Learnlets
Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

14 April 2014

How do we mLearn?

Clark @ 6:56 am

As preface, I used to teach interface design.  My passion was still learning technology (and has been since I saw the connection as an undergraduate and designed my own major), but there’re strong links between the two fields in terms of design for humans.  My PhD advisor was a guru of interface design and the thought was “any student of his should be able to teach interface design”.  And so it turned out.  So interface design continues to be an interest of mine, and I recognize the importance. More so on mobile, where there are limitations on interface real estate, so more cleverness may be required.

Stephen Hoober, who I had the pleasure of sharing a stage with at an eLearning Guild conference, is a notable UI design expert with a speciality in mobile.  He had previously conducted a research project examining how people actually hold their phones, as opposed to anecdotes.  The Guild’s Research Director, Patti Schank, obviously thought this interesting enough to extend, because they’ve jointly published the results of the initial report and subsequent research into tablets as well. And the results are important.

The biggest result, for me, is that people tend to use phones while standing and walking, and tablets while sitting.  While you can hold a tablet with two hands and type, it’s hard.  The point is to design for supported use with a tablet,  but for handheld use with a phone. Which actually does imply different design principles.

I note that I still believe tablets to be mobile, as they can be used naturally while standing and walking, as opposed to laptops. Though you can support them, you don’t have to.  (I’m not going to let the fact that there are special harnesses you can buy to hold tablets while you stand, for applications like medical facilities dissuade me, my mind’s made up so don’t confuse me :)

The report goes into more details, about just how people hold it in their hands (one handed w/ thumb, one hand holding, one hand touching, two hands with two thumbs, etc), and the proportion of each.  This has impact on where on the screen you put information and interaction elements.

Another point is the importance of the center for information and the periphery for interaction, yet users are more accurate at the center, so you need to make your periphery targets larger and easier to hit. Seemingly obvious, but somehow obviousness doesn’t seem to hold in too much of design!

There is a wealth of other recommendations scattered throughout the report, with specifics for phones, small and large tablets, etc, as well as major takeaways.  For example the implication from the fact that tablets are often supported means that more consideration of font size is needed than you’d expect!

The report is freely available on the Guild site in the Research Library (under the Content>Research menu).  Just in time for mLearnCon!  

8 April 2014

The death of the PDA greatly exaggerated?

Clark @ 8:29 am

A colleague wondered if the image on the cover of the new book was a PDA, and my initial response was that the convergence of capabilities suggested the demise of the PDA. But then I had a rethink…

For what is a PDA?  It’s a digital platform sans the capability of a cellular voice channel.  My daughter got an iPod touch, but within a year we needed to get her a new phone, and it’s an iPhone.   Which suggests that a device without phone capability is increasingly less feasible.

But wait a minute, there are plenty of digital devices sans voice. In fact, I have one.  It’s a tablet!  It may have cellular data, but it certainly doesn’t have voice.  And while people are suggesting that the tablet is done, I’m not interested in a phablet, as I already have a problem with a phone in my pocket (putting me in the fashion faux pas category of liking a holster), and I think others want something smaller that they can have all the time.

So, I’ve argued elsewhere that mobile devices have to be handheld, and that tablets have usage patterns different than pocketables.  But I think in many instances tablets do function as personal digital assistants, when you’re not constrained by space.  There are advantages to the larger screen. So, while I think the pocketable version of the PDA is gone (since having a phone and a PDA seems redundant), the non-phone digital assistant is going to persist for the larger form factor.  What am I missing?

2 April 2014

It’s (almost) out!

Clark @ 6:42 am

My latest tome, Revolutionize Learning & Development: Performance and Innovation Strategy for the Information Age is out.  Well, sort of.  What I mean is that it’s now available on Amazon for pre-order.  Actually, it’s been for a while, but I wanted to wait until there was some there there, and now there’s the ‘look inside’ stuff so you can see the cover, back cover (with endorsements!), table of contents, sample pages, and more.  Ok, so I’m excited!

