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

20 September 2016

Deeper Design: Working out Loud and the Future of Work

Clark @ 5:05 am

Over the past year, I’ve been working on a project.  After I wrote the Deeper eLearning series of 6 posts with Learnnovators, we wondered what to do next.  We decided to do a course together, free-to-air, and write about the process as well (a bit of Working Out Loud), with the intention was to try to do deep design on a pragmatic basis.  And, just as a hint, the topic is the Future of Work, the choice of which is
part of the story. It’s a tribute to our late friend and colleague, Jay Cross, with the assistance of my colleagues in the Internet Time Alliance.

learnnovators course design example

Well, that goal was accomplished.  First, there are four articles talking about the design, that Learning Solutions magazine was kind enough to host:

The first post talks about our initial plans, and how we settled on a topic.

The second post talks about our initial design decisions, scoping the overall course.

The third post talks about our detailed design decisions.

And the fourth post talks about our development process.

We intend a fifth post talking about what we learn after the release!

and now there’s also a press release that provides a link to the course.  There’s an opportunity at the end of the course to leave some thoughts and comments, if you go through it (it’s designed for 20-30 minutes).

And, of course, if you do go through and want to talk about it, you can comment on the posts or here.  I welcome your thoughts!

14 September 2016

Kaihan Krippendorff Keynote Mindmap

Clark @ 6:29 am

At a private event, I had a chance to hear Kaihan Krippendorff talk about thinking differently about innovation.  He used an 8P’s model as a framework to illustrate how to think differently.

He started by pointing out that the myth of entrepreneurial innovation is overblown, and that innovation comes from moving outside ‘business as usual’.

In an engaging way, he used several examples for each of the Ps to show how companies succeeded by rethinking around this element (speaking too fast to capture them!).


13 September 2016

Augmenting AR for Learning

Clark @ 8:01 am

We’re hearing more and more about AR (Augmented Reality), and one of it’s core elements is layering information on top of the world.  But in a conversation the other night, it occurred to me that we could push that information to be even more proactive in facilitating learning. And this comes from the use of models.

The key idea I want to leverage is the use of models to foster is the use of models to predict or explain what happens in the world. As I have argued, models are useful to guide our performance, and in fact I suggest that they’re the best basis to give people the ability to act, and adapt, in a changing world.  So the ability to develop the ability to use them is, I would suggest, valuable.

Now, with AR, we can annotate the world with models.  We can layer on the conceptual relationships that underpin the things we can observe, so showing flow, causation, forces, constraints, and more.  We can illustrate tectonic forces, represent socio-economic data, physical properties, and so on.  The question is, can we not just illuminate them, but can we ‘exercise’ them. ?

Imagine that when we presented this information, we asked the learner to make an inference based upon the displayed model.  So, for instance, we might ask them, presented with a hypothetical or historical situation to accompany the model, to explain why it would have occurred. Similarly, we could ask them to predict, based upon the model, the outcome of some perturbation.

In short, we’re not only presenting the underlying relationship, but asking them to use it in a particular context.  This is what meaningful practice is all about, and we can use the additional information from the AR overlay as scaffolding to support acquiring not just information but the ability to use it.

Now, motivated and effective self-learners wouldn’t need this additional level of support, but there are plausible situations where it would make sense.  Another extension would be to ask learners to create a particular change of state (as long as the consequences are controllable).  While the addition of information in the world can be helpful, developing that understanding through action could be even more powerful.  That’s where my thinking was going, anyway, where does this lead you?

7 September 2016

China is mobile!

Clark @ 8:14 am

I’ve had the fortune to be here in China speaking on mlearning.  And there are a couple of interesting revelations that I hadn’t really recognized when I did the same last year that I thought I’d share.

For one, while mobile is everywhere like many places, it’s more here.  It seems many people carry more than one phone, for a variety of reasons (one fellow said that he carried another because the battery wouldn’t last all day!).  But they’re all phones, I seem to see few tablets.  They vary in size from phones to phablets, but they’re here.

Which leads to a second recognition.  They are big into mlearning, and elearning. The culture does respect scholarship (no anti-intellectualism here), so they’re quite keen to continue their education. Companies with mlearning courses do well, and the government is investing in educational technology in a big way.  It’s not clear whether their pedagogy is advanced (I can’t read Chinese, I admit), but they do get ‘chunking’ into small bits. And, importantly, the recognition of the value of investment is important.

QuinnovationQRCodeOne other thing struck me as well: QR codes live! They’re everywhere here. They used them during my workshop to run a lottery, and to answer some polling questions on demographics of the audience.  They’re in the restaurants as a start to the payment process. And they’re scattered around on most ads.  They have an advantage that they seem to have mastered the art of having an app that systematically recognizes them (it’s built into the ubiquitous social media app, WeChat).

Establishing the consistent use of a standard can help build a powerful, and valuable, ecosystem.  I can wish that the providers in the US would work and play together a little bit more!  There may be better alternatives, but getting consistently behind one standard makes the investment amortize effectively.

I’m pleased to see that mLearning is taking off, and had fun sharing some of the models that I think provide leverage to rally take advantage.  Here’s to getting going with mobile!

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.

31 August 2016

Collaborating when it matters

Clark @ 8:09 am

A dear friend and colleague just wrote about his recent (and urgent) chemo and surgery.  I won’t bore you with the details (the odds are you don’t know him), but one thing stuck with me that I do want to share.

As context, he discovered he had a rare and aggressive cancer, and this  ventured into the unknown, with a sense of urgency.   He fortunately had access to arguably the world’s best resources on this, but the ‘rare’ bit means that there wasn’t a lot of data:

“The treatment options were unclear because they didn’t have enough real data to know what was most likely to work..I didn’t know that the lack of data was so profound that intuition and personal experience, not data, would play a central role in the decisions.”

