Designing a self-directed learning network: work-in-progress v0.1
Winnie Lim

The BIG questions

Winnie Lim

I see a lot of good thinking here. My research interest is communication and how it is breaking down in modern society. What you are doing has many communication components. So, here are some comments related to that topic. And note well, the comments include problems that society has not even started solving well.

  • The goal you are aiming at, self-directed learning, isn’t actually new. It was all the rage in the 1960’s. While the tools are new, the fundamental learning issues are similar. Unfortunately, much of that work hasn’t migrated to Google. So be sure to dig deeper to find it. You might even have to look in some — yikes! — BOOKS ;-))
  • One of the biggest problems with modern communication is COMPLEXITY. There is so much content that finding some kind of “optimum” path through it is no longer optional, it is mandatory. While it is “politically correct” to support user directed learning, learning by random motion frequently leads to walking in circles. Not good. Emil Wallnér ‘s comment addressed this.
  • Another big problem is NOISE. That is, when bad ideas get mixed up with good ideas, the effort quickly gets overwhelmed determining the good from the bad. The problem this raises for a student is that they don’t understand the subject they are learning well enough to know how to do it. Emil Wallnér ‘s comment also brought that up many times and provided some very good approaches. One of these was to look at the output goal as part of the process. He described this as: “clear learning problem”, “clear outcomes”. Given some kind of statement by the learner about their goal, and there can be many alternative goals for any situation, your system could then narrow the jungle that the learning paths can go through.
  • And then, there is probably the greatest problem to think about — the issue of TRUTH. For reason’s discussed in the referenced link, human society has lost the meaning of truth. So, while you might have an idea what “collective wisdom” is, in many subjects, at most, all we can expect is a collection of disputed opinions. If you go to the internet for wisdom, it is overwhelmed by the amount of shear nonsense. To give a student a helpful start, it is critical that an early encounter explains this, because most of the opinions will not. Instead, they will claim they are right and others are wrong. Again, Emil Wallnér ‘s comment has an idea related to this as well. He suggests using the learner community to continually improve the wisdom in the learning material.
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