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

26 April 2016

Learning in context

Clark @ 8:10 am

In preparation for the upcoming FocusOn Learning Conference, where I’ll be running a workshop about cognitive science for L&D, not just for learning but also for mobile and performance support, I was thinking about how  context can be leveraged to provide more optimal learning and performance.  Naturally, I had to diagram it, so let me talk through it, and you let me know what you think.

ApartLearningWhat we tend to do, as a default, is to take people away from work, provide the learning resources away from the context, then create a context to practice in. There are coaching resources, but not necessarily the performance resources.  (And I’m not even mentioning the typical lack of sufficient practice.) And this makes sense when the consequences of making a mistake on the task are irreversible and costly.  E.g. medicine, transportation.  But that’s not as often as we think. And there’s an alternative.

We can wrap the learning around the context. Our individual is in the world, and performing the task. There can be coaching (particularly at the start, and then gradually removed as the individual moves to acceptable competence). There are also performance resources – job aids, checklists, etc – in the environment. There also can be learning resources, so the individual can continue to self-develop, particularly in the increasingly likely situation that the task has some ambiguity or novelty in it. Of course, that only works if we have a learner capable of self learning (hint hint).

The problems with always taking people away from their jobs are multiple:

  • it is costly to interrupt their performance
  • it can be costly to create the artificial context
  • the learning has a lower likelihood to make it back to the workplace

Our brains don’t learn in an event model, they learn in little bits over time. It’s more natural, more effective, to dribble the learning out at the moment of need, the learnable moment.  We have the capability, now, to be more aware of the learner, to deliver support in the moment, and develop learners over time. The way their brains actually learn.  And we should be doing this.  It’s more effective as well as more efficient.  It requires moving out of our comfort zone; we know the classroom, we know training.  However, we now also know that the effectiveness of classroom training can be very limited.

We have the ability to start making learning effective as well as efficient. Shouldn’t we do so?

20 April 2016

Deeper Learning Reading List

Clark @ 8:10 am

So, for my last post, I had the Revolution Reading List, and it occurred to me that I’ve been reading a bit about deeper learning design, too, so I thought I’d offer some pointers here too.

The starting point would be Julie Dirksen’s Design For How People Learn (already in it’s 2nd edition). It’s a very good interpretation of learning research applied to design, and very readable.

A new book that’s very good is Make It Stick, by Peter Brown, Henry Roediger III, and Mark McDaniel, the former being a writer who’s worked with two scientists to take learning research into 10 principles.

And let me mention two Ruth Clark books. One with Dick Mayer from UCSB, e-Learning and the Science of Instruction, that focuses on the use of media.  A second with Frank Nguyen and the wise John Sweller, Efficiency in Learning, focuses on cognitive load (which has many implications, including some overlap with the first).

Patti Schank has come out with a concise compilation of research called The Science of Learning that’s available to ATD members. Short and focused with her usual rigor.  If you’re not an ATD member, you can read her blog posts that contributed (click ‘View All’).

Dorian Peters book on Interface Design for Learning also has some good learning principles as well as interface design guidance.  It’s not the same for learning as for doing.

Of course, a classic is a compilation of research by a blue-ribbon team lead by John Bransford, How People Learn, (online or downloadable).  Voluminous, but pretty much state of the art.

Another classic is the Cognitive Apprenticeship model of Allen Collins & John Seely Brown. A holistic model abstracted across some seminal work, and quite readable.

The Science of Learning Center has an academic integration of research to instruction theory by Ken Koedinger, et al, The Knowledge-Learning-Instruction Framework, that’s freely available as a PDF.

I’d be remiss if I don’t point out the Serious eLearning Manifesto, which has 22 research principles underneath the 8 values that differentiate serious elearning from typical versions.  If you buy in, please sign on!

And, of course, I can point you to my own series for Learnnovators on Deeper ID.

So there you go with some good material to get you going. We need to do better at elearning, treating it with the importance it deserves.  These don’t necessarily tell you how to redevelop your learning design processes, but you know who can help you with that.  What’s on your list?

13 April 2016

Work Experiment

Clark @ 8:08 am

At a point some days ago, I got the idea to map out different activities by their role as executing versus innovating, and whether it’s in the head or in the world. And I’ve been playing with it since.  I’m mapping some ways of getting work done, at least the mental aspects, across those dimensions.

LearningSpace

I’m not sure I’ve got things in the right places.  I’m not even sure what it really means. I’ve some ideas, but I think I’m going to try something new, and ask you what you think it means.  So, what’s interesting and/or important here?

