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

24 August 2016

Trying out videos

Clark @ 8:06 am

DevLearn, the elearning conference I’ll be attending in November, has suggested adding videos to promote your talks.  I haven’t done much with video (though I did just do this <6 minute one about my proposed learning pedagogy), but I’ve found the ‘narrated presentation’ capability built into Keynote to be of interest, so I’ve been playing with it.  And I thought I’d share.

First, I created this one to promote my talk on eLearning Myths. It’s a fun session with a MythSmasher format (e.g. the possible myth, the appeal, the damage, the method, the results, and what you can do instead if it’s busted) . It’s important, because if you’re supporting the wrong myths you can be wasting money and vulnerable to flawed promotions. Here’s the pitch:

Then, I’m also running an elearning strategy workshop, that’s basically the Revolution roadmap.  In it, we work through the elements of the Performance Ecosystem and not only make the case for, but workshop a personalized roadmap for your organization.  As things move forward, there’s an opportunity for L&D to lead the charge to the adaptive organization!

I welcome hearing your feedback on content or presentation, and of course invite you to attend either or both!

23 August 2016

Editorializing

Clark @ 8:10 am

I recently wrote about serious comics, and realized there’s a form I hadn’t addressed yet has some valuable insights. The value in looking at other approaches is that it provides lateral insight (I’m currently reading Stephen Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From) that we may be able to transfer.  And the source this time is editorial cartoons.

Editorial cartoons use imagery and text to convey a comment on a current topic.  The best ones portray a poignant insight into an issue of the day, via a twist that emphasizes the point to be made.  They’re usually combined with a distinct visual style from each artist.  They reflect some of the same thoughts that accompany internet memes (the captioned photos) but require more visual talent ;).

The common approach appears to be (and I welcome insight from others) the ability to use another context to exaggerate some viewpoint. It’s a bit metaphorical, but I think the trick is to abstract the structure from the situation to be illuminated, and to map it to another situation that highlights the relationships.  So you could take some recent pop star spat and map it to a political one, or highlight an economic policy as a personal one.

As context, I happened to stumble upon an exhibition of Conrad‘s work in my college art gallery, and as he was the local cartoonist for my home newspaper (The LA Times), I recognized his work.  I had the chance to explore in more detail his award-winning efforts. Agree or disagree, he made powerful comments and I admired his ability.

Now, editorial cartooning is very context-sensitive, in that what is being talked about is very much ‘of the day’. What’s being commented on may not be relevant at a later time, particularly if they conjoin a popular culture event with an issue as they often do.  But the insight, looking for the twist and the way to make the point, is a valuable skill that has a role in learning design too.

In learning design, we want to make the content meaningful.  There’s intrinsic interest in pretty much everything, but it may be hard to find (see: working with SMEs), and also hard to convey.  Yet I believe comics are one way to do this.  You can, for instance, humorously exaggerate the consequences of not having the knowledge.  I’ve done that with content where we introduced each section of a course with a comic (very much like an editorial cartoon) highlighting the topic and necessity.

The point being that we can not only benefit from understanding other media, but we can appropriate their approaches as well. Our learning designs needs to be eclectic to be engaging and effective.  Or, to put it another way, there are lots of ways to get the design implemented, once you have the design right.

17 August 2016

Meaningful and meta

Clark @ 8:11 am

Over the weekend, one of my colleagues posted a rant about MOOCs and critical thinking. And, largely, I think he was right.  There’re several things we need, and MOOCs as they typically are constituted, aren’t going to deliver.  As I talked about yesterday, I think we need a more refined pedagogy.

So the things we need, to me, are two things:

  1. meaningful learning, whereby we have individuals learning skills that are applicable in their lives, and
  2. meta-learning, or learning to learn, so that people can continue to develop their skills in the face of increasing change.

And I don’t think the typical ‘text on screen with a quiz’ that he was ranting about is going to do it. Even with hand-shot videos.  (Though I disagree when he doesn’t like the word ‘engage’, as I obviously believe that we need engagement, but of both heart and mind, not just tarted up quizzes.)  He wanted critical thinking skills, and I agree.

Hence the activity framework. Yes, it depends on your design skills, but when done right, focusing on having learners create products that resemble the outputs that they’ll need to generate in their lives (and this is strongly influenced by the story-centered curriculum/goal-based scenario work of Roger Schank) is fundamentally invoking the skills they need. And having them show the thinking behind it developing their ‘work out loud’ (“show your work”) skills that ideally will carry over.

Ideally, of course, they’re engaging with other learners, commenting on their thinking (so they internalize critiquing as part of their own self-improvement skill set) and even collaborating (as they’ll have to).  And of course there are instructors involved to evaluate those critical skills.

As an aside, that’s why I have problems with AI. It’s not yet advanced enough yet, as far as I know, to practically be able to evaluate the underlying thinking and determine the best intervention.  It may be great when we are there, but for now in this environment, people are better.

The other component is, of course, gradually handing off control of the learning design responsibility to the learners. They should start choosing what product, what reflection, what content, and ultimately what activity.  This is part of developing their ability to take control of their learning as they go forward.  And this means that we’ll have to be scrutable in our learning design, so they can look back, see how we’re choosing to design learning, so they can internalize that meta-level as well.

