Wednesday, December 30, 2009

January Thiagi Gameletter

The first 2010 Thiagi Gameletter has been released by Sivasailam (Thiagi) Thiagaraja. For anyone unfamiliar with Thiagi, he is a long-time advocate of developing training that is both fun and to the point. The January edition contains a thought-provoking piece for any instructional designer labeled Ten Exciting Ways to Waste Your Training Dollars. In this piece Thiagi skewers conventional wisdom around analysis and planning, content, and delivery. For example, here is his take on multimedia.

5. Multimedia Spectacular

Conventional wisdom: Invest time and money in producing slick media materials. Participants are used to watching TV shows and animated computer graphics and reading five-color printed materials. They have high expectations for production quality. So use the latest technology and the most attractive layout for your training package.

Reality: As my friend Richard Clark points out, it is not the production quality but the instructional design quality that contributes to effective instruction. For example, a fancy television documentary may not result in more effective learning than an inexpensive handout. Also, most non-print media take a longer time to produce and much longer time to revise than paper and pencil approaches. And as my friend Ruth Clark points out, sophisticated graphics and animation may actually distract people from learning.

Recommendation: Use the least expensive and most portable medium for training. In most cases this turns out to be paper and pencil.

All 10 of his items serve as a sobering wake-up call to instructional designers everywhere. Other topics covered in his January newsletter are:

  • An article about synthetic culture activities, which are a special type of simulation game.
  • A positive psychology activity about five approaches to increasing your feelings of subjective well-being.
  • An Guest Gamer interview with Scott Nicholson.
  • A Textra game with the immodest objective of bringing about world peace.
  • 99 words of advice from Brian Remer on how to ride out life's turmoils.
  • Articles and activities by Brian about different aspects of breathing.
  • Information about game design workshops in Zurich and Chicago.
  • Tracy's single topic survey about new-year's resolutions.
  • A report on last month's single topic survey.
  • An invitation to our podcasts, hosted by Matthew Richter.

TGL: January 2010

Friday, November 20, 2009

Podcasters Beware.

I place this in the category, the closing of the internet. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is constantly battling to keep the internet open for all to use, has posted this statement about how they are now taking up arms to defend the rights for anyone who has a microphone, computer, and access to Internet to create and distribute podcasts. It seems a company named Volomedia has received a patent for exclusive rights to the process of podcasting.

The Volomedia patent covers "a method for providing episodic media." It's a ridiculously broad patent, covering something that many folks have been doing for many years. Worse, it could create a whole new layer of ongoing costs for podcasters and their listeners. Right now, just about anyone can create their own on-demand talk radio program, earning an audience on the strength of their ideas. But more costs and hassle means that podcasting could go the way of mainstream radio -- with only the big guys able to afford an audience. And we'd have a bogus patent to blame.

EFF Tackles Bogus Podcasting Patent - And We Need Your Help | Electronic Frontier Foundation

Monday, October 19, 2009

Research Online

The University of Wollongong in Australia has made a book on mobile learning available for download as a series of .pdfs: New technologies, new pedagogies: Mobile learning in higher education. The following is the table of contents and the preface.

Table of Contents

Preface: While mobile technologies such as mobile phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs) and digital music players (mp3 players) have permeated popular culture, they have not found widespread acceptance as pedagogical tools in higher education.

The purpose of this e-book is to explore the use of mobile devices in learning in higher education, and to provide examples of good pedagogy. We are sure that the rich variety of examples of mobile learning found in this book will provide the reader with the inspiration to teach their own subjects and courses in ways that employ mobile devices in authentic and creative ways. This book is made up of a collection of double blind peer-reviewed chapters written by participants in the project New technologies, new pedagogies: Using mobile technologies to develop new ways of teaching and learning.

The book begins with an introductory chapter that describes the overall project, its aims and methods. The second chapter describes the professional development process that was used for the teacher participants involved in the project. This is followed by 10 chapters, each describing a mobile learning pedagogy that was employed in the context of a subject area within a Faculty of Education. The final chapter presents guidelines or design principles for the use of mobile learning in higher education learning environments.

We wish to acknowledge the support provided for the project on which this book is based by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council, an initiative of the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. This research was also funded by generous support from the Office of Teaching and Learning at the University of Wollongong. Jan Herrington, Anthony Herrington, Jessica Mantei, Ian Olney & Brian Ferry, April 2009

The chapters and full text are arranged alphabetically by author below:

Research Online

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Curse of

Whether you approve or disapprove of President Barak Obama or the Tea Bag rallies, this piece in Newgeography is certainly a clarion call to leaderships concerning the double-edged sword that is social media.

The days of politics as usual are over. The Obama team will have to play the game under a set of rules that have not all been written yet. This new era in politics will be much more open and subject to more public scrutiny than at any time in history.

The same communications tactics that won President Obama an election in 2008 may prove to be his greatest challenge in building public consensus for action going forward. In the age of “buzz” our young President will face challenges like none other. His greatest challenge may be in learning how to tame and control the inherently unruly politics of the information age.

There are unintended consequences to all leadership – be it politicians, business executives, or educators – to giving the masses an unfettered voice. It can be invigorating or frustrating since everyone is talking at once and those who would lead us are incapable of deciding whom to address first.

Even if they do make a decision, many will stop listening and starting talking themselves which will further infuriate and insult the leader. The leader unprepared for this eventuality will likely dismiss those individuals as we witnessed this summer with the Democratic leadership in Congress and in the old “media” where leadership is still struggling to come to grips with the loss of power that social media has stripped from them.

