Feasibility of offering the free range

Wendy added a very insightful comment to The Bigger Challenge yesterday. Today was "mentoring Monday" so I am slow in responding, but glad to add to her ideas -- now that I'm back. Wendy wrote:

I see a number of levels that need to be considered when building this model / incorporating some of your / Jay Cross' / Stephen Downes' / George Siemens ideas:

Very nice! Anytime we look at a situation through several pairs of eyes (frames of reference, points of view) we will come up with better solutions.

1) Environment: How ARE the learners regarded? If the learners are seen as stupid dolts - the chances of even considering a "free ranging" solution is much less.

Yes! Like an audit to determine the feasibility of new financial investment: the current state of affairs, political context and obstacles to implementation would be revealed in how the learners are regarded. It could make or break the deal.

2) Learners: Are you working with a group of people willing to take responsibility. There's always at least 1 person per class (usually more) who will say "you never taught me that." As if it is the teacher's responsibility for making them think.

Good point. The more informal, uncontrolled and self-structured the learning becomes, the more the learners have to be responsible for what they learn. If they are blaming the instructor and shirking responsibility, they're not ready for free ranging. You can take a chicken out of the barnyard, but you cannot get the barnyard out of that chicken.

3) Instructors/Experts: Are the people "delivering" the learning more inclined towards "control freak" tendencies, or are they open. I think this has a lot to do with the instructor's experience with 1 and 2. Of course, in your free range scenario, this comment assumes that someone actually plays this role.

As you suggest, it's very likely that "control freak" instructors or instructional designers will occur in the same workplace as learners avoiding responsibility for their own learning and and managers regarding them as something less than resourceful contributors. They feed off each other and maintain their closed minded worldview with the evidence provided by the others. It's a self-sustaining ecosystem. Likewise for the workplaces that exhibit high regard for the learners will attract and retain professionals who are open minded, flexible and collaborative with the learners who take responsibility for their learning. That ecosystem of perceptions is equally self-reinforcing.

4) Clients: You mentioned that "free range learning" cannot be commoditized. Yet we have clients who expect something that at least resembles a traditional solution from their instructional designers.

Free range learning cannot be built. You cannot hire employees who are then assigned to create all the blogs, web sites, podcasts and videos the people on payroll will find and use. The sequence, pace, evaluations and interactions, while using the free range, cannot be designed. It's a question of letting go: "it's out there, go get it, take what you need and leave the rest, ask if you get lost, share what you find that will help the rest of us".

Clients who do not want all that are not wild gamers. Conventional clients have high control needs and a low tolerance of ambiguity. They are the opposite of free agents, cultural creatives and Web 2.0 entrepreneurs. Yes they want instructional designs by ADDIE, centralized and uniform content delivered through controlled formats. That's their loss and misguided attempt to survive by competing, isolating and defending their turf.

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