12 April 2016

Top 10 Tools for Learning 2016

Clark @ 8:11 am

It’s that time again: Jane Hart is running her 2016 (and 10th!) Top 100 Tools for Learning poll. It’s a valuable service, and points out some interesting things and it’s interesting to see the changes over time.  It’s also a way to see what others are using and maybe find some new ideas.  She’s now asking that you categorize them as Education, Training & Performance Support, and/or Personal Learning & Productivity.  All of mine fall in the latter category, because my performance support tools are productivity tools! So here’re my votes, FWIW:

Google Search is, of course, still my top tool. I’m looking up things several if not many times a day. It’s often a gateway to Wikipedia, which I heavily rely on, but a number of times I find other sources that are equally valuable, such as research or practice sites that have some quality inputs.

Books are still a major way I learn. Yes, I check out books from the library and read them.  I also acquire and read them on my iPad, such as Jane’s great Modern Workplace LearningIn my queue is Jane Bozarth’s Show Your Work. 

Twitter is a go-to. I am pointed to many serendipitously interesting things, and of course I point to things as well. The learning chats I participate in are another way twitter helps.

Skype is a tool I use for communicating with folks to get things done, but also to have conversations (e.g. with my ITA colleagues), whether chat or voice.

Facebook is also a way I stay in touch with friends and colleagues (those colleagues that I also consider friends; Facebook is more a personal learning tool than a business tool for me).

LinkedIn is a way to stay in touch with people, and in particular the L&D Revolution group is where I want to keep the dialog alive about the opportunity. The articles in LinkedIn are occasionally of interest too, and it’s always an education to see who wants to link ;).

WordPress is my blogging tool (where you’re at right now), and it’s a way I think ‘out loud’ and the feedback I get is a wonderful way to learn.  Things that eventually appear in presentations and writing typically appear here first, and some of the work I do for others manifests here (typically anonymized).

Word is my go-to writing tool, and while I use Pages at times too (e.g. if I’m traveling with my iPad), Word is my industrial strength tool.  Writing forces me to get concrete about my thinking.

Omnigraffle is as always my diagramming tool, and it’s definitely a way I express and refine my thinking.  Obviously, you’ll see my diagrams here, but also in presentations and articles/chapters/books. And, of course, my mindmaps.

Keynote is my presentation creating tool. I sometimes have to export to PowerPoint, but Keynote is where I work natively.  It helps me turn my ideas from diagrams and/or writing into a story to tell with visual support.

So those are my ‘learning’ tools, for now. Some are ‘content’, some are social media, some are personal representational tools, but reading and talking with others and representing my own thinking are  major learning activities for me.

 

6 April 2016

A complex look at task assignments

Clark @ 8:09 am

I was thinking (one morning at 4AM, when I was wishing I was asleep) about designing assignment structures that matched my activity-based learning model.  And a model emerged that I managed to recall when I finally did get up.  I’ve been workshopping it a bit since, tuning some details. No claim that it’s there yet, by the way.

ModelAssignmentAnd I’ll be the first to acknowledge that it’s complex, as the diagram represents, but let me tease it apart for you and see if it makes sense. I’m trying to integrate meaningful tasks, meta-learning, and collaboration.  And there are remaining issues, but let’s get to the model first.

So, it starts by assigning the learners a task to create an artefact. (Spelling intended to convey that it’s not a typical artifact, but instead a created object for learning purposes.) It could be a presentation, a video, a document, or what have you.  The learner is also supposed to annotate their rationale for the resulting design as well.  And, at least initially, there’s a guide to principles for creating an artefact of this type.  There could even be a model presentation.

The instructor then reviews these outputs, and assigns the student several others to review.  Here it’s represented as 2 others, but it could be 4. The point is that the group size is the constraining factor.

And, again at least initially, there’s a rubric for evaluating the artefacts to support the learner. There could even be a video of a model evaluation. The learner writes reviews of the two artefacts, and annotates the underlying thinking that accompanies and emerges.  And the instructor reviews the reviews, and provides feedback.

Then, the learner joins with other learners to create a joint output, intended to be better than each individual submission.  Initially, at least, the learners will likely be grouped with others that are similar.  This step might seem counter intuitive, but while ultimately the assignments will be to widely different artefacts, initially the assignment is lighter to allow time to come to grips with the actual process of collaborating (again with a guide, at least initially). Finally, the final artefacts are evaluated, perhaps even shared with all.