From an educational perspective, leadership must come to grips with the fact that social media is stripping the last vestiges of the “sage on the stage” from their hands. Sure they talked a good talk about being the “guide on the side” letting learners explore topics on their own, but make no mistake that as long as the “guide” was controlling the curriculum and the timing then the “sage” was still present as a wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing.

In fact the guide on the side is even more insulting than the sage on the stage because the guide only provides a veneer of autonomy to the student, but it was the “sage” that continued to hold the ropes and was the ultimate arbiter of whether the student had mastered a specific skill.

With social media students are free to draw their own conclusions and post them without the pressure of meeting an instructor’s predetermined outcomes. Conflicting ideas that gain grass roots support cannot be ignored or silenced by the leader without serious repercussions. I’m not sure there are many leaders out there that are willing to take that chance.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Learning Links for the week of Aug. 23, 2009

learninglinks Michael Erard offers a short manifesto on the future of attention. An interesting read as we race to incorporate Twitter, Facebook, etc. into the learning environment.

I imagine a retail sector for cultural products that's organized around the attention span: not around "books" or "music" but around short stories and pop songs in one aisle, poems and arias in the other. In the long store: 5,000 piece jigsaw puzzles, big novels, beer brewing equipment, DVDs of The Wire. Clerks could suggest and build attentional menus. We would develop attentional connoisseurship: the right pairings of the short and long. We would understand, and promote, attentional health.

Harold Jache writes that as companies switch from silos to networks our means of communicating will change resulting, in part, in training becoming marginalized.

History shows that significant changes in how we communicate result in significant changes in how we work. Many silos of support functions will not work in a network-centric organization as there’s too much redundancy, duplication of effort and slowness to react. It’s becoming obvious that only highly networked organizations are going to be successful.

Harold’s piece was based off of a piece written by Jay Cross and Clark Quinn regarding the future of Learning and Development in the corporate workplace. Their conclusion, is that:

[B]e aware that this is a permanent climate change, not a passing storm. Most of the time, the global economy is cyclical. It has its ups and downs, but the underlying pattern remains the same. A swing in one direction is balanced by a swing in the other. But what we are experiencing today is fundamental. Things are not going to return to where they were, for we are witnessing the birth of a new world order. We’re moving toward continuous change.

Over at 2¢ Worth, David Warlick posts an interesting list of what 21st century learning involves:

  • Questioning your learning experience,
  • Engaging your information environment,
  • Proving (and disproving) what you find,
  • Constructing (inventing) new learning and knowledge
  • Teaching others what you have learned
  • Being respected for the power of your learning, and
  • Being responsible for your learning and its outcomes

I’m not sure I totally agree with this list, but that may be the subject of another post.

FatDux Blog offers up 20 tips for writing for the web. The eLearningPost focused on #2:

2. Apply George Orwell’s rules
George Orwell, the English author of 1984, Animal Farm and other classics, has six rules of writing. Here they are – they’re all gems:

1) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech that you are used to seeing in print.

2) Never use a long word where a short one will do.

3) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

4) Never use the passive voice when you can use the active

5) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday equivalent.

6) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous!

At the Brandon Hall Innovations in Learning Facebook Group there is a listing of a series of free webinars:

Online Learning Technologies: Past, Present, and Future
Wednesday, September 2 — 1:00-2:00 p.m. Eastern Time (U.S. & Canada) (GMT-4:00)
Presented by Gary Woodill

Leveraging Social Media Tools to Improve Workplace Learning
Thursday, September 3 — 1:00-2:00 p.m. Eastern Time (U.S. & Canada) (GMT-4:00)
Presented by Janet Clarey

Selecting a Learning Management System
Wednesday, September 16 — 1:00-2:00 p.m. Eastern Time (U.S. & Canada) (GMT-4:00)
Presented by Tom Werner and Richard Nantel

Improving Knowledge Flow in Organizations
Thursday, September 24 — 1:00-2:00 p.m. Eastern Time (U.S. & Canada) (GMT-4:00)
Presented by Gary Woodill

The Armed Forces Journal has an essay by retired Marine Corp Colonel Thomas X. Hammes outlining why PowerPoint is a poor decision-making tool. Top take-away:

Rather than the intellectually demanding work of condensing a complex issue to two pages of clear text, the staff instead works to create 20 to 60 slides. Time is wasted on which pictures to put on the slides, how to build complex illustrations and what bullets should be included. I have even heard conversations about what font to use and what colors. Most damaging is the reduction of complex issues to bullet points. Obviously, bullets are not the same as complete sentences, which require developing coherent thoughts. Instead of forcing officers to learn the art of summarizing complex issues into coherent arguments, staff work now places a premium on slide building. Slide-ology has become an art in itself, while thinking is often relegated to producing bullets.

The BBC reports that another study shows that the ability to multitask is highly questionable especially amongst those people who proclaim to be expert multitaskers.

At eLearn Magazine’s online blog Roger Schank asks Must e-Learning Be ‘Cool?’ His rant is focused on the use of Second Life, and I have even heard proponents of Second Life say that it is valueless if you are just going to gather people in a single virtual location in Second Life to speak with them. Money quote comes at the end of his post:

People who do e-learning need to learn to fight the demand for cool and cheap. Insist on effective.

There is interesting give-and-take in the comments between opponents and proponents of Second Life.

