Sunday, April 17, 2016

Learning models and learning modes

There have been many ideas for improving learning and schooling.  Of course, the age and maturity of the learners matters as does the subject being learned.  Learning to say the sound at the front of the English word "she" is a very different matter from learning to land a jet plane.

The other day, I tried loaning an iPad to a friend  and realized that it is a complicated device.  He said,"Does it come with directions? No!  You have to guess!"  That actually brought up memories of my mother.  In her last decade, she was intrigued by computers, specifically the Apple IIe.  She wanted to learn what it could do and how to make it do those things.  She bought a thick manual and figured she would read through it.  It was a logical thought but for many complex things, that approach doesn't work well.

Just as learning to be a teacher takes thought and discussion and reading but it also takes practice and at the beginning, a beginner is likely to make mistakes.  I think that is why we often ask how long our lawyer or our physician has been practicing.  We may not have a particular number in mind but we might be more confident in the service we are getting if we hear that a professional has been practicing for 5 or 10 years.  In that much time, the practitioner may have experienced some of the challenges and difficulties that one needs to know about and to be able to handle.  

With a computer, an iPad, a self-driving car and maybe some other physical objects, I expect that sometime soon, we will see "learning models" emerge.  "Training wheels" help the learner develop the physical balance to ride a bicycle:

Special autos with two steering wheels and two sets of brakes allow a beginner to practice driving while the teacher has a set of controls that can instantly take over at times when needed. Amazon sells a Kids Fire, made especially for Kids and tougher.  They offer to replace the tablet if a kid breaks it.

But as the many smart companies try to increase sales and use of their products, they will probably be able to develop a learner's model, especially designed for a learner.  Say, maybe a Red, a White and a Blue set of phones or tablets or whatevers that speak to the learner, direct the learner to watch a video or recall the last time something didn't work as desired.  The Red version would be for very basic learners.  You could move up to a White model if you passed the Red exit test and eventually you could move to the Blue level.  Good design and engineering may arranged things so that the software changes the levels, depending on performance and desire without a lot of fuss or expense.

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