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

26 April 2007

iQuiz, not quite

Clark @ 8:53 am

With the ubiquitousness of the iPod, I’ve been looking for more to do with it than just play audio and video, but Apple’s kept a tight rein on the software (my fear for the iPhone, too). I was discussing it with my colleagues over beer (there’s that blogger/learning/beer thing again ;), and Jim Schuyler subsequently pointed me to the fact that not only have they recently released iQuiz, but allowed you to create your own quizzes. In addition, Aspyr has released a free iQuiz maker, which simplifies the task (if it doesn’t get confused, which it seemed to in a trial run). iQuiz supports both true/false, and multiple choice, with scoring.

Now, this sounds really great, and it can be, but there’re some qualifications. First, while there’s feedback possible for the true/false answer, there’s no specific feedback for the multiple choice questions (which I generally like better than true/false). If you can’t give any feedback for a wrong answer, you can’t learn from the question (yes, you can be motivated to go back and learn, e.g. listen to the podcast again or go read something). Really, you should be able to provide separate feedback for each wrong answer of a multiple choice (since your alternates to the correct answer should reflect prior misconceptions).

A second level of capability that would be really cool would be conditional branching depending on your response. This would let you build branching scenarios, which could really be powerful (giving you most of the power of full learning games).

We hand cobbled together (read: wrote and programmed in Brew) both quiz questions and scenarios (non-branching, but with several stages and specific feedback) on mobile phones for a project, and I still think it’s a good idea to supplement learning, albeit not a full learning situation by itself.

It’s clear Apple’s focused on creating fun with the iPod; they have trivia quizzes available, and talk about making the same to share with and challenge your friends. However, they’re only a small step away from making a really powerful learning adjunct that could make a big draw for the corporate elearning market. And they’re just one other step away from both a whole new market of fun (scenario stories for your friends), and another majorly powerful learning adjunct.

Now with all that caveat aside, for those learning situations where you do want to drill knowledge (and we overdo it so please use it sparingly and focus on skills), and you’ve got the backstop of resources so they can quickly go back and get it right, you’ve got another learning tool available on an increasingly ubiquitous platform. And a platform that has already demonstrable learning capability of podcasts and vidcasts (I was told of one group of engineers who asked for their colleagues’ white papers be read into podcasts so they could read them on their drives; a great success!).

I’ll keep hoping that there’ll be a way for small text scenarios (or even with images; built in Captivate 2 or SimWriter or SmartBuilder?) to be loaded onto iPods, but I’ll even look forward to quizzes with feedback for the different answers.

24 April 2007

See you in the funny papers

Clark @ 12:52 pm

I decided to elaborate a bit more on my comment that I think comics/cartoons are underused in learning, as I truly believe this. I’ve used them in elearning to serve as a motivating example, humorously exaggerating the negative consequences of not learning the material. I’ve also used them as story examples, where the character models the behavior of transforming an ill-formed statement into a well-formed statement. Why?

There are some powerful reasons to consider using cartoons and comic strips (graphic novels, manga, what have you). First, we understand the world in terms of stories, in many instances, and comic strips are a great way to communicate stories. They’re concise, and can minimize the amount of literacy required. And they’re visually appealing.

Then they elegantly simplify the context. You can include the necessary components, and allow the learner’s brain to fill in the rest. That’s true too for the transition between panels (see Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics for more). This may also facilitate the learner taking ‘ownership’ of the story, as they have to do some of the processing.

They also have one facility I really like. As Alan Shoenfeld’s work says, as I know it through Collins & Brown’s Cognitive Apprenticeship, experts need to make the underlying thought processes visible, not just the resulting steps (say, in working a problem). Thought bubbles are a great way to do this! You can do this with the ‘voiceover’ in audio and video (typically echoing slightly when it’s thoughts), but it’s easier to produce.

Comic Comic

Pragmatically, they can be relatively low-cost to produce, and they’re certainly low bandwidth (well, if you do it right ;). Brent Schenkler’s been talking about using ComicLife (a Mac app that lets you put speech and thought bubbles on photos) which would work as well, and then he points to tools that let you make comics! Here’s an elementary one I created with ComicLife. Not definitive, but illustrative (and doable with my limited skills).

Finally, they travel well. While humor might not (though certain types of humor should), the story will, as most if not all cultures have a form of comic strip and they’re easily comprehended. Practically, the internationalization and localization should be easy as well, as long as you leave enough room in the thought bubbles for languages like German translation (and keep all lettering in a separate layer).

I know, you have enough trouble talking about games in corporate settings, and comics may not be any easier, but think of the excitement of your audience, particularly young ones, talk about the lower cost to hit the global market and for lower-literacy employees. I even think they could be used to tell the corporate story (as has been done with novelizations).

23 April 2007

Superman versus Batman

Clark @ 8:57 am

As a kid, I read comicbooks (and I still think they’re undervalued as a learning tool). Naturally, I was keen on the superheroes, and given my name, Superman was probably my favorite. To fly, to be invincible, strong, and fast, well, it as too perfect for a kid who wasn’t the greatest athlete.

