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

30 June 2007

iPhone it in…

Clark @ 8:34 AM

 Am I missing something?

With all the hype around the iPhone, I had a couple of points of concern: things I do with my Treo that I’d sorely miss. These included Dial Up Networking (using my phone as a modem for my laptop, though Sprint shut that off, grumble, mumble), using my phone as a presentation controller (Salling Clicker), and a timer. Well, at least the timer apparently exists, and the DUN definitely does not.  Still, I might be able to cope.

And there were some other concerns, not deal breakers either, but the fact that the web browser, Safari, wouldn’t handle Flash and some limits around Javascript, yet that’s the only way anyone can add capability (another concern, 3rd party development is closed off, at least for now). And no clear information whether Keychain, the Mac’s great way to handle security, would be used on the iPhone or whether you’d have to remember passwords to all the sites.  Yet it’s still worth considering.

On the other hand, I wasn’t worried about the touchscreen keyboard, EDGE network slowness, few buttons, or even too many clicks to get to the phone, things others have been concerned about.

However, there’s an issue that no one seems to be talking about, except one sentence from Walt Mossberg: “There’s also no way to cut, copy, or paste text.” WHAT? Why isn’t anyone talking about this? I’m always scraping this from here and pasting it there, passing on quotes, rearranging sentences and paragraphs, etc.

Ok, it’s been mentioned that it’s an updatable software platform, so they could fix that later, though it seems like a) a mighty big elephant in the room that no one’s seeing and b) something that might require an innovative solution (hey, that’s what I do, they should call me ;). I just can’t understand the lack of concern!

Naturally, I haven’t decided whether to get one yet, or instead to upgrade my Treo (it’s got the slowest data capability). So, maybe I’ll hang in limbo a bit longer.

I have to admit that I’ve been frustrated with the Treo, too, that I can’t use the keyboard to select text (there’s an easy interface affordance that would be consistent with other experiences) and have to use the stylus, but not even being able to  select, cut or copy, and paste strikes me as a major interface blind spot. Again, am I missing something?

29 June 2007

Small Business & eLearning

Clark @ 3:06 PM

A few weeks ago or so, the New York Enterprise Report asked me about my thoughts on eLearning implications for small businesses. They’ve now put up the interview, if you’ve interest in the area.

I’m sure I’ve got some things wrong, as it’s not an area where I think there’s much action, but it’s an interesting issue to consider. It’s easy to realize that technology isn’t going away, so what should a small business person do? You may not have distance issues, but can you capitalize on technology for time reasons? There may be a role for shelf-ware, and increasingly you’ll want ways to capture experience before it walks out the door, and of course for any mobile members of the team…

Learning Styles

Clark @ 12:22 PM

I keep hearing queries and statements about learning styles, so here’s a slightly edited (but still not particularly diplomatic :) response to a recent query about learning styles (as I also posted to ITFORUM, a great discussion list if you like academic discussions on learning technology like I do):

Rubbish. Yes, mix types of media and experiences to match learning tasks and maintain motivation, but not for ‘styles’.

I have very strong thoughts on personality type and learning: I spent 2+ years leading a team developing a system that adapted learning on the basis of individual differences.

I’m not a psychometrician, but I have a PhD in psych, and I studied the learning styles literature (including Jonassen & Grabowski’s non-critical compendium “Handbook of Individual Differences in Learning & Instruction” or somesuch) for several months to create the plan for that systems, and I then got to hire a psychometrician and a senior cognitive scientist (Valerie Shute, who’s work with Patrick Kyllonen at Brooks AFB is probably still the best cognitive psychometrics stuff going, she did her PhD at UCSB with Dick Mayer) to back me up.

Essentially the existing learning styles stuff is not sound, and that’s not just my reasonably-well informed opinion, but the result of a research study (warning, PDF) done in the UK.

And apparently another one as well, check out Wikipedia’s entry, which is pretty good, too.

