Why Project Tin Can Is Important to Me

Project Tin CanBy now, I think most readers of this blog have probably heard me talk to this at DevLearn, read the breaking news posted by the eLearning Guild in Learning Solutions Magazine or have been to Rustici Software to find out about what Project Tin Can is all about. Rather than re-iterate what the Tin Can portal already tells you already (and Mike and co. have done a great job at that), I want to share a little bit about why this is important to me, personally.

In 2008, I began to look at tools like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Apps (especially, for me,  Wave in 2009) with an eye for the emerging patterns: how the tools were both shaping and amplifying our ability to scale connections with each other; what they might do to accelerate and deepen our ability to learn. I have many friends who did not (and do not) participate in social networking (online) and I explained, repeatedly, what I both loved about the tools and what I wish would improve.  What I came to understand through the long series of exchanges is that the Internet, as it is, is fundamentally organized into metaphors of files and folders. In real life, we look at the world very differently — people, places and shared experiences are how we tend to recount. It sounds like a small difference, but the net effects are *ginormous*.

Most of the tools we use try to put the round pegs of our mental perception into the square holes of how information is structured online. At the same time, if you read Jaron Lanier’s work (or listen to a lot of the social media skeptics — and I still converse with more than a few), it seems to me that through more and more of our lives being spent interacting online, we are starting to push the square pegs of online, digital life into the rubbery sillyband holes of our real-life context. We are shaped by our tools as much as we use them to shape creation.

If the tools change, we may change as well.

This is a very similar train of thought to how we approach creating environments for learning.  SCORM, for example, has a very rigid format that defines learning. It works great for what it is… but apply that square peg into the sillyband hole of “social learning” as one example? I don’t know how it might work (technically), let alone how it might help. When I think of SCORM, I think of the Run-Time Data Model. I think about Sequencing & Navigation. I think about Content Packaging. Something like Foursquare hardly fits into that mental frame for me, yet because so many people have asked for the ability to mashup the “formal” tracking that SCORM provides with vicarious nature of social tools (as one example), there has to be a way — and if there is, that way must be exchangeable, repeatable, improvable and (by the Gods) interoperable.

That’s the terrain I think (and hope) Tin Can will explore. It should allow more connections of learners to more content sources — not *just* SCORM content sources (not just one learner on their own, either). The more connections, the more innovations — and to me, that means the more learning in a networked model of how learning happens. I don’t view Project Tin Can as the end — I view it as a first take of many towards a more open, accessible and usable learning network.