As I get older, I’m becoming more partial to Batman. Why (and why is this relevant to learning)? Because Superman, and so many of the other superheroes, got their powers through no particular effort of their own. Radioactive spider bites, being born on a planet with different characteristics, lab accidents, the list goes on. They don’t even stand up to scrutiny! On the other hand, Batman set his mind to becoming extremely capable. He learned science, trained in martial arts, etc. (Ok, so he started with a fortune to back him, but he didn’t have to work so hard, he chose to.) It could happen!

Informal learning only works to the extent that the informal learner knows how to learn, and is diligent in doing so. Learners have to challenge themselves, and take responsibility for ensuring what they need to know, and we shouldn’t take that for granted. I’ve found one of the keys to my own learning is to choose not necessarily the easiest path.

I’m a big fan of learning to learn, but you have to be aware and choose to learn. For example, I think we’re not doing enough in most of education to share responsibility with the learner. I think we need to support, and expect, self-learning. And I think it’s one of the greatest ROI potentials in corporate training, where the one investment gets leveraged across all areas of endeavor. So here’s to Batman and all those who set themselves goals and work hard to achieve them.

17 April 2007

eLearning Tools?

Clark @ 3:34 pm

In my elearning strategy session at the elearning guild, I included the following graphic as a model to think about how tools can help populate a performance ecosystem (aka learnscape):

PerformanceEcosystem

The point being that different tools fit different spaces in terms of who they serve in terms of experience, and whether they’re more individual or more group. The desktop/mobile may become less clear, but still makes sense for now.

I’ve seen folks trying to understand where blogs, wikis, etc fit into the space of learning tools (and realize that some of the tools have a broad reach and I’ve tried to place them in their center of impact; maybe I need some circles or auras or something indicating reach).

So, do you think I’ve got it right? And, do you think it’s useful?

16 April 2007

eCulture for Organizations

Clark @ 12:25 pm

Ok, the title’s a little broader-reaching than the post will be, but it’s some thinking that was prompted by Henry Jenkin’s presentation at the eLearning Guild conference, which Jay Cross has covered. The one new point I took away was the implications of “rip, mix, burn” for eLearning. What will learners do in the new read/write environment?

My first reaction was that many workers won’t have time or interest in messing with the information, but as someone (Mark Oehlert?) challenged me, the new generation will have it in their basic approach to life. And, of course, in my own approach to thinking how people work (warning, PDF) I want them to go back and edit resources if they find them inadequate. The final nail in my own reaction’s coffin, of course, is the fact that we want experts to collaborate. That’s part of the point of the learnscape (wish my own eLearning Strategy talk hadn’t been at the same time as Stephen Downes talking about PLE’s, which is getting lots of buzz, though I’ve checked out the PPT) where we share our own thoughts and work together to get new understandings.

What should our attitudes be about taking content and altering it satirically, ironically, etc? We want people to be innovative and constructive. On the other hand, various actions could be construed as destructive (e.g. personal attacks) or just wasteful. How do we deal with this? I originally was thinking that anything that wasn’t justifiable as constructive should be banned, but then I tried the other way around, that anything that isn’t obviously destructive should be tolerated (within bounds?), and that seemed even better.

We may not always be able to discern the contribution, but lateralness must, I think, tolerate some non-obvious experimentation. It’d be easier to force members of an organization to have to be at least able to make a case why some creation is a contribution, versus having to discern whether it’s actually a problem, but I think there’s a reason to do otherwise. In the latter case you’re putting the onus on the organization to find fault, but I think it would be supportive of a more productive culture than asking everyone to justify their actions. You’d just need a cultural rule that says “nothing personal about anyone, customers, bosses, peers, or subordinates… it can be about a particular thing they did, but not about them”, and so on.

The point being that we want people to feel like they can say anything as long as it’s not personal. They can challenge organizational decisions, whatever. However, quid pro quo is that they have to stand behind it, with attribution. Another unforgivable would be to misuse someone else’s identity. However, we should have a channel for anonymous comments. It’s about building trust, really. So we maybe our guide should be something like the Cluetrain Manifesto.

So, what other rules will we need? Ideally, we’ll want a culture that can not only acknowledge mistakes, but even reflect and propagate the resulting wisdom (you can’t celebrate error, but I heard a great story about a company that rings a bell when the lesson is learned, to promote the lesson). Where dissent is tolerated, but acceptance expected once a decision is made, even if it turns out to be wrong.

I don’t have all the answers, but I think the question is important.

5 April 2007

a bit more security…

Clark @ 11:17 am

Well, after my debacle with the phone, as promised I decided to be more secure. I’ve purchased Spash ID, and spent a bunch of time moving all my passwords and such into it. The nice thing is, it also has a desktop solution for both PC and Mac, so I’ve now secured both my Mac and Treo. Phew!

Now, to find a solution to back up my wife’s iMac, and have an offsite backup for my own stuff… As I always say, paranoia is a healthy state of mind when it comes to computers!

