A Learning Stack Activity

Learning activities copy

Crispi Weston convinced me years ago about the importance of an activity in the learning process – by doing we learn. Over the years I have clipped and saved theme variations on activity and learning from John Dewey (1), Jim Paul Gee (2), Crispin Weston (3), and Stephen Downes (4) which you can read below this piece as notes. I recently came across a blog post by Tim Klapdor Embedding Activity in Online Learning

I have added his theme variation on activity to my collection.

Klapdor’s activity is how learning really happens. Using that content – putting it through a synthesizing process, applying it, remembering it, building on it – that’s how we learn.”

Like Dewey and Gee, his variation includes the idea of discourse coupled with learning and the lack of it in current online learning content –

“A real discussion, conversation or interaction is facilitated. It is premised around certain activities and work to be done and it’s managed and maintained, but those functions haven’t followed online.”

So what caught my attention is what are our assumptions and definition of an online activity and what is an interactive and immersive activity and what is our own taxonomy in a Learning Stack/ADB when he says –

“We seem to slip back into calling things interactive or immersive yet those terms are so loosely defined. Interactive can mean that users get to click on a button. Beautifully rendered 3D environments are called Immersive even if there’s nothing to do in them to sustain interest for more than five minutes. There’s a missing taxonomy around what’s actually taking place – what are the actions and activities that are really going on. Instead, we keep using these container words that do little to describe the reality of what’s going on.”

Klapdor introduces the idea of “linkage” as a primary function for learning resources.

“The ability for the student to create links allows students to embed content it into their learning, into their practices and into their own environments is how learning occurs. This calls into question the idea of creating the resource to be consumed as opposed to resources to be explored. Resources that can be linked, discovered and pulled apart. The same thing can be said about teachers where a good tool can be immersed into almost any discipline area, and that with mild adaptions can be used across a whole range of different applications.”

He goes on to say that

“For me interaction is a feedback and conversational dialogue facility. That’s what “real interaction” actually looks like – having a dialogue or a conversation within an environment. Clicking a button is not that, it’s just a basic transaction.”

“Things like Real-Time technologies that enable face-to-face chat and messaging. The ability to actually do things together – to collaborate and cooperate in order to create, build and share…..and to push the kinds of interactions that are possible.”

As an example, Klapdor, “looked at using chat as an interface for the learning environment. Modeled on Slack we explored the ways that chat and real-time communications could improve the learning significantly and provide students with a voice and a way of participating in the learning rather than being passive recipients of it.”

I am still thinking about all of this and its implications but so far I agree that as we describe what a Learning Stack/ADB (for a definition please see the note below 6) is and the affordances we provide for a learning activity we need that taxonomy around what’s actually taking place – “what are the actions and activities that are really going on”.

His idea of “linkage” is one candidate for our taxonomy/Learning Stack affordances and it is that “ability for the student to create links allows students to embed content it into their learning, into their practices and into their own environments is how learning occurs. I think that affordance is embedding an annotation capability into the “Learning Stack” and linking to an e-portfolio or series of cloud base applications so that the “Learning Stack’ contains a number of these type applicationsIt The affordances for a student view “resources to be explored” and “resources that can be linked, discovered and pulled apart” is supported by both the nonlinear and linear functions of a learning the “Stack” wich affords a variety of self-directed sequencing schemes as displayed in Crispin Weston’s infographic “Design model for effective ed-tech”

So let me try these same set of ideas on linkage by saying the same thing but a bit differently that an e-book, book, textbook, codex or scroll have one on thing in common. That commonality is the linear presentation of the content. The web page changed all of that when it introduced the idea of hyperlinks and APIs that afforded a non-linear approach to assessment, viewing and consuming content along with linear viewing by scrolling or swiping backward or forward. That duel mode of navigating through content now becomes more of a design and pedagogical issue that you can see in Crispin’s infographic “Design model for effective ed-tech”.


