Tin Can: missing the optimal audience?

A post pulled together from different thoughts I drafted commuting in the last week

It might just be down to my media sources of choice but it seems Tin Can is continuing to only really make major waves in corporate learning and development.  This is perhaps understandable considering the relative importance of SCORM to different learning industries.  Indeed, at one stage, whilst SCORM was the first thing Learning Management Systems for corporates needed the likes of Blackboard and Moodle struggled to provide robust SCORM players to their customers.  As schools and 16+ education providers created many of their own resources this was not as big an issues as for L&D departments handling elearning packages from 3rd party vendors and importing multitudes of external ‘off-the-shelf’ content.  Things have changed though and combinations of OER, badges and TC potentially could really transform the landscape.

Whilst I can see uses of Tin Can in the corporate environment, it is of course being seen as a way to acknowledge the 90% of the 70/20/10 model, I wonder if the most useful implementation would actually be with younger online learners.  Whilst accreditation is important in the corporate environment and online testing is often dominated in firms by compulsory training around compliance, health and safety, IT skills, etc. the accreditation element of Tin Can could be far more useful for schools.  For example, rather than setting a pupil a worksheet with questions to complete, a school teacher could setup a task where learners must show their learning path by submitting their activities via Tin Can.  This could show what they have read and done to learn the topic.  It is this use of resources which can now be revealed to the teacher and avoid the ‘doing homework to get teacher of my back’ syndrome.  Its all a bit 1984 but tracking your students could open up a whole new way of looking at what ‘schooling’ entails.

Lets take an example.  I remember when at school we would be asked a question about a topic.  The teacher knew we would effectively be limited to the school library’s resources.  We might be adventurous and find a CD-ROM, related TV/radio show or even venture to the public library but that would be about it.  In some cases the teacher would end up with multiple copy jobs either copied from a textbook or encyclopedias.  Today it is of course Google and the risk that any activity will simply be met with a cut and paste job from the web.  Whilst TurnItIn and the like can indicate where this has happened it does not reveal the learning path.  References/bibliography in traditional work was a hint towards this path but could also raise as many questions as answers.  For example, I remember one of my MA essays, which happened to be the only one I ever had marked by the head of the department, had something like “you couldn’t/shouldn’t have read this much – this is a dissertation length bibliography”.  Now what I had done was to have skimmed through a considerable batch of resources, as the question asked for an evaluation of different options (related to search engine mechanics) I went through a number of old resources to try and understand why the evolution happened and how Google (AskJeeves and maybe some others) worked in the way they did.  I even found an article on Ceefax/Teletext which had a huge amount of similarities to the hopes attached to the Internet (learning anywhere, breaking education barriers, etc).  Tin Can then could provide a capturing of what someone does for an assignment and a bibliography becomes either redundant or simply a list of the references actually quoted in the paper.

To me this offers a more manageable and clear use case than corporate learning where ‘informal’ may be something worth capturing and sharing but volume vs relevance will be a difficult balance.  Would my line manager want to know about every YouTube video I watch?  If we are just talking about the good ones why are we not already sharing those experiences via team collaboration sites?  One aspect is automation versus manually logging an activity, simply speaking you need to be enforcing manual (i.e. a student fails the assessment if they do not log a relevant path) or automatic (potentially too much noise).  In either case I would see more use for a teacher in the data than a manager or L&D department.

What will of course surprise some teachers is that, to an extent, this is nothing new.  Many Learning Management Systems (aka VLEs etc) have offered tracking of accessing resources from the system, for example accessing links supplied by the teacher.  Indeed this might be news to some corporates who have been stuck in the SCORM/course model and not appreciated the full range of, albeit bespoke/proprietary, options in the LMS marketplace.  The potential with TC will be to build on this to track multiple sources in an open way.

What we should be looking to use Tin Can for is to harvest the learning paths of individuals, in corporates this might be harvested by knowledge management to highlight the best ways for learning but in schools it offers much more – how are people using resources, what search techniques need improving in the learners, how are they synthesizing (rather than copying and pasting resources), etc etc.  If we map this to models such as the SCONUL information literacy model it offers even further possibilities for assessing ‘core’ skills.  Overall, hugely interesting times and new ways to consider what learning design means in a hyper connected world.

I’ve recently installed the WordPress application on my phone so I might start posting rougher notes again.

Author: iangardnergb

My name is Ian Gardner and I am interested in various topics that can be seen as related to learning, technology and information. To see what I am reading elsewhere, follow me on The Old Reader (I.gardner.gb) and/or Twitter (@iangardnergb).

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