Collaboration was critical.  There were two different domains in play, and they had to work and play well together. An oncologist and a specialist in the location were required to determine a course of action:

“If you’re ever in a situation like this, having world-class experts is so critical! I could see the mental wheels turning, the quick parlay back and forth between the experts, leading to the suggestion…”

And, interestingly, his voice was an important one:

“Amazing how much the decision seemed to also rest with me, not just with the experts.”

They knew they didn’t know, and they wanted to understand his preferences.  He had a voice, instead of being told what to do. If you don’t know, look for preferences.

This is what decision-making looks like when it matters and it’s new: open collaboration. This also reminds me of Jane Bozarth’s story about her husband’s situation, where again expertise and preparation matter.  The details are not trivial, they’re critical.

And these situations are increasing. Whether life-threatening or not, and even with the power of data, we’re going to be facing increasingly challenging decisions.  We need to learn when and how to collaborate.  One person following a script (which should be automated) is increasingly less likely to be the answer. An individual equipped with models, and resources including others, is going to be the minimal necessary solution.

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!

23 August 2016


Clark @ 8:10 am

I recently wrote about serious comics, and realized there’s a form I hadn’t addressed yet has some valuable insights. The value in looking at other approaches is that it provides lateral insight (I’m currently reading Stephen Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From) that we may be able to transfer.  And the source this time is editorial cartoons.

Editorial cartoons use imagery and text to convey a comment on a current topic.  The best ones portray a poignant insight into an issue of the day, via a twist that emphasizes the point to be made.  They’re usually combined with a distinct visual style from each artist.  They reflect some of the same thoughts that accompany internet memes (the captioned photos) but require more visual talent ;).

The common approach appears to be (and I welcome insight from others) the ability to use another context to exaggerate some viewpoint. It’s a bit metaphorical, but I think the trick is to abstract the structure from the situation to be illuminated, and to map it to another situation that highlights the relationships.  So you could take some recent pop star spat and map it to a political one, or highlight an economic policy as a personal one.

As context, I happened to stumble upon an exhibition of Conrad‘s work in my college art gallery, and as he was the local cartoonist for my home newspaper (The LA Times), I recognized his work.  I had the chance to explore in more detail his award-winning efforts. Agree or disagree, he made powerful comments and I admired his ability.

Now, editorial cartooning is very context-sensitive, in that what is being talked about is very much ‘of the day’. What’s being commented on may not be relevant at a later time, particularly if they conjoin a popular culture event with an issue as they often do.  But the insight, looking for the twist and the way to make the point, is a valuable skill that has a role in learning design too.

In learning design, we want to make the content meaningful.  There’s intrinsic interest in pretty much everything, but it may be hard to find (see: working with SMEs), and also hard to convey.  Yet I believe comics are one way to do this.  You can, for instance, humorously exaggerate the consequences of not having the knowledge.  I’ve done that with content where we introduced each section of a course with a comic (very much like an editorial cartoon) highlighting the topic and necessity.

The point being that we can not only benefit from understanding other media, but we can appropriate their approaches as well. Our learning designs needs to be eclectic to be engaging and effective.  Or, to put it another way, there are lots of ways to get the design implemented, once you have the design right.

17 August 2016

Meaningful and meta

Clark @ 8:11 am

Over the weekend, one of my colleagues posted a rant about MOOCs and critical thinking. And, largely, I think he was right.  There’re several things we need, and MOOCs as they typically are constituted, aren’t going to deliver.  As I talked about yesterday, I think we need a more refined pedagogy.

So the things we need, to me, are two things:

  1. meaningful learning, whereby we have individuals learning skills that are applicable in their lives, and
  2. meta-learning, or learning to learn, so that people can continue to develop their skills in the face of increasing change.

And I don’t think the typical ‘text on screen with a quiz’ that he was ranting about is going to do it. Even with hand-shot videos.  (Though I disagree when he doesn’t like the word ‘engage’, as I obviously believe that we need engagement, but of both heart and mind, not just tarted up quizzes.)  He wanted critical thinking skills, and I agree.

Hence the activity framework. Yes, it depends on your design skills, but when done right, focusing on having learners create products that resemble the outputs that they’ll need to generate in their lives (and this is strongly influenced by the story-centered curriculum/goal-based scenario work of Roger Schank) is fundamentally invoking the skills they need. And having them show the thinking behind it developing their ‘work out loud’ (“show your work”) skills that ideally will carry over.

Ideally, of course, they’re engaging with other learners, commenting on their thinking (so they internalize critiquing as part of their own self-improvement skill set) and even collaborating (as they’ll have to).  And of course there are instructors involved to evaluate those critical skills.

As an aside, that’s why I have problems with AI. It’s not yet advanced enough yet, as far as I know, to practically be able to evaluate the underlying thinking and determine the best intervention.  It may be great when we are there, but for now in this environment, people are better.

The other component is, of course, gradually handing off control of the learning design responsibility to the learners. They should start choosing what product, what reflection, what content, and ultimately what activity.  This is part of developing their ability to take control of their learning as they go forward.  And this means that we’ll have to be scrutable in our learning design, so they can look back, see how we’re choosing to design learning, so they can internalize that meta-level as well.

And we can largely use MOOC technologies (though we need to have sufficient mentors around, which has been a challenge with the ‘Massive’ part).  The point though, is that we need curriculum design that focuses on meaningful skills, and then a pedagogical design that develops them and the associated learning skills.  That’s what I think we should be trying to achieve.  What am I missing?

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