Monday, July 2, 2007

The Talmud - An Ancient form of non-linear learning

The Talmud is a written compilation of Judaic law and ethics written between the second and fifth century Common Era. A typical page from the Talmud is divided into a main text area with various commentaries and cross references surrounding the page border. Studying Talmudic text requires the ability to jump from the text to the commentary, to other references, and sometimes explore more deeply into that references further reference, until, eventually, continuing with the text. Thus, the Talmud can be considered an "early" form of hypertext, without the use of computers, of course.

Talmudic learning is definitely non-linear. Can non-linear learning work on-line using computers? Do you think you can learn non-linearly?

Here's an interesting way to find out:
Go to This page shows you an image of a page from the Talmud. The top of the page gives directions on how to use the image. Try it out, and see how it works.
Then, return to this same page and click on the link below the image - the one that tells you to click to see a hyperlinked selection of the texts in translation. It will display a lot of frames!

See if you can learn something by following the frames. These frames are there for a reason! It is an attempt to simulate Talmudic learning. Each frame represents a commentary or a reference to related texts to support the main text on the Talmudic page.

I learned this way throughout elementary and high school, and I still study Talmud this way! I'm not sure how comfortable I would be learning Talmud on-line with all these frames. But, I can learn non-linearly, and I actual prefer this style.

What's your opinion? Do you think you can learn non-linearly? If so, what requirements would you want or need in terms of screen lay-out and content?

1 comment:

1kasandra said...

Non-linear learning is not my most effective style. I get fulfillment out of learning when I am clear on the goal and the path is a pretty clear one to get there. This is why I get frustrated when syllabi are not followed sufficiently closely. Fortunately that has only happened a few times.

But I think this also has to do with the kind of learning. Training, which is what most of us are exploring in this certificate has specific goals. Training is tied to achievable outcomes that affect the 'bottom line'.

Life long learning on the other hand is very different. There can be an acceptable 'roaming' element for most people in life long learning. Religious learning often is a type of life long learning. In which case maybe the non-linear approach can work fine.

So I think the types of learning (non-linear vs linear) need to be compared in different situations and not just in general.