Friday, December 29, 2006

Making Pie Crust

In his comments to my post You Just Had to Be There.... Kevin McCluskey writes:

I hear what you are saying but it kind of indicates that learning is always the same. synchronous learning is better because of context and the give and take between participants. Others might say that Asynchronous learning is better because you have time to think over ideas before you react. Neither answer is complete because learning is more than either synchronous or Asynchronous methods. To me it depends on the situation. Some times one works better; other times not

All learning and tool choices are situational.

Personally, when I have to design a course, I ask 2 questions:

- What is the ideal way to present this material to ensure optimum learning outcomes for my audience?

- Given the resources at my disposal (time, money, people, space, tools) - how do I need to modify the answer to question #1.

To demonstrate: let's say I have to learn how to make a pie crust.

Optimum learning scenario: I go see Mom and we spend time making pie crust. I can see what she does, feel textures, smell the pie baking and eat the pie - looking for texture and flavor. Dragging a recipe and notes back to my small apartment kitchen, I attempt to replicate the pie crust (practice). The result is then brought back to Mom for critique and we try again. At some point during the process, Mom shows up in my small kitchen to see the environment in which the learning takes place. With enough practice - I make good pie crust.

This process is synchronous. The takeaway (the recipe and notes) allow me to repeat the process asynchronosly at a later date.

Mom lives far away: Mom sends me a recipe via e-mail (I managed to drag her kicking and screaming into the 21st century). I call her while I make the pie crust to ask questions. If both parties had the resources, I would send her mobile pics of the various stages for her to critique. I feed the pie to my friends for feedback. I repeat the process until I find a pie crust I like. What's lost - there is no way to truly communicate appropriate textures without getting your hand in it. You are also missing the feedback loop from an expert on the process.

The initial process is asynchronous (the e-mail) with a synchronous component ("Hi Mom!")

Mom is a terrible cook and everyone you know buys pie crust at the store: I find a recipe for pie crust, follow the directions, and hope for the best. I can also watch a cooking show which will give me more visual information on how pie crust is made and what I should look for. I keep finding recipies and making notes until I find a pie crust technique I like and that my friends will eat. Disadvantage - requires a HUGE amount of self-motivation. And if I tried to tackle this without knowing some basics (like how to turn on the oven) - it might be trickier.

The majority of the process is asynchronous (text and video.

All 3 processes will ultimately result in me being able to make decent pie crust with enough motivation, money (for ingredients) and time.

In other situations - a dominantly asynchronous learning process will provide better results. From what I've observed - asynchronous techniques work best with an audience with prior experience and well-designed tools.

For example, I find software applications easier to learn and teach through well-written text and interactive online tutorials. The student is able to learn at his or her own pace without feeling rushed. A synchronous component for individual questions (such as a chat room or a phone call) allow the student to get past stuck places and gain needed reassurance. It also provides some accountability.

Rick Lillie writes:

Think tools. To me a blog is a tool. Elgg is a tool. Microsoft Office is a tool. Google Docs and Spreadsheets is a tool. The question to ask at any moment is which tool is the right tool for the need at the moment? Which tool will enable the learning need at the moment to be met?

I'm a big fan of using tools - physical, virtual, and intellectual. Who says we have to use them in the prescribed manner?


End notes:
- Mom makes GREAT pie crust. Me - not so much......

- Dr. Lille's blog has some interesting ideas and tools for developing hybrid technology methods. Thanks for the link Dr. Lille!

- Commenters:
If you are a blogger or have a web page, please send me a link at the end of your comments. I get so much valuable information from your comments and I want to share your sites.

1 comment:

Karyn Romeis said...

Great analogy.

And I like Rick Lillie's point about thinking tools. The thing is, though, that the tools must be so integrated that they become invisible. When we watch TV, we focus on the show not the box, when we use Word, we focus on the document we're creating not the features of the software, etc. The challenge comes in when you have a heterogeneous audience, some of whom are so hung up on how to use the tools, that they can't get past that to the learning material you're offering. Hmm. and