RLnDCoverSmallWhat I’ve tried to do is make the case for dragging L&D into the 21st Century, and then provide an onramp.  As I’ve been saying, my short take is that L&D isn’t doing what it could and should be doing, and what it is doing, it is doing badly.  But I don’t believe complaining alone is particularly helpful, so I’m trying to put in place what I think will help as well.  The major components are:

  • what’s wrong (you can’t change until you admit the problem :)
  • what we know about how we think, work, and learn that we aren’t accounting for
  • what it would look like if we were doing it right
  • ways forward

By itself, it’s not the whole answer, for several reasons. First, it can’t be. I can’t know all the different situations you face, so I can’t have a roadmap forward for everyone. Instead, what I supposed you could think of is that it’s a guidebook (stretching metaphors), showing suggestions that you’ll have to sequence into your own path.  Second, we don’t know all yet. We’re still exploring many of these areas.  For example, culture change is not a recipe, it’s a process.  Third, I’m not sure any one person can know all the answers in such a big field. So, fourth, to practice what I’m preaching, there should be a community pushing this, creating the answers together.

A couple of things on that last part, the first one is a request.  The community will need to be in place by the time the book is shipping.  The question is where to host it.  I don’t intend to build a separate community for it on the book site, as there are plenty of places to do this.  Google groups, Yahoo groups, LinkedIn…the list goes on. It can’t be proprietary (e.g. you have to be a paid member to play).  Ideally it’d have collaborative tools to create resources, but I reckon that can be accommodated via links.  What do you folks think would be a good choice?

The second part of the community bit is that I’m very grateful to many people who’ve helped or contributed.  Practitioner friends and colleagues provided the five case studies I’ve the pleasure to host.  Two pioneers shared their thoughts.  The folks at ASTD have been great collaborators in both helping me with resources, and in helping me get the message out.  A number of other friends and colleagues took the time to read an early version and write endorsements.  And I’ve learned together with so many of you by attending events together, hearing you speak, reading your writings, and having you provide feedback on my thoughts via talking or writing to me after hearing me speak or commenting on my scribblings here.

The book isn’t perfect, because I have thought of a number of ways it could be improved since I provided the manuscript, but I have stuck to the mantra that at some point it’s better out than still being polished. This book came from frustration that we can be doing so much better, and we’re not. I didn’t grow up thinking “I’m going to be a revolutionary”, but I can’t not see what I see and not say something.  We can be doing so much better than we are. And so I had to be willing to just get the word out, imperfect.  It wasn’t (isn’t) clear that I’m the best person to call this out, but someone needs to!

That said, I have worked really hard to have the right pieces in place.  I’ve collected and integrated what I think are the necessary frameworks, provided case studies and a workplace scenario, and some tools to work forward.   I have done my best to provide a short and cogent kickstart to moving forward.  

Just to let you know that I’m starting my push.  I’ll be presenting on the book at ASTD’s ICE conference, and doing some webinars. Bryan Austin of GameOn Learning interviewed me on my thoughts in this direction.  I do believe in the message, and that it at least needs to be heard.  I think it’s really the necessary message for L&D (in it, you’ll find out why I’m suggesting we need to shift to P&D!).  Forewarned!  I look forward to your feedback.

8 January 2014

Making Mobile Mayhem

Clark @ 6:10 am

As I suggested in my post on directions for the year, I intend to be stirring up a bit of trouble here and there.  On a less formal basis, I want to suggest that another area where we need a little more light and a little less heat (and smoke) is mobile.  There is huge opportunity here, and I am afraid we are squandering it.

We’re doing a lot wrong when it comes to mobile.  As Jason Haag has aptly put it, elearning courses on a phone (or tablet) is mobile elearning, not mobile learning (aka mlearning).  And while there’s an argument for mobile elearning (at least on tablets), and strong case for augmenting formal learning with mobile (regardless of device), mobile elearning is not mlearning’s natural niche.

mLearning’s natural niche is performance support, whether through content (interactive or not), or social.   Think about how you use your phone? When I ask this of attendees, they’re using them to get information in the moment, or find their way, or capture information.  They’re not using them to take courses!

So we need to be thinking outside the course.  To help, we need case studies, across business sectors, and across the areas.  Which means we need people to be getting their hands on development tools.

