Compliment eLearning with Modern Art and Tech

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What does modern art, an iPod Touch, Mona Gallery and eLearning have in common? Perhaps a lot, but one thing I know for sure is… me, in January 2014.

I’m definitely not at all the interesting bit here, but it was me walking through this intriguing gallery of modern art thinking about eLearning. Since January, impressions and thoughts from the gallery have continued to pop up for me. There are some good takeaways from the gallery that I think are really exciting for those of us interested in technology and how it connects and amplifies learning and change.

In general, modern art galleries provide us a timely shot of adrenalin for our senses; Mona doesn’t disappoint. The gallery uses technology to create and amplify truly explorative learning through the physical gallery; it’s challenging modern art works, and our own thinking along the way, make us search for links in the abstract to our own realities. The following key points capture some of the magic this gallery brings to innovative technology and learning design, and I hope some helpful insights into how it might work outside of the modern art gallery and at work.

When you enter the gallery you’re given an ‘O’ device. This hangs around your neck with some add on headphones. It’s actually just an encased iPod Touch with a Mona Gallery specific app.

This sounds simple, but it’s not. I researched this afterwards and found years of work went into getting it right with the gallery pursuing the right device and technologies to support it. The whole gallery, which runs far underground and is made of many materials and walls etc is totally mapped throughout to track the device (and you), which feeds the ‘O’ device current information when and where you need it – Just in time, Just enough and Just for you.

[Work idea: Issue a similar device to new starters to explore their environment for their first two weeks i.e. an iPad touch that has a QR Code reader. They can use that to scan QR codes in the workplace which then provides safety information or tips and tricks.]

You then take your gallery tour and instead of reading cards on walls (which there aren’t any), you tap on the ‘O’ and gain art commentary through the device. You can read articles from a number of writers on each piece, or listen to podcasts from artists and critics and other commentators, or listen to accompanying audio to the art; audio that’s a part of the art; you can vote on what you think of it (after you do this, you see the totals e.g. a message appears after you vote along the lines of: ‘25,356 others love piece too! But 56,201 hate it.’); and the most powerful thing I think, is it’s all recorded for you to peruse at your leisure.

[Work idea: provide information in scaffolded ways from many sources i.e. the Values lessons in a workplace may be imparted through a short online course, through meet and greets with wider teams and other follow up media, such as podcasts, newsletters, emails etc.]

When you get home, you have an email that provides a login to a 3D map of your journey through the gallery, access to all the art and information you just explored, images of the art and it lists your comments and also what you didn’t see (and there’s a lot). So this is ‘Pull Learning’ at its best. Getting what you need, when you need it and with a choice of mediums to suit your interests – Just in time, Just enough and Just for you. The follow up email adds this greater value as a 3D memoir you can take away and contemplate later and share with others of course.

[Work idea: Summarise all training experiences, provide takeaways that are meaningful and follow up in person with your team when they have completed an offsite training session.]

Here are a couple of screen grabs from my tour – note that the crayon lines are mine, not The Learning Hook’s graphic designer (important to note this as I wouldn’t want to get in trouble ;-)).

One other aspect worth thinking about incorporating in our own training initiatives is that modern art generally doesn’t ‘spoon feed’ us. It challenges. It gets us thinking and interpreting our world in the gallery in different ways and absorbing new experiences. This can also be achieved in the classroom, at work and via eLearning. This is learning that affects change, as the audience is forced to form their own opinions and problem solve what they’re looking at. A lesson for learning professionals I think is that learners must be challenged; adults can handle the abstract, it forces them to tap into their experiences, which are many, and grow from overcoming the challenge. eLearning particularly does a lot of spoon feeding, which ultimately just teaches the shape of the spoon.

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