Aaron Silvers has innovated the design and production of learning experiences with a variety of technologies for organizations large and small, in both the private and public sectors, for over 15 years. From 1999-2001, he produced, designed and developed web-based games for the National Football League (NFL) and the website KidsCom. With a particular niche in learning games, he produced several popular titles that, ten years later, continue to attract 20,000 children ages 6-12 a day. Working on the Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) initiative, Aaron led the development of a number of SCORM 2004 content examples and returned to ADL in 2010 as its Community Manager. He has an M.S. in Curr...
As a contractor with Problem Solutions, Aaron provides support to the Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views or policies of ADL.
Previously, I wrote about the [definite and indefinite future] of learning technology, and shared my perspective on what capabilities are introduced with Tin Can API. I want to share with you a little about what this enables: treating you as a first-class citizen.
This is one of the things we wanted to change with a next generation of SCORM, so with Tin Can API we are intentionally agnostic on tools and technologies by which data must be shared. This allows all manner devices (mobile and not) to communicate directly with learner record stores right away via a web browser or dedicated app or firmware. If it can connect, it will be able to communicate with the Tin Can API.
This means games, simulators, apps, sensors, thermostats and other control systems – anything that connects can make assertions about the activity being performed on it.
Geek note: if you’re a fan of Bruce Sterling’s concept of a Spime, Tin Can API should appeal to you, because with Tin Can API we can make environments “smarter.”
You can have your coffee how you want, and you can learn and perform and produce how you want, too.
I’m going to share an scenario I’ve had in my head of something that’s really hard to do in a SCORM world as we’ve known it, but will be easier to do in a world with Tin Can API.
My daughter is in first-grade. Starting in third grade, there are field trips to go on nature walks. How many of you remember having to put together a scrapbook of leaves you found, and had to identify them? How many of us are starting to do those activities with our kids, now?
I envision a classroom in a future more definite where the kids all have some mobile device capable of taking pictures and connecting to the Internet, if not to each other more locally. Rather than gathering up piles of leave, I imagine they’ll launch an app and take pictures of the leaves they can identify and tag them by what the type of tree each student thinks the leaf is.
In real time, the teacher will be able to view the clusters of the leaves by how they’ve been identified, know which student took a picture if she sees it’s a mismatch, find out where the student is if he or she isn’t in plain view, and guide the student on a next action, fully allowing the student to learn and explore in a shared experience with a slice of it tailored specifically for him or her.
The students sharing their images and tagging them, the teacher making corrections and suggesting next actions – all is able to be captured by Tin Can API and analyzed in real-time or after the fact with other tools and services that make use of the data collected.
What we’re doing here is enabling the possibility that beyond the design of the content, there’s a design of an entire experience that encourages the self-directed and informal learning – the 70 and the 20 of the 70-20-10 model – that is difficult, if not impossible, to do when we think we can only capture data with SCORM. With Tin Can, we can do a lot more.
In any context in you find yourself participating, whether it’s as a contributor to a larger effort, a formal learning experience or someone gives you props for showing them how to get something done, what we’re doing with the Tin Can API will mean that systems won’t require knowledge of you as being previously enrolled.
Via the Tin Can API, systems can share information with other systems and collect data about what you’ve accomplished and share the gains you make with other systems. As a first-class citizen, you are “you” wherever you are. Your data can likely follow you if you want it.
You’ve maybe read some articles recently by Paul Graham and Bryce Roberts. Maybe you didn’t, and if not, you should Lots of systems allow you to export your contributions into them as artifacts: you can export almost everything you’ve shared with Google or Facebook as HTML. Your data, however, as data you can work with, mash up with other systems, etc — your data doesn’t follow you beyond their ecosystems. Our goal with Tin Can API is to make sure you can always use your data and take it with you, whether you change schools, jobs, careers (and switch in between them), you can be you in every system you need that data.
Ultimately, what we’re trying to enable both from the technology that drives a next generation of SCORM and our notions about systems and services that recognize each of us as First-Class Citizens — what we’re looking to do is something beyond learning, education and training.
We’ve argued and agreed countless times in so many conferences, lecture halls, blog posts, articles, tweets… we’ve parsed semantics about learning and education and training, and how they’re different, yet so many of us use them in fuzzy ways – sometimes interchangeably.
Those of us who are drawn to words like learning, education and training are in the business of change. Learning, education and training imply a change state between the present and the ideal present.
That’s a transformation that is evidenced by outcomes: the work we do, the practices we employ and the words we say. More than just noticing performance gaps and filling them, this is a continuous improvement. We continuously improve our people while we continuously improve our organizations at every level.
That’s the goal for what we’re doing with the Tin Can API. That’s our calling as people who value and commit to improving the act of learning.
It’s not going to happen, though… without you (yes, I mean YOU).
We’re making it possible, via technical means, to do more. You as practitioners, as systems coordinators, as practice owners in your organizations – it’s incumbent on you that along with a new technological paradigm, there’s a new paradigm in the design of learning experiences. Courseware on mobile is important… but if that’s where it stops, then what will we really gain?
If you have a vision for where you want to go with the technology, I urge you – strongly and passionately – to ask for MORE.
Ask more of your vendors so that they provide you with tools you will passionately advocate for in your organizations. Ask more of your organizations, and articulate the double-bind between what is presently available in your organizations in terms of capability and what is ideally available just by reaching out a little bit more. Ask more of yourselves, and pull in the learners into the process of creating new learning experiences. Connect with new resources from the user-experience design community – non “learning” or “training” resources so that you’re better able to wield the tools you’ll have access to.
Ask more of us here at ADL. We’re working hard to open things up, make our work more accessible and catalyze innovation. Help us do that: ask for more.