Jane Hart points to an article by Mind Map Inspiration outlining 100 reasons to mind map. Top ten reasons are:

1. Explore a subject
2. Study & learn a new topic, culture or country
3. Plan your schedules
4. Innovate & invent
5. Create new ideas
6. Expand existing ideas
7. Tap your unique talents
8. Increase your brain power
9. Consolidate your existing knowledge
10. Summarise your skills

Patrick Batty provides a brief discussion of Blended Learning and how social media can have a role in that environment. The post culminates in an invitation to a free, live webinar discussing social networking in the classroom.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Brandon Hall offers free webinars

At the Brandon Hall Innovations in Learning Facebook Group there is a listing of a series of free webinars:

Online Learning Technologies: Past, Present, and Future
Wednesday, September 2 — 1:00-2:00 p.m. Eastern Time (U.S. & Canada) (GMT-4:00)
Presented by Gary Woodill

Leveraging Social Media Tools to Improve Workplace Learning
Thursday, September 3 — 1:00-2:00 p.m. Eastern Time (U.S. & Canada) (GMT-4:00)
Presented by Janet Clarey

Selecting a Learning Management System
Wednesday, September 16 — 1:00-2:00 p.m. Eastern Time (U.S. & Canada) (GMT-4:00)
Presented by Tom Werner and Richard Nantel

Improving Knowledge Flow in Organizations
Thursday, September 24 — 1:00-2:00 p.m. Eastern Time (U.S. & Canada) (GMT-4:00)
Presented by Gary Woodill

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Short Manifesto on the Future of Attention: Observatory: Design Observer

Michael Erard offers a short manifesto on the future of attention. An interesting read as we race to incorporate Twitter, Facebook, etc. into the learning environment.

I imagine a retail sector for cultural products that's organized around the attention span: not around "books" or "music" but around short stories and pop songs in one aisle, poems and arias in the other. In the long store: 5,000 piece jigsaw puzzles, big novels, beer brewing equipment, DVDs of The Wire. Clerks could suggest and build attentional menus. We would develop attentional connoisseurship: the right pairings of the short and long. We would understand, and promote, attentional health.

Learning Links for the week of Aug. 16, 2009

learninglinks The Training Zone provides a high-level review of what it takes to be a successful coach. Of course being the iconoclast that I am, I was put off by the statement that in the marketplace for coaches, credentials are becoming more important. “A post-graduate qualification or equivalent should be the benchmark for all professional coaches.” Verity Gough, the author, admits that proof that you passed a test does not prove you are a good coach, but it does signal that you are interested enough to pursue formal training.

Via Facebook: Greg Walker notes that the faculty of Education at the University of Regina is offering an open access course on Social Media & Open Education. He notes that it open to both registered and non-registered students and features live and recorded presentations. The course is built upon the wikispaces environment.

An interesting online forum on Monday, Aug. 24th at 1 pm. The Ontario Educator Meetup is holding a free online session on the strengths and challenges of mobile learning. The forum will be held in an Adobe Connect conference room and headset and microphone is required to participate.

An unnerving article in Slate about our instinctual desire to search is addictive and can be as dangerous as any other drug addiction. Money quote:

Actually all our electronic communication devices—e-mail, Facebook feeds, texts, Twitter—are feeding the same drive as our searches. Since we're restless, easily bored creatures, our gadgets give us in abundance qualities the seeking/wanting system finds particularly exciting. Novelty is one. Panksepp says the dopamine system is activated by finding something unexpected or by the anticipation of something new. If the rewards come unpredictably—as e-mail, texts, updates do—we get even more carried away. No wonder we call it a "CrackBerry."

Cole Camplese provides a fascinating review of the recent OpenEd conference in Vancouver B.C. Not only does he recap, but he provides links to actual videos of the talks given. These were posted to UpStream (a YouTube video hosting site. Here is Gardner Campbell presenting “No Digital Facelifts.” He argues that the changes in communication brought on by social media is as civilization changing as the invention of the alphabet.

Elliot Masie is soliciting thoughts on how learning will have changed by the year 2019.

Jane Hart is seeking input on how organizations are using social media for learning purposes.

I've decided the best way to do this is to use a Google Docs form and collect them in a spreadsheet where users can easily view and sort responses. So below you will find the form embedded in this posting if you'd like to contribute and start the ball rolling.  Once I have gathered a number of responses, I will, of course, share the URL.

Over at the eLearning Post, the author’s point to a sample chapter of  Kristina Halvorson’s new book Content Strategy for the Web, in which she argues that content audits are necessary before creating additional content.

Before you ever begin to brainstorm about which content you need, you must understand exactly what you have. Before you can decide where to focus your web improvement efforts (and allocate your budget), you need to know exactly what needs improving and why.

The TrainingZone celebrates PowerPoint’s 25th anniversary with some useful do’s and don’ts for learning professionals.

Gina Minks at Adventures in Corporate Education writes about how social media in the enterprise may never take off due to malware that is accidentally installed by following links found in social media. Read the whole thing at Will zombies be social media’s downfall in the Enterprise?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Learning Links for the week of Aug. 9, 2009

learninglinks The Technical Editors’ Eyrie provides a discussion on Developing a departmental style guide. I thought this item was extremely interesting.

Too many style guides get turned into tutorials on grammar, spelling, and punctuation. When the style guide is intended to be used by people who are not professional writers, this emphasis is understandable, but still misplaced.

Web Strategy blog provides an ongoing list on how to kick start an online community. I think the key proposal was made in the comments where it was recommended:

Make it easy for people to participate. Also, push content out to community members in the format they choose to keep the community at the forefront of their minds. If they like e-mail, give them e-mail. If they like RSS, give them RSS.

At the Training Zone, they offer a video on how to deal with “interrupters” in the classroom. It is presented by Monty Python alumni John Cleese. Free registration is required. They also provided a video defining how to work with the “waffler.”

The Rapid eLearning Blog demonstrates several techniques to build creative elearning courses, of course they all require the use of Articulate.

