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

26 January 2007

eLearnMag’s 2007 predictions

Clark @ 10:15 AM

Lisa Neal over at eLearnMag has got a number of top elearning folks to make their predictions for the industry in 2007. Since she didn’t include me (she’s promised to next year ;), I’ll lob my own here.

I think gaming’s crossed over to the mainstream, whether you call it Serious Games, Immersive Learning Simulations, or what have you. More tools are supporting at least the level of Branching Scenarios (Captivate, SimWriter, SmartBuilder, to name a few). Coupled with the eLearning Guild‘s forthcoming report on the topic, I expect by the end of the year there will be quite a few more in place or under development. And I expect thinking through when to use them will have an impact on the quality of the instructional design overall.

I also (finally) see the mobile movement making strides. I’m not sure the average training group really gets the potential yet, but I’m hoping it will cross the chasm this year, and predicting we’ll have several more really great examples. Unfortunately, I don’t see Apple opening up the iPod or the new iPhone to allow us to put learning apps on there, but the tools to use mobile phones and smartphones as learning augments, not elearning lite(tm), are becoming practical and able to link back to LMS/LCMS’.

Finally, I expect to see more strategic approaches to using technology to augment performance, stepping through a richer focus including performance support with job aids (ala Allison Rossett’s new book), eCommunity, single-sourcing, and informal learning. While I think this will be more idiosyncratic than systemic, I think the beginning of the wave will be seen.

I do hope it’s a great year for one and all, and the best yet for using technology to really impact our ability to innovate, solve problems, and make the world a better place.

23 January 2007


Clark @ 4:39 PM

Sorry I haven’t been posting, but my (reasonably short) paper on Learning Wisdom has been this week’s topic of discussion over at ITFORUM. ITFORUM’s a group of largely university-based faculty and staff in instructional technology, but the regulars are people who are quite knowledgeable about learning, technology, and the cultural constraints around them. My paper this week was the second one I’ve written for them; the first appeared 10 years ago, and was the basis of my book Engaging Learning.

In this paper, I’m asking questions about what is wisdom, how you could teach it, what a wise curriculum and pedagogy would be, and how technology might facilitate wisdom. Though admittedly few, there have been great contributions from around the world, with thoughts on whether you can assess wisdom, what elements might contribute, and more.

It’s clear that the issue is striking a chord, but it’s also a ‘hard problem’, as came up in an earlier discussion on the topic. Still, it’s my personal mission, and I’m sticking with it.

17 January 2007

Deeper Learning and Surface Polish

Clark @ 7:31 PM

Last night I addressed the local chapter of ASTD on the topic of instructional design for how people really learn. It’s very much like the article I did for eLearnMag on improved ID, and the interesting thing is how valuable people felt it was.

Despite the warm and fuzzies for me, it’s actually kind of scary that it was that valuable. I’ve heard that people are executing ID by rote without really understanding it, and I know I’ve seen way too many examples of eLearning that didn’t really seem to get what the point of the learning elements are. Still, it’s a revelation.

I recall seeing some of the award winners from the various self-appointed bodies to anoint those who pony up the cash to compete, and thinking that behind the polish, there wasn’t solid learning design there. I’m going to get a chance to speak again about this (among other things) at the eLearning Guild’s always excellent conference, the Annual Gathering, but I realize that there’s a good reason why eLearning’s getting bad press. We deserve it!

It’s not rocket science, but there is science behind it, and we’ve got to stop following the cookie cutter that says we have to have: an introduction, concept, examples, practice, etc, without understanding why they’re there!

So, please, make sure you know why you’re doing it, and how it fits in a learning experience. To paraphrase Dorothy Parker, you can drag learners to learning, but you can’t make them think.

And moreover, when you think about our real goals for learning: retention over time until an appropriate opportunity, and transfer to all appropriate situations, we need to use what’s known about achieving these: cleverly, flexibly, efficiently. After all, respecting our learners has to be one of our goals, and being respectful of their time by making our learning maximally effective is one of the things we should feel duty-bound to do.

10 January 2007

January’s ‘big’ question

Clark @ 9:41 AM

Ok, so the Learning Circuits Blog has their January Big Question out. I wonder where they get these? Are they solicited from questions real users have? That’d be cool. The reason I ask is this one seems like a no-brainer…

The question is: What are the trade offs between quality learning programs and rapid e-learning and how do you decide?

Actually, the short answer to the latter is which one will cost you less ;). If we think that by informing our learners of the reasoning and the change they’ll be able to make the change, we don’t need a full course. If we think that we’ll need to inform our learners of the change and then given them considerable practice to address reliable misconceptions in execution and hone their abilities before they won’t make mistakes that cost dollars and lives, we’ll need quality learning.

Which, of course, informs you of the tradeoffs. Quality learning costs more, but delivers reliable change. Rapid learning costs less, and works if you have compliant or expert learners who only need an information update to change their behaviors.

The point is that we need to be looking at a broader space of solutions than just elearning courses. If we move to a performance focus, we’ll see that there are times where just an update of how things have changed is sufficient, or we only need to change the references or job aids, and sometimes we have a need for a major change to skill set.

The Clueless Train rides again

Clark @ 8:33 AM

From my message to Training Magazine this morning:

Imagine my surprise when I received an automated phone call at 9:45 PM (Pacific Time!) from Training Magazine with some NASCAR person trumpeting something which I now realize was this new promotion. Imagine my anger as I smashed down the phone after being disturbed that late by a machine from an organization I thought was reputable.