Great way to raise awareness of differences, don’t get me wrong, but most instruments (that is, assessments) are flawed, and misused. There’s good stuff you can do, but few limit themselves to that. Go to an ASTD conference expo, and you’ll see a veritable plethora of ‘learning styles’ assessments available to ‘improve’ your organization.

My take-home is as with multi-cultural learning: do the best job for the content, and if that’s counter to a person’s learning style, help them learn to process or cope with different modalities.  Your thoughts?

28 June 2007

On WiFi and participation

Clark @ 2:31 PM

Tony Karrer started a topic on improving conferences at his blog, and Mark Oehlert follows up citing an experience someone had with WiFi at a conference. In the quote, the experience described is attendees locked into their laptops and virtual communities, not joining in the live conference community. The concern is whether having WiFi at a conference is a bane or a boon. My perspective is rooted in an anecdote.

A number of years ago, I talked to some folks at a med school that had totally wired labs: there were power points (er, you know, plugs) and internet connections at every seat, cameras, monitors, etc. The faculty were concerned that the students could be sending email, or day-trading, or all sorts of heinous activities instead of listening. I made the seemingly-obvious comment that if the lectures weren’t perceived as valuable by the audience, they wouldn’t attend (whether mentally or physically).

This did not go over well. They didn’t seem to get that if you took away the internet, they could still play solitaire, and if you took away the computers they could still doodle. To paraphrase Dorothy Parker on horticulture, you can lead learners to learning, but you can’t make them think.

You’ve got to be presenting value! If you are, there’re great reasons to have WiFi: first of all they can ignore the WiFi, or they can look up things you cite that they’re not familiar with, they can share notes, they can blog the comments, etc. I recall Jay Cross blogging someone else blogging a conference (or vice-versa). For that matter, if a small slice of their attention helps them solve a work problem quietly, they may gain more than if they had to leave the room to take/make a call. If you aren’t presenting valuable content, then there’s another good reason for WiFi: to give them something to do besides listen.

So I guess I’m fully on the side of WiFi at venues . If someone can’t wean themselves from their virtual world at a conference, they’re wasting their own money and time, if you’re not wasting it for them.

27 June 2007

Claude Ostyn RIP

Clark @ 9:43 AM

I just read that Claude Ostyn has passed away. I met Claude through the Learning Object standards work that IMS and IEEE were doing when I led a team building an intelligently adaptive learning system. While I had a couple of my team serve regularly, I did attend a couple of meetings or so, and met Claude at one, and continued to see him here and there at conferences.

Claude was opinionated and detailed and I found him a little bit difficult to work with as I’m also opinionated but more conceptual (it was definitely my problem, not his). He was also brilliant, thoughtful, and committed, and I respected him. He helped refine our understanding of what we were trying (and needed) to do, and his work contributed to better elearning solutions for all of us. His voice will be missed, but his legacy will live on. Rest In Peace.

The Notwork

Clark @ 6:40 AM

I must be missing something. I’m staying in a hotel, one of the major business chains (the one with the S, not the M or the H this time) , and I’m wanting to connect to the internet. They have a policy (and it’s not unique to them) that wireless access (well, intermittent) in the lobby and restaurant is free, but you’ll pay to get access in your room. And that’s just seems incredibly dumb.

Anyone can just come in, hop on their network, and start surfing, but customers, in their paid-for rooms, must pay again to get access? Isn’t this backward?

OK, sure, I can see a case where you might want to argue that having business people congregate meet might be seen as a benefit, but they’re not talking, their glued to their laptops! They’re occupying seats in the lobby (already crowded each night with either two busloads of teenagers or a busload of overseas tourists, respectively). You’d do better with happy hour (and some places do that).

So, OK, I’ll stomp down there in the morning before my shower, in slept-in Tshirt and jeans with bedhead hair, to get my connection and download my new email, littering their lobby, because I decide not to pay the extortionate fee. And I’ll make it a point to seek out those chains that do ‘get it’ and offer free internet in the rooms. (And even better if they have happy hour.)

