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

27 September 2007

Clive’s 30 minute Master’s

Clark @ 8:07 am

A post by Clive Shepherd reminded me of his 30 minute Master’s project to, as it states on the site “develop a curriculum to train subject-matter experts in the design of rapid e-learning materials”. So I went over to check it out, and the script is pretty complete and very good.

I of course am thrilled to see the emotional engagement upfront in the design phase (not least because I suggested it ;), but overall the design does a very good job of having misconceptions to the suggested approaches, and addressing them, using a storyline to keep the ‘flow’ moving, etc. Very practical, focused, and informed.

It sounds like he’s planning on producing it, which is great, but even reading the script and imagining the actual experience is worthwhile to understand the content, and viewing it in script phase is valuable to think about interim representations in developing elearning. So, two learning experiences for the price of none!

He’ll be presenting it at DevLearn, the eLearning Guild conference in San Jose in November. I’ll be there, as the Guild’s events are always good, and I’m presenting twice and participating in two of the pre-conference management symposiums (any practical solutions for cloning one’s self?).

I’m actually working on a similar project, but it’s still hush-hush for now. Hopefully before the end of the year we’ll be able to talk about or even show it.  In the meantime, you can read my 7 steps to better ID paper (warning, PDF).

25 September 2007

Learning Futures

Clark @ 11:02 am

Yesterday, the Institute For The Future held an event that focused on some work they’d done for the Knowledge Works foundation last year, looking 10 years out on Forces Affecting Education. They mapped 6 “Drivers of Change” (grassroots economics, smart networking, strong opinions strongly held, sick herd, urban wilderness, and the end of cyberspace) across 5 categories (family & community, markets, institutions, educators & learning, and tools & practices). I won’t define them, because you can look at the map yourself. A small group of us representing educators, learning technologists, learning foundation folks, learners, and parents, all concerned and informed, reacted as part of their ongoing research.

Some of the premises were an embarrassment of riches in resources and changes in the market dynamics, and there were some interesting juxtapositions. For instance, there were potentials for both coming together and increasing divisiveness. The ability to view different opinions is broader, but so is the ability to find people of like views and form a hermetic group. A related concern is one that’s been appearing in the Serious Games discussion list, about how to strike a balance between a Second Life and a first life. Some may be happier in an alternate persona, and others completely reject it.

Another issue was learning to learn (not only by me :). That is, given this breadth of channels, how does one learn effectively? We talked about where the locus of that responsibility, and I suggested that’s the new role of schools. A concomitant concern is how to make these resources accessible in a manageable way. One point made was about the differences between textual literacy and new literacies around interactive worlds. Are they equivalent?

Similarly, we touched on curriculum and pedagogy: what should we teach, and how should we teach it? We didn’t get to service learning (which I picked up on from another’s scribbling), but I think there’s a lot to say for that approach as a pedagogical approach which integrates assisting community, building skills in an integrated and useful way, and allowing values to emerge (back to wisdom).

I pointed out as a side note that everyone’s view of context-sensitivity has to do with location, but we’re ignoring time as an alternate opportunity, it’s not only where you are, but what you’re doing there. If you’re at a school for classes versus a sporting event, you might want different information. If you’re in an important meeting, it might not matter where it is so much as this is one that is about negotiation and you could use some support.

I don’t think there’s an easy answer to one of the underlying questions: we know we need change, but where is it going to come from? It’s coming in lots of small ways, but the ‘school’ is so institutionalized not only in law but in culture that it’s almost impossible to replace, yet it’s also remarkably resistant to change. So can it happen incrementally, or will it have to be cataclysmic?

Overall, there’s some great fodder for thought in the map, and opportunities to discuss it as well. What do you think is in the future of learning?

Gaming for livelihoods

Clark @ 7:13 am

There was quite a ruckus recently, as Yahoo hired a person because of their leadership as demonstrated by ability to lead a World of Warcraft guild. Bob Dean who I earlier mentioned, told me the story of his son, who was hired because of his knowledge of (and interest in) the Air Traffic Control system. This was learned not through book, nor courses, but by a simulation built on top of Microsoft’s Flight Simulator.

Microsoft’s Flight Simulator is an interesting story in itself as, originally built as a training tool, it became popular as entertainment. What it lacks, however, is context. There’re airports, but no people and consequently some distance from real flying. What Vat Sim adds, as I understand it, is other flyers and air traffic control. It’s a community of interested people who play these roles and make the flying experience more complete. It’s not designed to be training, in this case, but instead a way for enthusiasts to play together. Yet it’s obviously quite effective.

Our conversation wandered off into issues in sim design, and the role of Authenticity (the topic of Pine & Gilmore’s new book). Bob was curious if there were any other simulations that might inspire careers, and I couldn’t think of any offhand (though America’s Army certainly qualifies). Certainly people might try combat, flight, driving, and medical/vet simulations, and the various Tycoon games might allow some feel for those jobs. Know of any others?

