Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Veni, SQVIDi, vici

SQVIDing is fun, but man, it grinds your brain (which is good)!

Yesterday and today I have been SQVIDing (I dig the verb) about two projects. I can't show the results of the case I initially wanted to use here, due to confidential information, so I'll revert to the other one.

The case is about a new way of educating called "natuurlijk leren" (natural learning). It's for both primary and secondary schools. It promotes self-guidance and exploration by the students. Students set their own targets and learning objectives and through a variety of media and coaching by teachers they try to attain these targets. To facilitate this, a platform is needed. According to our client it needs a lot of bells and whistles: uploading and editing multiple media, student profiles, online collaborating on projects, wikis, blogs, chatting, forums and more.

Now I need to make an outline wherein I illustrate what our company can do for this client in terms of facilitating this platform. So I started SQVIDing.

Simple vs. Elaborate. Natural Learning should be accessible, easy to use and relate to the ways today's students want to work. It made me think of growth and plants, a logo sort of start I guess. Elaborately thinking, the platform should stream all sorts of data to its platform and enable students to repurpose, mix 'n match and collate this material into new work which they can add to their portfolio. A portfolio which can be shown to others within the community (parents, teachers) and of course graded.

Quality vs. Quantity. Quality brought up associations of making sense of all the materials that are available all over the internet and turning it into new material. Are there ways in which the platform can help make sense of the data? Maybe offering metadata options, a good search engine, delicious like bookmarking tools. If there is no system to the data, the platform could get clogged with clutter. In terms of Quantity I immediately went to the train of thought: "With no users on the platform, it dies". How do you get the students on the platform and give them value? Do you need to force them, do you need to entice them? Hmm.. not sure yet.

Vision vs. Execution. The vision is that a well designed platform for Natural Learning combined with intrinsic motivation of the student and access, should result in great progress and understanding for the student. Sounds great, but how do we execute the realisation of the platform? (I think I should maybe SQVID again, but specifically about this execution part, it is the biggest issue that I need to address, the rest is fairly clear. We are getting to the core of the problem here!)

Individual vs. Comparison. Big issue (but probably not for us to address as 'builders of the technology'): you can't isolate the platform. It is destined to fail that way. So many platforms already exist, so many demand attention. Like in my previous post: communities need to grow and need constant care, providing the tools isn't enough. It asks a lot of teachers and students alike to adopt this new way of learning. (btw: I know, the bottom figure looks ghastly. He's just overwhelmed by all the input that is coming to him from all directions ;)

Change vs. As is. Relates a lot to the vision. Moving from a traditional way of learning, or better to say: moving from teaching to learning.

I'm real happy with the result, especially that I have been able to define the core of the problem: execution. It probably helps that I'm a 'black pen' kind of person, even though I wouldn't consider myself someone with great drawing skills. That said, after two sessions of SQVID I can already feel a shift inside my head. My drawings become more loose and less detailed, but with more power.
The whole process is demanding though! By willing yourself to explain with pictures, but not always being able to immediately 'get' the right picture to do this, you are forced to conjure up different ways of showing what you want to get across.

Ok, so now that I have my core: the execution of the platform, I'm ready to fire the 6 W's at it: who/what, how many, where, when, how and why.

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