Technological Musical Chairs

Math - Teacher Education - 3D Shapes
Image by Old Shoe Woman via Flickr

Today I had two really good conversations about what is truly important in creating a learning environment for a large organization. We talked about collaborative tools, LMS‘s, project-specific resources, among others. We talked about what were absolute requirements for our institutions (our district and an online charter school through the district). Based upon these conversations, I have realized something pretty big for me.

For a long time, I have been tread the line between the one-size-fits-all model of online learning, in which we try and make a single LMS do everything that we need it to and trying to use and truly going after Small Pieces Loosely Joined. In reality, there is no one solution that creates a learning environment for all stakeholders. However, it is also true that the spirit of joining together small pieces of the web doesn’t mesh with many org charts I know. So, what about this:

What if we have the face of the learning space be a single login page, a portal that determines what type of learner you are. Are you a student, a teacher, or an administrator? Do you learn by collaborating in groups? Do you learn by getting all of your resources delivered right to you in a list to check off?

Once it determines your role, all it would do is present you with a series of links and embedded content. If you are student, you would have links to your classes. If you are a teacher, you would have links to your collaborative lesson planning wiki. It does not have to be beautiful or elegant, it simply has to work. It has to sense who you are as a learner and then present you with a menu of learning options.

This way, you can have as many small pieces as you want and you can change them up as much as you want as an organization, but the face of the organization remains the same. You, as a learner, are serviced by having access to the best specific tools for specific purposes, but the organization is serviced by funelling all of the information through one space.

So, the metaphor goes like this: Every year we are asked to do more and more with less and less. We are asked to run around the room again and again with more chairs taken away. When are forced to shove more people onto the same amount of chairs. And I say, this is a good thing. We need to be whittling down to what is essential. We need to be able to put all of the learning and experience of the people in our institutions into the smallest number of logins and tools… Until we arive at one chair.

One day, we–along with all of our tools–will fit onto a single chair. We will know just how to stack ourselves and our resources so that we fit together perfectly. Until we get there, though, we need to keep on pulling the chairs out. We need to keep on finding ways of simplifying our learning spaces. We need to find ways of joining together the small pieces, to create something great.

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