Jane’s E-Learning Pick of the Day lists some free online courses about e-learning hosted by the Brainshark Content Network.

Some people are suggesting that Adobe’s Acrobat and Flash “…vulnerabilities and exploits are on the rise while Microsoft’s is falling.

JISC provides a guide to use Second Life in the learning environment. Among the advantages of Second Life is “that lecturers are not Potential advantages of teaching in Second Life are that lecturers are not limited by physical space in a classroom.  Sessions can be recorded and the online interaction can give confidence to quieter students, which can stimulate more open and reflective discussion than would be possible in a traditional seminar.”

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Learning Links for the week of Aug. 2, 2009

The key to creating a coaching culture within an organization is the understanding that the coach recognize that that each situation is different and must be flexible enough to adapt. This makes developing managers as coaches a critical task, so says David Minchin, director of the School of Coaching and Leadership Development in a Training Zone article.

Lindsay Campbell offers two suggestions for how instructors can prepare themselves to project their voices once they are in the classroom.

Will Richardson reflects on whether he has becom a slave to technology after a confrontation with a New England contrarian.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog offers three practical ideas for using Twitter in e-learning: 1) follow an SME after a formal course is presented; 2) follow a specific topic on twitter using the application’s # command; and 3) use Twitter to build a community by again using the hashtags or signing up for a site like Twibes.

Training development should begin with a focus on what learners should do in the real world, not what they should know about the task in their head. Hat tip to Clive Shepherd, via FaceBook.

A fascinating piece on the shift from knowledge stocks to knowledge flows. In my mind the money quote from this piece is the following:

If institutions viewed their primary rationale as fostering scalable peer learning, they could create learningscapes that would help individuals develop their talent much more rapidly than these individuals ever could on their own. Of course, there is a huge transition required to get from here to there, but growing competitive and economic  pressures will ensure that institutions either make this journey or fall by the wayside as a new generation of institutions emerges to take their place.

Be sure to check out the Shift Index Report as well.

Educause posts a long piece on Web 2.0 storytelling.

There is an interesting post about teaching to learn over at the blog of proximal development. The key statement in mind was this:

But let’s not forget that merely bringing Web 2.0 tools into the classroom misses the point. Yes, they do promote peer-based interactions and self-expression. But adding blogging or wikis or even global collaborative projects to our curricula is not going to magically transform our static classrooms into interest-driven communities, and it certainly is not going to prepare the students to safely and effectively navigate “networked publics” (Ito, Horst, Bittani, et al., 2008, p.8). These tools are not going to magically create interest-driven communities.

The whole post is wrapped around the author’s, Konrad Glogowski, reflections on the Living and Learning with New Media report published in 2008.

Jay Cross posts the text of an article he wrote for Chief Learning Officer about informal learning. Its class Cross in that he dismisses the old-school formal learning model that still holds sway in most organizations in favor of informal learning processes based upon “…drip-feeding, interaction, ease of access, timely reinforcement, peer coaching, respect for reflection, setting standards, cognitive apprenticeship and so on.”

In the Mailbag

Jacob Nielsen’s Alertbox explores the growing use of social networking on corporate intranets. His research is based on case studies from 14 companies in 6 countries. His advice to obtaining wholesale adoption is to gently guide users by integrating new web 2.0 tools into the existing intranet so that users encounter them naturally.

This week’s eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions e-Magazine is out with articles on the use of instructional graphics.

  • Gestalt Your Graphics: Improving Instructional Graphics explores four “laws” to help get your point across by treating pictures as information
  • Being an e-Learning Developer Doesn’t Excuse You from Being Careful cautions developers against trying to use licensed media illegally by doctoring them to make the media look different.

The e-Magazine can be downloaded here from Team Connection.

My Twine email contained a link to an 11-page .pdf involving workplace collaboration. That discusses the three levels of workplace collaboration from local team to network – how collaboration can be fostered at each level, and the role of the workplace leader in encouraging it.

I leave you with this You Tube video, the first of seven parts, of Neil Postman's speech on Technology and Society.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Learning for the week of 7/27

learninglinks Pete Rainger at Skills for Access reports on new metadata standards that address accessibility of learning objects. The new metadata would describe what type of media or interactions learning objects contain.

Training Zone points to a company that claims its Creatix system can measure a company’s innovativeness.

Don’t what to make of this, Jane Hart points to a Learning Footprint Calculator that will offer the eLearning community a means of calculating enrionmental savings from swtiching to eLearning over classroom training.

Coming soon to an electronic device near you…CALO: Cognitive Assistant that Learns and Organizes. It is described as software that learns in the wild and “uses transfer learning to apply lessons from one domain to another. Pipe dream? Maybe, but its being supported by DARPA, and for those of you who don’t know about DARPA, well, if you’re reading this online you can thank DARPA they created the Internet. Source: eLearn Magazine.

Kindle or just Kindling – educators are split over the value of replacing text books with Kindle-like ereaders. Source: Stephen’s Web.

Jane Hart updates and re-launches her resource list for Social Media in Learning.

Clive Shepherd reviews a SkillSoft survey that indicates that European workers believe that their employers are not providing enough training opportunities including opportunities to learn at their own pace, to revisit materials later (informal learning) and to practice skills learned.

Charles Jennings asks Who needs learning objectives? in a post at trainingzone. His argument focuses on learning objectives and teaching to the test rather than teaching to performance. Free registration is required to read the whole article. I would also recommend reading through the comments as well.

Ghostwriter Dad offers 10 useful tips on how for powerful proofreading. My favorite is #7 Read Backwards. Hat tip to LifeHacker.