Upcoming Talk: eLearning Strategy

Clark @ 11:01 am

I’ve talked a bit before about eLearning Strategy, and have refined the thoughts into what I hope is a pretty systematic picture about what the different tactics are and how they can be aligned into a coherent approach. It includes ways of thinking about the different needs, the different tools, and systematic steps to get from content on a screen with a quiz, or virtual classroom, to a performance ecosystem (Jay Cross’ learnscape).

I’ll be presenting the thoughts at the eLearning Guild’s Annual Gathering, and as this is embryonic, ‘m really hoping to get feedback and hear things I’ve missed or ways to improve it (of course, I’m hoping it’s already valuable).

If you’re responsible for eLearning Strategy, or thinking about it, I’d love to see you there and in particular hear your feedback!

Upcoming talk: Deeper eLearning

Clark @ 10:53 am

At several conferences over the past couple of years, I’ve heard people talking about a need for a deeper understanding of instructional design. I’d sort of thought people understood ID, but I’ve seen too much ‘cookie cutter’ eLearning (and even F2F stuff) and have realized that there are a lot of people following templates without a real understanding of what the elements are and best principles around the elements.

I wrote a white paper (warning, PDF) about it, an abbreviated version of which appeared as an eLearnMag webzine article. However, it appeared there was demand for more.

So I created a talk and presented it at the local chapter, where it was well-received (“very good”, “great”, “learned a lot“, etc). In fact one of the audience members convinced me to offer it a a guest lecture in his class. Hey, there has to be some reason I’ve studied learning from every perspective imaginable!

Consequently, it’s one of the talks I’ll be giving at the eLearning Guild’s Annual Gathering next week in Boston (besides the learning simulation design workshop). If you’re designing elearning, or learning at all, I hope I’ll see you there!

4 April 2007

Partner & customize

Clark @ 9:38 am

April’s Learning Circuits blog big question is: ILT and Off-the-Shelf Vendors – What Should They Do? The problem is that ILT and OTS vendors are producing canned product in an increasingly flexible and changing world. Their products take time to develop, and there’s much competition from what you can find free-to-air on the web. What’s a vendor to do?

I believe there’s a pyramid of basic business stuff at the bottom, vertical market specialization in the middle, and then there’s organization-proprietary stuff at the top. The top should be custom-developed in house. Another cut through this is the stuff that every novice needs to know, the middle ground where practitioners need updates as things change, and then at the top there’s the ongoing negotation of understanding among experts. This is a framework that has helped me think through the tools we use for elearning, but also helps me think through how to address this problem.

There are several sorts of basic business needs: specific tool skills (e.g. spreadsheet use), basic business comprehension (e.g. ROI, Sarbanes-Oxley), and interpersonal skills (e.g. communication, negotiation). At the next level up, we have vertical market specifics, such as financial (e.g. what defines ‘insider trading’) and health (e.g. federal regulatory procedures). I think there’s a role for vendors of shelfware in both these markets. However, they’ve got to get better, as most of what I’ve seen isn’t informed by what we know about learning.

So, for instance, the ILT vendors need to wrap the F2F experience with preparation, and subsequently support the learners afterwards, ideally creating a community. And the software vendors need to find ways to tap into the benefits of social learning, by having at least virtual meetings, and again building community.

So the ILT and OTS folks ought to partner, and distribute what’s best done asynchronously through OTS stuff and what’s done better F2F. Also, we probably need to find new business models. For example, training for software and processes should be provided free by the tool vendors. So the shelfware vendors need to develop it in conjunction with the tool/service vendors. I think, similarly, that vertical markets should create associations that partner with a vendor to get cost-effective solutions developed to serve those markets (and that’s happening). Those will be the only roles for shelfware vendors, and they’ll be limited.

Other than that, those hoping to build a library and milk it like a cash cow are probably doomed unless they are the ones that create the demonstrably superior learning that’s optimally efficient in time, optimally effective in outcome, and optimally engaging in experience. Pine & Gilmore tell us that the next step beyond the experience economy is the transformation economy, experiences that change us in ways we are interested in (and that’s what Engaging Learning is all about!). And those that do create it will be the ones who partner with vendors or associations, or own the market in that space.

Push, Pull, & Blogrolls

Clark @ 8:47 am

Well, I finally found the time to add a blogroll to my site. This is a list of the blogs you read and/or recommend, so I wanted to include all those I read regularly.

It could have been unbelievably easy, as WordPress has the ability to import an OPML file of your blog list. Unfortunately, while Feedblitz has a menu option to export your subscriptions, the output file was broken, so I had to do it by hand.

I know most use an RSS feeder to track blog entries, but I find that if I have to remember to go out to a site, it doesn’t happen. If it comes into my inbox, I’ll deal with it. I’m a push kinda guy, I guess, so I use Feedblitz to send blog entries to me by email. And that’s how I put a box on my blog so you can subscribe via email. I like their service, even if bits still need to be worked on. Hey, for the price (free) it can’t be beat.

I realize there are many others I should be reading, but I’m trying to strike a balance between staying on top of things and getting my work done! I’ll try and keep the blogroll carefully matched to what I’m actually reading, but no promises. Now, there should be a way to make it work automatically, but while I *get* technology conceptually, I’ve lost the ability to keep up practically just as a bandwidth issue. Sigh.

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