All posts by Michael Broder

A more learnable world

Dewey is about building a more learnable world.

What does that mean?

The world we live in is highly consumable. If you are reading this blog post, you probably consume huge amounts of information, ideas, news, and entertainment. We live in an incredibly rich society of music, film, video, television, blogs, newspapers, and magazines, as well as goods and services of every sort.

But every song, video, sandwich, or sneaker you consume is part of an equally rich social, cultural, and historical context, a network of people, places, events, objects, practices, and ideas that give it meaning, that constitutes the meaningful fabric of our lives. How do you learn about that social, cultural, and historical context?

In school, you learn about a certain narrow slice of language, literature, history, philosophy, religion, politics, and the arts. Much of what you learn about is beautiful, brilliant, and important. With any luck, what you learn is mostly true, satisfying, and enriching.

But even if all of that is the case, even if you have a wonderful education in the humanities and the social sciences from elementary school to college—

What about the world you live in right here, right now? How do you learn about that much wider slice, that entire pie, menu, supermarket, that Mercedes-Benz Superdome of social, cultural, and historical context of your own consumable world, of every music video, FX series, blockbuster movie, or for that matter every Supreme Court decision, interest-rate cut, or airline merger?

Of course you can read about it on Facebook, Twitter, BuzzFeed, the Huffington Post, or see it on Fox News, CNN, or even the Daily Show or the Colbert Report (since, let’s face it, our fake news has become more reliable in many instances than our so-called real news). And, yes, there’s always Wikipedia, or a blog post that you can find on Google.

Some of those information sources are better than others. Some are even good. Some are even excellent. But most of the sources of information you access on a daily basis are readable, or watchable, or listenable. They are not learnable. They are not based on sound learning principles. They are not structured around learning objectives tied to the full range of cognitive domains. They do not allow you to assess your understanding or dive deeper into facts, concepts, or analyses that spark your interest or capture your imagination. They do not allow you to share your learning with others or create a learning portfolio as an enduring record of your learning.

Factual reporting, expert analysis, and informed opinion are all valuable types of information that you can get from newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and the various forms of media available via the Internet. But they tend to be ephemeral, fleeting, one-off, like the events and fads and fashions they report on or analyze. If you don’t read it or watch it or listen to it today, there may not be much point in doing so tomorrow, because the story will have moved on, the salient facts, opinion, and analysis will have changed.

A learnable world is a world in which the network of facts, opinions, and analysis keep growing  wider and deeper but remains accessible to you. A world in which you can learn a little bit more or a little bit less, depending on what you need to know, what you want to know, what you are ready to know. A world in which you can make connections among people, places, and things as seemingly disparate as Homer and hip hop.

A learnable world is multimedia, interactive, and social. A world in which you can learn through text, image, audio, and video, as well as by engaging in discussions with members of your learning community and even attending live panel discussions via streaming video that allow you to comment and participate.

That’s the kind of world Dewey is seeking to build. A better way to learn online that liberates learning from the classroom and puts learners in control of their own learning through multimedia, interactive, social learning experiences. A world in which every moment is learnable.