How you navigate through content, lessons, videos, exercises, tests, activities, etc., now becomes both linear and nonlinear and can be instrumented,what can that mean? The design of content is no longer constrained with meeting the needs of a specific cohort in a single textbook but the individual through a range of levels with different layers of density and complexity for them to navigate and explore. The students interaction with the content, which is instrumented, now affords us a different set of formative assessments that aid them and the teacher to discover the possibilities of other trajectories through the subject with the analysis of that instrumented data. Add to this the act of “doing” through access to deliberate activities (instrumented simulations, remote labs, group projects, having a dialogue or a conversation within an environment.) and the ability of the student to record and distribute their accomplishments, projects, and reflections. Underlying all of this is the digital affordance of the content format that allows both student and teacher to reuse, remix, revise, redistribute and repurpose the content (6.Wiley’s 5 R’s).

More to follow but I think this is consistent with our Learning Stack/ADB vision to enable content portability, as SCORM did, but in an e-learning ecosystem that has become much more complex

1. John Dewey
To “learn from experience” is to make
a backward and forward connection
between what we do to things and
what we enjoy or suffer from things in
consequence. Under such conditions,
doing becomes a trying; an experiment with the world to find out what it is like; the undergoing becomes instruction—
the discovery of the connection of things.

John Dewey “Democracy in Education,” 1916
Learning is meaningful when it is part of valued relationships, shared practice, culture, and identity

2. Jim Paul Gee Discourse
The human mind learns through well-designed experiences. It finds patterns and associations across different experiences and—after lots of time, effort, and practice—generalizes these patterns and associations into the sorts of concepts, principles, and generalizations we humans capture in language and other symbol systems (like branches of mathematics). The mind is social because we humans can each find a wide variety of different patterns or associations in our experiences. We humans are powerful—actually over-powerful—pattern recognizers. Thus, we need help from mentors (in families, communities, groups, institutions, and cultures) we need help from people who are more advanced than we are in their experiences. We need help to appreciate what patterns and associations we should be looking for. We need help to have the experiences that will best allow us to start and stay on a good path to find the “right” patterns and associations or good approximations to them. The patterns and associations important to a family, community, group, institution, or culture are stored not just in the minds of people but in social practices that design, guide, and mentor learning. Such social practices also norm everyone, new or old, to keep to the patterns and associations that ensure the group continues to function successfully.

3. Crispin Weston’s infographic “Design model for effective ed-tech”

Design for Ed Tech
4. Stephen Downes, It’s when we do stuff that we learn, not when stuff does something for us.

5. Learning Stack/ADB Actionable Data Book.

Learning activities copy
Our vision is quite simple: enable content portability, as SCORM did, but in an e-learning ecosystem that has become much more complex:

Product categories that include the traditional products, Learning Management Systems, and content authoring tools, but also Learning Record Stores (LRS); analytics engines; teachers’ lesson planning apps and dashboards; student’s e-portfolios and calendar apps; ebook readers; job aids; competency frameworks; and publishers’ content and data platforms.
New pedagogical contexts: flipped classrooms; experiential or activity-based learning; collaborative learning; just-in-time learning; ….
New kinds of e-learning content and technologies: mobile; personalized (based on multiple cloud data sources); adaptive over time; immersive games and simulations; augmented reality for job support.
Published content that uses the functionality of the tablet (GPS, camera, mic, motion, orientation, touch, gesture, wifi, Bluetooth) in a web-connected environment possibly surrounded by IoT devices. Also, the tools for creating such content.

Crispin Westons EdTech Stack

Edtech Learning Stack

6. David Wiley’s OER and What does Open Mean


“Free plus permissions” is the meaning of open in every context in which the term is used, as I recently explained, yet again, at length. OER are a threat to publishers because, while publishers might be able to drop costs on their materials to the point that the cost of their products approaches free, publishers are structurally incapable of granting 5R permissions in their content and platforms to the general public.