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

29 November 2007

Good news bad news…

Clark @ 4:33 PM

…and it’s the same news. The online certificate in game design (based on my book, Engaging Learning) that Training’s Live+Online was offering was cancelled due to insufficient signups. It’s a relief, in that having done so many presentations in the past month, I’m exhausted. It’s disappointing, in that I was looking forward to the challenge!

It works so well face to face, it’s even survived cross-cultural delivery. I’d designed it to work well online too, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see another time whether it’d have worked. Thanks and apologies to those who did sign up. I will be running the face-to-face workshop at TechKnowledge in San Antonio at the end of February, so that’ll be the next opportunity (and last, as it currently stands, it’s the only remaining one scheduled!)

eLearning architecture, and design

Clark @ 3:53 PM

I was responding to a friend who asked what I meant by suggesting she could play a role in architecting a learning solution. I frankly don’t recall saying it, but I generated an explanation that on reflection seems to have more resonance than I originally expected.

Coming from the background of applied cognition and doing my thesis work in Don Norman’s lab when he was really into the usability stuff (e.g. The Design of Everyday Things; which anyone who designs for others should read) and subsequently hired to teach it (though my heart remained in learning technology; fortunately they let me research whatever the heck I wanted), I was steeped in user interface processes. I subsequently wrote in several different ways about how usability processes are ahead of the instructional design field (e.g. testing), and tried to incorporate them into my own design processes.

I’ve been a fan of Jesse James Garrett’s Elements of User Experience (PDF) diagram (you know how I am about diagrams), with his structure of working down from strategy, through architecture and experience design, down to the navigation and finally the visual design. In answering her, it struck me as an apt way to think about learning design too.

I realize that many designers start with an outline and start writing, but one of the roles I play with my clients is coming in and suggesting an outline of a pedagogical approach that then is developed as an outline of the pages and then finally is actually filled in. It’s a level above even the outlining, as well as the actual writing (though I’ll often model how to trim that down, too, and where and how to use visuals). It’s an approach that can be applied beforehand lightly, and I believe leads to better outputs.

As I say “if you get the design right, there are lots of ways to implement it; if you don’t get the design right it doesn’t matter how you implement it”. I know it’s recommended to take a structured approach, but I can’t say I’ve seen it implemented near as often as I hear it touted. I’ve been working on a project where they’ve brought in an interface design team and their systematicity tops what I see in the elearning field. The closest is where we start with the objectives, design the assessment and metrics, all before we actually get down to writing the content. How often do you actually see that? I think we could use a bit more rigor, frankly. It can come from templates for SMEs (e.g. in rapid development), to prototypical content, and reviews against guidelines afterward.

What we do crosses paths with usability, and we shouldn’t be unaware.

Mobile moves on…

Clark @ 11:15 AM

Well, Brent Schenkler beat me to it, passing on the announcement that Verizon’s opening up their network (it’s hard to post from a plane, and I’ve been on a lot of planes this month). This seems a reaction to the Open Handset Alliance announced by Google earlier this month (in the middle of our Mobile Learning Symposium). Regardless, it’s a positive move, I reckon.

It reminds me on the Bart back from the airport late last nite that I assisted a gent trying to get to a particular station. Using my Bart schedule application on my Treo, I could tell him when the next train would arrive. And how I used Google Maps in New Jersey earlier this week to guide me from the airport to my hotel in my rented car. Just ways I use my device to make me smarter and more effective.

I use Opera’s mobile browser (very good, almost iPhone good) in addition to Maps and Bart, as well as a timer (4 minutes for tea, thank you). I probably use the built-in email (Versamail) more than the phone! I use Documents to Go to review Powerpoints I’ll be presenting, and occasionally to view a document I download. Unfortunately, PDFs don’t work (I’ve an older version) since they need special rendering. I’ve got an app (SplashID) to keep my data encrypted (web logins, etc), and one that lets me keep images (my diagrams, some work portfolio shots) to share with people when working.

Google’s coming up with a new beta called My Location that uses cell-phone triangulation to actually replace a GPS (though with less accuracy), but it doesn’t yet run on my Treo. Sigh. Hopefully soon.

What do you use on your mobile device to make you more effective?