But I’m still curious about the business decision that makes it free to hang around the lobby occupying seats and glued to a laptop, providing an opportunity for net criminals to be either spamming or snarfing data, but looks to further gouge already paying customers.

26 June 2007

Conspiracy Theory 101

Clark @ 4:25 AM

It’s really easy to posit a conspiracy. All you need is a problem, and a clear beneficiary to the problem not being solved. Let me demonstrate:

I stay in a lot of hotels (one of the dubious benefits of what I do). And, you’ll be pleased to hear, I take showers. You don’t want to bring liquids so the hotels are kind enough to provide shampoo and conditioner. The final piece of the setup is that we all get older (if we’re lucky), and that means decreasing manual dexterity and visual acuity.

Which brings up the problem of hair care products in small bottles, with smooth caps. You get into the shower, and you can’t open the bottles with wet hands. If you’ve read Don Norman’s Design of Everyday Things (and if you design for people, you should; it’s an easy read, and you won’t look at the world in the same way), you know that you could redesign the bottle caps to facilitate opening with wet hands (ridges, non-symmetrical shapes, etc). But they don’t. So, you use your teeth (unless you happened to loosen the cap before you get in the shower, very unlikely unless you do this alot).

Who benefits? Dentists! You ruin your teeth opening the bottle, and have to see the dentist. So clearly they’re sponsoring this ongoing assault.

And it continues. Who is responsible for bad computer interfaces? 3M, the maker of post-its. The only cure for a bad interface is to put up a post-it note with the way around the problem. I’m sure they’re sponsoring companies to continue to come up with bad interfaces.

The one I can’t figure out is back to the hair-care bottles. They make the print small, and the contents indistinguishable, so you can’t figure out which one you need to use. It’d be easy, making the shampoo clear and the conditioner opaque, using large print. So, all I need to do is figure out who benefits…

So it goes. (RIP Kurt Vonnegut)

22 June 2007

Tools for learning

Clark @ 10:11 PM

Jay Cross asks whether we should consider school separate from work (at least, rhetorically). I say no!

I remember a case where a professional school (Vet? Dental? Darn, I hate aging) developed a tool to support their learners. They were (pleasantly) surprised when their learners asked (demanded) access to the tool for their professional life post-school. That seems to me a good example of when you’ve successfully bridged the chasm between schooling and life.

Would that we could do that with college kids, or even children! Ask David Jonassen: we don’t provide kids with problems in schools like they’ll face in the real world. We should, and then provide them with the tools they’ll find useful. Open book test, open Google test, absolutely!

So, what tools should we be thinking learners should use? I’ll suggest diagramming & dynamic modelling as two.

21 June 2007

Mobile Survey

Clark @ 12:11 PM

As I was for simulations/games (er, immersive learning simulations), I’m on the eLearning Guild’s 360 report on mobile learning as well. And, again, they’re conducting the survey that’ll populate the data component. So…

If you’re a member of the eLearning Guild, go fill out the survey!

If you’re not a member of the eLearning Guild, why not? Yes, I’m biased, but I truly think that if you want to learn about the field or be active (certainly if you’re in an organization), it’s a good society with valuable articles, great conferences, and overall good value.

Strategic trial

Clark @ 10:45 AM

I just finished a report for a client, and I’m psyched. They were really great folks to visit, and I feel like I really gave them some valuable thinking. I’m doubly psyched since the eLearning Strategy framework I’ve been working on (and presented at the eLearning Guild‘s last always-great conference) proved useful in helping to analyze their situation and generate recommendations.


It’s not a ‘pull off the shelf and use’ framework, it requires customization to a particular context, but it’s proved useful in helping to support analysis and guide recommendations.  And it’s in flux, as it’s already improved since it first appeared on the model page (only slightly).

The point is that the steps have entailments, and while there are several entry points eventually you want to fill in the lower parts to provide a solid foundation as you move up. I hope to have a chance to talk about this more at an upcoming conference. Or perhaps with you?

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