Thursday, June 16, 2011

eLearning and Subject Matter Experts - Alex Lifeson of RUSH teaches me Tom Sawyer

What does this have to do with Corporate eLearning you might ask? Well, its all about capturing subject matter expert (SME) knowledge. No, seriously! Bare with me on this...

I grew up listening to RUSH. When I was 16 I made enough money at my summer job to buy my first electric guitar. Nothing fancy... just a cheap Ibanez Roadstar II. Well, that was cool. But then I had to learn how to play the darn thing. Lessons were $20/half hour at the local guitar store. After a couple years of playing I gave up on learning RUSH songs. But over the years I developed enough skill to have fun jamming with friends.
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Fast forward 25 years. Today, I can pay $5 for a guitar lesson from the guitarist of RUSH, Alex Lifeson.

I totally eliminated the middle man and was able to get right to the source. The creator. The guitar genius himself. Not some middle man instructor who is basically guessing at the chords/notes as he listens to the recording.

Okay, NOW do you see the connection to Corporate eLearning? Its about connecting people and having access to knowledge. This could very easily be an engineer describing a solution to a difficult problem. And yes, this does require a self-motivated learner. But rock guitar has always been the realm of the self motivated. When was the last time you heard a parent yell at their kid, "turn up the RUSH so you can master that solo line...I won't take no for an answer!".
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I wish I knew who it was at Apple that created this outstanding lesser-known feature of Garageband. Everything you need to self direct your learning is integrated into the lesson. The musician/instructor explains everything about the song by breaking it down into sections.

From the image above you can see everything that is needed for a learner to master the song EXACTLY the way the original artist (SME) created it. You get video to watch Alex's exact technique. Underneath the video is the tableture. Reading real music notation is not required as tableture is much easier to understand. Under the tableture is an animated guitar neck. As the SME plays (below) there will be blue dots displaying exactly where on the neck to place each finger on each fret and exactly which strings to strum. At the bottom of the app is the timeline of the lesson broken down into sections and all the control buttons to manage your lesson.
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And yes, I do understand that this app breaks some rules of "media and instruction". But does it really? Perhaps its time to rethink "the rules". Or perhaps make an exception for learning to play an instrument?

Can anyone tell me what rules I'm referring too? What about this lesson would be deemed instructionally "wrong"? Tell me what you think.


My Name's Not George said...

Being a lifelong drummer, I really don't see the fascination here. But a personal drum lesson from Peart? Now THAT is worth $5 and a blog post! But putting all kick-the-guitarist barbs aside ...

This is pretty amazing getting the licks straight from the master. "Breaking the rules?" Are you referring to expecting the learner to follow and correlate multiple active elements (Leif's video and the fret board animation) simultaneously? I can see where that would be confusing for most job functions. But I agree with you about the exception: this emulates the reality of musicians – watching a player you are facing while looking down at your instrument – so I think it is entirely appropriate.

btw, I'm always impressed with a guitarist's ability to translate the left-to-right action of another player of the same "handedness" to his own right-to-left action. Paul and George were a good match being a lefty and righty on either side of the mic, presenting a mirror image of one another (except for Paul's 2 missing strings, of course).

Great post, Brent. Not bad for a guitarist! ;-)

bschlenker said...

Thanks for the comment! There certainly is a lot more to talk about regarding pedagogy and whatnot if we want to try and apply this to other topics. But in general, as a guitar player, I think they got this right.
My son found an iphone app from Neil Peart if you haven't seen that yet ;-)