Several points to make about this.  As indicated, the support is gradually faded. While another task might use another artefact, so the guides and rubrics will change, the working together guide can gradually first get to higher and higher levels (e.g. starting with “everyone contributes to the plan”, and ultimately getting to “look to ensure that all are being heard”) and gradually being removed. And the assignment to different groups goes from alike to as widely disparate as possible. And the tasks should eventually get back to the same type of artefact, developing those 21 C skills about different representations and ways of working.  The model is designed more for a long-term learning experience than a one-off event model (which we should be avoiding anyways).

The artefacts and the notes are evidence for the instructor to look at the learner’s understanding and find a basis to understand not only their domain knowledge (and gaps), but also their understanding of the 21st Century Skills (e.g. the artefact-creation process, and working and researching and…), and their learning-to-learn skills. Moreover, if collaborative tools are used for the co-generation of the final artefact, there are traces of the contribution of each learner to serve as further evidence.

Of course, this could continue. If it’s a complex artefact (such as a product design, not just a presentation), there could be several revisions.  This is just a core structure.  And note that this is  not for every assignment. This is a major project around or in conjunction with other, smaller, things like formative assessment of component skills and presentation of models may occur.

What emerges is that the learners are learning about the meta-cognitive aspects of artefact design, through the guides. They are also meta-learning in their reflections (which may also be scaffolded). And, of course, the overall approach is designed to get the valuable cognitive processing necessary to learning.

There are some unresolved issues here.  For one, it could appear to be heavy load on the instructor. It’s essentially impossible to auto-mark the artefacts, though the peer review could remove some of the load, requiring only oversight. For another, it’s hard to fit into a particular time-frame. So, for instance, this could take more than a week if you give a few days for each section.  Finally, there’s the issue of assessing individual understanding.

I think this represents an integration of a wide spread of desirable features in a learning experience. It’s a model to shoot for, though it’s likely that not all elements will initially be integrated. And, as yet, there’s no LMS that’s going to track the artefact creation across courses and support all aspects of this.  It’s a first draft, and I welcome feedback!

 

29 March 2016

Cheers for #chats

Clark @ 8:12 am

For a reason I can no longer recall, I was thinking about twitter chats.  Two, in particular, came to mind – #lrnchat and #chat2lrn –  for one specific reason. And I think it’s worth calling attention to them for that reason.

They have a format that for an hour, questions come out every few minutes or so to the hashtag associated with the chat. And the participants answer the questions, continuing to use the hashtag. One of the interesting phenomena to me is that unlike many conversations, the answers can diverge as much as converge, and that’s OK. The topics vary, and in the questions and answers, you can learn a lot. It’s valuable to even see what the questions are, as well as the responses by others.

What’s fun about them is that people have fun with it; they riff off others’ posts in fun ways, they make silly tweets, and are generally real people as well as answering the questions. They truly are learning events, and yet very human as well. When you finally meet in person a participant you’ve met online, it can be much more familiar than meeting someone you’ve heard about, because you’ve interacted with them. And while the community that participates isn’t huge, the learnings and insights are, and percolate through subsequent work, eventually impacting the industry.

Not completely coincidentally, both are on Thursdays: #lrnchat runs pretty much every Thursday US evening (8:30 ET, 5:30 PT) for an hour, and #chat2lrn runs every other week at 11 AM EST (which is 8 AM PDT when the US is in Daylight Savings Time). What’s amazing is that they run!

What you need to know about these two chats (and others as well, I suspect), my specific issue here, is that they’re fully volunteer run.  That means that a group of folks has to decide a topic in advance, craft a series of questions, many times arrange an associated post, and arrange to get the questions posted at the appropriate time.  This is a significant amount of work to achieve week in and week out. And I know, because I was a #lrnchat moderator for a number of years!

So we owe these folks a big thanks for continuing on for a rewarding but effortful task. All these people have other jobs, but their contributions help all of us. There are other chats (specifically #guildchat, Fridays at 2 PM PT, 11AM ET) that follow the same format, but there the principals are salaried. Still, the fact that the organization provides resources to support them is appreciated, though they get some marketing capital as a return.

So I want to point out that the folks at lrnchat and chat2lrn are owed thanks by the community (and all the other chats that others participate in that are supported by volunteers and organizations).  I salute you!

23 March 2016

Activity-Based Learning

Clark @ 8:12 am

On a recent conversation with some Up to All of Us colleagues, I was reminded about my ‘reimagining learning‘ model. The conversation was about fractals and learning, and how most tools (e.g. the LMS) don’t reflect the conversational nature of learning.  And I was thinking again about how we need to shift our thinking, and how we can reframe it.

