A little light holiday reading…

I picked up the latest issue of Wired at the airport for some mild distraction on the plane, but there were a few articles I thought might be worth sharing. (I know the idea is to go on holiday and forget about work, but never mind.)

The first article is a conversation with Clay Shirky (who’s book, Here Comes Everybody is well worth a read if you’re interested in how social media, such as Facebook, Wikipedia etc, are altering human behaviour and transferring power from big corporations to individuals).

The main reason I thought it might apply to elearning is the general point of the article, summed up in this quote:

“The problem is that, especially in organizations…We think the only reason people do productive things is to snag a carrot or avoid a stick. But that’s just not true…We have a biological drive. We do things because they’re interesting, because they’re engaging.

I’ve always believed that if we design elearning to be fun and interesting and try as much as possible to make the users think it’s something they want to do rather than something they have to do, they’ll get more out of it.

The second article looks at how behaviours learned through internet use rewires the brain and shortens attention span:

“A 2007 scholarly review of hypertext experiments concluded that jumping between digital documents impedes understanding. And if links are bad for concentration and comprehension, it shouldn’t be surprising that more recent research suggests that links surrounded by images, videos, and advertisements could be even worse.”

Worth bearing this in mind when designing pages. While it might be desirable to  build learning with an open structure so the learner can choose their own path, it may actually be detrimental compared to just giving them training that follows a linear path.

Although, in relation to the whole ‘internet rewires the brain’ scare stories, I read another interview with Clay Shirky elsewhere where he has pointed out that:

“Riding a bicycle changes our brains. Watching TV changes our brains. If there’s a screen you need to worry about in your household, it’s not the one with a mouse attached.”

So having your brain rewired isn’t necessarily a bad thing! Whilst on the subject of potential drawbacks to doing things digitally, I’ll throw into the mix this research, which shows that people read faster on paper than on a screen. In the case of smartphones, iPads, Kindles etc though, they actually prefer it to paper. However:

“The PC monitor, meanwhile, was universally hated as a reading platform among all test subjects.”

In case you disagree with any of this, I’ll draw your attention to one final article I read by Ben Goldacre (who’s brilliant Bad Science  book thoroughly debunked Homeopaths, Nutritionists and other baseless quackery) which examined research that shows how people will often ignore, discount or explain away any research that contradicts their pre-held beliefs.

With that, I guess it’s time I got back to work…

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