Monday, February 6, 2012

On Integrating Learning

Over this past weekend I went to an exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of Art called Hide and Seek- it was a fantastic show exhibiting American work focusing on gender and identity. I highly recommend it. However, as I was going around the exhibition, I came upon this sign:

The sign marked the entry to a room devoted to didactic content related to the themes and subject matter in the exhibition. While normally I am such a huge fan of how innovative and creative the Brooklyn Museum is with providing interactive and accessible learning tools in their exhibition spaces, I was a bit put off by this. First of all, no one was entering this space (except my colleague Atul- who I think falls under that small percentage of self proclaimed "information geeks"). I don't think that seeing the words "Educational Resource Space" would compel anyone to enter that area.  The exhibition had extraordinary content with the lush and often times shockingly graphic art and photography- why didn't they exploit the opportunity right then and there? Yes, there were the typical didactic labels filled with tombstone information- however that kind of just scratched the surface of the potential conversation.

This experience got me to thinking a bit about the work that I am doing at Mozilla. As I've said numerous times, I am not about hiding the learning or sugar coating it- but I am interested in integrating it into the activity that the participant and, in this case "viewer" is passionate about. When we build software and tools- we should be thinking about how we can embed the learning into the experience and not make it something that you need to seek out as an afterthought. This is important for many reasons- but on a very practical level the reason to do this is because you have a captive audience!

As I keep iterating on my prototypes and participate in the Open News sprint this week- I am going to try to keep this in mind. But, it is something that Mozilla is committed to, by design. By design, people like Atul and I work on the same team- and we work with community members who are skilled in teaching and education. We have embedded the learning in our work structure, but now we need to constantly keep ourselves in check that "learning" is not something that happens just in a special space in our projects that is devoted to "educational resources."