I’d pointed one colleague to Diana Laurillard’s model of conversational learning, as it does reflect a more iterative model of learning with ongoing cycle of action and reflection. And it occurred to me that I hadn’t conveyed what the learner’s experience with the activity curriculum would look like. It’s implicit, but not explicit.

New Learning CycleOf course, it’s a series of activities (as opposed to a series of content), but it’s about the product of those activities.  The learner (alone or together) creates a response to a challenge, perhaps accessing relevant content as part of the process, and additionally annotates the thinking behind it.

This is then viewed by peers and/or a mentor, who provide feedback to the learner. As a nuance, there should be guidance for that feedback, so that it explicitly represent the concept(s) that should guide the performance. The subsequent activity could be to revise the product, or move along to something else.

The point being that the learner is engaged in a meaningful assignment (the activity should be contextualized), and actively reflecting. The subsequent activity, as the Laurillard model suggests, should reflect what the learner’s actions have demonstrated.

It’s very much the social cognition benefits I’ve talked about before, in creating and then getting feedback on that representation.  The learner’s creating and reflecting, and that provides a rich basis for understanding where they are at.

Again, my purpose here is to help make it clear that a curriculum properly should be about doing, not knowing.  And this is why I believe that there must  be people in the loop. And while much of that burden might be placed on the other learners (if you have a synchronous cohort model), or even the learner with guidance on generating their own feedback, with rubrics for evaluation, but you still benefit from oversight in case the understanding gets off track.

We can do a lot to improve asynchronous learning, but we should not neglect social when we can take advantage of it. So, are you wanting to improve your learning?

22 March 2016

Aligning with us

Clark @ 8:05 am

One of the realizations I had in writing the Revolutionize L&D book was how badly we’re out of synch with our brains. I think alignment is a big thing, both from the Coherent Organization perspective of having our flows of information aligned, and in processes that help us move forward in ways that reflect our humanity.

In short, I believe we’re out of alignment with our views on how we think, work, and learn.  The old folklore that represents the thinking that still permeates L&D today is based upon outdated models. And we really have to understand these differences if we’re to get better.

AligningThe mistaken belief about thinking is that it’s all done in our head. That is, we keep the knowledge up there, and then when a context comes in we internalize it and make a logical decision and then we act.  And what cognitive science says is that this isn’t really the way it works.  First, our thinking isn’t all in our heads. We distribute it across representational tools like spreadsheets,  documents, and (yes) diagrams.  And we don’t make logical decisions without a lot of support or expertise. Instead, we make quick decisions.  This means that we should be looking at tools to support thinking, not just trying to put it all in the head. We should be putting as much in the world as we can, and look to scaffold our processes as well.

It’s also this notion that we go away and come up with the answer, and that the individual productivity is what matters.  It turns out that most innovation, problem-solving, etc, gets better results if we do it together.  As I often say “the room is smarter than the smartest person in the room if you manage the process right“.  Yet, we don’t.  And people work better when they understand why what they’re doing is important and they care about it. We should be looking at ways to get people to work together more and better, but instead we still see hierarchical decision making, restrictive cultures, and more.

And, of course, there still persists this model that information dump and knowledge test will lead to new capabilities.  That’s a low probability approach. Whereas if you’re serious about learning, you know it’s mostly about spacing contextualized application of that knowledge to solve problems. Instead, we see rapid elearning tools and templates that tart-up quiz questions.

The point being, we aren’t recognizing that which makes us special, and augmenting in ways that bring out the best.  We’re really running organizations that aren’t designed for humans.  Most of the robotic work should and will get automated, so then when we need to find ways to use people to do the things they’re best at. It should be the learning folks, and if they’re not ready, well, they better figure it out or be left out!  So let’s get a jump on it, shall we?

18 March 2016

Annie Murphy Paul #LSCon Keynote Mindmap

Clark @ 9:00 am

Annie Murphy Paul closed the Learning Solutions conference with a valuable presentation on the myths in learning. She used a nice structure stating what the problem is and some useful alternate ways to frame the discussion.

16 March 2016

Bill Nye (Science Guy) #LSCon Keynote Mindmap

Clark @ 10:00 am

As the opening keynote for the always excellent Learning Solutions conference, Bill Nye gave an entertaining talk on the benefits of science and learning, drawing on his experience.  I really liked how he paid tribute to his father’s fascination with sundials to get one put on the Mars rovers.

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