Written by:

Holly Macdonald


January 13, 2010

I was reading the 2010 predictions from elearning magazine and Roger Schank says “Bye bye phone”.  He is frustrated by people asking to convert the learning experiences he designs to work on a phone (make an “app” for that).

“It was seriously suggested recently in a full year all day every day course I was building, that we needed to make it available on mobile phones. I don’t know about you, but staring at mobile phone for an hour makes my eyes hurt. Try doing it all day for a year. It makes no sense. We don’t learn anything instantly. Real learning is not done on a train or a bus.”

Really, he should be perturbed by that request.  The request is wrong on so many levels.

This is a classic case of Maslow’s hammer (see title of blog post – omit the word “not”).  As learning designers, we know that not everything is meant to work in every situation or on every device, it’s just that clients sometimes don’t want what’s right, they want what they want!

Now reader, you and I both know that these apps could be very helpful in performance support situations and mobile phones are not going to go away anytime soon, but as real instruments of learning, Roger is right – who would want to look at their phone for an hour and how long before a study is done telling us we’re all going to get retinal cancer from excessive screen-time?  Learning is a lofty goal, but it’s a process and our insta-culture has a hard time with patience.  If people don’t learn from the learning experience you’ve designed then the whole exercise is a waste of money anyway.  And, you risk people become cynical about the learning experience you’ve designed (“it was an awful course, we spent an entire day looking at our iPhones and my optometrist has diagnosed me with Screen Fatigue Syndrome, I’ve had to be off work for a month recovering”).

So, say bye bye phone if you need to.