Which is a second problem: the tools that are easiest to use are being used to create courses.  The elearning tools we use are increasingly having mobile output, but it’s too easy to then just output courses.  It turns out one of the phenomena that characterize our brains is ‘functional fixedness’, we use a tool in the way we’ve used it before.  Yet we can use these tools to do other things. And there are tools more oriented towards performance support.  Anything that creates content or interactivity can be used to build performance support, but we have to be doing it!

There’s more that we need to be doing in the background - content, governance, strategy – but we need to get our minds around mobile solutions to contextual needs, and start delivering the resources people need.  Mobile is big; the devices are out there, and they’re a platform for so much; we need to capitalize.

The place where you’re going to be able to see the case studies and explore the tools and start getting your mind around mobile will be this summer’s mLearnCon (in San Diego in June!). And you really should be going. Also, if you are doing mobile, you really should be submitting to present.  We need more examples, more ideas, more experience!  (If you need help writing a proposal, I’ve already written a guide.)

Really, presenting is a great contribution to yourself and the industry, and we really could use it.  Help us make mobile mayhem by showing the way.  Or, of course, join us at the conference to get ready to mix it up.  Hope to see you there.

1 January 2014

2014 Directions

Clark @ 6:49 am

In addition to time for reflection on the past, it’s also time to look forward.  A number of things are already in the queue, and it’s also time to see what I expect and hope for.

The events already queued up include:

ASTD’s TechKnowledge 2014, January 22-24 in Las Vegas, where I’ll be talking on aligning L&D with organizational needs (hint hint).

NexLearn’s Immersive Learning University conference, January 27-30 in Charleston, SC, where I’ll be talking about the design of immersive learning experiences.

Training 2014, in San Diego February 2 – 5, where I’ll be running a workshop on advanced instructional design, and talking on learning myths.

The eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions will be in Orlando March 17-21, where I’ll be running a 1 day elearning strategy workshop, as well as offering a session on informal elearning.

That’s all that is queued up so far, but stay tuned. And, of course, if you need someone to speak…

You can tell by the topics I’m speaking on as to what I think are going to be, or should be, the hot issues this year.  And I’ll definitely be causing some trouble.  Several areas I think are important and I hope that there’ll be some traction:

Obviously, I think it’s past time to be thinking mobile, and I should have a chapter on the topic in the forthcoming ASTD Handbook Ed.2.  Which also is seen in my recent chapter on the topic in the Really Useful eLearning Instruction Manual.  I think this is only going to get more important, going forward, as our tools catch up.  It’s not like the devices aren’t already out there!

A second area I’m surprised we still have to worry about it good elearning design. I’m beginning to see more evidence that people are finally realizing that knowledge dump/test is a waste of time and money. I’m also part of a forthcoming effort to address it, which will also manifest in the aforementioned second edition of the ASTD Handbook.

I’m quite convinced that L&D has a bigger purpose than we’re seeing, which is naturally the topic of my next book. I think that the writing is on the wall, and what is needed is some solid grounding in important concepts and a path forward.  The core point is that we should be looking from a perspective of not just supporting organizational performance via optimal execution, with (good) formal learning and performance support, but also facilitation of continual innovation and development.  I think that L&D can, and must address this, strategically.

So, of course, I think that we still have quite a ways to go in terms of capitalizing on social, the work I’ve been advocating with my ITA colleagues.  They’ve been a boon to my thinking in this space, and they’re driving forward (Charles with the 70:20:10 Forum, Jane with her next edition of the Social Learning Handbook, Harold with Change Agents Worldwide, and Jay continues with the Internet Time Group).  Yet there is still a long ways to go, and lots of opportunity for improvement.

An area that I’m excited about is the instrumentation of what we do to start generating data we can investigate, and analytics to examine what we find.  This is having a bit of a bubble (speaking of cutting through hype with affordances, my take is that “big data” isn’t the answer, big insights are), but the core idea is real.  We need to be measuring what we’re doing against real business needs, and we now have the capability to do it.

And an area I hope we’ll make some inroads on are the opportunities provided by a sort-of ‘content engineering‘ and leveraging that for customized and contextual experiences.  This is valuable for mobile, but does beyond to a much richer opportunity that we have the capability to take advantage of, if we can only muster the will.  I expect this will lag a bit, but doing my best to help raise awareness.

