Former Spellings Commission Member: “The Web is very linear”

Former Spellings Commission guy Robert Zemsky talks with University Business this month on the problem with online learning:

One of the big problems is that we’ve gotten the idea that “it’s about the web.” It’s funny—there’s a whole lot of interesting technology on learning, but it’s not on the web. The really interesting stuff is on discs. The web just doesn’t work. We’ve adopted a distribution system that is like trying to run a race in a sack.

The web is very linear, and learning on the web is equally linear. You do the problem, it gives you the answer, and if you get the wrong answer it circles back, and so on. That’s not the way you are going to learn a foreign language, for example. You can use really interesting technology to learn a language. Just don’t do it on the web.

That’s right – the future is DVD-ROMs, because learning on the web is too linear.

I knew we were screwed by the Spellings Commission, and I knew they were out of touch. But that statement shocks even me.

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6 Comments on “Former Spellings Commission Member: “The Web is very linear””

  1. Alan Levine says:

    Funny, I must be on a different web since mine is most definitely not linear.

  2. Mike Caulfield says:

    The oddness of the statement confounds me – “The web is linear” – The WEB, it’s right there in the name. It’s like saying the problem with circumfrential highways is that they go through the center of cities, or that the issue with bridges is they don’t connect anything.

  3. Mike Caulfield says:

    Of course, it is quite possible that someone gave him a Blackboard account and told him that was the “web”.

  4. cameron says:

    I had a quick look at the rest of the article.

    “I’m saying define for me what is “critical thinking” or “problem solving”? These are “mush words” that have become slogans. So in the first place we have faculty that don’t understand learning, and now we’re confronting them with mush words that have no meaning.”

    What’s his background? He seems to be out of totally out his depth when it comes to teaching and learning.

  5. Dean says:

    O.M.G.

    As a dead language teacher, I’ve got all kinds of reasons as the challenges of learning a language online.

    But that’s just crazy town.

    He sounds like he’s describing some software from 1986 on learning fractions, or something. Get it wrong, hit the back button, try again.

    I’m guessing things have advanced some on the “linear” web by now.

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