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Creative Commons 2.5

E-Learning: "The Last Domain of Human Learning"

"These new technologies are... providing the access to the last domain of human learning."

I must have missed the previous domains.

Do statements like these make you wonder if you've missed something too? I had no idea we were embarking on providing access to "the last domain of human learning" as described in Beneath the Tip of the Iceberg: Technology Plumbs the Affective Learning Domain...

Bloom's popular Taxonomy of Learning (quick summary here) provides us with one useful way of understanding learning - the key word being "one." It comes to us via educational psychology and I would doubt that even Bloom would lay claim to having mapped out a comprehensive picture of learning, as this article seems to imply. The full quotation in the article is this:

"Now, new learning technologies have emerged that are automating learning designed for the affective domain. These new technologies are the equivalent of the railroads that opened new territories in the past. They’re now providing access to the last domain of human learning, the Final Frontier. There’s a broad category of products known as Affective Computing and a specific product category called Affective Learning Technology that are designed for the affective learning domain."

Beam me up Scottie.

None of this to say is that Bloom's Taxonomy lacks value, but the connection being made between the taxonomy and the "final frontier" is, at best, questionable... "automating learning designed for the affective domain" - really. What we are reading here is a marketing spin that intersects psychology with the corporation.

What these "Affective Learning Technologies" purport to do is this:

"… bringing affective learning products to market that imbue ethical behavior via simulation. Simulation is the current method of choice for learning products dealing with particular subjects in the affective learning domains… These products generate experiences for workers and, as the simulation unfolds, the technology measures beliefs and emotional states of mind."

"Learning products" that "imbue ethical behavior via simulation" - "measures beliefs and emotional states." We should all ask the question, "Whose ethical behaviour and emotional states are these and why should I believe it matters to me?" Something tells me the answer lies in the human resource department.

"The Semantic Web is an extension of the current Web, in which information is given well-defined meaning, better enabling computers and people to work in cooperation." Hmmm ... I thought meaning was something people created and that cooperation was something people did.

The assumptions being embedded in "Affective Learning Technology" embody many of the things that many people dislike and mistrust about technology. This "final frontier" will (hopefully) have a very short shelf life - that's my guess anyway, but my crystal ball is broken. Hopefully, the education system won't recognize this as a way to "prepare" students for the workplace.

For a more realistic and balanced perspective on the deep effects of the psycho-corporate spin on people I would recommend Richard Sennett's The Corrosion of Character: The Personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism.

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