Wayne & me

Wayne Hodgins and I chatted for 2 1/2 hours today. Wayne lives in the future and thinks waaaaaaaaaay out of the box. Friends have told me they can't understand a word he says. Some of us find him a visionary and inspiration.

With apologies to Steve Martin, Wayne suggests, "Let's get small." Granular. So small that we can glue the grains together to construct anything we can dream up. Like configuring personalized lessons for everyone in the world.

Metaphor #1. Dell Computer. You build your own computer. They get it to you fast because they maintain an inventory of standard components. Dell doesn't have factories that make things; it has warehouses that assemble things. Question: Is Dell selling products or services? Can we do a Dell on learning?

Metaphor #2. Planeload of soldiers flying to the battlefield. As they take off, they don't know where they're going or what role they'll be expected to play. They must be ready to handle the unexpected. How can the military make sure the troops have right competencies? Or can learn them on the way? Competency is more important than content because the objective is to accomplish the mission.

Metaphor #3. Personalized lessons for each of the 6.3 billion people on earth. ("What if the impossible isn't?" Wayne is underwhelmed by our expectations.) Modular assemblies, open architecture, Web services/interoperability, and learning grains as small as possible but no smaller, are all parts of the solution. But how can we avoid the manual tweaking and closed-system mentality that held back Performance Support?

We count on emergence -- organization and structure that are already there but not yet visible. That's what underpins the automated collection of metadata, expert locators, pattern recognition, smart graphics... self-organization.

Metaphor #4. Parameterized design, AKA emergent design. Feed the parameters of the desired output into CAD and have it instruct the computer to create a 3D prototype. Or design a boat hull on the screen and the computer-controlled mold shapes itself to the pattern. One-off's become as economical as mass-producted. (This gets me thinking that Business Process Modeling will evolve into parameterized workflow. It's all in your head. Or on your hard disk.)

How small can we get? What do the atoms look like? Wayne considers Bob Horn's information blocks the minimum. They're as small as you can go with and still have them stand alone. Any atom has four distinct elements. Each atom, or grain, is composed of four basic pieces: "pure" content, presentation, sequencing, and meta-data.

You want to play with these things, you need IMOTO,

  • Identifiers
  • Meta-data
  • Objects
  • Taxonomies
  • Ontologies

Wayne's and my thinking overlap in numerous areas. (And, having written that, I realize it's akin to saying that I agree with Hawking about string theory and Gell-Mann about quarks.)

  • recognition that competence outweighs content
  • the challenge is to be ready for the unexpected
  • we've only just begun the exponential ride
  • many things arrive in the wrong size packages (e.g. gimme the slide I want, not a full PowerPoint presentation)
  • serving the customer is the ultimate value proposition

Turning hurredly to the Edinburgh Scenarios, Wayne suggests we consider our linear dimensions as if they were loops:


I'm still puzzling over that one. Mobius strips?


Posted by Jay Cross at January 6, 2004 09:38 PM | TrackBack
Comments

Jay

Does that mean that, at long last, you're buying into the Learning Objects paradigm?

If so, do you also recant your heresy with respect to IMOTO (and distance yourself from the false prophet Clay Shirky)?

Then there will be much rejoicing in heaven this day :-)

Philip

Posted by: Philip Hart at January 8, 2004 01:31 AM

The idea behind metaphor#4 is sound but the technology to accomplish it is not all here yet. Possible adoption of the use of XML and the associated technologies including metadata etc. offers some promise.

Another thing that would facilitate this would be more open network environment where teacher's desktop itself serves the purpose of LMS/LCMS allowing them to experiment with various permutations and combinations of the use of technology.In this process every teacher becomes a creator as well as a consumer of digital artifacts nowdays called learning objects. Their computer serves a a node on the global network broadcasting their available objects that could be shared by others.The webservices technology can help because it is not that hard to use and it work cross platform. This requires that the functionality of LCMS/LMS has to go way beyond than what they are capable of doing right now.

The real challenge will be to develop tools that are affordable and easy to use and at the same time offer secure environment so that the script kiddies don't have a field day with their malicious pranks.

javed

Posted by: javed Alam at January 8, 2004 08:02 PM

Javed, the technology's not quite ripe for Metaphor #3 either.

Philip, I buy into modules, components, and assemblies as an economical way of building things. I don't buy into miniscule learning objects yet. Given that nanotech is on the way, perhaps thought-motes will appear, too, but probably far in the future.

Posted by: Jay Cross at January 12, 2004 12:52 AM

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