Roger Schank and John Seely Brown on Learning

An interview of Roger Schank, a world authority on learning theory, he hates courses, traditional teaching methods, oh, and old-style elearning as well. Some excerpts:

“You learn by having someone help you talk through something – help you reflect, consider new things about the topic, offer challenges… A trainer should never be an imparter of information.”

Schank’s reasoning is based on a lifelong study of the learning process that has revealed that spoon-feeding information based on a pre-digested menu of trainer-led topics simply does not work. What we teach people by this old method is quickly forgotten. Why do we still do it then? “Because,” says Schank, “we slavishly follow the methods designed by old universities to teach their next generation of professors. This is such a broken model.”

Schank has a recent example to show his frustration with the old ways of learning. “I had a corporate client call me and ask for an online course in management accounting. I asked them, ‘why would anyone possibly want a course in this subject?’ They said, ‘well it’s very important for our people to learn management accounting.’ Their people, it turned out, were guys who were going to be running a burger concession. I asked them if they would not prefer their people to learn how to run a burger bar? Of course, there will be financial issues that come up with the running of a burger bar but this isn’t the end product.” His end product was a long-running online simulation that taught people how to run a business, not just do the accounts.

And if you are interested in Learning in the Digital Age you should check out Chief of Confusion, John Seely Brown’s thoughts on digital learning. A sample:

To succeed in our struggle to build technology and new media to support learning, we must move far beyond the traditional view of teaching as delivery of information. Although information is a critical part of learning, it’s only one among many forces at work. It’s profoundly misleading and ineffective to separate information, theories, and principles from the activities and situations within which they are used. Knowledge is inextricably situated in the physical and social context of its acquisition and use.

So if you’re interested in how the next generation of learners learn, check out the thoughts of the two gurus. Specially interesting for Learning Professionals.


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