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

31 May 2006

Just In Time vs Just In Case…

Clark @ 3:54 PM

I’m busy preparing to teach a course in the CSUMB’s Master of Instructional Science & Technology program. It’s online, mostly; a face-to-face weekend bookends the 12 weeks, to meet accreditation requirements (!?!?). And I’m finding that my Just In Time management style isn’t working in a situation where you need to have a site up before it all begins, a syllabus listing all the assignments, coordinated with your fellow instructors.

So, if I’ve been a wee bit quiet of late, this is part of the reason. Head down, beavering away…

On the other hand, it’s a great learning experience, as I have to try to practice what I preach about making it meaningful (without having the resources to do game development), and in particular to make it more social when I’m at heart a solo learner (Marcia Conner’s excellent Learn More Now book was a revelation in many ways but in particular her “learning-together style” assessment instrument helped me realize that learning with a few people at most is my learning style, and more makes me very uncomfortable).

This course is on learning theories, and I’ve read most, but will get deeper on Ausubel and Bandura through the text (Driscoll’s wordy but perfect coverage in Psychology Of Learning For Instruction). It’s more fun than when I designed a similar course for American Intercontinental University a few years ago, since I haven’t to follow their interesting but constrained template (and didn’t teach it).

Still, I think it’s important to give back to the community, and develop the next generation, and keep yourself challenged. And I guess it’s my learning style to take on new tasks.

Ok, back to work…

28 May 2006


Clark @ 12:45 PM

Jay Cross, jumping off from Michael Allen’s new book, has posted about design processes. It’s timely, as I’ve had my head down on designing a conference, on a design project with a client, and designing my subject to start next weekend.

Jay, not surpisingly, argues against the standard design process, by and large, arguing for learning ecosystems (a term I first heard from Shirley Alexander at UTS, one of those I venerate) instead:

Michael’s prescriptions are for creating programs. That’s his business.

On the other hand, I am focused on learning environments.

I agree with Jay in general (he’s mentor and friend), and I think the real detail is asking the question: “when do we need courses or programs”, “when do we need rich suites of resources”, etc.

I generally like Michael Allen’s approach, including what Jay cites as a new design approach of ‘successive approximation’, and his focus on how to design for elearning, not just repeating traditional instructional design. And when you need courses, their design does need a process, albeit one that is not a ‘waterfall’ model of separate and distinct stages but instead an iterative cycle.

I think learning environments need to be designed too, actually. I can think of a particular case where a large client had portals for their workers, but it turned out there were multiple ones, and different work groups had different cultures (or maybe ‘mythologies’ is a better word) about which to use and how.

The point is that we need to step away from designing ‘instruction’, and start looking at how to support ‘doing’, deciding when we need a full course, but also when we just need a job aid, or even an attitude change (which that previously mentioned design project really is about, for instance). I’ll be talking about that in next month’s eLearning Guild Online Forum on Advanced ID.

17 May 2006

Industrial Strength Game Design

Clark @ 4:37 PM

At the UK eLearning Mission that happened last week, one of the US representatives was from a game development firm established to work in the Serious Games space after having been contacted about one of their pure games (very much like the ‘military squad’ games). They do full immersive games of a scale approaching that of commercial games, and with a similar quality. I assumed at a similar price point, but he jumped on that.

He said they worked out at about $18K per hour of training, but admitted that they couldn’t drop that down to $6K for 20 minutes. It was clear that there was some sort of minimum size before his numbers made sense, but he was cagey about the details. Ah, business…

So it’s not clear what the tipping point is between when you can and should make do with small games or when you want to go for full immersion game play. My natural reactions are to focus on the learning outcomes and keep the immersion for when it makes sense (as his initial example did), such as ambient contextualization, and otherwise situate the decisions you need with the minimal amount of production and tune to get the experience.

I also had a chance to talk to him about the processes they used to develop a game. Unlike the approach I use for small games (see the tools at the Engaging Learning resources page), where first we develop a concept document (audience, decisions, misconceptions, consequences, and a proposed storyline) and then a storyboard (all the screens, variables, initialization, draft visuals, prose, and rules) they develop a script without visual assets at all, and actually put that into the game engine and run it as a text adventure game until they have the play debugged. Then they do the visual assets.

This makes sense, I reckon, for his scale and production processes. An interesting lesson for me (still lusting after a chance to play with a larger size project than I have to date).

15 May 2006

E3 at GamaSutra

Clark @ 3:21 PM

GamaSutra (the game development community site; free registration may be required) has several articles summing up panels from the recent E3 expo. For those who don’t know, E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) is the game industry show, where the latest games and platforms are shown off to try to drive business. It’s an enormous spectacle (the game industry now is bigger than movies) with giant vehicles and creatures, hosts of ‘booth babes’, everything to attract the typical (read young male) gamer audience.

However, there are also thoughtful panels, and GamaSutra has some nice summations, including at least four on game design from a variety of perspectives. Check out the overview page which lists all the subarticles.

