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The Safe, The Cracker and The Code

09/08/2010

Path of the Digital Learner
I have a very interesting theory. It’s a theory developed through personal experience, observation and wit, and has recently been verified by an external source.

Instead of Dancing around the subject I’ll get right down to it.

In a digital world, one in which we have to complete tasks on the computer and online using a myriad of different interfaces, bodies of knowledge and personal experiences; we come across two types of people who use two different strategies to get things done.

There are the people who “start at the end“…
These people are charged with accomplishing a task of some sort. They know what the outcome is supposed to be whether that be a presentation or a newsletter or purchasing airline tickets. That know what it’s supposed to look like. What the lack is the knowledge, curiosity or mental stamina to discover the process. This is not a bad mark against these people. Most of them reside in the generations older than about 40.

On the other hand there are the process oriented people.
These folks on the other hand usually have minimal expectations about the end result but have the patience to figure out the process to get there. The main concern of this group of individuals is obtaining clues from each step to learn about the process of completion. They are not necessarily remembering the steps verbatim, but learning how to read the cues and figure out of the place they are now is closer or father from the “end point”

Very often we use both of these types of thought. But when it comes to computers i have found that young people are often process oriented while older computer users are end-point oriented. The kids figure it out as they go while the adults want a clear path they can follow each time and not have to figure it out EVERY time. It’s like walking through the jungle versus walking down a paved path to the beach.

David Warlick describes the digital rift in his post “Reasoning Our Way In

…I was trying to transfer miles into upgrade credits on the American Airlines web site. It’s something I’ve done several times, but not frequently enough to remember the process. I have to reason my way into the process each time, and it’s something I am not comfortable with and not very good at. For my children, it is part of their way of doing things — approaching a task kind’a like a safe cracker, ready to work the problem rather than remember the combination.

and he goes on to make an interesting note

Their video games are much the same. Rarely do they come with instructions. You have to go in, figure out what the goal is, learn the rules through interaction, and then figure out how to use the rules to accomplish the goals. It irritates me when I do not know the process up front. I am less than confident that I will succeed… accomplish the goal… get to the other side of the wall.

Great and interesting point. This theory accounts for a large reason why I got this job.

How are we Teaching this skill in schools? If there is a rift in how the teachers and learners acquire information, how they learn.
How are jobs reacting to this new kind of information acquisition rift?

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