And we can largely use MOOC technologies (though we need to have sufficient mentors around, which has been a challenge with the ‘Massive’ part).  The point though, is that we need curriculum design that focuses on meaningful skills, and then a pedagogical design that develops them and the associated learning skills.  That’s what I think we should be trying to achieve.  What am I missing?

16 August 2016

Activity-Based Learning Walkthrough

Clark @ 8:06 am

I spoke to my activity-based learning model as part of a larger presentation, and someone suggested that it really helped to be walked through it. So this was on my ‘to do’ queue.  And, finally, I created a walkthrough; here you go (about 5 and a half minutes).

I should note that I don’t view this as all that novel; most of these ideas have appeared elsewhere in some form of another.  The contribution, I feel, is twofold:

  1. representing curriculum in a way that makes it hard to think of ‘info dump and knowledge test’ as a learning experience
  2. including explicit ways to develop thinking and learning skills

And it’s very much dependent on the quality of the choice of components: activity, product, reflection, etc.

As I close in the presentation, I welcome your thoughts and comments.

12 August 2016

Dave Gray Liminal Thinking Mindmap

Clark @ 8:05 am

I was fortunate to have a chance to hear Dave Gray (author of Connected Company) speak on his forthcoming book, Liminal Thinking. Interestingly inspired by his investigation of agile, it end up being about how to break through your barriers. He shared personal stories to make a compelling case that we can transcend our established approaches and make the changes we need.

10 August 2016

Learning Through the Wild

Clark @ 8:04 am

So last week I was in the wilderness for some more time, this time with family.  And there were several learnings as an outcome that are worth sharing.

VogelsangLakeAs context, Yosemite National Park is one of the world’s truly beautiful places, with the valley as an accessible way to see the glacier-carved rock. Beyond the valley, however, there is backcountry (mountains, rivers, lakes) that is only accessible by backpack, and I’ve done plenty of that. And then there’s one other option: the High Sierra Camps. There you can stay in tent cabins, eating prepared meals, but you can only get to them by horse or by hiking. (You can also get just meals, and carry in your tents and bags and all, which is what we did.) What this does is get you to a subset (a spectacular subset) of the high country, a chance to experience real wilderness without having to be able to carry a backpack.

Also as context, I am a fervent believer in the value of wildness.  As I expressed before, there’s the creativity aspect that comes from spending time in the wilderness. You can reflect on your regular world when you’re no longer tied to it.  As you hike or ride along the trails, your mind can wander and process in the background. There are also mental health benefits to be found in escaping from the everyday clatter. (This is very necessary for me! :) And, importantly, the processes in nature provide a counter-balance to the artificial processes we put in place to breed plants and animals. The variation generated in the wild is a complement to our own approaches, just as computers are a complement to our brains. Consequently, I believe we need to preserve some of our natural spaces.

So, one of the learning outcomes is being able to experience the wilderness without having to be physically capable of carrying everything you need on your back.  I reckon that if you can experience the wildness, you can appreciate it, and then can become a supporter.  Thus, just the existence of these alternate paths (between cars and backpacking) means to me a higher likelihood of preserving the environment.

Similarly, there are rangers who visit these camps, and provide after-dinner campfire talks.  They talk at dinner, talking about what they will be covering, but also advocating for the value of the programs and the wilderness. Similarly, the staff at the camps also do a good job of advocating for the wilderness (as they would), and there are guidebooks available for perusal to learn more, as well as information around the dining rooms (and great food!).

One of the larger learning lessons is that, once you’re in context, the interest is naturally sparked, and then you’re ripe for a message. Your curiosity gets stoked about why coyotes howl, once you hear them. Or you wonder about the geology, or the lifecycle of plants, or…you get the idea.  Creating artificial contexts is one of the tricks of learning (please, don’t keep it abstract, it doesn’t work), but layering it on in context is increasingly doable and more valuable.

Meaningful engagement in context is a valuable prerequisite for learning. The reason we can go to conferences and get value (contrary to the old “you can’t learn from a lecture”) is because we’re engaged in activity and conferences serve as reflection opportunities.  Sometimes you need to get away from the context to reflect, if the contextual pressures are too much, and sometimes the context naturally sparks reflection.  Making time for reflection is a component of a learning organization, and getting support in context or having time away from context both are parts. So my recommendation is to support wilderness, and get out in it!

26 July 2016

Quinnovation Fall 2016 Schedule

Clark @ 9:51 am

My fall  schedule is coalescing, so I thought I’d provide pointers to when and where I’ll be for the rest of this year:

I’m doing two  webinars for a government agency, one at the end of August, and one at the end of September.

I’ll be in Beijing running a mobile learning workshop on the 6th of September, and keynoting the CEFE conference on the 7th.

The week after I’ll be keynoting a private event in Connecticut.

And I’ll be delivering a virtual keynote for a different government agency in November.

I’ll be running an elearning strategy (read: Revolution) workshop at DevLearn in Las Vegas come mid-November, and presenting on elearning myths.

