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

22 July 2014

Top 10 Tools for Learning

Clark @ 8:05 am

Jane Hart compiles, every year, a list of the top 10 tools for learning.  And, of course, it’s that time again, so here we go. I like what Harold Jarche did about tagging his list with the steps of his Seek-Sense-Share model for Personal Knowledge Mastery, so I’m adding that as well. In no particular order:

1. Word: I write most of my articles and books in Word.  The outline feature is critical for me (and the main reason I haven’t switched to Pages, it’s just not industrial strength) in structuring my thoughts, and writing is one of the ways I think out loud. Sense & Share.

2. WordPress: the other way I write out loud is on my blog (like this), and my blog is powered by WordPress. Share.

3. OmniGraffle: diagramming is the other way I think out loud, and I’m regularly getting my mind around things by diagramming. Sense.

4. Google: the core tool in my searching for answers for things.  Seek.

5. Twitter: a major source of input, pointing to things of interest.  Seek.

6. Facebook: also a source of insight. Seek.

7. Skype: continues to be the way I stay in touch with my ITA colleagues (Seek, Sense, & Share)

8. Mail: email is still a major tool for getting pointers, staying in touch, asking questions, etc. (Seek, Share)

9. Keynote: creating presentations is another way I organize my thoughts to share. Sense & Share.

10. OmniOutliner: another way of organizing my thoughts.  A different tool for the same purpose.  Sense.

What tools do you use?

7 July 2014

Quinnovating for Jobs

Clark @ 9:24 am

It’s now official, so I figure it’s time to update you all.  I’ve taken on a role of Chief Learning Architect (a slightly better title than the one originally considered) for the Wadhwani Foundation. It’s an initial 6 month contract, so Quinnovation isn’t going to cease to exist, just have (much) more  limited availability.  I’m still passionate about the Serious eLearning Manifesto, and the Revolution message, and I’ll still be thinking out loud here and on Twitter.

The Foundation’s mission is to create jobs and prepare people to take them.  They’ve started with Entrepreneurship programs to create new businesses, and are supplementing with job training to prepare people to staff them.  A third leg will be innovation grants.  It’s a noble mission, the vision of the founder.

My role is to refine the learning design to increase success.  Partnerships and content development are already underway, so it’ll be a challenge to influence processes, but it’s a chance to have a real impact on something that matters.  I start today, and fingers crossed.  We’ll see if I can practice what I preach, eh?

21 May 2014

Getting contextual

Clark @ 8:07 am

For the current ADL webinar series on mobile, I gave a presentation on contextualizing mobile in the larger picture of L&D (a natural extension of my most recent books).  And a question came up about whether I thought wearables constituted mobile.  Naturally my answer was yes, but I realized there’s a larger issue, one that gets meta as well as mobile.

So, I’ve argued that we should be looking at models for guiding our behavior.  That we should be creating them by abstracting from successful practices, we should be conceptualizing them, or adopting them from other areas.  A good model, with rich conceptual relationships, provides a basis for explaining what has happened, and predicting what will happen, giving us a basis for making decisions.  Which means they need to be as context-independent as possible.

WorkOppsSo, for instance, when I developed the mobile models I use, e.g. the 4C’s and the applications of learning (see figure), I deliberately tried to create an understanding that would transcend the rapid changes that are characterizing mobile, and make them appropriately recontextualizable.

In the case of mobile, one of the unique opportunities is contextualization.  That means using information about where you are, when you are, which way you’re looking, temperature or barometric pressure, or even your own state: blood pressure, blood sugar, galvanic skin response, or whatever else skin sensors can detect.

To put that into context (see what I did there): with desktop learning, augmenting formal could be emails that provide new examples or practice that spread out over time. With a smartphone you can do the same, but you could also have a localized information so that because of where you were you might get information related to a learning goal. With a wearable, you might get some information because of what you’re looking at (e.g. a translation or a connection to something else you know), or due to your state (too anxious, stop and wait ’til you calm down).

Similarly for performance support: with a smartphone you could take what comes through the camera and add it onto what shows on the screen; with glasses you could lay it on the visual field.  With a watch or a ring, you might have an audio narration.  And we’ve already seen how the accelerometers in fit bracelets can track your activity and put it in context for you.

Social can not only connect you to who you need to know, regardless of device or channel, but also signal you that someone’s near, detecting their face or voice, and clue you in that you’ve met this person before.  Or find someone that you should meet because you’re nearby.

