Just because it's a good idea to give control to learners does not mean every learner wants to be in control. Jennifer Nicol voiced this concern on The Bigger Challenge post this week:
For me, too, the revolution of the internet is one of time and space. That's what I can control now, and I love it. But I don't necessarily want to control the content that I read...in fact, that's a quick road to crazyville; sometimes I go to bed with my head spinning from all the information I encountered that day.
I welcome the guidance of a teacher--someone who figures out what the learner needs and how to lead the learner there.Jennifer's comment spawned on image in my mind of how easily it is to become overwhelmed by too much information, too many options and too many directions to explore. In that state of mind, cutting out the middle man is cruel. Free ranging is abandonment. We need the "guide on the side" and scaffolding for our preliminary understanding. Chris Anderson addresses this as the essential role of aggregators in The Long Tail. Without a search engine, user rankings, tagged search results and recommendations based on past purchases -- the glut of offerings out in the long tail is overwhelming and inaccessible.
Kathy Sierra explores this "user control" issue often on Creating Passionate Users. She wants the user interface to not be a distraction to the workflow. Yet she's aware of the tradeoffs in "how much control should our users have?" Letting the inmates run the asylum gives the learners too much control. When we are considering content offerings from portals at the magnitude of amazon or netflix, the guidance of a teacher is a very good idea.Abandonment is not a problem inside game metaverses. Very few options are available at any given time. The gamer can work through the choices in the present situation without a teacher controlling the content in the game. The spatial context eliminates overwhelm. It's not possible to be on every level of every realm right now -- like it is in the blogosphere or web pages that Google searches. The "guide on the side" is built into the structure of levels. A spatial orientation prevents getting lost or confused by new options. Places look familiar. It's clear where danger is and how to go forward from here.
When gamers adopt that "epistemic frame", they are "good to go" without teachers. They can learn what they need when they need it and not get overwhelmed. It's great that content delivery is a thing of the past and middlemen are getting cut out of the deal. There's less interference with the fun of emergent learning by exploring, battling, strategyzing, building or creating both cooperatively and independently.