Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Help yourself to the elearning buffet

Interesting couple of articles published in the last few days about the future of elearning. On March 11th, the Rapid eLearning Blog wrote a piece called How to Create E-Learning Courses That Don't Waste Your Learner's Time.

In that piece Tom Kuhlmann writes that many learners are taking elearning courses "because they have to, not necessarily because they want to."

For them, it’s a matter of getting in and out quickly and then back to work.  This is not a commentary on the quality of the course or its content.  It’s just that many elearning courses are compulsory and the person taking it isn’t motivated by learning the content.

Those people only want to see the essential information, take the required quiz, and get on with their lives.  They don’t want to be held hostage by a course that has them clicking all over the place.  Tell them what they need to know and let them go.

He then proceeds to offer up a series of recommendations that include creating courses that are not courses and identifying course requests that would really serve a greater purpose as a reference work.

Then today I received an email newsletter from the training zone, a training association based in Great Britain. They published a an article titled: Help yourself to the elearning buffet (free registration is required to view).

This article contends that today's generation is accustomed to networked technology  and "lives its life on the web and has come to expect instant gratification...[they] are less accustomed to traditional methods of training, and prefer to be in control of when and where they consume information. The writer, Julian Dable, a regional manager for Travantis, thinks that, with an appropriate tweaking of how we perceive it, elearning is the solution to meeting the new web generation's needs for information solutions.

Elearning is a perfect balance between traditional learning and self-determined 'quick-fix' internet learning. Readily accessible, expert information from sanctioned subject matter experts is the safest and most practical way of getting information into your employees' hands. These days, widely available authoring software tools put power into the hands of subject matter experts who don't need to be technologically savvy to create training courses. They can integrate the power of multimedia audio and video to create engaging learning. Even better, such tools are easy to learn and the process can be contracted to a matter of hours or days rather than weeks.

His thoughts tend to gravitate toward moving elearning away from the traditional page turner and more towards a two-way communication structure where social frameworks can be built.

Help yourself to the elearning buffet - 19 Mar 2008

Monday, March 17, 2008

Learning Visions: Accidental Learning

Cammy Bean has a great post about accidental learning. Cammy quotes from Yo-Yo Ma's presentation for NPR:

Every day I make an effort to go toward what I don't understand. This wandering leads to the accidental learning that continually shapes my life.

- Yo-Yo Ma

I've found that I often follow links (not just on the Internet) to discover new things. Just the other day I was listening to Jimmy Buffett's CD Don't Stop the Carnival. It was not a regular music CD, but it seemed to tell a story. So I searched Wikipedia to find out more about it and discovered it is based upon a Herman Wouk book by the same name. Buffett and Wouk colloborated on turning it into a musical

Normally I would not think about reading a Herman Wouk book because I am conditioned to think that he writes war stories (Thank you ABC which produced Winds of War and War and Rememberance mini-series.) The only war-related theme in Don't Stop the Carnival occurs at the beginning when it is described how the United States came into possession of the island during World War II.

After that it is the story of the adventures of Norman Paperman, a New York PR man who decides to slow down after he suffers a mild heart attack by running a resort in the Caribbean. I am now deeply engrossed in a book I would not have known even existed if I had not decided to find out the reasoning behind the unusual CD.

Learning Visions: Accidental Learning

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Blogosphere Mapped

Ever wonder about the size of the blogosphere? Are bloggers just talking to themselves? Matthew Hurst of Data Mining put together various maps of the blogosphere. This one shows the blogosphere as a social network. It appeared on Discover magazine's website in April 2007.

As expected the most populous site is the bold white spot marked with the number "1" and represents the political world.

The outlyers represent LiveJournal social networking sites (3), sports blogs (5), and pornography sites (6).

Other maps can be seen at Matt's blog, Data Mining: Mapping the Blogosphere. Tags: ,,

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Recommended Books for Instructional Design

BOOKSTOREAD.COM has compiled a collected list of recommended books on instructional design and technology.

The purpose of the Top Ten Lists is to showcase the bookshelves of leaders in the field. Currently, we are accepting nominations for eminent scholars, theorists, and practitioners in instructional design and technology whom we would like to request that they submit a top ten list of their most influential or important books in the field.

The list is kind of dated (nothing new since 2002), but still a good starting point for individuals interested in pursuing an informal education in instructional design. Hat Tip to John Curry, Ph.D., at EffectiveDesign.Org, for including it amongst his links  this week.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Social Media: Reducing friction and establishing a NEW discipline

A fascinating piece on the role of social media (blogs, wikis, twitter, etc.) in the corporate world. Key nugget:

Social media is not so much about direct influence of revenue, but more of a market optimizer - which DOES impact revenue. Current revenue streams AND future opportunities. Essentially social media aids in making markets more efficient with pervasive communication, connectivity and real-time transaction capabilities. Its a fundamental change in market mechanics.