21 November 2007

Strong Culture

Clark @ 9:29 PM

As a consequence of my past few days in Colombia and Denmark, I’ve seen again that there are some benefits to having a strong culture. In Colombia, the countryside was quite clean. There’s a strong entrepreneurial spirit, and they self-describe as being resourceful. I can believe it! They find a way to get things done. They also self-describe as tough negotiators. I see some real benefits to their ‘can do’ attitude in turning around some of the perceptions they’re quite aware of.

In Denmark, on the other hand, I see a different factor that I very much admire. They seem committed to ‘doing it right’. By and large not only is the place clean, but it’s efficient. There seems to be very little waste, people follow the traffic rules, everything is just so. And they’re not too rushed. They want to enjoy life. I think there’s a strong concern to make sure that everyone’s getting a fair opportunity to be taken care of, and they do what so many countries do pretty well: providing national health care. Of course, their government is pushing more privatization, as the US is going the other way. Sorry, health care is my personal hot button and major impediment to financial peace of mind (400% increase in 4.5 years!). I’ve lived in Australia where they had national health care and it worked. It may not be perfect, but everyone was covered to some extent, unlike the situation people can be in in the US.

Let me add that it was delightful to spend time with Lisa Gjedde and Helle Meldgaard again; we had a great conversation about games and mobile learning over dinner with their partner-in-crime Robin after I talked about those two things in a seminar. They’re doing some very interesting stuff with it. I found some colleagues from the Narrative in Interactive Learning Environment conference (NILE), including Lisa, Paul Brna, and Judy Robertson are writing a book on narrative in learning, and writing it as a narrative. I look forward to seeing it.

I also found out about an initiative going beyond what I knew the iPod can do, having branching available through hot links on notes. I’ll point you to David Seume’s Video iPod project and you can look up his blog as well. Not all the bugs are out, but it opens up some really interesting new opportunities.

I really enjoy the way the culture in academia is so oriented towards sharing in many ways. So, having brought the conversation full circle, I’ll stop here!

20 November 2007

Whirling thoughts…

Clark @ 2:19 AM

Phew, 4 conferences in three weeks! First DevLearn, then Colombia’s eLearning 07, and now the Danish Research Network’s conference, with a quick presentation over to George Siemen’s Corporate Learning (CLTI) conference via Elluminate. Some mixed thoughts about what’s happened…

I’ll give my first presentation here in Denmark in a couple of hours. I’m doing like I did in Abu Dhabi and on ITFORUM, trying to give a ‘big picture’ talk using wisdom as guidance for looking at what we do, though there’s a followup session where I delve into associated models and examples. Tomorrow I’m talking a couple of hours on game and mobile design. At DevLearn I talked about the roles of elearning tools, mobile learning, and the emotional component of elearning. In Colombia it was the corporate strategy, as well as my mobile and game design workshops. For CLTI, again it was the corporate elearning strategy.

Denmark’s lovely, by the way. OK, it’s overcast and cold, but the people are warm, and the conference center is absolutely nice. The rooms are simple (single bed) but well appointed, though with quirky internet. However, the center has great internet connection, very good food, and is well outfitted with lots of space for talking, too. I found out that English is almost an official second language here (if you immigrate, if you don’t speak good enough Danish, English is an acceptable second!), and I have no worries about talking to anyone. Thanks to Helle for her help here.

Whereas in Colombia, the odds were I couldn’t talk to anyone unless I had one of my translators along. Of course, they didn’t recommend going anywhere alone anyway! Except the mall connected to the hotel, where I spent an hour madly searching for some things to take home to the family before it closed. Colombia had good food too, but the workshops at Sena were somewhat disorganized. The conference center was nice, but the government building for the workshops had some problems.

We started late, the technology didn’t work (we even had a power outage), and the room was open onto a 10 story stairwell for some poor acoustics. Anyone talking even a bit was heard everywhere! They kept changing the plan and times for things, so it was just make it up as you go along. For the mobile workshop, I didn’t end up doing too much activity (200 people is a bit much for a workshop), but the game design workshop came off fairly well (they dropped it to 40, and it was down to 12 at the end because people had to go catch their flights home!). The simultaneous translation wasn’t as much of a barrier as I feared, though it got difficult to deal with questions. I really owe a debt of thanks to Nikolaos who made things go as smoothly as they did (and he had no power over the workshop arrangements)

And, in all fairness, I saw ways to improve the mobile workshop as it’s a bit conceptual and could use more hands-on. No worries, that I can do. And I’m always tweaking things to go better anyway.

