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

24 April 2006

Continual Innovation

Clark @ 3:13 PM

Plane travel is an interesting opportunity to chat with folks solving real problems. Last fall, while awaiting my flight I had the pleasure of chatting with a gent who was working out of Asia and was concerned that his folks didn’t have a cultural bent towards continuous innovation. He figured that they didn’t want to put themselves out of a job, when in fact they were growing so fast that he was more concerned with getting enough folks.

Still, that systematic self-reflection and continual search for improvement isn’t necessarily natural. On a recent gig a client was spending serious effort to get more systematic about process, to the level of every individual reviewing their own work product, and recognized the pragmatic difficulties despite obvious benefits.
I’m on a plane to Taiwan (via Japan) as I write this, and my seatmate was talking about how their company (renown for quality), worked towards creativity in their work processes. Again, a quick question revealed opportunities for improvement.

As Dan Pink (author of A Whole New Mind) talked about in his keynote for the eLearning Guild conference, creativity is going to be a core skill going forward. Dan’s message was that the global pressures were going to mean that the competitive edge will shift from execution to elegance, and that we’d need to tap into and integrate our right brain as well as our left. As a consequence, by the way, that’s part of the components of my thoughts on a new curriculum, for the same reasons.

One of the things I’ve looked at is design and creativity, and quite a bit is known about it. There are ways we can foster innovation explicitly. Yet we don’t typically talk about it nor make it part of our curriculum (what part of No Child Left Untested addresses creativity?). We can and should make it part of our culture, our values, and our education system, both organizationally and societally (as well as personally). While you can make a separate course, it’s better off layered atop our ongoing process, but it needs to not just be presented, but made part of our process.

Mobile Learnings

Clark @ 3:11 PM

Mobile was getting hot at the latest eLearning Guild conference (delightful as always). A number of the usual suspects were there; in addition to my session David Metcalf (University of Central Florida) and Judy Brown (University of Wisconsin) had sessions on mobile. Most interesting to me was the final panel where David Holcombe of the eLearning Guild had aggregated preliminary results of their mobile learning survey (the most recent of their ongoing research program), and had David, Judy, Ellen Wagner (Adobe) and myself reflect on the results.

It was interesting to hear how we reacted to the results for each question in the survey. The commonalities were that people have to stop thinking about mobile as eLearning Lite ™, and take a broader perspective.

The take homes included:

  • your ‘charges’, the folks you look out for, already have mobile devices, and while they may be heterogeneous there are already broad solutions possible
  • not to focus on courses but think broader about what you could do for performance with dribbling information at the right time and/or place
  • to not miss the ‘low-hanging fruit’ of ensuring that the web information you already have up will work on mobile devices
  • not to treat this as a pilot project, but consider the ROI of what you’re doing (not specific to mlearning, but worth reiterating)

What wasn’t stated really explicitly, but which was an underlying theme, is that you have to start looking at your infrastructure in a broader way; not just your LMS, but your CMS, your portals, the network, etc. Which is part and parcel of realizing you’re not just about training, you must be about improving performance. Which is part and parcel of moving training from a cost-center in HR to a contributing component of organizational success.

eLearning Learnings

Clark @ 3:10 PM

This past week I was at the eLearning Guild’s conference (a great conference, as always), and had a number of learnings, as well as a delightful chance to chat with a whole bunch of people.

One of the great delights was finding out that an individual who had attended my learning game design workshop at a previous eLearning Guild conference was presenting the current status of a game project they were developing. They had done an outstanding job focusing on their goals, and consequently coming up with a compelling scenario that really hit their goals for making an impact on their business. He was very gracious, mentioning the workshop (even the book, and I didn’t even pay him!), and also demonstrating the difficulties as well as the successes they had. It’s gratifying to have what you say come to fruition, and to see more people trying to take their elearning to the ‘next level’.

One interesting thing was that they had to use a side bucket of R&D money to do this, rather than having it being a mainstream activity. It’s sad that they have to sneak it in, and then hope to get support now that it’s to a ‘playable’ stage.