For the Virtual Bookshelf

The J Paul Getty Foundation releases a free on-line book devoted to an Introduction to Metadata, described as “an online publication devoted to metadata, its types and uses, and how it can improve access to digital resources. Stephen Downes gives a tentative thumbs up.

Stephen Downes also points to a post by Susan Nash that she is making her e-Learner Survival Guide as a free .pdf download. Also available in dead-tree format from Amazon, the book is described as:

[A] broad reaching collection of essays on e learning examines accomplishments, new directions, and challenges from many perspectives. The essays are arranged in categories, which include e learning and e learners, teaching and instruction, student engagement, learning communities, outcomes assessment and institutional leadership, all of which relate to learners and programs from college, K 12, career, to corporate training. Of special interest is a focus on successful outcomes for students and programs, and essays on often overlooked niches of learners, including generational differences (Gamers, Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y), stay at home mothers, working mother e learners, homeschoolers, bilingual online education and training.

In the Mailbag

The eLearning Guild has scheduled its next online forum for Aug. 13 and 14 called Designing and Managing Learning in 3-D Virtual Worlds and Immersive Environments. Anyone who would like to attend should contact one of Vangent’s Member Plus: Dennis Coxe, Tracey Lyon, or Sally Brett.

Sally Brett sent us all this link to an article titled Measuring Learning Results by Will Thalheimer that she posted to the document library on our Team Connection website. The article explores why we assess learning, the methods of performing these assessments and ends with a list of recommendations on how best to perform assessments.

OK, this is just not right, while reading my Gmail there was a link to an open source software solution that incorporated Moodle and Drupal. Curious, I went to the sight and read this:


Now, that’s just wrong.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Wife blows MI6 chief’s cover on Facebook - Times Online

This story is a cautionary tale about the use of Facebook.

But entries by his wife Shelley on the social networking site have exposed potentially compromising details about where they live and work, their friends’ identities and where they spend their holidays. On the day her husband was appointed she congratulated him on the site using his codename “C”.

How do businesses balance employees’ use of social networking tools and their concern for protecting proprietary information and other secrets.

Wife blows MI6 chief’s cover on Facebook - Times Online

Monday, June 22, 2009

Don’t Fence Me In

Stephen Downes questions when lawmakers will recognize that the laws that result in multi-million dollar judgments for sharing songs over the Internet are wrong. I’m afraid Stephen that things are going to become a whole lot more restrictive. Stephen writes:

When a court awards a $1.92-million penalty for sharing 24 songs, we have to ask, when will it become clear to people that the law is wrong? Because, any law that allows this, is wrong. Some other things that are wrong (via Charlene croft): a city in Montana requiring job applicants to submit all of their Web 2.0 logins and passwords. And a bill introduced here allowing government to intercept internet transmissions and gather user information from ISPs. Wrong. And I say: there is a fundamental disconnect between government, and the people they purport to be governing.

I tend to see the freedom provided by the Internet much like the freedom the old West afforded people. Both were initially populated by early adapters who were resourceful and independent. They did not like the restrictions mainstream society offered and the control that the rich could impose on that society.

Of course, this chafing of restrictions also tended to create a situation where lawlessness also grew. As long as it was early adapters there was no problem. In the old West feuds were settled with gun battles; on the Internet it was flame wars in forums.

Then the railroads, major businesses, started to move westward as enterprising individuals found resources that the East could use. This led to more people moving west; people who were not early adapters and who wanted the civilization of the East imposed upon the West. It took time, but as more individuals became wealthy from the railroads opening the West it became apparent that the wildness of the West had to be brought under control and probably by the 1910s, when Arizona became the 48th state accepted into the Union the west was tamed.

The same thing is now occurring in the Internet. By 2004, Nielsen reported that three-quarters of the United States had Internet access. With this influx of people corporations followed, not just with personal websites but also entrance into social media. It’s not unusual now to see corporations advertising to follow them on Facebook. The music industry is just the first industry to discover the wildness of the Internet and are actively fighting to tame the West. They were quickly followed by the motion picture industry. DRM laws are the equivalent of the fences erected to shut down the freedom to roam as property rights took precedence. Frankly, I don’t hold out much hope that the freedom that existed with the Internet will continue much longer.

Small voices will be shouted down by the bigger corporations who have the resources to take control. It’s apparent that Google who offers the largest platforms for individual voices to be heard (Blogger, YouTube, etc.) already caves and censors the Internet for the People’s Republic of China. From my perspective, the freedom and independence offered to the individual by the Internet is not long for this world.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I want to learn this…you want me to learn that…

A fascinating post on BoingBoing blog by Cory Doctorow, an author that I have a great deal of respect for, concerning learning. It tells the tale of a student at San Jose State University who had a run-in with his professor over the posting of his homework (computer code) on the Internet.

While the details of the incident are probably a repeat of incidents dating back to the first time a teacher and a student did not see eye to eye over sharing of information with other students, it was Cory’s assessment of the important learning moment from this tale.

There's a lot of meat on the bones of this story. The most important lesson from it for me is that students want to produce meaningful output from their course-assignments, things that have intrinsic value apart from their usefulness for assessing their progress in the course. Profs -- including me, at times -- fall into the lazy trap of wanting to assign rotework that can be endlessly recycled as work for new students, a model that fails when the students treat their work as useful in and of itself and therefore worthy of making public for their peers and other interested parties who find them through search results, links, etc.

I would agree with Cory’s assessment up to a point. I think it is true when the course is focusing on something the student wants to learn about, in other words, they are already self-motivated to learn. Other courses that may not necessarily interest the student, but are a required program by the university or corporate management, may not generate that level of interest.

