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

14 June 2016

What’s Your Learning Tool Stack?

Clark @ 8:11 am

I woke up this morning thinking about the tools we use at various levels.  Yeah, my life is exciting ;).  Seriously, this is important, as the tools we use and provide through the organization impact the effectiveness with which people can work. And lately, I’ve been hearing the question about “what’s your <x> stack” [x|x=’design’, ‘development’, …].  What this represents is people talking about the tools they use to do their jobs, and I reckon it’s important for us to talk about tools for learning.  You can see the results of Jane Hart’s annual survey, but I’m carving it up into a finer granularity, because I think it changes depending on the ‘level’ at which you’re working, ala the Coherent Organization.  So, of course, I created a diagram.

Learning stack: personal, team, community, organizationWhat we’re talking about here, starting at the bottom, are the tools you personally use for learning. Or, of course, the ones others use in your org. So this is how you represent your own understandings, and manipulate information, for your own purposes.  For many people in organizations, this is likely to include the MS Office Suite, e.g. Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. Maybe OneNote?  For me, it’s Word for writing, OmniGraffle for diagramming (as this one was created in), WordPress for this blog (my thinking out loud; it is for me, at least in the first instance), and a suite of note taking software (depending on type of notes) and personal productivity.

From there, we talk about team tools. These are to manage communication and information sharing between teams.  This can be email, but increasingly we’re seeing dedicated shared tools being supported, like Slack, that support creating groups, and archive discussions and files.  Collaborative documents are a really valuable tool here so you’re not sending around email (though I’m doing that with one team right now, but it’s only back forth, not coordinating between multiple people, at least on my end!). Instead, I coordinate with one group with Slack, a couple others with Skype and email, and am using Google Docs and email with another.

From there we move up to the community level. Here the need is to develop, refine, and share best principles. So the need is for tools that support shared representations.  Communities are large, so we need to start having subgroups, and profiles become important. The organization’s ESN may support this, though (and probably unfortunately) many business units have their own tools. And we should be connecting with colleagues in other organizations, so we might be using society-provided platforms or leverage LinkedIn groups.  There’s also probably a need to save community-specific resources like documents and job aids, so there may be a portal function as well. Certainly ongoing discussions are supported.  Personally, without my own org, I tap into external communities using tools like LinkedIn groups (there’s one for the L&D Revolution, BTW!), and Facebook (mostly friends, but some from our own field).

Finally, we get to the org level. Here we (should) see organization wide Enterprise Social Networks like Jive and Yammer, etc. Also enterprise wide portal tools like Sharepoint.  Personally, I work with colleagues using Socialcast in one instance, and Skype with another (tho’ Skype really isn’t a full solution).

So, this is a preliminary cut to show my thinking at inception.  What have I forgotten?  What’s your learning stack?

10 May 2016

Two separate systems?

Clark @ 8:05 am

I frequently say that L&D needs to move from just ensuring optimal execution to also supporting continual innovation.  Can these co-exist, or are they fundamentally different?  I really don’t know, but it’s worth pondering.

Kotter (the change management guru), has begun to advocate for a dual-operating system approach, where companies jointly support an operational hierarchy and an innovation network that are coupled.  I haven’t read his book on the topic, but it seems to be a bit extrinsic, a way of bolting on innovation instead of making it intrinsic to the operation.

On the other hand, there is quite a bit of expression for more flexible systems, a more podular approach. Teaming or small nodes are increasingly appearing as not just for innovation, but ongoing operation. However, it’s not clear how the various different areas are coordinated, so how marketing across pods maintains coherent.

CoherentOrgExpandedThis is what led to our Coherent Organization model.  The notion is that the teams are coming in from, and reporting back up through, their communities. And their communities are communicating both within, and outside of, the organization.

It’s not clear to me whether the team approach can scale to a global organization, or whether you need the hybrid model.  I can see that the hybrid model would appeal to existing business folks who would be concerned about optimization in execution.  I can see that the new model would at least require fundamental changes in mechanisms, and perhaps a willingness to tradeoff absolute perfection in execution to maintain continuing innovation and customer-responsiveness.