All of the above are using contextual information to augment the other tasks you’re doing.  The point is that you map the technology to the need, and infer the possibilities.  Models are a better basis for elearning, too so that you teach transferable understandings (made concrete in practice) rather than specifics that can get outdated.  This is one of the elements we placed in the Serious eLearning Manifesto, of course.  They’re also useful for coaching & mentoring as well, as for problem-solving, innovating, and more.

Models are powerful tools for thinking, and good ones will support the broadest possible uses.  And that’s why I collect them, think in terms of them, create them, and most importantly, use them in my work.   I encourage you to ensure that you’re using models appropriately to guide you to new opportunities, solutions, and success.

15 May 2014

Peeling the onion

Clark @ 8:42 am

I’ve been talking a bit recently about deepening formal design, specifically to achieve learning that’s flexible, persistent, and develops the learner’s abilities to become self-sustaining in work and life.  That is, not just for a course, but for a curriculum.  And it’s more than just what we talked about in the Serious eLearning Manifesto, though of course it starts there.    So, to begin with, it needs to start with meaningful objectives, provide related practice, and be trialed and developed, but there’s more, there are layers of development that wrap around the core.

One element I want to suggest is important is also in the Manifesto, but I want to push a bit deeper here.  I worked to put in that the elements behind, say, a procedure or a task, that you apply to problems, are models or concepts.  That is, a connected body of conceptual relationships that tie together your beliefs about why it should be done this way.  For example, if you’ve a procedure or process you want people to follow, there is (or should be) a  rationale behind it.

And you should help learners discover and see the relationships between the model and the steps, through examples and the feedback they get on practice.  If they can internalize the understanding behind steps, they are better prepared for the inevitable changes to the tools they use, the materials they work on, or the process changes what will come from innovation.  Training them on X, when X will ultimately shift to Y, isn’t as helpful unless you help them understand the principles that led to performance on X and will transfer to Y.

Another element is that the output of the activities should create scrutable deliverables and also annotate the thoughts behind the result.  These provide evidence of the thinking both implicit and explicit, a basis for mentors/instructors to understand what’s good, and what still may need to be addressed, tin the learner’s thinking.  There’s also the creation of a portfolio of work which belongs to the learner and can represent what they are capable of.

Of course, the choices of activities for the learner initially, and the design of them to make them engaging, by being meaningful to the learner in important ways, is another layer of sophistication in the design.  It can’t just be that you give the traditional boring problems, but instead the challenges need to be contextualized. More than that (which is already in the Manifesto), you want to use exaggeration and story to really make the challenges compelling.  Learning should  be hard fun.

Another layer is that of 21st Century skills (for examples, the SCANS competencies).  These can’t be taught separately, they really need to manifest across whatever domain learnings you are doing. So you need learners to not just learn concepts, but apply those concepts to specific problems. And, in the requirements of the problem, you build in opportunities to problem-solve, communicate, collaborate, e.g. all the foundational and workplace skills. They need to reappear again and again and be assessed (and developed) separately.

Ultimately, you want the learner to be taking on responsibility themselves.  Later assignments should include the learner being given parameters and choosing appropriate deliverables and formats for communication.  And this requires and additional layer, a layer of annotation on the learning design. The learners need to be seeing why the learning was so designed, so that they can internalize the principles of good design and so become self-improving learners. You, for example, in reading this far, have chosen to do this as part of your own learning, and hopefully it’s a worthwhile investment.  That’s the point; you want learners to continue to seek out challenges, and resources to succeed, as part of their ongoing self-development, and that comes by having seen learning design and been handed the keys at some point on the journey, with support that’s gradually faded.

The nuances of this are not trivial, but I want to suggest that they are doable.  It’s a subtle interweaving, to be sure, but once you’ve got your mind around it (with scaffolded practice :), my claim is that it can be done, reliably and repeatedly.   And it should.  To do less is to miss some of the necessary elements for successful support of an individual to become the capable and continually self-improving learner that we need.

I touched on most of this when I was talking about Activity-Based Learning, but it’s worthwhile to revisit it (at least for me :).

1 May 2014

Learning Quotient?

Clark @ 7:35 am

I had the good fortune to be invited to the Future of Work event that was held here in Silicon Valley two weeks ago, and there were four breakouts, one of which was on learning and knowledge management.  You can guess which one I was on (though tempted by the leadership and culture one; there was overlap).

