Myth Persistence

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It’s been more than a decade (and probably several), that folks have been busting myths that permeate our industry. Yet, they persist. The latest evidence was in a recent chat I was in. I didn’t call them out at the time; this was a group I don’t really know, and I didn’t want to make any particular person defensive or look foolish. Sometimes I will, if it’s a deliberate attempt at misleading folks, but here I believe it’s safe to infer that it was just a lack of understanding. I’ll keep calling them out here, though. However, the myth persistence is troubling.

One of the myths was learning preferences. The claim was something like that with personalization we could support people’s preferences for learning. This is, really, the learning styles myth. There’s no evidence that adapting to learners’ preferred or identified styles makes a difference. Learner intuitions about what works is not well correlated with outcomes.. So this wasn’t a sensible statement.

There were several comments on unlearning. There is some controversy on this, some people saying that it’s necessary for organizations if not individuals. I still think it’s a misconception, at least. That is, your learning doesn’t go away and something replaces it, you have to actively practice the new behavior in response to the same context to learn a new way of doing things. It’s people, after all, and that’s how our cognitive architecture works!

Gamification also got a mention. Again, this is more misconception perhaps. That is, it matters how you define it. We had Karl Kapp on the LDA’s You Oughta Know session, talking about gamification (and micro learning). He talks about understanding that it’s more than just points and leaderboards. Yes, it is. However, that term leads people quickly to that mindset, hence my resistance to the term. However, the chat seemed to suggest that gamification, in combination with something else (memory fails), was a panacea. There are no panaceas, and gamification isn’t a part of any major advance. It’s a ‘tuning’ tool, at best.

A final one was really about tech excitement; with all the new tools, we’ll usher in a new era of productivity. Well, no. The transformation really is not digital. That is, if we use tech to augment our existing approaches, we’re liable to be stuck in the same old approaches. Most of which are predicated on broken models of human behavior. The transformation should be humane, reflecting how we really think, work, and learn. Without that, digitization isn’t going to accomplish as much as it could.

So, there’s significant myth persistence. I realize change can be hard and take time. Sometimes that’s frustrating, but we have to be similarly persistent in busting them. I’ll keep doing my part. How about you?

This blog was originally published on Learnlets.

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