There’s much more, so here’s to making things better in the coming year! I hope to have a chance to talk and work with you about positive changes.  Here’s hoping your new year is a great one!

17 December 2013

Categorizing mLearning

Clark @ 6:41 am

In thinking about mlearning, I have characterized the possibilities of mobile as augmenting formal, performance support, social, and contextual.  It occurs to me, as I continue to think mobile, that there is another way to view it.

mLearningThe realization came from the fact that you can use social for both augmenting formal learning and performance support, just as you can with content (both media files and interactive experiences).  Which leads to a different way of characterizing the space. Thus, social versus content is a different cut through mobile than is formal learning versus performance support.

ContextualmLearning

An interesting other cut is that you can do something contextual for any or all of these areas as well: you could provide a contextually relevant or local directory of mentors for formal social or collaborators for performance support.  For formal content, you could leverage contextual elements with associated content, or even create an alternate reality game playing off the context.  And for performance support, you might customize job aids to point to local resources, or provide augmented reality to annotate the world.

What I’m doing here is revising the way I cut through the space. Social plays a role in both formal and performance support, as does content.  Contextual is really a third dimension in addition to the other two dimensions.The older characterization was useful for thinking through design, but I think this is conceptually cleaner.

I’m always trying to get better, and this seems more accurate.  So, does it make sense to you?  More importantly does this help, or only confound the space from the point of view of doing good mDesign?

 

14 November 2013

Really Useful eLearning Instruction Manual

Clark @ 7:02 am

Rob Hubbard organized a suite of us to write chapters for a use-focused guide to elearning. And, now it’s out and available!  Here’s the official blurb:

Technology has revolutionised every aspect of our lives and how we learn is no exception. The trouble is; the range of elearning technologies and the options available can seem bewildering. Even those who are highly experienced in one aspect of elearning will lack knowledge in some other areas. Wouldn’t it be great if you could access the hard-won knowledge, practical guidance and helpful tips of world-leading experts in these fields? Edited by Rob Hubbard and featuring chapters written by global elearning experts: Clive Shepherd, Laura Overton, Jane Bozarth, Lars Hyland, Rob Hubbard, Julie Wedgwood, Jane Hart, Colin Steed, Clark Quinn, Ben Betts and Charles Jennings – this book is a practical guide to all the key topics in elearning, including: getting the business on board, building it yourself, learning management, blended, social, informal, mobile and game-based learning, facilitating online learning, making the most of memory and more.

And here’s the Table of Contents, so you can see who wrote what:

  1. So What is eLearning? – Clive Shepherd
  2. Getting the Business on Board – Laura Overton
  3. Build In-House, Buy Off -the-Shelf or Outsource? - Jane Bozarth
  4. Production Processes – Making it Happen! - Lars Hyland
  5. Making the Most of Memory - Rob Hubbard
  6. Blended Learning - Julie Wedgwood
  7. Informal and Social Learning - Jane Hart
  8. Facilitating Live Online Learning - Colin Steed
  9. Mobile Learning - Clark Quinn
  10. Game-Based Learning - Ben Betts
  11. Learning Management - Charles Jennings

If you’d like to purchase the book, VBF11 is the promotion code to get 15% discount when you buy the book at www.wiley.com, or you can get it through Amazon as a book or on Kindle.  I look forward to getting my copy in the mail!

12 November 2013

Thinking Context in the Design Process

Clark @ 6:28 am

I was talking to the ADL Mobile folks about mobile design processes, and as usual I was going on about how mobile is not the sweet spot for courses (augmenting yes, full delivery no).  When tablets are acting more like a laptop, sure, but otherwise.  I had suggested that the real mobile opportunities are using sensors to do contextual things, and and I also opined that we really don’t have an instructional design model that adequately addresses taking context into account.  I started riffing on what that might involve, and then continued it on a recent trip to speak in Minneapolis.

ContextualDesignNaturally, I started diagramming. I am thinking specifically of augmenting formal learning here, not performance support.  In this diagram, when it’s not a course you head off to consider contextual performance support, if indeed the context of performance is away from a computer.