This raises the interesting issue of how do we balance what we want to learn versus what others want us to learn? Of course every teacher thinks that his subject is the most important, but his students may not agree. It all depends upon their motivation. The question is how do you convince the student that even though he is not personally interested in a particular topic it is in his best interest to strive to perform to their highest level…to produce meaningful output, not just regurgitating what he thinks the teacher wants to hear.

The easy answer is to provide a motivating statement at the beginning of the course; this has been a staple in the corporate learning world for as long as I can remember. Provide the learner with a reason why they should want to learn the material. But is that always feasible. You ask any student and they can provide you with a class that they are required to take, but which they see no need to know the material.

My point is that not every class needs to involve producing meaningful work…sometimes proof that you are aware of the subject matter may be all that is necessary. Maybe the solution is to take the approach the state of Virginia is advancing, give students the option to take end-of-year tests or having their final grades based upon a portfolio of their work. The drawback with this effort is twofold.

  1. You have the issue that Cory talks about, the “lazy trap” that teachers fall into. It is easier to grade multiple-choice tests than it is to evaluate a portfolio.
  2. Is an “A” based on a final multiple-choice exam the equivalent of an “A” based upon a body of work.

The big question is how far as a society should we go in requiring students to learn information that they may not ever use. Is the concept of a well-rounded education a thing of the past?

Student challenges prof, wins right to post source code he wrote for course - Boing Boing

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Reprimanded For Facebook Post

facebook This seems to be an up and coming issue as social media moves off of high school and college campuses and into the work world. An Associated Press reporter is reprimanded for a post to his Facebook page.

The minidrama is an increasingly familiar one as companies and workers navigate the landscape defined by sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. Firings and reprimands over postings to social networking sites have become commonplace over the last year.

As learning professionals we need to ask ourselves and our clients if the workplace environment is conducive to such open communications before we recommend the use of social media.

AP Reporter Reprimanded For Facebook Post; Union Protests | Threat Level |

Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Social Media Gender Gap

Business Week has a fascinating report that instructional designers should keep in mind before floating Web 2.0 ideas to a customer. In the article The Social Media Gender Gap suggests women are more apt to adopt web 2.0 applications then men.

It's no shock that men and women act differently online, just as they do in everyday life. The Web is an extremely social medium, and Web 2.0 is all about being social. Traditionally, men are the early adopters of new technologies. But when it comes to social media, women are at the forefront. At Rapleaf we conducted a study of 13.2 million people and how they're using social media. While the trends indicate both sexes are using social media in huge numbers, our findings show that women far outpace the men.

Hat tip to MetaFilter community blog which also points to articles that Twitter appears to be the one social media that is dominated by men.

Creative Commons Flickr Photo from Kanaka’s Paradise Life.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Evolutionary Dead-end?

Interesting observation about technology at the webblog Boing Boing.

Every gadget expands until it becomes a PC. Any gadget that does not so expand is replaced by one that will.

It sure seems that way. Comment was in reference to a post at its sister blog Boing Boing Gadgets about the digital picture frame shown here.

Recently at Boing Boing Gadgets - Boing Boing

List of Cultural and Educational Video Sites

Open Culture blog provides a list of 35 cultural and educational video sites.

Looking for great cultural and educational video? Then you’ve come to the right place. Below, we have compiled a list of 35 sites that feature intelligent videos. This list was produced with the help of our faithful readers, and it will grow over time. If you find it useful, please share it as widely as you can. And if we’re missing good sites, please list them in the comments below.

Movie camera photo courtesy of: domi-san’s photostream on flickr.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Social Web as a New Walled Garden

Interesting perspective from Wired magazine on the future of Social Web.

The social web trend is more or less complete. Oprah's gone Twitter, your co-worker has a MySpace problem, and if your parents aren't bugging you with Facebook movie quiz invites, they probably will be by the time you're done reading this. People are flocking to these sites in record numbers, as Facebook now boasts over 200 million users worldwide, and Twitter has grown 3,000 percent since last year. But for the social web to evolve into its final stage and take flight, the walls that separate these services, their users and everything they create will have to come down.

The article then suggests that once again we are building silos that restrict communications.

Leo Laporte, a broadcaster who runs the popular TWiT network of technology podcasts, calls the phenomenon "the social silo," and he doesn't think it can last much longer. "People are pouring all this content and value into individual sites," says Laporte, "but they aren't going to want to keep dealing with Facebook, and Twitter, and FriendFeed, and whatever is next." Laporte and Owyang agree that in order for the social web to move forward, the separate ecosystems which make it up need to unite.

Of course the assumption that we all want to share with one another is just that an assumption, one predicated that we desire to be of one herd that is in constant communication.

Creative Commons photo from Eggman’s Flickr photo stream.

Dual Perspectives Article

Monday, May 18, 2009

Fair Use Video

The American University's Center for Social Media posted this video describing guidelines for Fair Use of copyright material when creating new videos.

The video is part of a larger site focusing on Fair Use issues including a section for teachers.

Hat Tip: BoingBoing

Friday, April 17, 2009

On Writing Solid Emails

For better or worse email has become the gold standard of communications in our world. We use it to communicate not only with our superiors and coworkers, but also with family and friends. We use it for both professional and personal reasons and like any form of communication that has broadened out to the masses it has become misused.

Harvard Business Publishing has a well thought-out piece on writing email, that could also apply to blog writing. Most of it is common sense that has been repeated extensively in other articles, but repeating it is like the weeding that gardeners have to constantly engage in.