Within that breakout the activity was to pick four topics and further break out.  The issue was meeting workplace needs given the changing nature of work, and I suggested that perhaps the biggest need was to focus on skills that held true across domain, so called meta-cognitive skills, and learning to learn (a total surprise, right?).  That was one that people were interested in, so that’s what we discussed.

We broke down learning into some component elements.  We talked about how your beliefs about learning (your epistemological stance) mattered, as well as your intention to learn, and how effective you were at learning alone and with others.  It also matters how well you use tools and external representations, as well as your persistence.

What emerged was that learning skills shouldn’t be taken for granted.  And consequently, one of the attendees suggested that perhaps along with IQ and EQ, we should be looking at people’s LQ or learning quotient.  I just saw an advertisement that said EQ (they called it EI Emotional Intelligence, probably to avoid trademark infringement) was better than IQ because you can improve your EQ scores. However, the evidence suggests you can improve your LQ scores too.

A decade ago now, Jay Cross and I were pushing the meta-learning lab, and I still think Jay was right claiming that meta-learning might be your best investment.  So, are you aware of how you learn? Have you improved how you learn?  Can you help others learn more effectively?  I believe the answer is yes, and we not only can, but should.

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.

21 March 2014

Cathy Davidson #LSCon Keynote Mindmap

Clark @ 9:19 am

Cathy Davidson gave us an informative, engaging, and inspirational talk talking about how we’re mismatching industrial approaches in an information era. She gave us data about how we work and why much of what we do isn’t aligned, along with the simple and effective approach of think-pair-share. Very worthwhile.

20140321-121831.jpg

18 March 2014

Serious Conversation

Clark @ 5:25 am

We’ve already received the first request for an article on the Serious eLearning Manifesto, and it sparked a realization.  We (my co-conspirators are Will Thalheimer, Julie Dirksen, and Michael Allen) launched the manifesto last week, and we really hope you’ll have a serious look at them.  More, we hope you’ll find a way to follow them, and join your colleagues in signing on.

What has to happen now is people need to look at them, debate the difficulties in following them, and start thinking about how to move forward. We don’t want people just to sign on, we want them to put the principles into practice. You may not be able to get to all from the beginning, but we’re hoping to drive systematic change towards good elearning.

The Manifesto, if you haven’t seen it, touts eight values of serious elearning over what we see too often, focusing on the biggest gaps.  The values are backed up by 22 principles pulled from the research. And we’ve been already been called out for it perhaps being too ‘instructor’ driven, not social or constructivist enough.  To be fair, we’ve also already had some strong support, and not just from our esteemed trustees, but signatories as well.

And I don’t want to address the issues (yet), what we want to have happen is to get the debate started.  So I didn’t accept the opportunity to write (yet another) article, instead I said that we’d rather respond to an article talking about the challenges.  We want to engage this as dialog, not a diatribe.  Been there, done that, you can see it on the site ;).

So, please, have a look, think about what it would mean, consider the barriers, and let’s see if, together, we can start figuring out how to lift the floor (not close off the ceiling).

 

3 March 2014

Conference advice

Clark @ 8:31 am

David Kelly of the eLearning Guild has a series of interviews going on about attending conferences.  The point is to help attendees get some good strategies about how to prepare beforehand and take advantage after the fact, as well as what to bring and how to get the most out of it.

Today’s interview is me, and you’re welcome to have a look at my thoughts on conferences.   Feedback welcome!

26 February 2014

A little bit better

Clark @ 7:04 am

I have never really cottoned on to the practice of photo-bombing.  While it might be a fun trick to play on a friend, otherwise it seems to me to be selfish.  Could there be something better?

One of the things I’ve been doing is something that I call ‘reverse photo-bombing’. When I see a picture being taken, instead of getting in it, I get behind the photographer, and at the right time, I put up bunny ears behind them (or something else silly).  What happens is that the audience laughs, and they tend to get a much better picture.  And then I slink off, hoping no one noticed (except the photographees, and they’re too busy).  It’s hard to get the timing right, so it doesn’t always work, but when it does I think it’s a boon to the group.  Though it did embarrass my daughter when I did it while out with her one time, but I think that’s in the parental job description anyway…:).

I think this is a good thing (though I’m willing to be wrong); I think that the world can use more good in it.  What I  am looking for is more ideas of how we can be quietly adding value to what’s going on, instead of detracting. I’ve heard of nice things like buying someone else’s coffee, or providing extra change. Are there other ideas we can be using?  I welcome hearing yours!

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