

Mark said...


One thing that I am wondering about is whether or not the microplatforms for learning already exist but what is missing is our collective ability to mentally "see" these pieces as something larger. What appears to me to be a pile of junk could appear to a mechanical engineer to be the basis for an engine. Are we looking at the pieces already available with the right set of eyes?

DIsplay Name said...

Could I use Writely to create content? Could I pull photos from Flickr into my learning module?

Like the engineer who sees the building blocks of an engine, it just takes some bright learning people to create a little glue to weave these services into something useful for the learning community.

David Grebow said...

I think this blog is an ecellent example of some of the forward-looking visionary thinking that VERY few people in what we loosely refer to as The Learning Community are doing.

You're making a huge assumption - that the people in this community are technically adept, tecnologically curious and looking for a better way.

My experience is that, for the most part,'they' are non of the above. In many cases I have been surprised by their lack of technical knowledge and levels of skill. The self-define and are labeled 'Educators'or 'Instructors'or 'Instructional Designers' or something that has (in their minds) very little to do with technology and the way it can impact the learning process.

As a good point in case, some of the best blogs I've read in this blog, and others focused on learning, education or a related topic, have surfaced some of the best research, ideas from neurosciences, new technology etc.. I imagined that they would get tons of comments. Mostly nada. Seems like no one is reading, or if they are, no one cares. I doubt if no more than Mark and Bryan are even reading this far into the comments (okay add in David Lee our illustrious Blogmeister).

I have my thoughts about why, some are touched upon above. Mainly I attribute it to being in that transitional space between BIG models and paradigms - analog to digital, industrial to knowledge, etc. The Rule Number 33 is: It's always easier to do it the way we're used to that try something new.

A legacy perhaps of how we learned to be when we were in school?

So maybe at the outset of this 'incunabula' period, you are doing exactly what needs be done. Surface the issues, be persistent, be the change agents for the future.

Thanks for the great post and comments!