Smoooshing Education

WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF E-LEARNING? A CONVERSATION WITH MIKE MACKAY.

I don’t think we’re doing e-learning very well, yet. In fact, as someone who is studying online right now I think I can offer this insight; the current state of e-learning everywhere sucks. That’s right, it’s not just my chosen provider, they’re actually better than most, but it still sucks, big time. “Lots of PDFs to read (yawn), three Discussion Forums (barf) and a bunch of rubrics doth not an engaging e-learning experience make.”

(Mackay, 2015)

So what would I do if I was running the show? Well, the model I favour is what I call  ‘Edutainment’ – a ‘Smooosh’ (yes, another of my own words) of education + entertainment.

To help you understand what I am on about, here is a brief history of e-learning as the script for an audio podcast, including where me and my ‘Smooosh’ come onto the scene:

MUSIC UP (3 SECS)

VOICEOVER:

In The Beginning, (ok, about a decade or so ago), The Educators decided it was time to deliver Knowledge & Learning online …

MUSIC UP (2 SECS)

So, they took lots of text-heavy documents, scans of books, PDFs and Powerpoint decks, (plus the odd video or animation, if you were lucky), and whacked them up on an ugly LMS like Moodle or Blackboard …

MUSIC UP (2 SECS)

Then, because Man (and Woman) are Talking Apes, communicators and story-tellers, The Educators tossed a Discussion Forum or two into the mix for good measure …

MUSIC UP (2 SECS)

And The Educators called their creation ‘e-learning’ …

MUSIC UP: CRESCENDO

And The Educators sat back and saw what they had made and they were mightily pleased with themselves … the smug fuckers.

But, as time passed and to their surprise, they found that no one in their Garden of E-den was even finding the tree of knowledge, let alone eating any apples from it.

e-learning didn’t seem to work very well. So The Educators iterated. They learned and then they iterated some more.

MUSIC UP (2 SECS)

Then, as time passed along came ‘decent bandwidth’, then more affordable portable devices evolved from the primordial sludge. Soon we had iPads and smart phones… MOOCs were born … they sucked, for the most part …

Then even better bandwidth, even smarter phones and tablets and laptops and all sorts of other crap …

MUSIC UP (2 SECS)

Now, at last the scene is set for the next step in the e-volution of e-learning …

MUSIC UP: CRESCENDO

I want to make learning online enjoyable. I’ll treat your computer like a fucking interactive TV set!

I will grab you by the eyeballs and ears and slam you up against the wall to get your attention. And I’ll keep it! I will pull you in to my Wacky World of Wonder and you’ll learn stuff without even knowing you did.

How?

Because I have taken everything we humans have learned about ‘Entertainment’ (from books and music to plays and radio drama, from movies to storytelling in its most raw, from me to you, one to one), and put all this knowledge into a humungous ‘Collider’ called ‘My Brain’ and fired this package of knowing at the speed-of-thought in one direction around the giant loop of the thought collider …

Then, I put a big box of ‘Education’ in the same collider-tube, in a cardboard box. And I waited I waited for wait for Entertainment to come screaming around the corner at the speed of thought and collide with Education …

3,2,1 …

SFX: SMOOOOOOSSSHHHHH!!

The result? Vast amounts of energy and a cosmic cacophony of content is created and released in a nano-second!

When the dust settles, we see a new element has formed.

No, it’s not Dark Matter but Does Matter, the stuff that makes you learn because it somehow ‘connects with you’, the learner. Maybe it makes you laugh, or perhaps it makes you think about something in a way you hadn’t before.

Perhaps, and this is best of all, it made you wonder …wonder about the things you saw or heard or watched or read. And once a learner starts wondering about something, you better look out. Stand well back because anything could happen. They might actually learn something and enjoy it. Which means they might well be back again for more.

MUSIC FADES

Mike Mackay has been an educator for many years. He began his professional career in radio.

This article first appeared in Ligature Journal issue zero.
Find out more about this issue here and buy a copy here.

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MOOC: Massive Open Online Course

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