12 May 2006

UK eLearning Mission

Clark @ 2:34 PM

It’s been too long since I’ve posted, but among other things I’d been preparing for the UK eLearning Mission that happened yesterday. A team of selected eLearning experts are over here on a government sponsored visit to suss out what’s new and exciting. I had the honor of co-chairing the session with Dr. Jim Terkeurst from the University of Abertay, so I used my time to lob a couple of frameworks (will blog them soon) into the air to set the stage.

The reps from the UK, and an assorted lot of US folks, (about 20 folks all up) each presented a bit on their organization and a ‘controversial statement’, in groups of six, interspersed with panel discussions about 4 specific topics (new learning, new technologies, economics, and effective elearning) chaired by inspiring folks like Michael Carter, Gordon Bull, Nile Hatch, and Joe Miller. Top reps of unknown companies like the BBC, Cisco, Microsoft, Reuters, and IBM mixed it up with smaller organizations doing cool stuff such as DDL, 3MRT, BrightWave, and Red7. This was definitely heady company!

I expect to post more reflections, but here are the threads that recurred and emerged (colored by my own filters):

  • Move to more motivation and engagement, seen as a strong shift to games (yes!)
  • A shift from learning as event to learning as process
  • Also shown as a shift to a broader view of elearning (performance support/workflow)
  • A shift to ‘context-aware’ learning (knowing who/where/what to uniquely support)
  • The importance of reflection, and learning to learn
  • The collaborative/connective nature of learning

I have to say it was a delightful chance for me to step away from the ‘head down’ mode I’ve been in since I returned from overseas and hear some challenging discussion. It was also reassuring to hear folks talking about the same directions I’ve been feeling are ways we need to go.

There will be a summary report, but i’m not sure how far it will be available. However, a couple of pointers worthy of note include Stephen Heppel’s NotSchool program that’s trying to re-engage disaffected youth (I met Stephen in Perth, very clever guy), and several of the things that are happening in SecondLife.

All hosted by SRI and with a reception sponsored by Oracle afterwards, it left a feeling that elearning is definitely an area with enormous potential and excitement, and of course some very challenging issues. Many thanks as well to the UK government for arranging this whole visit.

4 May 2006


Clark @ 12:08 PM

On short notice, I drove down to Mountain View to meet with someone attending the Internet Identify Workshop. Kellee is coordinating the 1Society project for Marcia Conner. It’s an interesting concept, where you have a profile on the net and there’s an architecture where you can register with different activities that will take into account your profile and provide customized information and opportunities. Much like Microsoft’s Passport, but open source, trustworthy, and socially conscious.

I remember a number of years ago telling a couple of my net-savvy colleagues at the University of New South Wales that we’d eventually need persistent identities, and they scoffed. (For once) I was right!

Using XRI and XDI, two protocols that support building public interchanges (read more at XDI.org), they’re working under the outstanding umbrella of Planetwork. They’re just getting started, but providing an easy way for people to tap into personalized services and work together to accomplish meaningful goals is something I think is not only very cool, but very desirable. To stay up to date with this project, I recommend signing up for their newsletter.


Clark @ 11:41 AM

It’s been too long since I’ve blogged, and I guess I just have to realize that travel and intensive work (and the consequent ‘catching up’) takes more time and energy than I’ve been willing to admit. However, in addition to the great eLearning Guild conference (plan on their upcoming DevLearn/ID conference in fall here in the SF Bay Area), I had an amazing trip to Taiwan.

There for a two-day workshop on learning game design (stretching it into two days let me talk slowly and work in some more material), a one-day on mobile learning design, and a day of consulting for a couple of companies, I didn’t get much chance to look around, but I did a chance to appreciate some of the wonderful elements of the country.

First, the people were delightful. Full of energy, far less formal than I had supposed, they were thoughtful considerate hosts, and very interested in how technology could better support learning. They eat often, and provide plenty of food, much more of it is fruit and vegetables than we typically have. There’s great fruit, owing to the rain (continual during my trip); the afternoon snack the three days of the workshops was always a big container full of fresh fruit. Their dishes are not what you’ll typically see at a Chinese restaurant, though you can order them. I was served kung pao chicken and hot and sour soup one night, in addition to more unusual things: shrimp in a lettuce leaf, tofu noodles with greens, and a broth-filled dim sum are just some of the things I had. Many were very good, a few were too strange for me. I have to say that I’m right off fish for breakfast…

The folks were very gracious, escorting me around, providing the great food experiences, and talking with enthusiasm about possibilities and showing their work for feedback, as well as answering gracefully my many questions about the culture and the country. They’re also quite entrepeneurial, and we we had several discussions about business ideas around games and mobile. All in all, a great time and I hope to return there again.

No one knows what’s in Spam…*

Clark @ 11:16 AM

Well, I do, because I’m now getting an order of magnitude or two more spam than real comments. So, with great regrets, I’m going to have to require registration to post comments. I hadn’t reckoned with how fast these scum (don’t you just want to have a chance to ask them “what makes you think you have the right to interrupt my life like this”, before you start causing them extreme pain?) can swamp a site. Who buys from these people? Sigh…

* Actual line from a citizen interviewed in a commercial for Spam. I at least liked that they were willing to recognize the average person’s reaction.

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