clouds

Analogies, Mental Models and Learning

It is common wisdom in HF/E that analogies can be a powerful tool in learning. The reason is pretty straightforward, new information doesn’t always fit with what we already know. An analogy works when the following apply:

  • The analog is something simple and/or that the learner knows well.
  • The parts of the analog that are also true of the new information are clearly defined in the learning process and are strong part of the learner’s existing schema of the analog.
  • The parts of the analog that are not true of the new information are clearly defined in the learning process and preferably are not a strong part of the learner’s existing schema of the analog.

So with that in mind, I came across this analogy for various models of cloud computing, ranging from infrastructure as a service to platform as a service to software as a service. First, I am not presenting this as a great example but rather one that caused me to stop and think. And here is why…

I had what I thought of as a pretty solid understanding of these cloud computing models. But there is a mismatch that is hurting my brain. I think the pizza restaurant is a great analog for cloud computing because it is simple, we all have a pretty good idea of what the table, soda, oven, fire, dough, etc. are. And the correlates seem to fit pretty well. I can understand what the author means by the dough as infrastructure, the gas as the platform and the table as the software.

But what hurts my brain is that I always thought of software as the first step into cloud computing and this one has it as the last step and as a complete plunge. If I was creating this analogy visual, I think I would have made software as a service as just the table (maybe like Open Table reservation services) and then adding the others in reverse order.

So this is the danger of using analogies. What if there are different schema running around of the new material and only one of them fits your analog? What if there are different schema floating around of the analog and only one fits your new material? Is there a way to still use it, or do you have to find a new analog (or not use the analogy approach)?

Do you have any good stories to share about analogy-based training? Please share.

Image credit: “Couds (5)” by Kurdistann used under CC BY-SA 3.0

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