Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Vapid development tools

Lots around at the moment on Rapid Development Tools. These are mostly PoewrPoint-plus type tools which begs the obvious question - Why not stick to PowerPoint in the first place?

The advantage of sticking some extra functionality on top of PowerPoint is outweighed by the fact that everyone knows how to use PPT, and it's availabe on most desktops. This makes content easy to create, distribute, share, amend and maintain. In our current world of user-generated content, why lock people out with packages that most people have never heard of?

Once you count up the cost of getting the software, training people up on how to use it and dealing with the inevitable ceilings on functionality, you're as well sticking with something you, and everyone else, knows. For most of us these packages are not rapid - they're complicated.

Besides, the content produced by these tools is usually dull as dishwater as there's the assumption that having atool solves the problem. It doesn't. What would be far more useful is spending time on designing good content for existing tools. We're still labouring under the myth that giving someone Word makes them into a novelist.

And while we're at it, why bother with all of this fancy virtual classroom stuff when we have messenger, netmeeting and Skype. If you want collaboration, it's already there, usually on your toolbar!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Donald, apologies for posting an off-topic comment but I cannot find an email contact. Any chance you could enable RSS/Atom feeds in your Blogger account, I would like to syndicate your site but it doesn't seem possible at present. Thanks. Mark A

9:25 AM  
Blogger David Wilson said...

Not sure I agree with you here Donald. Not because I see the rapid development tools as a major advance (see comments here ), but I'm less convinced that advocating sticking with powerpoint is a good answer either.

Yes its the pervasive tool, and probably will form a core platform for learning content production for at least the forseeable future, but that doesn't make it a good learning tool! The corporate world in particular is jammed to the gills with powerpoint content that doesn't support effective learning without a massive interpersonal intervention added as well. Advocating we condemn ourselves to more of it is not the answer. Tools that help embed some instructional design or integrity, and add more stimulating and educational interactions in this content may be part of the answer though.

As for the comment on the collaboration tools. I agree with the sentiment but there is still a reality gap for those stuck in corporate IT infrastructures. For those of us outside them who are able to use any tool we think will add some value to how we work it is much easier. As a small business we frequently find our options for live collaboration and virtual meetings decrease with corporate clients! That's why virtual classrooms that provide a single integrated capability can still have some value, as well as being more streamlined for supporting learning events - e.g. virtual break-out groups etc.

Also don't forget that Microsoft bought Placeware (one of those VC tools) to for a core component of its Live Meeting capabilities ...


11:06 AM  
Blogger Donald Clark said...

Some good points here. Let me try to respond.

The technology has to be as invisible as possible if learning/knwledge transfer is to take root in an organisation. The viruses in viral learning need to travel in the bloodstream of that organisation's existing skills and tools to get to every noock and cranny. Non-standard tools make this very difficult.

Whatever we think of their learning potential, the bloodstream of most organisations is still email (often ignored) and PowerPoint. these remain the most popular forms of knowledge dissemination within organisations. Most rapid development tools add marginal educational interaction (MCQs), but at a high cost, as it restricts the number of people who can create, amend and maintain the content. This is against the current grain of user-generated content. Rapid development tools 'fossilise' content. My final point on PowerPoint is that some effort made on educational templates and design within PowerPoint may be better than all the effort one has to expend with getting to grips with rapid development tools.

If the use of messenger, netmeeting and Skype are simply limited by corporate IT departments that's the tragedy, not the effectiveness of these increasingly sophisticated tools. Virtual Classroom software does what it says on the tin - replicate the classroom. I suppose I just hate that little 'put your hand up' icon and 'break-out' groups functionality. It just reinforces all of that old classroom/training mentality.

11:51 AM  

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