Education professionals, teachers, trainers and consultants – simply anyone who is involved in learning contexts – are increasingly tempted to integrate technology into their practices. Whether it is a one-hour learning session or a whole training curriculum to be developed using technology, we need a framework that informs us to make the right decisions about learning design and technology integration in particular. There are models and frameworks for technology-enhanced learning like SAMR, however in this post you will find a concept that is originally developed by Simon Sinek for organisations and individuals to think, act and communicate effectively, and I believe that this concept called the “Golden Circle” can also be a great guide when designing learning experiences enhanced with technology as well.
A Bit More About the Golden Circle: It Starts with “Why”
Simon Sinek explains that “Why” is the most important message that you can communicate as this is the essence of whatever you do. It explains your purpose and the reason you exist. He uses the Apple example to clarify the concept. Apple’s mission statement is something like this:
- Everything we do we believe in challenging the status quo thinking differently (Why)
- The way we challenge the status quo is we make our products beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly (How)
- We just happen to make computers—wanna buy one? (What)
So, their sales pitch perfectly flows from Why to What, and the science behind the fact that this flow makes so much sense is simple. Your primitive limbic brain is interested to know “why” to get motivated and take action. It is responsible for feelings like trust and loyalty. When you create that connection by identifying and communicating your “why” people will basically come and buy whatever product or idea you have. The “How” part is the process and the specific actions that are aligned with your purpose. Finally, the “what” part can be defined as the result of “Why” in the form of a product or service.
How the Golden Circle Can be Adapted to Education Technology
Why – Identify the learning objectives: The “why” is definitely the starting point in educational technology design. In the EdTech landscape it is easy to get carried away by all the new fancy digital tools and apps. Before you jump into the digital tools, identify your learning objectives first. What do you want your audience to know and be able to do by the end of the session? When you know your “why”, you will make better decisions selecting your medium that will help you get there.
How – Design the learning process: This is where you make decisions about how you want your target audience to achieve those learning objectives. For instance, if it is a project, you make a decision that learners will follow the steps of design thinking, work in teams, design a product for the school community and share their work with the community and their parents. At this stage, you start thinking about how your learning goals can be achieved through technology, but you may still not know exactly which digital tools you are going to use.
What – Select the technology tools that fit your objectives and your design: By this stage, you know how the learning process looks like. By now you might even have some assumptions about which tools might work at each step of the learning, Now it is time to test your assumptions and select the technology based on some principles. The idea is that the technology you will use needs to bring an added value to learning. How does the technology aids learning in a way that you could not easily achieve in traditional ways? The Triple E framework is an excellent guide that will help you at this stage. It prompts your thinking with deep questions in three domains:
- Does the technology allow students to focus on the task of the assignment or activity with less distraction (Time on Task)?
- Does the technology motivate students to start the learning process?
- Does the technology cause a shift in the behavior of the students, where they move from passive to active social learners (co-use or co-engagement)?
- Does the technology tool aid students in developing or demonstrating a more sophisticated understanding of the content? (creates opportunities for creation/production over consumption)
- Does the technology create scaffolds to make it easier to understand concepts or ideas?
- Does the technology create paths for students to demonstrate their understanding of the learning goals in a way that they could not do with traditional tools?
- Does the technology create opportunities for students to learn outside of their typical school day?
- Does the technology create a bridge between school learning and everyday life experiences?
- Does the technology allow students to build skills, that they can use in their everyday lives?
What Happens When You Go the Other Way Around?
Your learning objectives are at the heart, just like Simon Sinek puts the purpose and the reason of the organisation’s existence in the centre of the circle. If you know your purposes, the more specific design issues will be unveiled in the right direction, and you will be able to make well-informed technology choices that will engage your learners, enhance and extend their learning. If you choose to go the opposite way or just focus on “what” – the digital tools, it is more likely that you will lose your focus on the deeper learning opportunities you might create for learners.