24 September 2007

Game, er ILS, webinar tomorrow

Clark @ 9:35 am

Tomorrow (September 25 at 8:30 Pacific), several of us from the eLearning Guild’s Immersive Learning Simulations research report will be holding a free webinar on the topic. If you’re interested in simulations and games, register. We’ll talk briefly from our areas, and answer questions. Hope to ‘see’ you there!

23 September 2007

Fishing for learning

Clark @ 11:14 am

I’m not the least interested in fishing (traumatic childhood experience :), but my wife and kids are. Both kids have tried, but to no avail. Yesterday, our local community was hosting a festival, however, including a fishing clinic. So we signed the kids up. The clinic was arranged with quite a bit to ensure success.

First, they stocked the ‘lake’ (hardly more than a pond). Second, they conducted a class before going out to the water. Then, they provided scaffolded practice in a protected environment. And they ensured a parent attended as well as the kids.

The class was a little late starting, and rambled a bit, but had a very good approach. The presenter was relaxed, and included some chatter, but basically led the learners through the crucial steps to be ready to fish. He talked about tying on a hook, He used a big prop hook and rope to show the principles of tying the hook onto the line. He also talked about principles of things like weights and bobbers, while showing the basics.  And had the kids answer questions along the way, to force them to think.   There wasn’t divergence into other forms of fishing (e.g. flies), but just a focus on what you need to go. Then they enabled those who didn’t have their own equipment, ensured everyone was ready, and moved out of the room and into the practice environment.

The practice environment was a roped off section of the shoreline, and a net-enclosed section of the lake. There were worms, and cleaning and packing if you caught anything and wanted to keep it. A big deal was made of a big catfish caught earlier in the day. The team of instructors cruised around answering questions and advising if useful.

Our session was in the evening, and things eventually got hot, with two big bass being caught at our end, and something big at the other. Our boy caught a small sunfish (his first fish ever, he was thrilled), and later had a big one that got away. My daughter had one nibble which was lost to an equipment problem. But it couldn’t have been set up much better to optimize the chance to succeed. And we found out it’s stocked year-round, so they can go back and try some more.

It’s a great model to think about for novices who need motivation as well as some key skills. How can you better ensure success and consequent motivation as well as the ability to execute again?

21 September 2007


Clark @ 8:21 am

Yesterday I was delighted to have lunch with Jay Cross, elearning guru, author, bon vivant, mentor, friend, (and now drummer). We’re almost neighbors (15 mi) and share passions for learning (and the meta-version), the capabilities technology can provide (not the technology itself), good food and drink. We’ve shared many adventures. I was helping him pick a new computer (a Mac), and of course having good conversation. Jay in WC

One of the things to talk about was performance support, as he’s writing an elegant update on the history and importance of this approach. It triggered many thoughts, not the least because performance support is the real focus of my mobile design piece I did for the recent eLearning Guild mobile research report.

It occurred to me that the new technologies make performance support even more effective. Semantic tagging, combined with user models, for instance, gives us opportunities to customize our support. As I’ve said before, mobile’s been a tale of convenience, making information available when needed, even if it’s a small screen, or over a small speaker, but the real opportunity still awaits: context sensitivity. We can track more than location, we can take a meeting, wrap support around it, and turn it into a learning event. Wrapping performance support around our lives, improving us as it improves our performance, is a true quantum shift in developing human capability.

Of course, we can also take performance support and meta- it, too! Our devices can not only support our performance on task, but support our performance on learning from the performance. It sounds a bit recursive, but I think that helping people become effective self-learners is a second great opportunity.

In Jay’s excellent book Informal Learning, he makes the point that “Dialogue is the most powerful learning technology on earth”, and it’s certainly true that when I get together with great thinkers, my own thinking gets sparked. I’m not a ‘big group’ person, but I love small conversations, and try to get together with folks and share conversation and comestibles. Let’s do lunch!

19 September 2007

VideoConferencing and Mobile

Clark @ 9:20 am

“Father, it’s been too many days since my last blog”, but it’s been a bit hectic. I’ve been dealing with some presentations, and more to come. Yesterday, one of them was a video conference for the Graduate School of Education (if I understand correctly!) at ITESM (Institute Technologica).

Here you can see the setup, I was in a video conference center, and I could control whether they saw me or my slides, and I could see them. Well, actually, some of them, as others were at satellite centers. I’m not an experienced video presenter (I do a lot of webinars, like tomorrow’s eLearning Guild Online Forum introducing eLearning, but it’s my first videoconference), but tried to balance some of me talking to them directly (they had a translator, I don’t speak Spanish unfortunately) with my usual diagrams and voice over (their system wouldn’t allow them to see both me and my slides at the same time). They’re quite advanced technologically, even telling me before we began that they’re making mobile a part of their learning solutions, with vidcasts and audcasts as well as quizzes.