Most email (and blog) writing has moved beyond its original context as a form of formal communication to a more on-the-fly, asynchronous communication tool for those who do not want to engage in a conversation with the email recipient. In that venue, the recommendations proposed by the author David Silverman, may not totally apply, although, even some of his 10 points are worthwhile to consider.

But for formal communications that are going to two or more people, his points are invaluable.

1. Delete redundancies. Say it once. That's enough. If you're repetitive, the reader will stop reading and start skimming. (Like you probably just did.)

2. Use numbers and specifics instead of adverbs and adjectives. "The project is currently way behind schedule on major tasks," is not as clear as "The project is 3 weeks late delivering hamburger buns to Des Moines." (If you don't have numbers, still get rid of the adverbs and adjectives.)

3. Add missing context. Does your reader know that hamburger buns in Iowa are required for the company to collect $37 million? If you're not sure, remind them.

4. Focus on the strongest argument. Should those hamburger buns get shipped because the delay is embarrassing for the company, because it's costing children their lunch, or because it's costing the company tens of millions of dollars? Maybe all three, but one of those reasons (and it depends on your reader) will be enough to get buns on the road.

5. Delete off-topic material. The best emails say one thing and say it clearly. One-subject emails also make it easier for the recipient to file the message once they've taken action, something anyone who uses Outlook to manage tasks appreciates.

6. Seek out equivocation and remove it. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" works for Dickens, not status reports.

7. Kill your favorites. Is something in your text particularly pithy, amusing, or clever? Chance are, it's not. If it sticks out, it's probably a tap-dancing gorilla in boxer shorts — hilarious when you thought of it, embarrassing when it gets in your manager's inbox.

8. Delete anything written in the heat of emotion. Will this sentence show them who's been right about the hamburger buns since the beginning? Yes? Cut it.

9. Shorten. Remember the reader struggling to digest your message on the run — a BlackBerry or an iPhone gets about 40 words per screen. What looks short on your desktop monitor is an epic epistle on their mobile device.

10. Give it a day.
With time, what seemed so urgent may no longer need to be said. And one less email is something everyone will thank you for.

I recommend reading through the comments for additional observations about email etiquette.

Hat tip to Basil White for the Summarization flow chart shown in this post.

How to Revise an Email So That People Will Read It - David Silverman -

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Educational or Over the Top: You Decide

According to the poster of this video on You Tube, this is an actual safety video shown at a training session.


A quick Google search did turn up this site selling the video for $229. Don't know if its the same or not. Their description is:

This hard-hitting meeting opener will capture your employees' attention and show them just how easily accidents can happen. This video is an ideal way to start any safety meeting and features 10 accidents accompanied by victim testimony to set the tone for your next training session.

Because it is for sale I don't know how long it will remain posted on You Tube. So see it while you can.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Dangers of Informal Learning

I place this in the category of the dangers of putting too much emphasis on informal learning. There was obviously no emphasis on documentation which is a key ingredient in top-down learning which is the key to formal learning. The Sunday Herald of Scotland reports that the U.S. and Great Britain cannot refurbish Trident missiles because they "forgot how to manufacture a component of the warhead."

Plans to refurbish Trident nuclear weapons had to be put on hold because US scientists forgot how to manufacture a component of the warhead, a US congressional investigation has revealed.

The US National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) "lost knowledge" of how to make a mysterious but very hazardous material codenamed Fogbank. As a result, the warhead refurbishment programme was put back by at least a year, and racked up an extra $69 million.

Somewhere along the line a decision was made by upper management not to document the process; relying instead on existing personnel to remember and to record.

But vital information on how Fogbank was actually made had somehow been mislaid. "NNSA had lost knowledge of how to manufacture the material because it had kept few records of the process when the material was made in the 1980s, and almost all staff with expertise on production had retired or left the agency," the report said.

This is occurring increasingly throughout all sectors of our economy, especially now when managers are struggling to make ends meet without having to layoff more personnel then absolutely necessary. But at what cost? How much knowledge will be lost as senior employees accept buy-out packages to retire early or high-end achievers leave during or ahead of cutbacks?

I blame management for not seeing the value of documenting their processes and providing employees with the time and the means to document their best practices during the "good" times before this economic downturn. Too much tribal knowledge was left ungathered because we thought the good times would never end and we would always have our tribal elders to pass on their knowledge through informal learning practices.

Well, what these economic times remind us is that even though we have moved way beyond the hunter/gatherer ancestors we are still held thrall by seasonal changes. I fear that as economic winter sets in a great deal of knowledge will be lost.

Hat tip: Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds

The Sunday Herald - Scotland's award-winning independent newspaper

Friday, January 30, 2009

Wasn't the Internet Cute Back in 1981

This vintage news report demonstrates how the news media had no real clue about the possibilities of the Internet.

Hat Tip: IO9

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Helpful Reminder for All Designers

As we go about our daily design efforts under the pressure of increasingly tight schedules we sometimes forget about the people who will be sitting in front of their computer screens trying to digest the elearning we develop. This presentation - Dumping the Drone - by Cathy Moore is a helpful reminder of how we should be developing content.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What Can Training Departments Learn from Our President's Experiences

A report in the New York Times last Friday provides an interesting parable for the corporate training world that is looking towards Web 2.0 as a new avenue to deliver training. The article, titled Obama 2.0: Who's Leading Who?, notes that the leadership team around our new Chief Executive is discovering that once they let the genie out of the bottle they cannot get him back in. At the heart of the story is the fact that the grassroots elements that Team Obama connected with, in part using web 2.0 technology, are now continuing to demand the face time they had during the campaign.

Not everyone is sure, however, that once in office, President Obama will be able to marshall his online forces and engage them against his targets. Now organized, they may decide to move against him.

