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April 20, 2011

The Net as it is constituted seems superbly situated to fulfill its inhabitants’ need for edification. There are hundreds, even thousands, of archives holding terabytes and more of data about every conceivable subject; the willing explorer can spend a lifetime staying current on this treasure trove of information. All that is required is to locate this data, read or download it, and perhaps share it with others to test its validity. But somehow, for many people, the first step—attempting to locate the data—is also the last. There are several impediments to learning within the environment of the Net, not the least of which is simply knowing how to navigate around a space of complex dimensionality. When a database gets too big, as Donald Norman (Jacobson, 1992) has pointed out, the inclination is to want to “teleport” from place to place. Norman would dispense with the endless search routines that are finally too difficult for mere mortals to find their way and replace them with a smart environment that customized itself to the inhabitant, rather than the other way around.

[op. cit., p. 335]

The text above is, certainly, an appropriate metaphor for learning online. At least, one of the best I’ve ever found.

RJacobson (1993). Sailing through Cyberspace: Counting the Stars in Passing. In: Global Networks. Computers and International Communication ( LMHarasim, Ed.). MIT Press (pp. 327-342)

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