New learning contents and platforms

In an interview with Jaron Lanier, the author of (very) interesting You are not a gadget, he claimed to be surprised by the still high level of passivity of people on the Internet, as well as with digital technology in general.

According to Lanier, big mass media, because of their particular nature, had alienated citizens as creators and had made them become spectators. Information and Communication Technologies, with their versatility and very low cost (both in matters of access to infrastructure and, relatively, in terms of learning curve to master their usage) should have brought a creative and communicative shock that would turn upside down the pre-digital landscape of television, radio or the printing press. However, despite the undeniable revolution of the Web 2.0, in most cases we have but changed of screen which we now use for the very same purposes as before.

In educational environments, it is quite true that we talk more about interactivity than about creativity, and the difference is not a minor one.

Historically, learning by doing has always been very expensive. Sometimes because of the materials: carving a marble David is a task that leaves little room for corrections. Sometimes because of time: managing a database with thousands of records on paper and producing the basic statistics manually entails hours and hours of calculations. Sometimes because of the risks: how many casualties adds up the history of aviation? And yet there seems to be consensus that learning by doing is how people learn best, especially if we add to that explaining how things are done.

Digital technologies in knowledge-intensive areas (such as teaching and learning) have cut down to the minimum the cost of building, testing, trying, simulating, of being wrong. In his Carta a los editores de libros de texto (letter to the textbook publishers), professor Jordi Adell argues why the textbook as a closed and immutable object is at odds with a society (and a school) where digital content is created, transformed and constantly destroyed.

In a similar train of thought, the advisory board behind the Informe Horizon: Edición Iberoamericana 2010 (2010 Horizon Report: Iberoamerican Edition Released) identifies six major trends to watch in the future of education:

  1. Collaborative environments.
  2. Social Media.
  3. Open content.
  4. Mobile technologies.
  5. Augmented reality.
  6. Semantic Web.

Amongst these six, two of them (#3, #6) are closely related to the openness of the contents, two (#1, #2) to collaboration in creation and co-learning, and two (#4, #5) to new platforms and educational spaces.

Thus, it is not only about being possible a certain de-institutionalization of education to regain the attention to the learner, a non “industrialized” learning; or about being possible capitalizing the learning that takes place outside formal channels: the question is that it already is technically possible… though the road still to go (having the will to do it, getting an agreement) is yet the most complicated.

Initiatives such as those presented in the Open Content Studio, Video Lab, the lounge or the Wikimedia learning Local incubator of Mozilla Drumbeat Festival may be more or less replicated, more or less representative, but certainly point in the same direction, so that change is possible and, moreover, it is happening.

Initiatives such as those presented in the Open content studio, the Video Lab, the Wikimedia lounge or the Local learning incubator of the Mozilla Drumbeat Festival may be more or less likely to be replicated, more or less representative, but certainly point towards the same direction: that change is possible and, moreover, that it is happening.

Article originally posted as Nuevos contenidos y nuevas plataformas de aprendizaje for a set of articles for the Mozilla Drumbeat Festival, taking place in Barcelona in 3-5 november 2010:


If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2010) “New learning contents and platforms” In ICTlogy, #85, October 2010. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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8 Comments to “New learning contents and platforms” »

  1. In the IT early days [before ICT] learning, “in a computing environment”, was difficult [but “supported”] and two-folded [a so-far ignored quality of the learning process in computing environments – IMHO].

    Computing environments such as CERN [sixties] and ECMFW [seventies] were established by “institutional concern”.

    … to be continued (hopefully – if i manage to relay this post and my prospective comment in italian as well) …


    Luigi Bertuzzi

  2. Un Traduttore non basta Ismael; ci vuole un Compilatore!

    The twofold quality of “learning”, in an ICT environment, cannot be told. It can only be experienced [thus, reading books such as “You R not a gadget” sounds useless, to me].

    A comment to this post – to be worthwhile – should make [at least some of] its readers “feel actioned” by what it says; otherwise, the comment does not “compile” [i.e. it does not produce valid “code” for the reader’s brain (!?)]

    Back in 1969, i happened to switch from a[n academic] “studying” environment to a number of [ICT supported and Research bound] “learning” environments.

    English was the [main] working language of those environments.

    Since 1983 I have been working and living [now as a retired grandfolk] in [ICT driven and Business Model bound] environments, where my previous [14 years long] learning experience does not “compile”, yet.

    I won’t keep trying [to “load and run”, in a “social” sense] for much longer. However, i take the view that English needs to be used as a “higher level language”, before anything “new and recoverable” can be triggered, “learning” wise.

    Thany you for prompting me to put it this way :-)


  3. I like the idea of “compiling” in the sense you put it here :)

    Just a quick comment on Jaron Lanier’s book that I’ve made elsewhere: what I like about the book is not the answers it provides, but the questions he puts… and the need to put them. Definitely.

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