I wonder how many people are finding it difficult to sell games. It’s amazing to think that the most powerful practice opportunity is hard to justify, but the fact is that people’s minds are limited. Particularly when one of the things that has been labeled as ‘games’ is those mindless tarted up drill-and-kills. So you have to play games (ahem), and call it a ‘scenario’ or (inaccurately) a scenario. Which isn’t inappropriate but I’d like you to be tuning it to a game for the best learning, not just leaving it a scenario (my terminology is a simulation is just a manipulable model, when you wrap an initial and goal state and a story it’s a scenario, and when you tune it until it’s engaging you’ve got a game).

There were a number of other presentations talking about how to ramp up the engagement of the content, some better than others, but the important thing is that people are now talking more about the emotional content of the learning.

20 April 2006

Attitudinal Change

Clark @ 4:55 AM

Sorry for the slowdown, but I’ve been travelling, workshopping, presenting, etc at one of the as-always excellent eLearning Guild conferences. It’s given me great opporunitities for learnings, which will dribble out in spare moments in my upcoming schedule (I’m back for one day then on a plane to Taiwan).

One of the comments I found myself saying to folks here at the conference is “more and more, I’m coming to believe that much of our learning goals aren’t about knowledge or skills, but about attitude change”. People actually have a lot of knowledge they can draw upon in the world, but they have to believe it’s important to act in that way. Their lack of performance in a particular way is not an inability, but an unwillingness.

Because I’ve been interested in looking at all the ways in which people understand the world I’ve looked at things as far afield as machine learning and ritual, and also what’s known about attitude change. AECT’s research handbook entry is my best guide, and it’s become clear that attitude change is not easy (as if we didn’t know that…:).

So how do we do it? I’m inclined to think that a suite of effective steps goes like this:

  • First, we have to make people aware of their own beliefs. Many times we aren’t even aware of our own attitudes towards things. So we need to create an activity that ‘unpacks’ these attitudes.

  • Then we have to present alternative attitudes. These need to be plausible alternatives, and I suspect we need more than just one other (but I’m willing to be wrong about this).

  • We have to support learners comparing the tradeoffs embodied in the different attitudes. They need to be free to explore what the different attitudes or beliefs will provide, both upside and down.

  • We have to support learners in choosing an attitude. They need to commit to the suite of attitudes that characterize what they want to believe.

  • And then, assuming that they’ve chosen a new approach, we need to support their realignment of behavior. Recognize that even a change in belief may not realize a sustained change in behavior if there’s no support around that process (it’s hard to break habits).

So, for illicit use of software copying, this might look like:

Making them acknowledge their own behavior, in this case using illegal software. Then we might talk about different attitudes that could be tolerated: nonchalance, the ‘rationalizing’ approach, an honest approach, and their tradeoffs: potential risk of prosecution, ripping off or supporting endeavor, etc. Then allow the learner to choose, and support them through a change (assuming they choose to move to an honest approach), for instance by giving them some situations where they might be tempted to backslide and give them chances to practice ways to deal with it in ethical but non-confrontational methods.

It may not have to be this exhaustive, but the underpinning structure probably includes this.

I’d welcome feedback on the claim that it’s more prevalent or the approach.

16 April 2006

New Skills

Clark @ 4:07 PM

In Engaged and Engaging Science: A Component of a Good Liberal Education, Judith A. Ramaley & Rosemary R. Haggett (Association of American Colleges and Universities Winter 2005 peerReview) claim:

Increasingly, capacities such as cognitive flexibility, creativity, knowledge transfers, and adaptability are becoming the new basic skills of an educated generation.

They’re arguing that science is part of this, and that it needs to be taught in meaningful and engaging ways. I can’t agree more that our curriculum needs to stop focusing on rote knowledge, and start addressing on learning to learn. And, of course, I can’t agree more that making it engaging is the way to get learners meaningfully involved.

Later on, they talk about “the convergence of the disciplines…; the growth of multidisciplinary interest in the science of learning and the
availability of deeper understandings of how people learn; the capacity to model dynamic systems.” Again, absolutely!