When, however, it is a course, and you start embedding the key decisions into a setting, the first thing you might want to do is use their existing context (or contexts, it occurs to me now).  Then we can wrap learning around where (or when) they are, turning that life event into a learning experience.  Assuming, of course, we can detect and deliver things based upon context, but that’s increasingly doable.

Now if you can’t use their context, because it’s arguably not something that is located in their existing lives, we want to create a context (this is, really, the essence of serious game design). It might be fantastic (some conspiracy theory, say) or very real (e.g. the Red 7 sales demo, warning: large PDF), but it’s a setting in which the decisions are meaningfully embedded (that is, real application of the model and of interest to the learner).  It might be desktop but if possible, could we distribute the experience into the learners’ world, e.g. transmedia?  Here we’re beginning to talk Alternate Reality Game.  (And we use exaggeration to ramp up the motivation.)

As an aside, I wondered when/how collaboration would fit in here, and I don’t yet have an answer: before setting, after, or in parallel?  Regardless, that’s definitely another consideration, which may be driven by a variety of factors such as whether there are benefits to role-play or collaboration in this particular instance.

This is still very preliminary (thinking and learning out loud), but it has some initial resonance to me.  For you too, or where am I going off track?

4 November 2013

Voice Mobile Reflections

Clark @ 6:41 am

I have only recently upgraded to a phone with any meaningful voice capabilities, an iPhone with Siri in my particular case.  And I really hadn’t put it to the test, but that changed this past weekend. I had a long solo drive home and time to think.

When I headed out, I had some logistical details, so I asked Siri to call home.  This I’d done before.  Then, finding out m’lady was out and about, I decided to see if I could text by voice as well (which my brother assures me is how he always does it on his Android device).  Sure enough, I could send text messages.

I’d deliberately set my mind around focusing on my current project and taking some ideas further.  And, indeed, I had a revelation.  What could I do?  Could I take a note?  Why, yes, I can.  However, Siri stopped too early, so I tried speaking quicker.  Which has it’s own problems, but I achieved a useful reminder.

Then I thought of a further text message. Remembering the last message, I spoke quickly, and this time Siri  munged two words together.  (“Call when free” became “Call Winfrey”, and I didn’t think Oprah would take my call).  This time I had to try again, and pause more between my words. At least it didn’t end too quickly.  (Wish she’d ask me, if I cancel, whether I want to try again.)

And, then I decided I’d write a blog post about my thoughts, and I wanted a reminder (there’ve been times in the past when I had a good topic, but by the time I got back I couldn’t remember what it was). By experimentation, I found that I could indeed also make a Reminder (aka ‘ToDo’).  So I made one for that post (coming soon), and one to write this (see, it works!).  I only wish Siri could diagram for me too, or at least drive so I can do the diagramming ;).

Two take home lessons:

For one, experiment!  One of the ways I got on top of mobile was by trying everything I could to see how I could use mobile to make me more effective. As the lotteries would have it, you have to be in it to win it. (Social media is where I usually make this statement.)

For another, taking time for reflection is powerful, particularly if you seed yourself a goal.  I turned off the radio to make sure I wasn’t distracted, and the miles flew by while I worked on my topic.

Coming in my next post, my revelation.

4 October 2013

Busy at #DevLearn 13!

Clark @ 4:14 pm

Just looked at my commitments for the eLearning Guild’s always fun DevLearn conference, and I’m quite booked, all with fun and interesting stuff:

  • My mobile design workshop kicks off: how do you take advantage of these devices?
  • I’m doing two stages:
    • a panel on the future on the mobile stage,
    • talking ‘smart content’ on the emerging tech stage
  • I’m doing a session on L&D myths with Chad Udell
  • I’m part of a panel on the future of elearning
  • and I’m doing two Morning Buzz sessions:
    • one on content models & architectures,
    • and one on elearning strategy

It’s going to be busy and fun.  In between I will attend sessions, walk the expo, attend the DemoFest, do #lrnchat, and talk to folks. I hope one of the folks I talk to is you! If you’re there, say hello.  If not, stay tuned to the backchannel, it’s a great conference (I’ll try to post mind maps of the keynotes as usual).

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