I don’t know what sort of caffeine-fueled sleep-deprived marketing drone thought auto-phone calls about this at *any* time, let alone late at night, would be a good idea, but I would very much like to suggest the contrary.

Please put me on your ‘do not call’ list for all such ham-fisted marketing campaigns. I’m always happy to talk to the pleasant folks at VNU who coordinate my presentations at events like Training 2007, but having a machine interrupt my evening is an experience I’d like to never have happen again.

Need I say more?

9 January 2007

Skating on ever-thicker ice

Clark @ 9:58 AM

No, it’s not the metaphor you’re thinking. I’m actually talking about going ice-skating with my family yesterday (we’re in California, it was an indoor rink). But I had way too much fun re-learning and extending my learning by a very overt practice of learning.

The last time I ice-skated must’ve been when I was no more than 12. I don’t want to tell you how long ago that was, but it’s decades. So I got out pretty wobbly. But I started thinking and experimenting very heavily.

I regularly scanned my proprioceptive (information from your body about it’s joints and angles) feedback (“do I my weight over the balls of my feet?”), watched how I was doing (“are my motions smooth?”), thinking through principles (“how should the angle of the blade affect where the skate moves?”), checking out other people (“are they using the edge of the blade or the teeth to push off?”), etc.

It may sound like hard work, but it was really “hard fun”, as my skating, over the course of an hour and a half, got better than I think it’d ever been. It was fun spending time with my family, helping them, and it was just a ball skating better and better. I wasn’t quite ready to skate backwards, but probably close, and I *know* that’s better than I had been.

Sure, it was accelerated by my previous experience (eons ago), but being conscious about learning let me accelerate my performance better than I had been able to as a kid when I couldn’t self coach, and didn’t have one. I’m pleased to say that my coaching helped my lad accelerate faster too, and I don’t know how to coach ice-skating!

The important point being, if we learn to learn (meta-learning), we can help ourselves perform better. I’ve been on the stump before about it, and I continue to think it’s the key to organizational competitiveness going forward. I think that baking meta-learning into the infrastructure: culture and IT, is doable, and will be the key to innovation.

I think the way to do it is to explicitly address learning as a domain topic, provide support around our regular tasks, and steadily develop it over time. Ironically, speed will depend on slow-learning!

I’m sure most of you actively learn, but explicitly look at how you learn, and consider other ways you might also improve. Also consider raising that awareness more broadly, and how we might do it. I guess we need to learn how to promote learning to learn!?!? Your ideas most welcome!

eLearning Guild’s Simulation/Gaming Research Project

Clark @ 9:26 AM

Over the past month or so I’ve had the privilege or so to be working with some of the luminaries of simulation and gaming (Clark Aldrich, Mark Oehlert, Jeff Johannigman) under the auspices of Steve Wexler (director of research for eLG) as they put together the first of a new series of research reports. It’s been fun and a great learning experience!

One of the things Steve has instituted is a live research gathering tool that allows the members to fill in their profiles and update them and it automatically generates industry research data. There are incentives to do so, and the result is a wealth of valuable information.

If you’re a member of the eLearning Guild, please do scurry off and fill out the survey now. They’re getting near critical mass of data, and your contributions will help.

If you’re not a member of the eLearning Guild and you care about elearning, you should be; they offer great conferences, services, and overall value for money. (Disclaimer: I regularly speak at their conferences, but it’s always a pleasure, and the audiences always seem pleased with the event.

As I understand it, there will be a fee for the report, but if you’re considering the use of simulations and games for learning (and you should be), it’s looking to be chock full of value.

5 January 2007

‘No Limits’ Design

Clark @ 8:20 PM

When I was teaching interaction design, a number of years ago, I also explored design in general (as I am inclined to do when I get interested in something). I looked at engineering design, architectural design, graphic design, industrial design, etc. As always, I was looking for heuristics that would provide a short cut to good design. Also, as always, I came up with my own model, that included several elements. For some reason, one of them sprung to mind, and I thought it was worth revisiting. Probably mostly for my own benefit, but perhaps you’ll find some resonance too.

So many times when we sit down to design, we’re locked into previous solutions (in cognitive science, we call that ‘set effects’), and limited uses of tools (aka ‘functional fixedness’). As a way to break out of our preconceptions, I started suggesting to my students that they should, once having surveyed the requirements, do a ‘no limits’ design exercise before they look at previous solutions. The principle is to think what you’d do if you had magic (well, no mind-reading, I don’t want you having any idea what goes through my so-called mind) to solve the design problem.

And, as Arthur Clarke so famously said, “any truly advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. Really, the limits are our imaginations, not technology any more. (Ok, perhaps our resources are limits still as well.)

The point being, before we lock into the constraints we face, we blue-sky about what we’d do if we could. It’s a way to think laterally, and expand the potential space of our solutions. Many times, I find that thinking this way brings in some technology capabilities we hadn’t considered beforehand, and we actually can come very close to the ideal design instead of sticking to what’s been done before.

I’m working on a fun design project right now, where we’re conceptualizing content models (http://blog.learnlets.com/wp/?p=86), and I’m looking to both shake my partners and the clients out of their traditional industry thinking. I’ve asked my partners to use a technique like this in thinking through the navigation issues, and I’m eager to see the results.

I guess it’s one of the tools in the quiver of innovation, or, I should say, Quinnovation ;). Now you can add it to yours.

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