Beyond Content

Do yourself a favour and read The Future of Education: Programmed or Programmable from Audrey Watters. I am a big fan of Audrey’s ability to create a narrative that combines and connect ideas in an engaging and immersive way. Reading this post in particular pushed a number of buttons for me – in particular in the discussion around moving of Beyond Content.

Professionally I’ve spent a lot of time trying to rethink edtech, what it means and where it’s going. In general my thoughts have always been heading down that path of “beyond content”. Yet it seems that we’re stuck on that point. Content rules our systems, clouds our views and shapes both the models and mindsets we have around education. Content holds us back.

Those “interactive resources”, as Brett Victor illustrates so clearly in Magic Ink, are nothing more than a navigational overlay to access existing content. Despite their immersive potential, say for something visual like Google Maps, it’s nothing more than navigation of content. The obsession with gamification is another form of navigation of content and so to are most “personalised” learning systems. Fancy navigation does little to realise the potential of digital technology.

In an earlier post around digital literacies I floated the idea that they were “a way to understand the abstraction of interaction into an entirely constructed and virtual environment”. When I start thinking about what is “beyond content” I end up somewhere that looks, feels, sounds and smells like interaction. Most often mediated through digital technology, but real purposeful interaction. Reading Audrey’s story about her Political Violence course bought me back to that idea of interaction. In this case it mediated via a teleconference rather than anything digital, but it was through interaction that the educational experience moved beyond content, in fact,

The content — the assigned readings, the lectures, the videos — were not, could not possibly be, the center of that class.

Understanding interaction and developing systems for it are what underlie the success of Domain of One’s Own and the Connectivist movement. Rather than a focus on content, the shift to interaction changes the relationships, the pedagogy, the teaching practice, delivery methods and assessment. I’d say it’s the catalyst for rethinking the model and the mindset with which we conduct education.


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