“A Loose Assortment of Annoying Tools”

Ooh, boy, is this going to be interesting. I’m arguing in my presentation tomorrow that (in a very small nutshell) the so-called “learning management system” is not about learning at all; it’s content management, sure, but active learning (at least in our touchy-feely small liberal arts college model) requires a kind of interaction that the LMS does not provide. And I’m going to be very curious to see how this goes over.

The keynote address for the symposium was just delivered by Cyprien Lomas of the University of British Columbia, examining the history, development, and future of the LMS. A very interesting talk, in many ways, that introduced me to several systems that I wasn’t aware of. But while he did mention the ways that students of the “net generation” are pressing institutions to provide an increasingly interactive set of tools not just for acquiring information but for authoring as well, he ultimately seemed puzzled by this drive, and troubled by the efflorescence of possibilities. I’ve seen this same kind of response in our administrative computing folks, whose response to the call for blogging software on campus was “which one? We only want to support one.” One blogging engine, one wiki engine, etc. What they seem to be missing is the fluidity with which many active users of social software move from one system to another, using different systems for different purposes.

What they see as “a loose assortment of annoying tools,” I can’t help but see as possibility.

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