In my estimation, it is essential
that everyone in the education, corporate, government, and cultural
sectors attend to the message behind a book entitled The Experience
Designer: Learning, Networks and the Cybersphere. I believe that,
unfortunately, few education, corporate, government, or cultural leaders
will end up getting the vital message this book attempts to impart.
My fear is that the abysmal
to nonexistent copy-editing of The Experience Designer will keep
readers from getting past the first page, where the thesis of the entire
book is mangled and obscured through the omission of the word out.
(I have added the bold type for emphasis and clarity, the italics
are from the original):
e-Learning is the most
powerful force influencing the evolution of the internet. The potential
of e-Learning cannot, however, be realized without a vibrant
conception of the word learning.
Instead of the intended
thesis statement above (incorporating the word without), in bold
type, in the second paragraph of the book, the thesis statement appears
e-Learning is the most
powerful force influencing the evolution of the internet. The potential
of e-Learning cannot, however, be realized with a vibrant conception
of the word learning.
I found the above statement
quite curious at first reading, but I soon realized, in the paragraph
that followed, that out had been omitted when I read this sentence:
The real source of design
for e-Learning is a vibrant conception of the word learning.
While I was relieved that
this with/without incongruence was due to an unfortunate word
omission, I was dismayed as the word omissions, typos, letter/word reversals,
and sundry errors that should have been caught by decent copy-editing,
instead continued, built, and spiralled throughout the book.
I am belabouring this point
because I am so conflicted about what to say in this review. Even though
the message behind this book is incredibly important, I find it hard
to recommend the purchase of a volume that wasn't even rudimentarily
edited for errors. What I have decided to do is to synthesize the message
of the book here so that those reading this review will at least be
exposed its main points. (Readers who have patience for poor editing
and are interested in actually examining the book should email me at
firstname.lastname@example.org. I will
send you the "free" copy I received for writing this review;
that way, we won't be encouraging substandard editing by contributing
to sales of The Experience Designer.)
The following are the valuable
nuggets that I salvaged from The Experience Designer after sorting
through the inadequately copy-edited chaff.
E-Learning Has Yet to
I appreciated Alger's bold
pronouncements in the preface that:
education systems and cultural enterprises focused on the mass production
and distribution of information bits and bytes through e-Learning
are destined for extinction (p. 1).
Before we attach the letter
"e" to learning we need to first ensure that our conception
of "learning" is in fact useful in order to make certain
that we do not develop sophisticated electronic products based on
ideas that are less than useful (p. 2).
Alger invites readers to
"engage in an innovative system of thinking that explores, invents,
imagines, probes, provokes, and builds ideas about e-Learning"
(p. 5). He circuitously spirals through sections entitled Learning,
Networks, and The Cybersphere in order to put forth his "Vision
The following quotes will
hopefully provide elucidation of Alger's vision of and for e-Learning.
Learning is the most critical
human resource and source of stability for the unavoidably lifelong
and lifewide confluence of modern life.
Learning is simultaneously
a public concourse and a private discourse (p. 5).
The idea of Narrative
[the stories we tell to explain ourselves to ourselves] is at the
nucleus of what learning means. Learning is fundamentally a
quest for building connections and relationships that promote stability
in our lives. Stability is learned through the development and preservation
of our private and public identity. Our interface with experience
is our identity, or how we construct our stories about our connections
with and relationships to the world we live in (p. 6).
Critical Vitality and
Creative Vitality are the two most fundamental sources of passion
and motivation for learning. Taken together these elements form the
nucleus of the phenomena of learning (p. 13).
Critical Vitality represents the collection of thoughts and
actions that allow us to clarify our experiences so that new conditions
for growth and innovation can be established (p. 14).
Creative Vitality represents the multitude of ways in which
we design, build, construct and invent new contexts, situations and
circumstances that lead to growth and innovation (p. 15).
A network is a system of
interaction that facilitates the creation of connections and relationships
across a diversity of people, places and things over time. It is not
an idea that merely refers to the physical hardware and software used
to support the Internet. A network is a means to structure
and coordinate powerful sets of environmental conditions for learning.
