This summer, I read Plato’s The Allegory of the Cave for a course assignment. If you’re not familiar with it, see this YouTube video of a professor’s lecture and animation:
Plato’s allegory reminded me of the chains we place on ourselves as adult learners. Ever since I graduated from college, I have encountered adults who profess the age-old idiom: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” As an educator, I confronted this in the Peace Corps when working with artisans, in college when teaching languages, and even within my own family dealing with challenging tasks.
I exclude my mother and myself from this. She never allowed anything to keep her from learning something new. She instilled in me the gumption to apply myself to any task, no matter how difficult it may appear to be. From experience, I can assert that I have been successful at learning various difficult things as an adult. For example, I learned to speak Portuguese at age 30, Latin dance at age 40, and speed read at age 50. Of course, this list is only cursory. I share my successes with my students to let them know that learning can occur at any time in your life.
The fable is related to learning theory and technology in many ways. First, as instructional designers, we must keep ourselves informed of the latest research on multimedia practices. Otherwise, we’ll become slaves to our own (or others) beliefs. I have a growth mindset. I want to know what the research indicates as an effective practice and then immediately start to apply it. Of course, I have my hunches or intuition about how things should be presented. However, I’m open to learning new ways to bring about improved learning outcomes.
Second, we will face opposition and disbelief in our practices and informed knowledge when we enter the workforce as novice instructional designers with our advanced degrees. Naysayers of scientific findings will state that a certain empirically based practice will not work at their institution. They may even state that they’ve tried it before with no improvement. We’ll need to build a good reputation and gain buy-in from others in regards to introducing new ideas. Otherwise, we may fall prey to Groupthink.
Here’s a PDF of the play: http://classicalastrologer.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/plato-allegory-of-the-cave.pdf