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March 13, 2012


Okay, Mark, let's huddle when I'm in No. Virginia next week.

The challenge goes beyond making ISD rigorous. As work and learning merge, ISD has to resonate with management practice at large. No more hiding under the training umbrella.

I was studying something else regarding this on another blog.This is my first time I stop by here. I found a lot of exciting stuff in your site especially its discussion.

One of the issues I face as a Learning Designer stems from the inherent limitations of all of these models. What does a true "Piaget" or "Vygotsky" learning piece look like, in the real world? Well - to be honest it could look like anything. It could even look almost exactly like a learning piece or experience that adheres to a different theorists principles.

And really, no one who actually teaches, facilitates, or designs learning pieces well just draws on understanding from one place alone.

But the people who buy and sell what I do want a neat label. They want to point at it and say "that's constructivist" or "that's scaffolding". One day they will slip up and call it "post structuralist abstract". Even though I try to explain that slavishly following the rules when designing leads to very boring things.

Critical thinking, problem solving, a dash of creativity and the ability to move from detail to big picture - that's the perfect learning designer. Know the rules, then bend and break them.

That is not to say you can't have core principles. But to be honest, anything that comes close to being a prescriptive rule will be outdated as soon as you say it

Guess I should have caveated my statement as well...
Much like Donald Clark, there are those that are formally trained that choose to continually question what they were taught and offer tremendous insight.

Heh...glad to see you're finally bringing the conference backroom/barroom discussion to the stage...

It's interesting, the folks who I find to have the most enlightened, relevant and practical insights about ISD are the ones LEAST formally trained in it.

There does seem to be an odd pandemic of low self-esteem and/or need for acceptance within the profession though; so I think that can help explain how firstly, some feel the need to legitimize their work with models & scientific theories and then second, gravitate to those works who have been able to get significant buy-in (not necessarily because it's right or works, but because it SOUNDS like it's right or should work).

There will always be those people and groups intent on creating a reputation for personal or financial gain; I guess I just find pride/solace in the fact that the people that seem to be progressing the profession forward the most aren't the same people intent on monetizing it.

There's so much going on here it's hard to know where to start and hard to limit the coverage.

I will say that the Socratic method, like others that you question, can be just as misused and overblown. Socrates himself (or writings that purport to express what he said) could get mighty cutesy about his pose as a simple seeker after truth. See for example I. F. Stone's "The Trial of Socrates" for his take on the old crank as an anti-democratic reactionary.

So "Socratic dialogue" ain't necessary the ideal, though the ranks of those who praise it may be disproportionately filled with people who see themselves as Socratic.

But we were talking about a field. The writer Frank Macdonald said once that rather than a country, Canada is a collection of historical accidents doing time together.

I think that's not a bad analogy for the so-called field of ISD: a collection of concepts, each loosely tied to one or more disciplines, trying to look as practical as engineering and as engaging as Pixar.

Compared to a hard science, it's more a parking lot than a field. Among the vehicles you can spot some behaviorism, lots of social science, a little tenure-track anxiety, a fair amount of revenue-generation from various bodies offering certification. Something looking like the Merry Pranksters' bus, with MOOC painted on the side. Over in the mall, there's a bookstore filled with habits, cheese-moving, and shiny objects to lure the CEO. It's next to the shop that sells old-lady/young-woman pictures and the nine-dot puzzles. Nearby is a multiplex featuring 24 LMSs, each of them a unique blockbuster.

Traffic through the lot consists of large commercial vehicles as well as private cars, carrying people (including me) who are trying to make a living doing something related to helping people perform better on the job.

The value of what they do is of course what your post is about, as is its replicability, as is its relevance to results that the organization cares about.

You'll get many comments, most far more substantive than this. I have worked in the general area of corporate and organizational [ training / learning / performance-improvement ] since 1977. The lack of a common set of principles, standards, and what-have-you is a reflection of the complexity of learning, on the one hand, and the reality that people gravitate to things that look like they'll work in the short run.

I've seen a lengthy and quite depressing discussion on LinkedIn about the merit of "allowing" people to use cell phones and similar devices during training. I don't even want to think about the ones elevating classroom-based events to the pinnacle of human intellectual endeavor.

Such urges for explaining, for order and control--the idea that the course and the instructor require this--suggests to me that some people are more than content with where their vehicle is in that cognitive parking lot.

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Quoth she/he...

  • "The hallmark of revolution is that the goals of the revolutionaries cannot be contained by the institutional structure of the society they live in. As a result, either the revolutionaries are put down, or some of those institutions are transmogrified, replaced, or simply destroyed. We are plainly witnessing a restructuring of the music and newspaper businesses, but their suffering isn’t unique, it’s prophetic." --Clay Shirky

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