Incunabula

I just received an email from David Grebow that summed up where we are in eLearning these days by way of a wonderful analogy to the early days of moveable type:


Johannes Guterberg

    …the new technology was The Printing Press. August 15, 1452. The first Bible was printed. It was a form, needing only hand-drawn illustrations to be complete. The Church felt that the press was a gift from God and realized that X monks writing by quill in a Scriptorium could only produce 12 Bibles a year = 12 more souls saved BUT a printing press, used for the words only with the monks adding the illuminations, could produce 100 or more per year! It was an immense increase in Bibles per Monk.

    So the printing press started cranking out the bible forms and the monks added the pretty pictures and voila you had …. The Incunabula.


    Machine-printed, hand-painted Gutenberg Bible

    The printing of books, revolutionary pamphlets, democratic speeches, newspapers or anything else made little impact because printing anything but Bibles was banned by the church until 1502. That year a dissenter, using a stolen copy of this new technology The Press, printed Virgil’s Æneid and made it accessible to the public. And from that came The French Revolution, The Reformation, Democracy, Communism, Pornography, and the books on Happiness by the Dali Lama etcetcetc..

    Point is that we - e-learning technology developers and users - are in that Incunabula period in which the Priests of the Old Order of Things have misused - or not allowed others to realize - the real hidden potential of e-learning. Only now that we are burying it will it be reborn. Akin to what my seat mate on a recent trip from Boston told me. He was an Executive in charge of a Private Banking Firm (translation: Big Buck Clients), and he was telling me one of his newest revelations. The Next Big Thing for investors is (keep this to yourself) The Internet! And here I thought the bubble had popped.

    So the next wave or generation or incarnation of e-learning will be very different from the last. It will actually work for real people, not just Peter Senge’s Lifelong Learner (a beast as mythical as the Unicorn). Save people time and money. Increase innovation, collaboration, the sharing of knowledge, Help enable learning cultures which foster communities of practice and purpose. Be useful from cradle to grave. Be fun to use. Seductive and pretty. Sexy.

This morning I woke up with another piece of the puzzle that is the Second Coming of eLearning. Focusing on the learner was a major contribution of first-wave eLearning. Focusing on the learner as worker can make things a little better. Focusing on the learner and his or her colleagues, that’s where we’ll get breakaway performance.

The difficulty of connecting with others has been holding eLearning back. It’s the modern-day equivalent of the manual illustrations of the monks. When we figure out how to use computer networks to build human networks, that’s when learning will grow to rival publishing and media.


Posted by Jay Cross at March 12, 2003 02:36 PM | TrackBack
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