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A Priori / A Posteriori
By: Lee Doerksen, Dragonfly Staff


Who knows what you need best?



A couple of fancy words borrowed from the lexicon of the Western philosophical tradition. One refers to knowledge or wisdom before experience, one to knowledge or wisdom after experience. At Dragonfly, these two little phrases have large impacts on our methods and operations.

We all enjoy learning from people who have braved the unknown and brought back wisdom from their experience. Shared knowledge is one of the cornerstones of community. But there is a danger in accepting the knowledge of others wholesale, chiefly in the erosion of our own capacity for critical thinking. Healthy community learning processes involves a delicate balance of grateful acceptance and critical analysis.

Dragonfly tests and classifies each and every product in our extensive collection. We make our research available to you through programs like the product matching service. We think that this is a healthy model of sharing knowledge. Our work goes in to the common pool in order to save others the rather daunting task of classifying every product for themselves.

Dragonfly does not recommend to you what products you should use. We do not feel that we can make that kind of assessment 'a priori', meaning without having the kind of experience with your child that would allow us to make an informed assessment. Rather, we depend on trusted experts to provide the final analysis; that would be you.

You have the experience and the knowledge necessary for making decisions about your child. We provide tools to help you make the most of your wisdom. The Toy Club is one of those tools. We give you a computer program that lets you choose the criteria for matching. Then we have our computers perform services for you based upon your choices.

Simple notion, giving people the kind of service that they feel they need. But surprising how often companies decide that they must tell you what you need and what you want. And distressing how many companies have fancy Web sites that tell you what kind of learner your child is based on 'a priori' knowledge via standard tests. Tests are great tools that help people understand 'a posteriori' because they frame experience in meaningful dynamics. They are not, however, replacements for the wisdom of a parent or professional who has real, hands on experience with a real life little boy or girl. A computer model is just a model. It is not wise.

Over the long term, we will use the information that our clients place in the Toy Club to develop a new form of community for those who have special needs. We have already begun the process, and have been at it since 1994. We keep track of who says what, who buys what, and who wants what. Then, we use our nifty computers to share that information, giving our clients greater value through shared (confidential) experience.

To sum up, Dragonfly presents tools and a method for sharing in the experience of others with similar concerns to yours. We do not prescribe or in any other way attempt to take your place as the wisest, most experienced, most concerned decision maker regarding you child. We hope you find our programs to be valuable.
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