You may already know of Donald Clark and his contributions to our profession, probably through having seen one of his fabulous conference presentations. If not, you will have no trouble finding out about his three-plus decades of work at the intersection of learning and technology. Clark is a professor, researcher, and a very popular presenter and blogger. Learning Technology is his latest book, and one that I recommend as company on your professional journey. Let me tell you why.
“This book is all about learning technology.” So Donald introduces you to the content, but Learning Technology is about much more than that. I found it to be filled with important history, thorough coverage of the subject of learning technology, with valuable insights that you will find very helpful to your professional practice. That will be true whether you are just starting out as an instructional developer or are very experienced.
The content of the book is not what you might expect from the table of contents. The chapter titles might make you think this is a dry textbook inventory of technologies and recitation of boring historical facts. Nothing could be further from the truth. Clark begins with prehistoric learning technology and concludes with a great summary of the present state of the metaverse. Now, it might appear that we didn’t know anything about learning in the Stone Age, and even less about what the experience of learning in the metaverse will be. That would be wrong on both counts. Donald begins by pointing out how difficult stone axes are to make, involving a great deal of knowledge and practice. Their perfection says a lot about learning and communication 50,000 years ago, and that is only the beginning of humankind’s development of learning technology.
Each chapter adds details about the progression to today. The details may be new information for you in some cases. The constant thread through the chapters is the story of how learning technology is something unique and fundamental to our species. Along the way, Clark adds details about the technology and the theory we members of homo technus—“the learning species” as Clark says—have discovered along with and through it. All of this shows how the progression “melds to create minds, institutions, and the cumulative legacy that is civilization,” to use his words again. It is (or should be) the essential shared knowledge of our profession.
I think the most valuable aspect of this book, and the best reason you should spend time with it, are the insights Donald Clark provides in every chapter. You will be constantly surprised by these, I promise. Along with the insights, Donald brings personal experience, case studies, and humor to the discussion. He addresses the progression of learning technology all the way up to artificial intelligence and the metaverse.
I am confident that you can and will use this wealth in your own practice. I was especially impressed by his assessment of where learning will go in the metaverse. It isn’t all hype, which was what I thought about the metaverse before I started the book. For me and my fellow skeptics, Donald quotes Douglas Adams’ (1999) sage advice that “anything that’s invented between when you’re 15 and 35 is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. Anything invented after you’re 35 is against the natural order of things.” We do not yet know what the metaverse will end up being in learning. I am no longer pre-judging the matter.
Donald concludes his text this way: “The metaverse is the continuation of all of these processes of the imagination. We have always created new worlds and we always will. Learning, above all, will benefit all of those who have the imagination to see that its purpose is to change minds. We change minds by taking them somewhere else. That somewhere could be the metaverse.”
Give yourself the benefit and advantage of what Donald Clark offers in Learning Technology, and enjoy the way he shares it. You will be glad you did!