While intuitively the more biologically inspired approach sounds like the longer-term solution, it’s non-trivial in terms of creating cultures that are appropriately conducive.  I think that organizational operations may be at an inflection point, and there does seem to be data that supports more radical flexibility.   I think a performance ecosystem coupled with a learning organization environment is likely going to be the way to move.  How you get there is part of the revolution that’s needed. Start small, scale out, etc. And I hope L&D can help lead the way.

4 May 2016

Learning in Context

Clark @ 8:09 am

In a recent guest post, I wrote about the importance of context in learning. And for a featured session at the upcoming FocusOn Learning event, I’ll be talking about performance support in context.  But there was a recent question about how you’d do it in a particular environment, and that got me thinking about the the necessary requirements.

As context (ahem), there are already context-sensitive systems. I helped lead the design of one where a complex device was instrumented and consequently there were many indicators about the current status of the device. This trend is increasing.  And there are tools to build context-sensitive helps systems around enterprise software, whether purchased or home-grown. And there are also context-sensitive systems that track your location on mobile and allow you to use that to trigger a variety of actions.

Now, to be clear, these are already in use for performance support, but how do we take advantage of them for learning. Moreover, can we go beyond ‘location’ specific learning?  I think we can, if we rethink.

So first, we obviously can use those same systems to deliver specific learning. We can have a rich model of learning around a system, so a detailed competency map, and then with a rich profile of the learner we can know what they know and don’t, and then when they’re at a point where there’s a gap between their knowledge and the desired, we can trigger some additional information. It’s in context, at a ‘teachable moment’, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be assessed.

This would be on top of performance support, typically, as they’re still learning so we don’t want to risk a mistake. Or we could have a little chance to try it out and get it wrong that doesn’t actually get executed, and then give them feedback and the right answer to perform.  We’d have to be clear, however, about why learning is needed in addition to the right answer: is this something that really needs to be learned?

I want to go a wee bit further, though; can we build it around what the learner is doing?  How could we know?  Besides increasingly complex sensor logic, we can use when they are.  What’s on their calendar?  If it’s tagged appropriately, we can know at least what they’re supposed to be doing.  And we can develop not only specific system skills, but more general business skills: negotiation, running meetings, problem-solving/trouble-shooting, design, and more.

The point is that our learners are in contexts all the time.  Rather than take them away to learn, can we develop learning that wraps around what they’re doing? Increasingly we can, and in richer and richer ways. We can tap into the situational motivation to accomplish the task in the moment, and the existing parameters, to make ordinary tasks into learning opportunities. And that more ubiquitous, continuous development is more naturally matched to how we learn.

3 May 2016

Showing my age, er, experience

Clark @ 8:05 am

I’ve been reading What the Dormouse Said (How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry), and it’s bringing back some memories.  Ok, so most of this stuff is older than I am, but there are a few connections, so it’s reminiscing time.  I’ve said some of this before, I believe, so feel free to wander on.  This is me just thinking aloud.

I was taking some computer science classes because I’d found out that biology was rote memorization and cut-throat medical (which I did not want to do; I was hoping for marine bio), and a buddy was doing it.  Given that I was at UCSD at the time, I naturally learned UCSD Pascal (as well as Fortran, which I fortunately forgot almost immediately, and Mixal likewise). I enjoyed algorithms, however, and could solve problems. I also was enchanted with AI (despite my first prof).  And I was  tutoring for some extra pocket money, math and science (even classes I hadn’t taken yet!).

Then I got a job doing the computer support for the office that did the tutoring (literally carrying decks of cards in Algol to run through the computer center). And a light went off; computers for learning!  There was no major then at my school, but there was a program to design my own major, and I found a couple of professors willing to serve as my advisors (thank you, Hugh Mehan and Jim Levin). They even let me work on a project with them (email for classroom discussion, circa 1978; we had ARPANET, the predecessor to the internet).  It eventually even got published as a journal article.

I called all over the country, trying to find someone who needed a person interested in computer learning.  I even interviewed at Xerox PARC with John Seely Brown, courtesy of Tom Malone (I didn’t get the job; they wanted something I’d done but I didn’t know their term for it!).  After a small job doing some statistical work for a research project, I managed to get a job designing and programming educational computer games for DesignWare (you can still play some of  the products here, the magic of  the internet).  We went from Basic to Forth (for speed and small size), though I later moved away from coding with the demise of HyperCard ;).

