Thursday, January 31, 2008

Skunk works, ahhh, the smell of success

Jay Cross posted an interesting and quck video interview he did with Nigel Paine about what learning and development folks can look forward to in the near future as the economy seems to be stumbling. The interview occurred at the beginning of Learning Technologies 2008 in London, England.

I like the idea of running skunk work operations, in fact where I work we have been doing this right along. The big question is, after we flesh out these efforts, how do we take our skunk work products and convince the corporate IT departments to take the leap? That is an informal learning effort that has to be undertaken along with the formal proposal process.

As these tools  (wikis, blogs, social noteworks) become more familiar to the decision makers it should become easier to integrate them into the corporate workplace.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Reasons for podcasting

I was recently cleaning out my inbox when I came across the Jan. 16, 2008 edition of Campus Technology's Smart Classroom newsletter and the lead item was an interview with Rice University's Jeffrey Daniel Frey about podcasting and education. Mr. Frey offers some sound advice for individuals who are looking to get into the podcasting.

Two of his observations jumped out at me.

Campus Technology: Let's start by talking generally about podcasting in education. You've done a lot with podcasting, and you write and speak and consult on the topic. What do you see happening out there?

Jeffrey Daniel Frey: One of main thrusts is people who say that they need to podcast, but why? Doing something for the sake of technology doesn't work. The first thing I look at is the "why?" I ask people, what's the benefit? What are the metrics out there? What are you trying to say?

This is definitely an important question to be asked, not only for podcasting, but also for the use of any communications tool. Too often people want to jump onto the latest fad especially in the learning world.

His other comment is also something that gets lost in the rush towards the latest trend in content delivery.

CT: So it goes back to one of the basic rules about Web sites: it's really about content, not the medium.

JDF: Yes, know your audience, and start with the content. That's what we tell people when we're building a web site for them. Once we know that, we can figure out what the architecture should be around the content, then we can figure out what the delivery method for that content is.

Food for thought during this lunch hour posting.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Some would have us think we are all mentally ill...

It has been observed recently that the list of mental illnesses cataloged by the American Psychiatric Association has been increasing in step with the number of new pharmaceuticals that have been coming on the market.  But now here comes the claim that we are becoming addicted to technology.

Reuter's New Service posted a report Wednesday, Jan. 23,  quoting John O'Neill, the director of addictions services at the Menninger Clinic in Houston, that the public's use of cell phones and email is approaching "addiction-like behavior."

"We can become overloaded by technology and suffer consequences in our relationships," [O'Neill] added.

O'Neill's observations are backed up by psychologists who have classified technology addiction as an impulse disorder that can be as socially damaging as alcoholism, gambling and drug addiction.

The Internet/Computer Addiction Services in Redmond, Washington, which runs treatment programs and provides therapy, estimate that 6 to 10 percent of the approximately 189 million Internet users in the United States have a dependency on technology.

O'Neill said it's all about teaching people how to manage their behavior in a healthy way.

O'Neill claims that warning signs of  "an unhealthy relationship with technology" are:

  • using text messages, email and voice mail (presumably the writer meant telephone) rather than face-to-face interaction
  • limiting time with friends and family to tend to email, return telephone calls or surf the internet
  • An inability to leave home without a cellphone

Anyone who reads my blog (and I thank all two of you, especially you mom!) knows that I have a love/hate relationship with technology in learning, but even I see a high-priced cure looking for a problem.

First off I think O'Neill is demonstrating his lack of understanding of technology by using the  term to define only electronic communications devices. Technology is broadly defined as the usage and knowledge of tools and crafts [by a speceies] to control and adapt to its environment.   Our automobiles that we use to get around are technology, as are the appliances in our kitchen that we use to store and prepare our meals, and the televisions, radios and books we read to keep us entertained when we are not driving or eating, or using communication devices.

We depend on all of this technology to survive. According to O'Neill we must all be heavily overloaded causing a ripple effect through our relationships. I think Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds gets it right when he says: I think that yammering on about addictions is the habit that some people need to kick...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Eye-openers from eLearning Guild's Authoring & Development Tools Webinar

I'm sitting in listening to the e-Learning Guild's 360 report on authoring and development tools and I was surprised at the top three tools their survey uncovered. The order is:
  1. Adobe Captivate - 66%
  2. Microsoft PowerPoint - 58%
  3. Microsoft Word - 47%
I guess I am either niave or blinded by the fact that people use some very basic tools for elearning development.

More surprising was the typical way teams train on authoring tools.
  • 81 % reported teaching themsleves
  • 70% learn from peers
  • 34% learn from formal external training

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

December 2007 Issue :: Global Learning Resources

Jay Cross has a fascinating take on corporate learning that is closely in tuned with where my thoughts have been going regarding the corporate learning world. Of course, Jay, being the master and I the poor grasshopper (apologies to Kung Fu fans everywhere), has distilled the essence of my thoughts much better than I could hope in an article titled Don't Call them Trainees in an article posted in the Dec. 2007 issue of Human Capital & Corporate Universities Newsletter. Money quote:

Instead of training, tell the worker what she needs to know how to accomplish the job. Offer a variety of ways to get up to speed, from treasure hunts to finding information on the company intranet. This makes the learner take responsibility. There's no longer an excuse for not learning.

He then proceeds to tell the story of Hans Monderman, a Dutch traffic engineer who argues that the a big problem with motorists and the way they drive are the number of street signs telling them what to do. Monderman has discovered that if you remove street signs, especially speed limit signs, drivers take more responsibility for their actions. In communities in The Netherlands where Monderman practices his craft, traffic accidents are down 30% and the average motorist's speed has dropped to 50% of what it had been originally.

Monderman says that if you treat people like fools, they act like fools. Take off the training wheels; they drive like grownups.

Being told to take a training course is like driving on a road with signs, stripes, and bumps. If a worker takes a training course but doesn't learn, what's her reaction? "The training wasn't any good."

Given the way people drive here in the northeast, I'm a bit hesitant to do away with street signs right away, but I do think we are overly paternal/maternal in the way we approach providing the knowledge adults need to know to do their jobs.

December 2007 Issue :: Global Learning Resources