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

26 December 2006

The 5 Things Meme

Clark @ 11:53 am

For reasons I don’t know, a recent thing running around the learning bloggers is the “5 things you probably don’t know about me” post. And, willing as most to talk about themselves…

1. My first elearning activity was around 1978-1979. I saw the connection between computers and learning when I got a job managing the data from the tutoring office on campus for extra money while attending college. Since there wasn’t a program on my campus, I could design my own major but had to find a supervisor. I found Jim Levin & Hugh Mehan starting a project using email (long before the internet, using ARPANET) to conduct classroom discussion, and they were kind enough to let me join them. It’s been my life ever since.

2. I (board) surf. Don’t get to it much these days, living an hour from the beach and the water’s bloody cold up here in NoCal, but I still go when I can. I was on the team in college and even coached it one year when our previous coach left, though I can’t say I did a great job (girls were a terrible distraction).

3. I like the wilderness. I did Outward Bound in high school, backpacked (aka bushwalked for my Aussie friends) in the desert in college, and the past few years have been hitting Yosemite with my friend/mentor/colleague Jim Schuyler. I’ve taken the family camping and hope to get the kids (boy 9, girl 7) backpacking too.

4. Despite the fact that I’m a ham, willing to speak (or act), I’m actually a bit of an introvert, at least until I get to know you. I also don’t handle large crowds well, being more a small group kind of person. I’m trying to get better, but if you see me at a social event standing quietly or looking awkward, I’m not being aloof but instead feeling shy. So come up and say hi!

5. I’m musically ‘challenged’. I never did learn to play an instrument, despite limited piano and flute lessons, and garage jamming (playing bass) a bit in college and grad school. I’ve a ‘tin ear’, with real trouble staying in key vocally and unable to tune an instrument even with a reference note. I love lyrics and singing, but don’t want to subject anyone else to my off-key warbling (as previous girlfriends and now wife are all too willing to point out). Fingers crossed that the kids have their music ability from the other side of the family.

A whole new me(me)?

Clark @ 10:34 am

I was talking last week with Tony Karrer, a sharp guy who runs TechEmpower, which does some very interesting things with technology beyond elearning such as linking competencies with interventions and tracked back to performance. Naturally, he’s also the author of the eLearningTech blog. Among the things we discussed was the problem in talking about what we do.

eLearning, a great phrase at the time, has some problems. It can easily be perceived to be focusing on the formal learning part, ignoring informal learning. And it doesn’t convey at the C-level that we consider the broader possibilities of how we can link technology to facilitate organizational innovation and knowledge worker effectiveness (and efficiency). Marc Rosenberg‘s captured part of it in the notion of Beyond eLearning, but that’s a perspective, not a categorical phrase.

However, I’ve yet to come across a better term. Performance Support, while a great concept, can get confused with other forms of organizational performance. Human Capital Improvement just doesn’t resonate, sounding more like Fredrick Taylor-style time and motion studies than knowledge worker empowerment. Even what I just said “Knowledge Worker Empowerment” sounds more like a social movement than a targeted design approach.

When I talk about moving up the eLearning Value Chain, the top end is far beyond eLearning (e.g. the Performance Ecosystem). Yet I don’t have a better phrase! Neither Tony nor I think our solutions are just an HR issue, but instead involve crossing silos to provide overarching solutions that are directly linked to operations and revenue.

It’s a marketing thing, but an important one I think. We’re already having trouble selling beyond the HR group, and I think the phrase eLearning still gets bucketed into that ‘cost center’ mentality. We need to be about effectiveness, not efficiencies. A phrase that’s forward looking, not loaded with baggage (as performance support, knowledge management, elearning, and most others are).

Any ideas? Can anyone think of anything besides holding a nationwide competition? Is it a topic for Learning Circuit’s big question? Help!

15 December 2006

7 Steps to better eLearning

Clark @ 7:59 am

I’m pleased to say that my article on 7 Steps to Better eLearning is now out in eLearning Mag. Have a look and let me know what you think!

8 December 2006

December’s BIG Question(s)

Clark @ 1:28 pm

Once again, it’s the Learning Circuit’s BIG Question, which is really 3 questions:

  1. What will you remember most about 2006?
  2. What are the biggest challenges for you/us as head into 2007?
  3. What are your predictions for 2007?