Then, on the very last day of November, I’ll be running an elearning design workshop at Online Educa in Berlin.

So, some availability  in late September through October, or mid-December, if you’d like access to Quinnovation as well.

I hope that if you’re near Beijing, Las Vegas, or Berlin, you’ll be attending. If so, say hi!

 

13 July 2016

‘Checking’ In

Clark @ 8:03 am

As a personal reflection, the value of checklists and forcing functions can definitely be understated.  As I mentioned, last week I went into the woods for a few days.  And while the trip didn’t live up to our plans, it was a great experience.  However, there was a particular gap that points out our cognitive limitations.

So, I have a backpacking checklist. And I look at it from time to time. What I didn’t do this time was check it before the trip.  And I found out once I got away from home was that I’d forgotten both my bandana and my towel!  Both are useful, and while I was able to purchase a bandana ($15! but it is microfiber and large, so I’ll keep using it), I had to do without the towel (which the bandana was a poor but necessary substitute for).

We often swim or wade in the river (and did this trip too), and a towel’s handy to get dry before the breeze chills you or the horseflies descend. The bandana, well it served as a sun cover, mosquito deterrent, towel (see above), and glasses wipe. Amongst others.

Let me add that I almost left on today’s overnite biz trip without my sleep clothes!  Fortunately, I had one of those middle-of-the-nite epiphanies, and remedied this morning.

And this just isn’t a consequence of advancing age (hey, I’m still [barely] < 60!).  It’s a natural consequence of our cognitive architecture, and we have well-established processes/tools to support these gaps.  These include checklists to help us remember things, and forcing functions whereby we place things in ways that it’s hard to forget things.

As a consequence, I’m going to do two things going forward. One is to make sure I do check my checklist. I’ll review it for comprehensiveness in the meantime, and have developed it in conjunction with another list from an experience colleague. I have another wilderness trip, and I’ll definitely check it beforehand.  Second, I’ve now put the bandana and a towel in my backpack. So I’d actually have to take it out to forget it!

Here’s to knowing, and applying, tools to help us overcome our cognitive deficits.  What are you doing to help not make mistakes?  And what could you do similarly for your learning design processes?

12 July 2016

Web trust

Clark @ 8:05 am

I get asked to view a lot of things. And sometimes, particularly when there’s a potential tangible relationship, I will actually go visit sites. (BTW, I tend to avoid what comes unsolicited, and instead trust to what comes through my social network.) And one of my strategies often fails, and that, to me, is a warning sign.

When I go to sites (not from familiar companies, but new ones), one of the places I’m very likely to visit is the ‘About Us’ page or equivalent. There’s a reason I do that: I want to know something about who is behind this, and why. They’re linked, but separable.

There’re a couple of reasons to be clear about who’s behind this. One is for authenticity: is there someone willing to put their name to what this is and what it’s about?  And why them?  What background do they have that makes them credible to be the ones behind this endeavor?

And the why is about what motivates them? Are they doing this because of a passion, or because they think it’s a good business opportunity?  Either’s acceptable, but what you want is coherence between the people and what they’re doing.  Ideally, it’s a good story that links them.

There are sites that are clearly out to make money, and some that are out to meet a real need. There are some that have been created by folks who have an idea but not necessarily a clue, and then there are those created by those who should be doing it. And when you get both together, need and clue, you have a site you are willing to investigate further.

It may seem overly harsh or naive, and I’m sure someone could spin a good story and fool me (and has ;), but I think this is a good heuristic, a good reality check, on any site that’s looking to interact with others.  If my search fails to find the requisite information, my antennas start quivering, and my defenses go up.  A personal opinion, of course. Do you agree? Do you have other checks that you like better?  Eager to hear your thoughts.

6 July 2016

Wild thinking

Clark @ 8:13 am

Our everyday lives are decreasingly connected to nature. We’re increasingly separated from the context we evolved in. Is that a good thing?

Yosemite National Park

Now, our relationship with nature hasn’t always been one of benevolent protection, as Roderick Nash has let us know. We lived dangerous lives until we developed the means to defend ourselves, and then the wilderness became an opportunity to expand and profit.  Now, however, with wilderness diminishing, and a growing awareness of the value of wildness for serendipitous diversity, we are beginning to view wilderness as a precious resource.

But are there reasons to consider wilderness benefits for our thinking and learning? The evidence appears to say yes. When we’re in wilderness with minimal risks, at least, the proximity to natural sounds and scenes seems to stimulate areas of the brain. It may take just a walk, or three days, but there are apparent benefits to heart and mind.

I’ve tried to get out in the wilderness at least once a year. I like to hike, and in particular to get backpacking, of late with trips to Yosemite National Park.  A friend/colleague/mentor has regularly organized these trips, and several of us will hike off with our tents, stoves, sleeping bags, water filters, bear cans, and everything else for 3-7 days and get above timber line, sweaty, dirty, and happy. It was on just such a trip where ‘Quinnovation‘ emerged as a branding!

I’ve taken the family, too, to share my love of the outdoors.  So, I’m off again, and we’ll see whether I come back charged with creativity (or just exhausted ;).  Happy trails!

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