The use of metaphors is an intriguing concept. Metaphors have the power to transform the way we think and the way we respond. As a part of our week 2 reading for Coursera's Elearning and Digital Cultures Course (#edcmooc), we were to reflect on the metaphors of the future in digital culture and in online education.
I recently read an article titled, "On two metaphors of learning and the dangers of choosing just one" byAnna Sfard. Anna shares that there are predominantly two metaphors that are used to describe learning: The Acquisition Metaphor (AM) and the Participation Metaphor (PM).
While the names are quite indicative of the type of learning process being highlighted, to clarify, AM describes the model that believes knowledge is a commodity that can be acquired and therefore applied. This ties in very well to all the cognitive theories of learning led by Pieget, Vygotsky etc.
PM indicates that learner participates in the process of learning instead of acquiring knowledge. So, learning is seen as a process of becoming a part of the 'whole. In this case, the 'whole' is the community in which the learner participates in.
While AM focuses on 'knowing', PM focuses on 'doing'. Perhaps, I am over simplifying the article, but I think these metaphors are a great way to look at the past and the future of all learning. While our past focused on AM, our future learning decisions are more PM. These metaphors resonated well with my own frameworks for learning design as I have seen them evolve over the last 14 years.
However, as the author correctly points out, you can't choose one over the other since all learning environments will have both the components - acquisition and participation. I believe that design for learning can begin with one metaphor as a core guiding principle.
In this context, for me, MOOCs fit well with the participation metaphor. The MOOC platform reflects a more democratic way of learning, open, scalable and where essentially the learner is a participant in the creation of knowledge. MOOCs allow for collaboration and social connections in the context of learning. However, I don’t deny that the ‘structure’ and ‘instruction’ in the acquisition metaphor is an essential component of the MOOC environment specially as a critical factor for success. But more about MOOCs in another thread.
I am a Learning and Development/Training Specialist with more than 13 years of experience in the area of technical writing, content development, instructional design, and training. I am passionate about people and training and seek opportunities to establish innovative and successful learning environments that best meet the needs of all stakeholders.