Read it all.

spatially relevant » Blog Archive » Social Media: Reducing friction and establishing a NEW discipline Tags: ,

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Of Typecasting and Individuality


Dear Mr. Vernon,
We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was that we did wrong. What we did was wrong, but we think you're crazy to make us write an essay writing about who we think we are. What do you care? You see us as you want to see us—in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. Correct? That's the way we saw each other at 7:00 this morning. We were brainwashed.

From The Breakfast Club
a film by John Hughes

Back in January the weblog Cybernet displayed the image to the right as a Friday fun piece titled: Optical Illusion: Are You Right or Left Brained. The image originally appeared in the Sydney (Australia) Herald Sun in a short article about which side of the brain we rely on. The short article that accompanies the image states:

If clockwise, then you use more of the right side of the brain and vice versa.
Most of us would see the dancer turning anti-clockwise though you can try to focus and change the direction; see if you can do it.

According to this I am extremely right brain dominant as I could only rarely see her move in any other direction than clockwise. About the only time I could see her move in a counterclockwise motion is when I glanced at the image of the corner of my eye without thinking. But can this picture tell the whole story?

Can one picture determine whether you are left-brained or right-brained oriented, I'm not convinced and the more I thought of it the more it seemed to me to be a cute parlor trick and nothing more. As I write this, I'm watching the image out of the corner of my eye and I can see it moving counterclockwise, but as soon as I turn my full attention on it it switches back to going clockwise. I think this may suggest that when I am concentrating on writing my right brain kicks in to organize my thoughts. When my brain is at rest my right side takes over control. But it made me think about the impact on learning. And I did some cursory research.

While we like to see clean black/white solution for these issues, we live in a messy world and while there is extensive research into this phenomena, science is not ready to say that there is a hard and fast drawing of the line regarding brain lateralization.  

But this got me thinking about how we use categories and classifications to simplify our lives even in the realm of learning. There are still raging battles over how people learn.

  • Is it sensory-related experience with no thought to internal motivation as the behaviorists believe?
  • Should we be treated as biological computers that await to receive data  input by an expert on which we then act as the cognitivists support?
  • Do we use data input to reach solutions on how to make sense of the world around us as the constructivists would have us believe?
  • Or do we learn best by recognizing that learning operates much like a computer network in that data is received from a variety of sources in a variety of forms and we teach as much as we learn as the connectivists would have us believe?

The passion that arises over these discussions sometimes rise above mere academic debate and harken back to a more clannish response as we take sides in the discussion. Personally, I see some relevance in each. Only the individual who is learning knows what is going on inside his or her head (behaviorism), and if we have no knowledge of a subject then we are certainly filling a void with new data that is provided by an "expert" or someone who proclaims to be an expert (cognitivism).

As this new information is received and processed we usually work to fit it into our existing knowledge base, weighing it against previous information to determine if it augments what we already know or it replaces previous knowledge (constructivism).

Finally, there is no strict separation between learners and teachers - and there never has been. We learn from one another in an ongoing dialog that occurs on a daily basis in our schools, workplace, and our social life as long as we remain open to the idea that we can be taught by anyone (connectivism). And this is probably the biggest impediment we face today.

I am fond of saying to my children that the civilization we claim to see around us is but a thin veneer covering our continued preference for our prehistoric ancestor's clannishness. We find comfort in listening to people who hold similar views as ours; there is safety in numbers.

And every clan had an alpha male or female that the clan looked to for guidance. He or she was the leader and the survival of the clan depended on everyone following the alpha's directions. That is why education has adhered so closely to the sage-on-the-stage approach to teaching. For the clan to survive we must all learn to think as the clan thinks.

So, until we as individuals recognize that there is no one right way of thinking learning will remain stunted by our "simplest terms" and "most convenient definitions."

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Next steps in Read-Write Web

I have to confess that I heard about the dataportability movement a couple months ago, but to be honest I can't really get my head around the concept. I would love to have someone explain this to me in terms I can understand.

The way I perceive it is that in the current environment each read-write web site we wish to participate in requires us to set up an account and generate a profile. The concept here seems to be that once you set up an account at one site you can then take that information to any other site without jumping through the hoops of generating a new profile.

This push seems to be going hand-in-hand with the OpenID concept. This would eliminate the need to actually set up individual user names and passwords for these various sites. I like this concept because it would eliminate the need to try and remember the login data for all my sites after I accidentally clean the cache of my browser. Again, here's a video that explains it well. Tags: ,