When i was about eight, i wrote a message on a piece of paper with my brother, put it into a glass bottle and threw the bottle into the North Sea. I watched as it bobbed away on the waves, never seriously expecting to hear from it again. A minor act of eco-vandalism but all in a good cause.
Much to our surprise, many months later, a letter arrived from Norway. A family had been walking down a remote beach when they’d spotted the bottle, washed up and waiting to be discovered. And so we communicated.
As conversations go, it was an unusual start, but developed from there into regular correspondence and Christmas cards: the ultimate in random communication. Whilst it may seem as though throwing a bottle into the sea is unlikely to result in meaningful conversation, that is, nevertheless, what we often do when we publish materials or courses. We throw them out into the void and rely on the tide, favourable currents and a heavy dose of luck to deliver the message.
Broadcasting is easy: it’s what the web is set up to do. We can easily push our messages, but where we push them is important. Understanding the learner, what is their everyday reality, what is important to them?
Making things relevant to people is the best way of engaging with them. One size does not fit all, so everything we can do to make the message fit the reality of the learner is worth doing. Without it, we are just casting our messages into the sea and hoping that they wash up on the right shore.