Is eLearning about the technology and the tool?

There was a brief, but good topic, over on Chief Learning Officer Network that I responded to and I wanted to post my response here (that way you don’t need to create a Ning account if you don’t have one and I can refer to this myself in the future). This sums up my opinion of the our focus on technology in eLearning:

I like to keep in mind that these “social media” tools are simply forms of communication. As a past high school and college professor turned eLearning “developer”, I am always a bit put off by how we “eLearning gurus” focus so heavily on these tools. To me focusing on wikis, micro-blogging, and even virtual worlds misses the only thing that has any importance (in my opinion) to education – the content.

Plato taught, arguably, some of the most significant “things” by drawing in sand with a stick. The focus of his teaching is not the technology he used in its delivery; it is his message, his content. Personally, I do not think it matters very much the delivery method. Certainly, some methods reach differently and I do not mean to discount the value of those who study these methods.

If success of the delivery method is measured in engagement and retention, then we should be delivering our content via an American Idol or The Biggest Loser format. Both of which reach millions and are the topics of conversation at water coolers the next day.

My view is that most of us have tools at our disposal that work very well and are inexpensive. Tools such as Windows MovieMaker or Mac iMovie work very well to create video podcasts (remember to offer textual options – especially since you probably have the script or text written). Second Life and OpenSim are almost free alternatives to Maya, Blender 3D, and 3D Studio Max – both in cost and time to develop.

Jay mentions Second Life which is certainly seen as a “Web 2.0” application and seemingly on the hype cycle’s Slope of Enlightenment and it is a wonderful tool for collaboration and creativity. Many fine eLearning examples can be cited from Second Life. Twitter is also useful in certain forms of eLearning. I am biased towards those two methods because I am active in Second Life (owning 12 sims) and experiment with a few accounts in Twitter (one is in the top 0.7% according to Twitter Grader – for whatever that is worth).

Both those tools are simply forms of communication (like the dry erase board – which somehow missed out in being a focus of much debate in education – much like our current discussions of these social tools). Their use and effectiveness lie in dispensing your content effectively. Japan’s number one novel a few years ago was completely wriitten as 140 character (or less) text messages. The story made it successful (and the delivery did influence it’s feel with concise and impactful writing).

Thank you for the very good discussion and I must disclose that the reason I am in both Second Life and Twitter are as a direct result of Jay Krupp’s open view to delivering content. He epitomizes the open-minded wisdom that allows and encourages developers to look at content, the tools at hand, and (hopefully) produce content that enriches lives, impacts people’s happiness, and leads to greater successes on many fronts.

Jay Krupp said:

Bill you are dead on with the hype cycle. While the industry tries to figure out exactly how to be use this, there are a number of mavens out there that have the recipe. The use of things like virtual worlds has application immediatly, if you can be creative with the approach. I suggest you check out . He presented at a number of eLearning Guild conferences. He has put 2.0 in action. His sessions were not all theory as many are, he explained how to do it, in detail.