So, what will I remember most about 2006? Probably that it was the Year of the Game. Gaming became mainstream (we moved it out of the ‘emerging’ track at TechKnowledge, for example). Whether called Serious Games, Simulations, Scenarios, or whatever, it’s definitely crossed the chasm. That’s not to say it’s ubiquitous, or even well done yet, but it’s definitely playing a role in many more organizations, and it’s on more people’s radar.

It’s also been a year of more strategic use of eLearning. The progression on my models page is one way I’ve been thinking about it (feedback welcome), but increasingly I’m seeing folks interested in road maps to address organizational performance by leveraging their IT investment in more intelligent ways, not just purchasing an LMS and acquiring content to meet training needs.

The biggest challenges will be executing successfully to take eLearning to the “next level”, whether it’s tactics like improving the instructional design or adding eCommunity to strategies about changing the customer role. It’s too easy to take half-baked approaches: have one workshop run, or engage one improvement initiative without applying the organizational change implementation thoughts that accompany these initiatives.

It’s also important to focus on the goals, not the tools. Getting the design right is the hard part, not figuring out what technology implementation can render the design.

My predictions for 2007 are first that mobile learning will cross the chasm like Games have. It’s on the cusp, and I’m hearing lots of different buzz going around. The capabilities are pretty mature now, and the integration is now possible, so that we have a whole new set of affordances or capabilities that provide some real performance opportunities.

I also think that the hype will go off podcasts and blog and wikis as phenomena, and they’ll take their rightful place as power tools in our suite of resources. This is not to diminish them in the least, they’re valuable tools at the higher level for collaboration and communication, but we’ll start looking at the larger picture, about why we need collaboration and communication and start developing systemic approaches, not experimenting with them as one-offs.

We’ll see greater awareness of the necessity of what I call performance ecosystems and Jay Cross has termed ‘Learnscapes’ (a nice term, I may have to adopt it). We’ll start seeing a recognition that individuals need a unified and richly populated playground with all sorts of resources and ways to extend our understanding and our capabilities.

And I fervently hope we’ll begin to recognize that we can’t assume that if we build it, they will learn, but we have to develop a learning culture, that we need to develop our learners’ ability to learn, that we have to recognize, take responsibility for, and foster meta-learning (learning to learn).

While this is not my last message of the year I hope, this is a great opportunity to thank everyone for a very interesting year, and send my best wishes that the coming year be the best yet for all of us.

7 December 2006

77 Steps?

Clark @ 8:07 am

Jimmy Atkinson passed on this list of 77 Ways to Learn Faster, Deeper, & Better. Maybe he knows I’m keen on meta-learning, or learning to learn, and there are some nuggets in here. No one’s suggesting, I’m sure, that you should go for all of them, but you might want to graze the list and incorporate one or two into your existing approaches.

Being a better learner is one of the key differentiators, going forward (it’s part of my curriculum, which I discussed previously). I admit I haven’t scrutinized the list in fullness, though I might add “engage yourself”, that is, finding your own ways to make the content meaningful if the instructor hasn’t, such as creating examples where it would be important to you.

Still, having more guides to becoming a better learner is a ‘good thing’ (see also Marcia Connor’s Learn More Now). Learn on!

Content Models

Clark @ 7:56 am

Sorry, it’s been a whirl of activity, this past week and more. Most of it, interestingly, circling around something I was working on several years ago, content models. The notion is being more granular in content specification, separating out, both in content development and in representation through tagging,the different components of learning:

Learning Objects Reuse

This gives us flexibility in packaging them up in different ways to serve different needs.

I once defined the right size of a learning object as the smallest unit you’d give to one learner versus another (implying if you were serving as a wise and knowledgeable tutor). However, we’re not there yet with the ability to sufficiently tag domain/topic role down to the level of a table or a graphic across all domains, which is what you’d need to build a really intelligent but mass-market tutoring system, but we certainly can make approximations.

Yes, I do have complaints from authors who feel it’s constraining, but when we pay closer attention to the elements (and good principles along with, see the Seven Steps to Improved Instructional Design white paper, warning: PDF; soon to come out in a ‘readers digest condensed’ version via Lisa Neal’s eLearningMag) we get more flexibility and better learning outcomes. And it’s not that hard to shift, it’s some initial extra overhead, not a whole new writing process.

As you move from publishing monolithic works to delivering Wayne Hodgin’s “right stuff” (the right information, to the right person, at the right time, in the right place…etc), and increasingly want authors who don’t have instructional design expertise but important knowledge to develop learning, you’ll need this structure. I’m finally seeing some real market movements in these directions, and I look forward to more innovations.

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