The Learning Pie
Picture a pie.
Make it your favorite flavour (it is starting to be cooler here, so I am picturing a pumpkin pie with whipped cream).
Got the image in your head?
Ok, now imagine you cut a piece of pie and eat it at a table with your family; its pie, right?
Now, you take some of the leftovers to the office to eat as a desert; still pie.
One night you’re really hungry while watching TV (we’ve all been there) and suddenly you remember “there is still some pie!” If you eat it, alone, on the sofa, watching some reality TV show, it is still pie.
Eat the pie while you hide from your kids so they don’t notice there is still pie? Take a picture of your pie, put it on Twitter or Facebook? Still the same pie. Scan the recipe from the cookbook you found it in and post it online; print out a picture to send to your great Aunt overseas (look, it’s a really good pie), it is still pie.
Think of the pie in the context of the reality of our lives; the concept of a division between “real,” meaning face-to-face or non-computer mediated and “unreal” or “cyber” has started to become meaningless. For a lot of people in developed nations, the divide no longer has meaning. The near ubiquity of communications devices (phones, tablets, portable computers, gaming consoles, desktop computers—even high-end refrigerators) which connect to the internet and to other devices means that connectivity and digitally mediated learning can, finally, actually happen nearly anywhere.
In this case, the pictures, the leftovers, eating the pie with friends, at work, hidden away from the kids, posting the recipe, etc. are all complementary and interlocking parts of experiencing and enjoying the pie. We wouldn’t call it virtual pie or blended pie or flipped pie (mostly because who would want to flip a pie?) or face-to-face pie… and yet we do this with learning.
Not convinced that the lines have blurred? Look at how you, or your younger relatives or children, consume information and learn: if you don’t understand the math problem in the textbook, you look at an explainer video. Someone mentions a fact in a TV show; you look it up on your phone. On the subway where there is no connectivity? Read the free newspaper or jot down some notes on your tablet, phone, or a piece of paper.
The same technology that allows us to connect with digital devices means that the time and cost associated with creating paper-based delivery and other media (DVDs, digital files on a flash drive etc.) has fallen dramatically. When you add in modern print and video production technology, the speed and lowered cost of developing these “traditional” media makes them even more attractive and further blurs the divide.
Perhaps the best example is the way museums are combining informal learning; with mobile apps that both augment and extend the in-museum experience while you look at physical displays and buy a glossy exhibition catalogue.
All of this to say that, when thinking about a learning solution, focusing on what is most appropriate, cost-effective, and suitable for your learner group is more important than focusing on one hyphenated version of training or another. Or, put another way: look at the whole pie, rather than some tiny slice of it.