I note that Jay Cross says, in his aInformal learning blog, “Senge was right on the mark when he trumpeted the need for systems thinking in The Fifth Discipline.” He heard me mention systems thinking back at the eMerging eLearning Conference in Abu Dhabi in November that he got me invited to. I can’t say I contributed (he cites Verna Allee, who I agree has got a lot going on in her value network stuff), but I’m glad to hear more voices talking about the necessity of systematic model-based reasoning as a core skill to cope with the increasing need for the capability to deal with novel problems, and continuous innovation.

13 April 2006

Corporation for Public Gaming (?)

Clark @ 2:41 PM

David Rejeski, from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, claims in this commentary that we need a Corporation for Public Gaming, akin to the current Corporation for Public Broadcasting. He makes his case by analogy with television, where early on there was the ‘vast wasteland’.

I think it’s a great idea, as there’s a huge opportunity to create a library of interesting games that address the curriculum we ought to have, with meta-learning, systems-thinking etc, and no business model to wrap around it. I’m open to other suggestions, but this would be one way to go about it. One of those “wish I’d thought of it” ideas.

Speaking of which, one of my proposals is, as our next ‘put a man on the moon’-style major initiative/goal, to put an entire (enlightened, not No Child Left Untested) K12 curricula up online, but I digress.

CPG, I’m for it!

10 April 2006

eLearning Guild Boston 18-21 April

Clark @ 3:18 PM

I’ll be again offering the learning game design workshop at the eLearning Guild’s Annual Gathering/Producer Conference in Boston (on Tuesday), and a mobile learning design talk on Wednesday (there’s some possibility I’ll be part of a mobile learning panel on Friday). I’m looking forward to seeing Jay Cross’ Informal Learning lounge and hearing some talks at this well-run event. Please do say hello (I’m not aloof, just shy; at least until I know you). I hope to see you there.

How to get listed in a blog

Clark @ 3:07 PM

I have a Treo because it’s a power tool for the knowledge worker. It makes me more effective, and I continually find new ways to do so. Naturally, I want a case that offers some protection, easy access, and latches on my belt. I thought I found the ultimate solution with UniQase, a skin case with a beltclip attachment. The first beltclip busted, and they quickly replaced it with a new model. The second one did to, but was still somewhat usable. The user experience with the company, however, was good.

I’d heard that lots of folks liked the Seidio Holster case, but it only worked with a uncovered Treo. When Seidio announced a skin and a holster that would handle it (and, to boot, a new back case with a hole to access the reset button and a matching hole in the skin), I thought I’d found my solution.

And I had, right up to the point where the clip snapped. It’s a weak point in the design, and though I caught it on something it snapped before I had hardly pulled. I’m happy to have them either decline to fix it, or to send a new one.

I called them up, and a nice person told me to send the order number, a description, and ideally a photo of the problem, and I’d hear back in 1-2 business days. This was a Monday, and I did just that on the Tuesday. Having heard nothing back the following Monday, I called again. A person checked, found my email, said he’d forward it directly and they’d be in touch. Again, nothing.

The short answer to the question in the title of this blog is to get listed is to treat a blogger with bad customer service. Seidio’s got a superior product, but inferior customer service. I’m back using the UniQase solution, and will have to recommend it over Seidio to any queries (such as the folks I give mobile learning talks and workshops to, e.g. next week in Boston and the following week in Taiwan).

The received wisdom says that in the commodity market, customer experience is the differentiator. We can teach good customer service, by elearning or however, but you have to not let a customer slip through the cracks. At least respond!

4 April 2006

eMotional eLearning

Clark @ 3:57 PM

I’m pleased to say that my article on emotion in elearning (and what you should do to address it) is now officially part of the eLearning Guild‘s Learning Solutions eMagazine. You must be a member of the Guild to get access to the eMag (and I highly recommend the Guild, they run great conferences as well as getting access to all the articles), but they’ve let me host it on the Quinnovation site as well, so you can download it (it’s a PDF) from the resources page (where some of my other articles and resources are), or here.

Powered by WordPress