Chindōgu, Chocolate Chip Cookies, and eLearning

chocolate_chip_cookiesI have been participating in a MOOC that I am involved with through NovoEd, called Creativity: Music to My Ears. It started last week and the instructor, Tina Seeling from Stanford University shared that her ultimate goal in her first lecture is to help students come up with the big ideas and bring them to life. In my last posting, I discussed Tina’s first part of her “Innovation Engine,” which was imagination and she shared that we should be actively reframing our problems (see last week’s post, Is there only one answer to the eLearning problems that you look at? Then you are not being imaginative enough…). Another aspect of the imagination process is what she calls, “connecting and combining ideas.”

Most inventions come together in really interesting and surprising ways. She shared that she has her design students practice the ancient Japanese art of Chindōgu which means creating un-useful inventions. By themselves they are not useful or useless but together … interesting things happen.

An example that comes to mind for me is Chocolate Chip Cookies. While chocolate has been around for thousands of years, according to Wikipedia it was 1937 when Ruth Graves Wakefield of the Toll House Inn in the town of Whitman, Massachusetts invented the chocolate chip cookie—supposedly by accident. Using the broken pieces of chocolate in an innovative (even if by accident) way made America’s favorite cookie. This was later capitalized on by Nestle and the name Toll House was branded. But it takes an innovator like Ruth to try something new with something that has been around for thousands of years. The same is true for us today with technology especially when it comes to eLearning.

Take any of the current eLearning projects that you are working on right now. When you come into the project you bring all of your current experience, interests, and knowledge. Sometimes unlikely connections and combinations may be able to make true innovations for learning. Even if you come up with the innovation by accident!

Although, what I often find is people in the industry are talking more about the noun than the verb. They spend more time talking about new “inventions” rather than how they can “innovate” learning with the technology. It’s not about what LMS you use it is about what you do with the LMS. Is not about wither you are using Prezi or PowerPoint is it about how you engaged your audience with your presentation. Can we take something like Twitter and use it in an online class for learning? Check out this post where I talk about this in greater detail (see, Let’s talk more about the verb than the noun!).

There is lots of inventions out there, we don’t have to use them all, and it is about what we get students to “do with them” that matters.


About DaveHallmon

With experience in web, graphic, and instructional design, Dave maintains a balance between what is efficient and effective in every message. He always focuses on the why and how rather than "just doing it" to get the job done. By day he works at a leading university designing online courses that support 9,000 students in 64 countries. He works directly with faculty to brainstorm, design, and develop their online instruction utilizing the Adobe suite. He also teaches for the university as an adjunct faculty member in the area of web design. By night he is a devoted husband, father, freelancer, and adventurer of the outdoors. His other interests include LifeHacker, Science Fiction and Hayao Miyazaki movies, Settlers of Catan, and coffee with friends. He currently lives in St. Louis and has an M.S. in Instructional Design and aspires to pursue a professional degree in content marketing and strategy. Visit the links below for more information about his interests and design work.
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