And the main connection to the cool stuff, besides the interview at PARC, was visiting the West Coast Computer Faire.  It was cool in and of itself, but there I met David Suess, who along with Bill Bowman was starting Spinnaker, a company to do home educational software.  DesignWare had been doing games to go along with publisher offerings, and I was pushing the home market.  After a conversation, I introduced David to my boss Jim Schuyler (Sky) and off we went. As a reward, I got to do FaceMaker. Eventually, DesignWare started doing it’s own titles, and I also did Spellicopter and Creature Creator before I realized I wanted to go back to grad school.

Along the way I also read Byte magazine and tracked efforts like SmallTalk and folks like Alan Kay.  I’ve subsequently had the pleasure to meet him, as well as Doug Engelbart and Ted Nelson, so I’ve somewhat closed the loop on those heady days.  There’s much more between then and now, but that’s enough for one post. And most of my counterculture experiences were behind me by that time, so I didn’t really get a chance to see those connections, but it was an exciting time, and a great exposure to the possibilities.

27 April 2016

Moving forward

Clark @ 8:14 am

A few weeks ago, I posted about laying out activities in a space dividing the execution side from the innovation side, and in the head from in the world.  None of you took the bait about talking what it meant (I’m so disappointed), but it continued to ponder it myself. And at least one idea came to mind.

LearningSpaceImplicationsSo what I’m thinking is that the point is to not be using our heads to be doing simple execution. Machines (read: robots or computation agents) are very good at doing what they’re told. Reliably, and repeatably.  They may need oversight, but in many ways we’re seeing this play out.

What we should be doing is trying to automate execution. We aren’t good at doing rote things, and having us do them is silly.  Ideally you automate them, or outsource them in some way.  Let’s save our minds for doing important work.

Of course, many times the situations we’re increasingly seeing are not matters of simply executing. As things get more ambiguous, more novel, more chaotic, we’re really discovering we need to have people handle those situations in innovative ways. So they’re really being moved over regardless.

And, of course, we want that innovation to be fueled by data, information in the world being made available to support making these decisions. Big analytics, or even little analytics are good basis, as are models and support tools to facilitate the processes.  And, of course, this doesn’t have to be all in one head, but drawing upon teams, communities, and networks to get solution.

The real point is to let machines do what they can do well, and leave to us what we do well. And, what we want to be responsible for.  As I see it, the role of technology is to augment us, not replace us.  It’s up to us to make the choices, but we have the opportunity to work in ways that align with how our brains really think, work, and learn.  I reckon that choice is a no-brainer ;).

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.

 

15 March 2016

Context Rules

Clark @ 8:15 am

I was watching a blab (a video chat tool) about the upcoming FocusOn Learning, a new event from the eLearning Guild. This conference combines their previous mLearnCon and Performance Support Symposium with the addition of video.  The previous events have been great, and I’ll of course be there (offering a workshop on cognition for mobile, a mobile learning 101 session, and one on the topic of this post). Listening to folks talk about the conference led me to ponder the connection, and something struck me.

I find it kind of misleading that it’s FocusOn Learning, given that performance support, mobile, and even video typically is more about acting in the moment than developing over time.  Mobile device use tends to be more about quick access than extended experience.  Performance support is more about augmenting our cognitive capabilities. Video (as opposed to animation or images or graphics, and similar to photos) is about showing how things happen in situ (I note that this is my distinction, and they may well include animation in their definition of video, caveat emptor).  The unifying element to me is context.

So, mobile is a platform.  It’s a computational medium, and as such is the same sort of computational augment that a desktop is.  Except that it can be with you. Moreover, it can have sensors, so not just providing computational capabilities where you are, but because of when and where you are.

Performance support is about providing a cognitive augment. It can be any medium – paper, audio, digital – but it’s about providing support for the gaps in our mental capabilities.  Our architecture is powerful, but has limitations, and we can provide support to minimize those problems. It’s about support in the moment, that is, in context.