A network learning environment focuses learning on the creation
and strategic use of connections and relationships. It is a coordinated
set of situations and circumstances for learning that empowers the
learner to create and evolve a range of experiences across people,
places and things.
The means to coordinate a network learning
environment is called interaction design (p. 8).
The Cybersphere is the
electronic gathering space for network learning. The most important
design consideration for e-Learning is to think of it as a unique
kind of electronic habitat within the more comprehensive idea of a
network learning environment. An e-Learning environment is primarily
designed to facilitate human ingenuity (p. 10).
e-Learning Design - The
future of e-Learning technology requires a network learning environment
that integrates the corporate, government, education and cultural
sectors. The rationale for this is based on the following:
a. no one sector has the necessary intelligence to evolve e-Learning
to new levels of value and performance
b. learning is a source of design that transcends any one sector
c. network technologies are most effectively developed by powerful,
adaptive and flexible networks of relationships
In the end, the e-Learning design results in a unified and distributed
array of network tools that are combined and repurposed in response
to the needs of the learner (p. 11).
I am thrilled and energized
by Alger's ideas about the future of e-Learning because I feel that
the University of Wisconsin System is indeed engaged in the innovative
system of thinking for which The Experience Designer calls. UW's
work with and through the Advanced Distributed Learning Co-Lab, the
Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT),
and SCORM (the Sharable Content Object Reference Model) is providing
leadership in exploring, inventing, imagining, probing, provoking, and
building ideas about e-Learning. And the UW System Course Management
System Task Force is charged with meeting the Web-based learning needs
of the University of Wisconsin System by recommending selection of a
course management system capable of supporting a range of learning needs
from blended courses that combine online with traditional learning styles
to fully web-based asynchronous courses. UW is facilitating corporate,
government, educational and cultural envisioning, development, and sustenance
of powerful yet adaptable scaffolded learning environments. The CMS
Task Force seems to be embodying Alger's suggestion that, "if learning
is to be a 'solution' to anything, it must emanate from ideas about
stability, durability and sustainability in the face of change and innovation"
As we each engage in exploring,
inventing, imagining, probing, provoking, and building ideas about e-Learning,
I hope that the following quotes from The Experience Designer will energize
Information is a narcissistic
predator of attention in the digital age.
Corporate and public
education curricula that ignore or confine the confluence of modern
life to information prisons are not helpful (p. 20).
If learning is about creating
and expressing meaning in our lives then information must be sensibly
and sensitively connected to experience (p. 26).
In a technological sense,
learning is not and cannot be a form of push technology. In
a social sense, learning is not and cannot be a form of monologue
When we are learning, we
are constantly engaged in bringing a high quality of action to the
people, places and things involved in the learning process in order
to explore an issue, investigate a problem, discover a new solution,
create a new product and design a strategic direction
then, is the human capability for bringing a high quality of action
to the people, places and things in our lives (p. 30).
A network-or the quality
of connections, relationships, and associations we create across people,
places, and things-is the foundation for a new approach to instructional
[interaction] design (p. 85).
The idea of designing experiences
invites all participants into a world of authentic narrative
creation and preservation, the human ecology of interactivity,
and the private and public mobility of our mind, body and spirit
The opportunity to elevate
e-Learning beyond its current confines cannot occur unless a critical
mass of people reach beyond the current paradigm of using new technologies
to further entrench old ideas (p. 162).
The future of e-Learning
is dependent upon providing unity, not uniformity, across the diversity
of possibilities for leveraging the cybersphere to support a holistic
approach to learning (p. 190).
I believe those of us affiliated
with the University of Wisconsin System are well positioned to carry
out the exploring, inventing, imagining, probing, provoking, and building
ideas about e-Learning championed in Alger's Experience Designer:
Learning, Networks and the Cybersphere. I hope that we will remember
to spell-check, and edit the narrative(s) of our experience(s) and e-Learning
work(s) so that our contributions will not be buried and/or obscured
beneath typos and poorly edited text.
I think that The Experience
Designer: Learning, Networks and the Cybersphere's message is essential
to/for all sectors of society. I wish that Alger had availed himself
of proofreading and proofreaders though, so that his message wouldn't
be so hard to sort from the typos!