Cooking, quilting, and blended learning

July 7, 2010

Cooking analogies have been used to describe blended learning. Instructional designers looking at blended learning through a chef’s eyes might see  a “recipe” of sorts where you put ingredients together using a process. Or, you could look at blended learning from the learner’s point of view as buffet where you pick out what you want from a variety of food. My mentor/colleague Gary Woodill introduced me to the cooking analogy at a newbie elearning workshop we were doing. It is a good one.

However, I can’t help but think that when you actually mix ingredients while cooking the result is usually something that can’t really be “unblended” (although you could pick raisins out of an oatmeal cookie for example). But blended learning and quilting…that to me might be a better analogy, especially when talking about where social networks fit in. I like this definition of blended learning:

“Blended learning is a combination of learning objectives and learning modalities that are strategically combined to achieve a training program’s expected learning outcomes.” -Miner and Hofman, 2009

I hadn’t thought about the analogy between quilting and design of instruction until recently when I found some old quilting projects in need of attention. I share my love of the hobby with the Amish:

Amish quilts continue to be a source of inspiration to quilters. Modern quilt artists are using black with solid colors and discovering the beauty in such basic designs. Amish quilt designs are a result of a belief that art is not a separate thing but that beauty is a part of function, a concept that can be an inspiration to all quilters. –

When I design a quilt, I think in terms of its 3-dimensions. A quilt, of course, is made up of three layers (top, batting, backing) assembled by tying, machine sewing, or hand-stitching the three layers together. The top most layer is normally decorative; using an infinite amount of colors, techniques, and patterns. It can be taken apart and rearranged (with some effort but not as much as, say, a pie). The top layer is content. The batting is what makes it a quilt. Perhaps that can be viewed as the human element of learning. The backing is the underside of the quilt. Perhaps that can be the overall learning objective.

You have commercially-made quilts that you can buy somewhere like JC Penney. They are all the same. They are quilted with a machine, not by hand. This is the equivalent of off-the-shelf courseware.

You have template-type quilts with standard patterns from over the years. The can be very detailed or not. You can sew them my hand, machine stitch them, or even tie them (rapid). These are courses you make with template-based authoring tools.

Then you have custom quilts. One-of-a-kind art quilts. Custom content. Entered into award contests.

The picture below is a crazy quilt. No two are alike. They look haphazard. Random pieces are joined by elaborate stitching.

Historically the pieces were a frugal way to use old fabric. Your fabric, each with a memory. Schema. This is what blended learning today might look like with today’s social learning focus. I think what’s especially interesting is that crazy quilts normally don’t have batting. And, if the batting represents the human connection to content and objectives, perhaps our approach to social learning should be letting people take the random pieces of their lifetime and sew them together as they see fit …crazy talk I know.


Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: