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

19 October 2016

Self-regulation & PKM

Clark @ 8:05 am

I’m a fan of Harold Jarche’s Seek-Sense-Share (SSS) model for Personal Knowledge Mastery (PKM). I was also reading about self-regulated learning, and a proposed model for that. And I realized they could be related. Naturally, I created a diagram.

self-regulated-pkmTo start with, Harold’s model is oriented around coping with the information flow as a component of learning. He starts with seek, which could be either from a pre-arranged feed or the result of a specific search.  Then, the information is processed, by either or both of representation or active experimentation. Finally, information is shared, either broadcast through some form of post, or sent to a specific target. Note that the interpretations within the SSS boxes, e.g. feed and post, are mine, as I haven’t checked them with him.

Now, the model of self-regulated learning I was reading about talks about personal goals, learning actions, and evaluation.  It seems to me that learning goals sit outside of SSS, the SSS serves as the actions, and then evaluation comes after the action. Specifically, the goals inform the choice of feeds and any search, as well as the context for interpretation. Similarly, the results of personal sensing and the feedback from sharing inform the evaluation. And of course, the evaluation feeds new goals.

Two additional things. First, the encompassing notion is that this is under continual review.  That is you’re taking time to think about how you set goals, act (SSS), and evaluate.  Also, let me note that I think this makes sense both at the individual and organizational level. That is, organizations need to be explicit about their knowledge, experiments, and learnings.

The outside loop is likely to be an implicit part of PKM as well, but as indicated I haven’t had a chance to discuss it with Harold.  However, it’s useful for me to represent it this way as an experiment (see what I did there?). The question is, does this make sense for you?

18 October 2016

Next book?

Clark @ 8:01 am

The time has come to ask: what should be my next book?  I’ve written four so far:

Engaging Learning was something I felt was needed because people had written about the importance of games but no one was writing about how to design them, and I could.

Then, while I wanted to write about elearning strategy, my publisher wanted a book on mobile and I realized one was needed and the other likely candidates deferred.  Hence, Designing mLearning.

After that, my publisher’s sister company wanted a book on mlearning for higher education, and I ended up writing The Mobile Academy.

And then I finally convinced my publisher to let me write the elearning strategy book, and Revolutionize L&D was the result.

Let me be clear: I’m proud of each and every one of them.  I think each does the job it was designed to do, well.  However, each was written because either I or the publisher felt there was a need.  Which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s not the only approach. While I have some ideas, and of course it’s up to my publisher (unless I self-publish), it occurs to me to ask you what book I should write next.

So what is the next book you would like to see from me?  What book do you want or need that isn’t out there yet, and that is one that I am the person to write?  Here’s your chance; I’d greatly appreciate it if you took just a minute or two to give it some thought and write out your ideas.  What do you think?

6 October 2016

Because quality matters

Clark @ 8:06 am

I was reflecting on some of the actions my colleagues and I take.  These are, in particular, colleagues that have been contributing to the field for a long time, ones who know what they’re talking about and that I therefore respect.  I retweeted one who called for being careful of the source in message. I’ve supported another who has been on a crusade against myths.  And I joined with some others to promote quality elearning.  And it led me to wonder why.  Why care?  Why take risks and potentially upset people?  And I realized that it’s because I care; because quality matters.

So what do I mean?  For one, it’s about money.  To the extent that people are misled by claims, they can misinvest their money. They might be persuaded to buy products that can’t really deliver what’s promised. They might pursue programs that aren’t going to have a real effect.  We see this a lot, initiatives that don’t achieve the desired outcome. There are lots of ways to fail, but we do know lots about how to do it right. Yet we still see strategies limited to courses, and courses designed poorly, and thus money being wasted that could be doing good.

Yet really, it’s about people.  It’s about giving them the right tools to do their job, whether in their heads or in the world.  In particular, I think that a field that’s about learning is about helping people improve, and that’s a noble pursuit.  Yet, too much of what’s done is under-informed, if not outright misled.  We need to do  better.

And it’s about us.  If we’re to be professional, if we’re going to hold our heads high, if we’re going to have a meaningful impact, we have to do what’s right. And if we don’t know what that is, it’s incumbent on us to find out.  And be smart about it.  Be critical in our investigation of messages (including this one ;). We need to have enough background to be able to sift the wheat from the chaff.  And we need to continue to educate ourselves on the science that is behind what we do.  We need to be responsible.

We need to recognize that changing what is arguably the most complex thing in the known universe (the  mind) in persistent and predictable ways is not simple.  And simple solutions, while appealing, are not going to do the job.  They might meet one particular metric, but when you look at the big picture, aligning improvement with respect, you need to have a rich solution.

And I think awareness is growing. We are seeing more people interested in improving their learning designs despite considerable budget and time pressures.  And we’re seeing folks looking beyond the course, seeking to create an approach that’s broader and yet more focused on success.  Finally, we’re seeing people interested in improving. Which is the first step.

So you can continue to expect me to work for quality, and back up those who do likewise. Together, we might make this field one to be proud of.  I don’t think we’re quite there yet, but it’s within our reach. We can do this, and we should.  Are you with me?

If you’re interested in getting started, and would like some help to get going faster and further, get in touch!

4 October 2016

Site Learnings

Clark @ 8:06 am

So I was talking with a colleague, who pointed out that my site wasn’t as optimized for finding as it could be, and he recommended a solution. Which led to an ongoing series of activities that have some learnings both at the technical and learning side.  So I thought I’d share my learnings about sites.

This being a WordPress site, I use plugins, and my colleague pointed me to a plugin that would guide me through steps to improve my site.  And so I installed it. And it led me through several steps.  One being improving some elements about each post. And some of these had some ramifications.  The steps included:

  • adding a  focus word or phrase
  • adding a meta-description
  • post recommendations for including focus word in the first paragraph
  • adding images
  • and more

I reckon these are good things to be consistent, but while I sometimes include diagrams, I haven’t been rabid about including images.  Which I will probably do more, but not ubiquitously (e.g. this post ;). The other things I’ll work on.  BTW, I am also getting advice on readability, but I’m less likely to change. This is my blog, after all!

One other change was to move from posts by number (e.g. ?p=#), to having a meaningful title. Which is all well and good, but it conflicted with another situation.  See, one of the other recommendations was to be more closely tied to Google’s tools for tracking sites, specifically Search Console.  Which had other ramifications.

So, I’ve put Google tracking code into all of my sites, but the code on Learnlets was old.  I’d put it in, and then my ISP changed the settings on my blog so I couldn’t use the built-in editor to edit the header and footer of the site pages (for security). Which meant I had to find the old code and replace it with FTP. Except, in all the myriad files in a WordPress site, I had no idea where.

Now, I’d try to do this once I’d gotten all my sites tied into Google Analytics, including searching the WP file folders, and browsing a number, to no avail. And I’d searched for guidance, similarly to no avail.  I tried again this time, still to no avail. I even found a recommended plugin that would allow you to add code into the header, but it didn’t work.

Specifically, even though my site was registering in Google Analytics, it wasn’t validated with the Search Console. I tried a number of their recommended steps, like adding a generated .html file into the site and putting a special txt message in my DNS record via my domain name host. (And if you don’t know what this means, it’s not really essential except to note that it’s clearly at the very edge of my deteriorating tech skills. ;)

I finally got on the phone to my ISP, and he gave me the clue I needed to find the right file with the header. Then I could download the file, edit it, and re upload it.  Which is always nervous to me: changing a core and ubiquitous file for your site that could totally stuff things up!

Well, long story short, it worked. I’m now registered with the Search Console, with current  Analytics code. Though, in the process of changing my url style for my blog, it is now generating 404 errors on pages that use the old mechanism (it seemed to work okay on some newer ones, but apparently is falling apart on some older ones).  It’s always something.

So, the important thing: tech stuff ends up being complicated, but what helps are the same innovation (aka informal learning) steps as always. Persistence, a willingness to experiment, a suite of approaches, and a network to fall back on.  And also, if you’re using one of my old URLs, it may be a problem to track down!  This may well be a problem in my own referring sites (e.g. the Quinnovation News page).  Two steps forward, one step back.  Here’s to change!

28 September 2016

Reflecting practice

Clark @ 8:05 am

Someone opined on yesterday’s post that it’s hard to find time for reflection, and I agree it’s hard. You need to find ways to make it systematic, as it’s hard to make persistent change. So I responded with three personal suggestions, and thought I’d share them here, and also think about what the organizational response could be.


So my first suggestion was to find times when the mind is free to roam.  For example, I have used taking a shower, exercising, or driving.  My approach has been to put a question in my mind before I start, and then ponder it.  I typically end up with at least one idea how to proceed.  Find a time that you are awake and doing something (relatively) mindless. It could be in the garden, or on a walk, or…

Another idea I suggested was to bake it into your schedule.  Make it a habit.  Put half an hour on your calendar (e.g. end of the day) that’s reflection time. Or at lunch, or morning break, or…  A recurring reminder works well.  The point is to set aside a time and stick to it.

Along the same lines, you could make a personal promise to publicly reflect (e.g. blog or podcast or…).  Set a goal for some amount per week (e.g. my goal is 2 blog posts per week).  If you commit to it (particularly publicly), you’ve a better chance.  You could also ask someone to hold you accountable, have them expecting your output.  The pressure to meet the output goal means you’ll be searching for things to think about, and that’s not a bad thing.


Of course, organizations should be making this easier.  They can do things like have you set aside a day a week for your own projects, or an hour of your day.  Little firms like Google have instituted this.  Of course, it helps if they require output so that you have to get concrete and there’s something to track isn’t a bad idea either.

Firms could also put in place tools and practices around Working out Loud (aka Show Your Work).  Having your work be out there, particularly if you’re asked to ‘narrate’ it (e.g. annotate with the thinking behind it), causes you to do the thinking, and then you have the benefits of feedback.

And instituting systemic mentoring, where you regularly meet with someone who’s job it is to help you develop, and that would include asking questions that help you reflect.  Thus, someone’s essentially scaffolding your reflection (and, ideally, helping you internalize it and become self-reflecting).

Reflection is valuable, and yet it can be hard to figure out when and how.  Getting conscious about reflection and about instituting it are both valuable components of a practice.  So, are you practicing?

27 September 2016

How to learn and learn-to-learn

Clark @ 8:07 am

I was asked by a colleague to answer some questions for a project on how to learn.  I naturally decided to answer in a blog post ;).metadoing

Q1. In your working life, how have you learnt effectively from experience, please provide an example if possible? (e.g. how have you used intentional practice, learnt from failure, learnt from ambitious projects and/or used reflection)

I try to look at feedback and reflect, specifically deciding how I will do things differently next time.  So, I regularly read the feedback comments I get on my latest presentations (it really helps when that’s timely, hours or at most days, not weeks).  While obviously reveling in the positive ones, I look for constructive feedback that I can try to improve upon.  For example, the very first time I ran a workshop for the eLearning Guild, while most liked it two people asked for their money back. (I was really upset.) However, I looked at their rationale, and realized I’d made specific mistakes.  The Guild was somewhat reluctant to try me again, but I documented the exact two things that were wrong, and gave them my specific changes and why those change would address the problems. I’ve been doing workshops at Guild events for around a decade now!  (E.g. my Revolution/elearning strategy workshop at the upcoming DevLearn).

Q2. In your working life, how have you learnt effectively from people, please provide an example if possible? (e.g. how have you learnt from project teams, mentors, coaches and/or broader social networks)

I learn from folks in a variety of ways, but the key is asking questions.  I’ve asked questions and gotten answers from my social networks.  I’ve been very fortunate to have valuable mentors throughout my career. I’ve worked for smart and good people, and they’ve been willing to share. Most have given me some stretch assignments that required me to work in my ZoPD, and then feedback to learn from the outcomes.  And I would ask them along the way. I’ve also learned from collaborative assignments, working and learning together. But mostly I’ve learned from my close colleagues. For example, with my ITA colleagues, we have a chat channel open, and we’re regularly pointing things out, asking each other questions, and in general staying linked both professionally and personally.

Q3. In your working life, how have you learnt effectively from courses, research or investigation, please provide an example if possible? (e.g. how have you learnt from reading on the web, reading books or attending courses)

I read, a lot.  I’m not only reading things pointed to via my social network (both professional and personal interests), but I use the library.  I seldom take courses any more, both having developed my own learning skills and from plain hubris, but when I do I try to follow the instructions, extend the implications to  my own experience, and see if I think I can apply them or ask about the barriers I am anticipating.  But I really try to alternate my pleasure reading with reading that advances my understanding (here are a Deeper eLearning reading list and a Revolution reading list).  I write book reviews as a way to reflect on my learning (e.g. an article that points to two), but even for myself I try to take notes and look for the implications.

Q4. What’s your top advice for someone who wishes to develop faster and learn complex skills in modern workplaces? 

Stay curious, my friends.  Seriously, as a general mindset I think that a continuing interest in what’s going on is essential.  I strongly believe in personal responsibility for learning, and that means not only doing it, but reflecting.  Meta-Learning, or Learning to Learn, is a crucial focus and area to track.  Then, several specific steps. I like my colleague Harold Jarche’s Seek-Sense-Share model for Personal Knowledge Mastery. I think experimenting with different media, and working out how to manage the flow of information is critical.  Given that learning is action and reflection, I think experimentation and reflection are a crucial part of self-learning.  Experiment with different ways to represent your understanding: write, diagram, make an audio or video file.   Look for links.  And then share your reflections on your learning, and your learning to learn. Be concrete about what you think your learning processes are, and look at how others learn.

Ok, so that’s how I learn, how about you?

21 September 2016

Collaborative Modelling in AR (and VR)

Clark @ 8:04 am

A number of years ago, when we were at the height of the hype about Virtual Worlds (computer rendered 3D social worlds, e.g. Second Life), I was thinking about the affordances.  And one that I thought was intriguing was co-creating, in particular collaboratively creating models that were explanatory and predictive.  And in thinking again about Augmented Reality (AR), I realized we had this opportunity again.

Models are hard enough to capture in 2D, particularly if they’re complex.  Having a 3rd dimension can be valuable. Similarly if we’re trying to match how the components are physically structured (think of a model of a refinery, for instance, or a power plant).  Creating it can be challenging, particularly if you’re trying to map out a new understanding.  And, we know that collaboration is more powerful than solo ideation.  So, a real opportunity is to collaborate to create models.

And in the old Virtual Worlds, a number had ways to create 3D objects.  It wasn’t easy, as you had to learn the interface commands to accomplish this task, but the worlds were configurable (e.g. you could build things) and you could build models.  There was also the overall cognitive and processing overhead inherent to the worlds, but these were a given to use the worlds at all.

What I was thinking of, extending my thoughts about AR in general,  that annotating the world is valuable, but how about collaboratively annotating the world?  If we can provide mechanisms (e.g. gestures) for people to not just consume, but create the models ‘in world’ (e.g. while viewing, not offline), we can find some powerful learning opportunities, both formal and informal.  Yes, there are issues in creating and developing abilities with a standard ‘model-building’ language, particularly if it needs to be aligned to the world, but the outcomes could be powerful.

For formal, imagine asking learners to express their understanding. Many years ago, I was working with Kathy Fisher on semantic networks, where she had learners express their understanding of the digestive system and was able to expose misconceptions.  Imagine asking learners to represent their conceptions of causal and other relationships.  They might even collaborate on doing that. They could also just build 3D models not aligned to the world (though that doesn’t necessarily require AR).

And for informal learning, having team or community members working to collaboratively annotate their environment or represent their understanding could solve problems and advance a community’s practices.  Teams could be creating new products, trouble-shooting, or more, with their models.  And communities could be representing their processes and frameworks.

This wouldn’t necessarily have to happen in the real world if the options weren’t aligned to external context, so perhaps VR could be used. At a client event last week, I was given the chance to use a VR headset (Google Cardboard), and immerse myself in the experience. It might not need to be virtual (instead collaboration could be just through networked computers, but there was data from research into virtual reality that suggests better learning outcomes.

Richer technology and research into cognition starts giving us powerful new ways to augment our intelligence and co-create richer futures.  While in some sense this is an extension of existing practices, it’s leveraging core affordances to meet conceptually valuable needs.  That’s my model, what’s yours?

6 September 2016

Out of touch

Clark @ 8:10 am

Imagine, for a moment, that you are on a remote site doing work.  To get work done, we are increasingly learning, that means working with others.  Other people, and other information.

So, for example, you might need to find the answer to a question.  It might be work related, or even personal but impacting your effectiveness.  However, at the site, they don’t use the same information tools you do.  So you might not be as effective, or effective at all, in terms of getting the answers you need.

Similarly, what if their social tools are different? Your network might not be accessible, and while received wisdom from a search is one part of the knowledge ecosystem, so is what is in the heads of your colleagues.  The situation might be unique or new enough not to have a recorded answer. The answer might be within a few nodes of connection, but you can’t reach it. Again, if you can’t connect to the shared wisdom, you are limiting your ability to succeed.

For ideas to advance, for innovation to occur, you need access to information and others.  If you filter it or shut it down, you are limiting the chances to improve. While internally you may be very effective, there’s still more outside you could benefit from. You’re missing out on the opportunity to be as agile as increasingly we need to be.

If you’re not connected to the broadest opportunities, you could be missing out on the ‘adjacent possible’ that’s a key component to innovation. Your tools may be even quite good, but they’re still not optimal.  You’re quite literally, out of touch. And, on that note, I’ll be ‘out of touch’ for a few more days, so understand if you haven’t ‘seen’ me around.  Email is best.

30 August 2016

‘Cooking up’ some learning

Clark @ 7:59 am

So, I like to cook (not bake, but cook). And possibly the first thing I ever really mastered was enchiladas.   I’d put a chunk of beef in the crockpot, with a can of enchilada sauce and half-to-most of a beer.  (I experimented with making my own sauce for a while, but ultimately the differences weren’t worth it.) After cooking all day, I’d fish the beef out and shred it, grate a bunch of cheese, chop an onion (something my Mom always did), and roll ’em. With some extra across the top.

One of the secrets of my confidence in cooking probably started here.  I never had learned that I couldn’t cook, and some early successes kept me going.  I’ve subsequently had some fairly big disasters, but I’ve got my repertoire down.  And again, while not claiming to be authentic it was considered pretty tasty ;).

Enchilada ingredientsOne of the ongoing barriers, however, was the rolling. Really, you want to dip the tortillas in the sauce before you roll them. Diana Kennedy (early source for Comida Mexicana) says you’re supposed to dip them in sauce and then in hot oil, but it’s too messy and even more work. It really slows things down. The question was, is it necessary?   Diana Kennedy had also talked about some versions used stacked tortillas, and I finally decided to try it out.  I made a batch where I placed the tortillas as a layer, then layered the other ingredients (onions, meet, cheese, and napping with some of the sauce).  (Put some sauce in the bottom to keep the tortillas from sticking.) I broke up the tortillas in a way that made it easy to cover. The kids complained about them not being rolled, but I loved how much faster and easier it was. And they tasted just fine. I was sold.

Fast forward a couple more times, and I realized that I had four tortillas per layer (see how they’re broken up to maximize coverage and minimize overlap), and I happened to have 30+ tortillas (fortunately 32+ as it turned out), resulting in eight layers. I also realized that I could mark out how much of the ingredients for each layer (divide in half, and again, and…).  (You see in the picture I’ve made 3 layers and have just put down the tortillas for a fourth, which I finished before switching to another pan for the remaining 4 layers.) This was important, because one of the earlier problems was getting the right amount of filling into each roll so as to come out with everything used up at the same time! (You can call it enchilada casserole if you want, but I call it dinner!)

I’ve also adapted it, using pork and green enchilada sauce (you could use chicken too). And for quite a while I’d forgotten the beef and just made cheese enchiladas (then you just warm the sauce in a pan), until I was reminded by a previous happy customer!

And the punchline: meta-learning. Experimentation, observation, reflection, and evaluation.  Putting on some music while doing this, and no one else in the kitchen, was what allowed the numerical computation to percolate in the background and sparked the realization.  Even in the well-practiced, there’s space for innovation, as long as there remains curiosity, a safe space and willingness to try (and fail), and time to ponder.  We can create the environment to do so, and increase the likelihood of continual innovation. And we increasingly need that. So here’s to good eating, and good thinking.  Your thoughts?

24 August 2016

Trying out videos

Clark @ 8:06 am

DevLearn, the elearning conference I’ll be attending in November, has suggested adding videos to promote your talks.  I haven’t done much with video (though I did just do this <6 minute one about my proposed learning pedagogy), but I’ve found the ‘narrated presentation’ capability built into Keynote to be of interest, so I’ve been playing with it.  And I thought I’d share.

First, I created this one to promote my talk on eLearning Myths. It’s a fun session with a MythSmasher format (e.g. the possible myth, the appeal, the damage, the method, the results, and what you can do instead if it’s busted) . It’s important, because if you’re supporting the wrong myths you can be wasting money and vulnerable to flawed promotions. Here’s the pitch:

Then, I’m also running an elearning strategy workshop, that’s basically the Revolution roadmap.  In it, we work through the elements of the Performance Ecosystem and not only make the case for, but workshop a personalized roadmap for your organization.  As things move forward, there’s an opportunity for L&D to lead the charge to the adaptive organization!

I welcome hearing your feedback on content or presentation, and of course invite you to attend either or both!

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