That’s already happened, wrote Ari Melber yesterday at the Nation, noting that the previous week a question about whether Obama would appoint a special prosecutor to investigate possible Bush Administration war crimes had been voted to the top of citizens’ questions submitted to the new administration via An Obama spokesman tried to dodge the question, but it didn’t go away:

It is striking that Obama’s aides, who helped win the election by harnessing new media, believed they could just spin away from their online interlocutors. Instead, the move backfired immediately. Bob Fertik, the activist who submitted the question, campaigned for it; and progressive websites, including, blasted the dodge. Within a day, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann picked up the story. A day later, Obama was compelled to answer the question in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, who quoted it and pressed Obama with two follow-ups. Obama’s answer, which prioritized moving “forward” but did not rule out a special prosecutor, made the front page of the January 12 New York Times.

So what does this mean for corporate training departments. I would suggest it means the end of the learning management system as a gatekeeper for training. It could signal the end of the existing static training experience (whether in the classroom or over the corporate intranet) in which information is dumped on the learner with a few exercises or multiple choice questions thrown in to break up the monotony. More importantly, learners are not going to stand by and just absorb information and then walk away and do what the training intended them to do. Web 2.0 will no longer allow that.

At least in the classroom they can ask questions and talk among themselves. I think in the elearning environment the days of the standard elearning course has to come to an end. Business likes elearning because the learner can take it at any time, any where. More importantly, the learner can be easily interrupted and pulled out of the learning experience to handle more profitable issues. If the training is programmed with bookmarking, the learner will not even lose their place.

In the future, elearning cannot be delivered in this fashion. The new generation of workers are not going to allow it. They are going to require that they have the ability to communicate with an expert and with one another. It is going to require creation of a cadre who will take the course at the same time and will have access to some form of online chat so that they can talk to one another as well as to a subject matter expert. The SME does not need to actively present the material, but he or she will be actively monitoring the chat session to answer questions as they appear.

Most important, it is going to require that the top-down model of communication in the company is going to have to relinquish some control over the learning environment.

Hat Tip to Will Thalheimer Tags: ,,

Monday, January 19, 2009

Better Read then Dead

P1010032Okay, I know that is mighty strange headline for a blog post, but what the heck, I’m in that kind of mood. The point I’m trying to make is that I used to think I could never read an ebook. I always thought that I had to have  the dead tree version of a book to be able to enjoy the read.

I want to say right now: I WAS WRONG!!!!

To the right you see my most recent gadget. It’s a Samsung Blackjack; not as sexy as an Apple  iPhone, but for my money its just as good. I’ve coupled it with my home version of Microsoft Office 2007 so I can create and edit documents to my heart’s content.

But my most recent addition to my Blackjack is the addition of Mobipocket ebook Reader. This free software has turned my Blackjack into a mobile library of books and documents. My most recent read, which I highly recommend, is Cory Doctrow’s Little Brother, a dystopian tale of the Department of Homeland Security run amok and the efforts of a band of teenagers to resist.

Other books I have read using my Blackjack include:

All of these book, except for Atlas Shrugged are available for free. Mobipocket ebook Reader also provides the ability to import web documents, .pdf files, and office documents and converts them to their reader. Whenever I connect my Blackjack to my computer Mobipocket will ask if I want to synchronize my library. I have met the future and it is wonderful. Tags: ,

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Learning in Hard Economic Times: A Delicate Balancing Act

Harold Jarche has an interesting post concerning innovation and learning that I post here in its entirety.

In Innovating in the Great Disruption, Scott Anthony suggests three disciplines necessary to foster innovation in difficult economic times - placing a premium on progress; mastering paradox; and learning to love the low end. He also discusses the importance of learning;

" Innovators will need to continue to find creative, cheap ways to bring their ideas forward. Fortunately, they can tap into a plethora of powerful tools to facilitate rapid learning."

Rapid learning is not PowerPoint slides turned into online courses but rather increasing the ways to connect ideas and people. This is the future of training and e-learning, or what I call ABC (anything but courses). Anthonys third point, love the low end, also speaks to the use of inexpensive tools such as web services or open source software. If learning professionals can be seen as catalysts for innovation, then even in difficult times will their future look bright.

While I will agree that the corporate world is mistaken in believing that a one-day or two-day training program is sufficient to develop employees in a specific process, I fear that Harold is going overboard with his "ABC" idea. Without a base, formal presentation of some sort to provide a framework for ongoing learning between people you could end up with a case of the blind men describing the elephant.

Harold is correct in stating that "[r]apid learning is not turning PowerPoint slides into online courses," but it is also not a matter of setting up a bunch of social web services to facilitate discussion. In fact what is telling about the quote he provides is what preceded it.

While more and more companies recognize the name of the game is transformation, the tolerance for blind experimentation has never been lower.

And that is too true. In times like these, the corporate world looks to cost centers such as training as the first place to make cuts. So any proposed innovation will require a balance between something old and something new, which is what I suggested way back in 2007.

Harold Jarche » Innovation and Learning

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Lunch and Learning Objectives

 Will Thalheimer has been providing a series of brown bag webinars called Webinoshs and the latest is about learning objectives. Here's the 411:

FREE Webinosh on Instructional Objectives This Friday January 9th, I will talk about Instructional Objectives, and some research, thereof. Instructional Objectives:

  • Do they produce learning results?
  • Are they all the same?
  • Do we have to use them?
  • Do prequestions work just as well?
  • How specifically do they have to be worded?
  • Can I use the word "Understand"? Answer: In some of them, but not others.
  • Hey Will, do you have a new taxonomy for us?

To sign-up just go to