How Can We Encourage Co-Creation in EdTech?


It’s been a long week for me. I’ve been working on the next big thing that we’re launching next week at Balefire Labs. I won’t give it away here, but suffice it to say that only something really cool brought me up for air and inspired me enough to write about it.

Most of you know that I think the distinction between “content” and “creativity” educational technology resources is pretty bogus. I’ve written about it before (here, for example) so I won’t rehash all of that with you today.

Well, last week Tom Vander Ark, over at the Getting Smart blog, wrote an article called, “What If Kids Co-Created Customized Learning Pathways?” He talked about a bunch of different learning arrangements, but the one that really jumped off the page at me was adaptive learning. Tom’s point was that an educational resource is co-created if the learner controls some aspect of how use of the resource plays out, such as pace or path.

I hadn’t really thought about adaptive learning as co-created before, but doesn’t it make total sense? The whole point of an adaptive program is that what happens next depends on the behavior of the learner. Each learner brings something unique to the learning situation. When you consider that a learner makes a unique response at each response opportunity, and then compile that across many response opportunities in an adaptive program, well, you can see how the path of the curriculum could be completely unique for every learner. And how could that be anything but co-created?

Here’s how I envision it:

Individual Learner + Adaptive Learning Curriculum = Customized, Co-created, Learning Path.

What do you think?

What makes me happy when I think about this is that it helps provide nuance for the discussion about “content” resources. I hear about it mostly around educational apps being inferior if they are “just” content and not “creativity” resources. So this idea that apps that have been considered “merely” content apps provide the opportunity for “co-creation” is huge. This helps make the distinction between apps that truly are just for consumption purposes (think of a video or an ebook) versus apps that provide adaptive learning for skills (e.g., Native Numbers, an app I wrote about last year here). This helps us be more sophisticated in how we think and talk about digital resources.

I think of it a bit like scaffolding learning. Initially kids use apps that provide more support…co-creation apps. And when the skills required for those apps are mastered then the kids can move on to the apps in which there is no support…straight creativity apps. Levels of support are faded out as the kids become more independent. Isn’t this consistent with how we treat learning more generally?

What do you think of this concept of “co-creating?”

About karen mahon

i am a behavior and learning scientist. i hold an ed.d. in educational psychology and am trained as an instructional designer. i have spent more than 15 years working in education and instructional software design.
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5 Responses to How Can We Encourage Co-Creation in EdTech?

  1. I like how you think about this. I hand;t really given it much thought before – when I was teaching – but, this is exactly how I subconsciously (or consciously depending on how you look at it) approached teaching and my kids. They have to guide you because they are the ones taking this journey of education… you, as the teacher, area just along for the ride. :) It’s amazing to me how many teachers will allow themselves, though not completely their fault, to succumb to the rigorous methods imposed on them. Take a step back, look at your kids, let them be a part of their learning, and then… watch. Enthusiasm, creativity, effort, determination… it all takes place in a learning environment where the teacher partners with the student to help them on their journey.

    I love this… thanks for sharing and enlightening me.

    • karen mahon says:

      Lisa, thanks for commenting. To build on what you’re saying, the way I look at it, the teachers set up the environment for maximum learning…then our job is to keep rearranging the environment for more and more success as the kids progress. I don’t so much think of teachers as being along for the ride as I do…hmm, it’s almost like teachers are laying out the tracks in front of the train as it’s moving. The kids guide the teachers by showing us what they can do at any given point in time and our job is to “engineer” the next step depending on those capabilities. Does that make sense? We are still the ones defining the desired outcomes and skills, but the route of the track may be very different depending on what individual kids bring to the table.

      In a sense, I think of this approach as the MOST rigorous, though allowing for the most flexibility. The method is very rigorous, in that my response as teacher is determined by the response of the learner, which is very labor-intensive. But the path is flexible in that it can be different for every learner. In other words, it is the least like a “one size fits all” approach. My impression from your comment is that the “one size fits all” is also what you object to, is that correct?

      • Yes, that is precisely what I was going for. “One size fits all” is what I often see when observing teachers and listening to their stories. It’s not so much that they aren’t trying to differentiate and tend to the needs of each student, but more so that they are confined to the core standards and not sure how to deviate from that so their students can flourish. The flexibility you referred to is not eveident, and thus, they are not able to lay down those tracks.

        I refer to being along for the ride because I believe it is a journey that both the students and the teacher take together. The teacher is the conductor and it is very labor intensive, but learning is also a shared vision on the classroom and therefore, (we) both are learners.

        I’m right with you in that it is rigorous, but how teaching is approached, and the methods used, is more the direction I was trying to take. :)

  2. … shared vision IN the classroom…. :)

  3. Pingback: How Can We Encourage Co-Creation in EdTech? | A...

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