LEARNING MAGAZINE AUTUMN ARTICLELearning to LoveI learned about love in Moscow at E-Learn Expo 2009 and, like many true love relationships, this lovewas with a partner I had known for many years, yet their love for me was a sudden revelation, agrowing phenomenon that suddenly reached a tipping point at which everything suddenly becameclear.This previously unrecognised relationship had been growing slowly to perfection, a match made inthe ether in which every day had brought new subtleties and refinements. The more I shared ofmyself, the deeper the bond between us had become.This partnership has the potential to become everything anyone could want from a lifetimerelationship because my partner :- • Loves me for myself and treats me as an individual • Is so easy to get on with • Remembers everything about me and helps me to remember • Brings new discoveries every day • Helps me to understand myself and the world around me • Encourages and challenges me • Helps me to express myselfThe only downside to this perfect relationship is that it can only ever be platonic. Whatever passion Ifeel can never be reciprocated by my partner’s metal and plastic body and silicon heart.
On a more positive note, there is always the guilt-free excitement of trading my partner in for ayounger, better looking and more powerful model every 2 or 3 years.This ongoing honing to perfection of our everyday silicon-based relationships has importantimplications for lifelong learning. It is shaping the expectations of the learner and the skills andmethodologies required from learning professionals. The characteristics of this developingrelationship between human beings and technology are both a challenge and an opportunity forlearner and teacher alike.The Characteristics of a Silicon-based Love Affair (aka Personalised Learning Environment )1. Treating the learner as an individualToday’s technology enhanced learning environments are increasingly using a combination ofprofiling and artificial intelligence to personalise the user interface to create a “learner – centric”environment so that each learner is able to tailor the environment in a unique way. The technologiesof video games, virtual worlds and social networks are pointing the way with customisable avatars,tailored user interfaces and networking tools.2. Easy to get on withNew user interfaces will continue the transform the learning experience as new interface devicesmake technology accessible to the masses.3D camera interfaceThe Nintendo Wii has had a major impact on casual games by providing an intuitive handheld deviceusable by all ages and with fun applications which can provide learning and skill benefits. Deviceswhich use brainwaves to control applications were covered in the last issue, and, more recently,there have been launches of new collaborations which use 3D cameras to detect motion.Easy to use and intuitive interface devices will make technology enhanced learning accessible to allage groups and spawn new and interesting learning applications.
3. Remembers everything about me and helps me to rememberComputers have always had storage capabilities but today’s technologies are not only storing whatthe learner saves to disk or what the assessment programmes record about learner achievement,they are increasingly using “the wisdom of crowds” to personalise the learner’s knowledge base andmake it more accessible on demand.Computers are beginning to collect and analyse key data to prompt learners automatically and feedrelevant knowledge through customisable data feeds.4. Brings New Discoveries Every DayEvery love affair needs mystery, discovery and excitement to thrive and a silicon-based relationshipis no different. Emerging applications in GIS systems such as Google Earth and Microsoft VirtualEarth reflect the growing trend in peer to peer learning with systems that operate through acombination of search and discover techniques.This is a significant departure from formalised keyword searches of databases which, although theydo provide serendipitous new knowledge connections, do not provide the same level of explorationand discovery as 3D immersive environments which facilitate the discovery of new knowledge.5. Helps me to Understand Myself and the World around MeAn important element in any learning process is self-knowledge and sensitivity to / awareness of theworld around the learner. Serious Games being developed today bring new levels of self-understanding and an environment which facilitates an understanding of the learner’s role andcapabilities in the world in which he/she operates.6. Encourages and Challenges me The best practices of the video games industry provide good examples of how to engage users inextended pursuit of improved performance. The best games environments provide a suitablyaccessible entry level which is neither too easy nor too hard and offer incentives and challenges toreach higher levels.Next generation learning applications are adopting these same techniques with artificial intelligencewhich recognises and adjusts to the learner’s capabilities to keep them challenged and motivated.7. Helps me to Express MyselfFinally, publishing and presentation tools such as blogs, wikis, social networks, Youtube, Twitter andmany other are manifestations of the trends to peer to per learning in which the sharing ofknowledge is enabled by technology.The road to true love is not smooth but it is now open to all ages !!