Monday, October 02, 2006

Learning as Art - the dream, the reality

Mark Oehlert is going through a metamorphasis, "noodling out" the idea of Learning as Art in his head and on his blog.  Mark does some excellent noodling in his post on the topic.  He's goes deep and so I can't comment on it all, but I highly recommend reading his post and thinking about it.
I ranted about Design in general being more important than instructional design last year and I'm still on that kick.  But what I think Mark is talking about goes much deeper.  Its closer to our experience in the NETg tour the other day.  In Mark's words...
"...the person from NETg was showing how they had created all these audio tracks and this whole room with comfy chairs for your avatar and you sat in the chair and clicked on the ball to hear the audio. Then we started having this discussion about what good is this? Is it better than a podcast or even a transcript? The typical kind of ROI discussion - and that is when I really started to think that maybe the value is just in doing it - that right now, it isn't any better but the fact that we can do it leads to the idea that maybe we have to do it in order to get to that next step."
This really got me thinking about all of the stories I've read about successful entrepreneurs "breaking the rules" and creating something so cool that everyone had to have one, do it, or be like them.   The iPod comes to mind.   Some times there is no immediate ROI, just a gut feeling.  After all, I still have a hard time understanding how we lived and communicated before email...then IM...and soon MUVEs (multi user virtual environments).  I believe the day will come that we will wonder how we ever lived without the "metaverse".  But I digress...let's get back to learning as art.

Creative professionals have struggled, probably for centuries, to explain their ideas to the non-creative masses.  Advertisers and Marketing professionals are the first that come to mind.  Here is a GREAT post from Jason Kottke on How Design Works.  He points to and quotes another designer Michael Bierut on his design process.  Jason sums it up at the end like this...
"a designer gets the job done in any way she can and then figures out how to sell it to the client, typically by coming up with an effective (and hopefully at least partially truthful) backstory that's crammed into a 5-step iterative process, charts of which are ubiquitous in design firm pitches."
If you've been "designing" training solutions for a while you understand this.  Most of what you/we do is "magic" to other people.  We just sort of intuitively know what's going to work and what tools to use to get the job done.  So, after we've talked with all the SMEs and reviewed some documents, a solution just shows itself and it feels right.  So then we go back and figure out how to fit in Gagne, the ADDIE model, and all of the latest buzz words to "sell" the idea or solution.

What I wouldn't give for a client to just say...

"yea!  an island in Secondlife sounds cool...oh yea and I really like those audio balls...nice too? Sure go for it.  I especially like the fact that nobody knows that it will work and that you aren't blowin' any smoke up my back side.  Let's give it a go and see what happens".

...and then I came to my senses and realized that what everyone is comfortable with, and willing to pay for, is a powerpoint presentation converted to Flash plugged into a multi million dollar LMS.  Where's the art in that?

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