Which was relevant, as they’d asked me to speak on mobile learning. I spoke to mobile design, my pet passion, and emphasized as I have in the eLearning Guild’s mobile research report that you have to ‘think different’, not about courses, but about performance support. They asked some very good questions afterwards, including what competencies learners should have (to be effective self-directed learners, and not to take that for granted but scaffold it), how mobile could be incorporated into universities (separate content from display, while using more open tools), and what content makes sense for mobile (interactive, reactivating, not content dump).

In one sense, I missed that I didn’t get a trip to Monterrey, Mexico (love to see new places, particularly ones with good food!), but it was a learning experience both in the new medium for me, and of course in thinking anew about the topic. Every time I present, there’re always new thoughts, even if it’s the same topic, though I try to get to speak on new things to challenge myself (one of my learning strategies). Of course, I also offer to host one of my well-reviewed workshops on game or mobile design, as well.  For instance, I’m talking about emotional elearning and mapping tools to learning needs at the eLearning Guild’s DevLearn (in San Jose CA), about eLearning Strategy for SENA (in Columbia, this time I do get a trip), and on learning technology futures in Copenhagen for the Danish Research Network (another trip!). What would you like to hear about?

13 September 2007

Where to work?

Clark @ 7:47 am

The Learning Circuits Blog big question of the month for September is “Where to work?” (PS I don’t know why I can’t get a straight URL just to the question.) It’s kind of a tough question, really. For whom? When?

When I look at the broad categories of who works in eLearning, first there’s a breakdown between ‘education’ and ‘the real world’, the latter of which roughly breaks down into corporate, government, and not-for-profit. The reason I separate out education is that there elearning is much more about education, not training. The others reverse. My definition of the distinction is a continuum from performance in very specific contexts (training) to broad applicability (education). Increasingly, we’re seeing pushes down on education, and up on training, however.

And we need to recognize that in many instances, we’re talking about a broader picture, where the a second dimension is performance support versus full instruction.

To be honest, though, it doesn’t so much matter where you work as what you do, who you work with, etc. The main thing is to align your job description with what you want to do: if you want to tinker with code and systems, be a develop, not a designer. If you want to figure out who should learn what, do curriculum development, if you want to create content, be a designer, etc. If you want to do a bit of each, work in a small organization.

Then choose based upon manager, company culture, location, and all the rest. Realize that you’ll never get the perfect fit, it’s all about tradeoffs. So know what’s important to you, and maximize your priorities. But that’s basic job counseling.

Of course, you have to be realistic with your strengths and styles too. Interestingly, a friend who has been doing counseling was interested in something new that involved teamwork and computers but not really software engineering. I thought elearning was a viable suggestion (though I did caveat with my ‘bias’). I do believe that understanding people, technology, and business (whether from interface design, learning design, or business intelligence perspective) is a valuable skill set going forward!

Critical Thinking

Clark @ 7:24 am

Harold Jarche writes about the need for critical thinking, and has a map of the skills mapped to particular tools. I agree, and added:

I’ve been a fan of critical thinking for years, since I was a grad student and TA’d for Jean Mandler’s class on it. We used Diane Halpern’s book as a text, and that approach is still relevant.

I think we need to do more, however. Just having the tools isn’t enough. To develop new skills, we need support: motivation, examples, guided practice. The received wisdom is that it has to be layered on to authentic tasks. Of course, I say build it into a game! (there’s a bit in Quest).

I sympathize with [] cynicism, but I believe it can be taught, and there’s evidence to support my position. But we do it by making it a priority (before college), and making it part of what we test (meaning a whole new type of testing, but that’s what we need anyway).

We need to build critical thinking on top of our systems, into our content (Pellegrino’s brilliant article for the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce has a section on this, it’s available from this page), and make it a priority. Not to put too big a point on it, our future’s at stake!

10 September 2007

Mobile Devices, Generically

Clark @ 3:17 pm

In addition to working on the mobile learning report, I’m speaking on mobile to Mexico’s Tecnológico de Monterrey via videoconference next week on mobile. As an part of my ongoing efforts to capture my thinking as graphics (for lots of reasons including my visual conceptualization approach, making my powerpoints more worthwhile, communicating, etc), I took a stab at graphically representing my generic model of a mobile device:

Mobile Device ModelIn this model, I’m trying to show that a mobile device is, at core, a processor and memory unit with a variety of possible means of connection (personal, local, and wide-area ways to network), input to the device (e.g. keys, touchscreen), output from the device (e.g. screen, speakers), and sensors that can do things like take pictures, capture audio, and sense position both in the larger context (e.g. GPS), and relative (like whether it’s tilted sideways or upright). Also, we have certain types of prototypical software that can be included: Personal Information Management, data viewing, capture, editing, communication, etc.

The point is that there are lots of form factors, but at heart we have this digital communication device with certain affordances (there’s that word again :) that we can map to our learning needs and goals.  I think it’s valuable to try to abstract away from particular devices as they are continually changing (well, increasingly multi-capable), and consider more fundamentally what capabilities are available and how they might be used. What do you think?

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