And video, like photos, inherently captures context.  Unlike an animation that represents conceptual distinctions separated from the real world along one or more dimensions, a video accurately captures what the camera sees happening.  It’s again about context.

And the interesting thing to me is that we can support performance in the moment, whether a lookup table or a howto video, without learning necessarily happening. And that’s OK!  It’s also possible to use context to support learning, and in fact we can provide least material to augment a context than create an artificial context which so much of learning requires.

What excited me was that there was a discussion about AR and AI. And these, to me, are also about context.  Augmented Reality layers  information on top of your current context. And the way you start doing contextually relevant content delivery is with rules tied to content descriptors (content systems), and such rules are really part of an intelligently adaptive system.

So I’m inclined to think this conference is about leveraging context in intelligent ways. Or that it can be, will be, and should be. Your mileage may vary ;).

8 March 2016

Metacognitive Activity?

Clark @ 8:09 am

So, as another outcome of the xAPI base camp a few weeks back, I was wondering about tracking not only learning, but meta-learning. That is, not only what activity might mean ‘learning’, but what might mean ‘meta-learning’ is happening?  I started wondering about a vocabulary, but realized that you’d have to have activity that you could actually detect that was evidence of meta-learning.  And I didn’t know what that was. Naturally, I started diagramming.

I started with Harold Jarche’s Personal Knowledge Mastery model of Seek-Sense-Share.  This is about how you continue to learn in manageable ways, and it served as an organizing framework.  To each of the elements, I attributed activities that would constitute learning in that model, and then above it I was thinking what would constitute meta-learning.

MetaCogSo, for seek, we start with reading what comes into your feeds, searching about particular topics, and asking questions of your network. Sensing is about reconciling what’s found with your own knowledge. So you could write or present, diagram (see what I did there?), or experiment. And then to share you can post, or comment, or send a pointer to something.

So what are actions that reflect on those actions?  For seeking, you can adjust your feeds of what you follow, you can try a different search mechanism, or you can follow new people.  These are all detectable, I reckon.

For sensing, I see it as a little harder.  How do we know when you’re annotating a document with the underlying thinking, not just documenting your progress?  How do we know when you’re explaining the thinking behind a diagram (here it’d be about my choice of vertical dimension, and spreading things below and above)?  How do we know when you’re actually reviewing your experimental approach or the results?

For sharing, it’s a mixed bag. If you choose to use a different media (perhaps it’s relative, like when I created an animation after blogging for > 10 years ;), we might know. If you try out a new social media platform/channel, we can probably note that.  If you’re reflecting on your comments from others, how would we know?

And this is just one way of carving it up.  The point being, meta is good, but detecting and tracking it is hard.  We might ask people to annotate it with tags, but that’s problematic too. I have no obvious answers, but it’s a question I had, and I’m thinking out loud about it.  I welcome your thoughts, too.

2 March 2016

Content isn’t a silo

Clark @ 8:13 am

I mentioned in my previous post that I was talking at the xAPI camp about content strategy, and on the way in I created a new diagram to convey a concept I wanted to discuss.  Of course one of the things I agitate about for the revolution is that L&D can’t hide away but has to start engaging across the business.  And, let me add, that’s only increasing.  Our silos are breaking down. To wit:

ContentStrategyHere I was trying to think of activities that cross silos.  So, of course, the overall role of the business aligns and integrates the separate actions of sales, marketing, IT, etc.  And, to suit my campaign, I looked for others.

Obviously, data is coming out across the organization.  As I mentioned in that last post, we can only look at the impact of L&D on performance if we can start working with data from the business units, but data from customer service influences marketing, and so on.

The web, too, is a channel for many activities. Units that reach customers, for instance, include customer service, customer education, sales & marketing, and more.  Heck, the supply chain is increasingly connected by the web, and data.

Consequently, so too is content.  Content is used in many ways, whether via apps, through the web, or print.  And for many purposes: sales, marketing, tech support, and of course learning.  And there’s a point to all this.

L&D, with it’s hard-wired content, needs to pull on the big kids pants, and start getting with content systems: content engineering, governance, and strategy. Truly, if you want to be part of the strategic picture going forward, you have to work with information tools. Industrial age methods won’t cut it. So, are you thinking about how to move to a content strategy?

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