I’m still waiting for my learning thoughts to coalesce, but I really do feel there’s a movement towards strategy out there. Hopefully!

17 November 2007


Clark @ 1:04 PM

I’ve seen that my colleagues have been running their blogs through a ‘readability‘ test. I’m not sure how reasonable it is, but I took a punt and:

My High School Readability

I’m pleased that it’s readable (I wouldn’t want otherwise), but I admit I’ve always thought that I’m too conceptual, so I’m a little put out! ;).

On the other hand, the code they ‘recommend’ has as an alternate a ‘cash advance’ site(?!?). Given that Cammy Bean’s is ‘genius’ level, and Jay Cross’ is ‘jr. high school’, maybe it’s random? I respect both, but I don’t find that big a difference between their outputs. Caveat emptor.

Give and get…(tools please!)

Clark @ 12:39 PM

I told you before that electronic versions of the eLearning Guild printed research reports are now available for FREE for all paid Guild members and all associate members that complete the survey related to a particular report. These reports include Measuring Success, Mobile (with yours truly), Immersive Learning Simulations (ditto), Learning Management Systems, and Synchronous Learning.

Steve Wexler, their Director of Research, lets me know that the surveys for their forthcoming reports on tools are available.  I’ll kindly request that take the time to fill them out (they’ve got data from 1059 folks already!). Particularly if you’re using tools for Simulations, Media, and Combining & Deploying (those’re the areas where the fewest contributions are). Get free access to the great advice, share your experience, and help yourself and your peers.  I’ve already done so for the tools I use.

I’m really thrilled that they’re creating this great source of data and informed insight. I can tell you that I will be reading from all the reports I wasn’t part of (I’ve already read the ones I was involved in; great stuff from my colleagues)!

So, please do take the time to be at least an associate member, consider being a full member, and fill out the surveys for all.  Hey, for a little time, you can get access to some great thought.

13 November 2007

Mobile mayday

Clark @ 3:27 PM

Exhausted from the day, we wanted to head back to the hotel to work and/or rest before dinner. They found an intepreter for us, and off we went in a cab. Sometime later, it appeared we didn’t know where we were going. Turns out it was a new taxi driver, and didn’t know the city well enough (!?!).

Lance (Dublin) mentioned something about having the address that made me remember I’d put it in the Memos of my Treo (I try to always put the address and phone number of a hotel I’m staying at in the Memos), and I pulled it up to show to our intepreter (who apologized, but she’s from Bogota, not Medellin) to show the driver, and started us back in the direction we’d come. The phone number came in handy as she called to double check that we were heading in the right direction.

The three of us (Lance, Eric Parks, and myself) were crammed in the back seat, and it was hot and uncomfortable. Given the heavy traffic (rush hour) and the, ahem, scenic tour, it took an hour to go three miles. Fortunately, it wasn’t any longer (Lance was ready to abandon ship at the next hotel and get a real cab!).

So, ok, maybe I’m a bit retentive, but on the other hand it sure came in handy. I also put the reservation code in the calendar for my hotels, rental cars, and airplanes, and my parking spot at the airport lot. I’ve heard of folks who take snapshots of their hotel room numbers to remember them. Just some of the ways I make myself more effective through the use of technology, mobile in this case. How about you?

Short responses

Clark @ 3:17 PM

Without forewarning, they let us know that we would be interviewed for Colombian TV. Well, for a special program, not mainstream news or anything. Lance Dublin, who spoke today, was in a suit. Eric Parks managed to pull out a tie from his stuff (“never without one”). I was in a leather vest and a shirt. Dario Montoya, the Director General of SENA (the national body sponsoring the conference) was generous enough to take off his coat when he talked with me.

We were primed with some questions, but Dr. Montoya took the initiative to ask a couple of other questions (he’s very knowledgeable, as you might imagine). He started off asking about trends in games and simulations, and I replied that they were hitting the mainstream, but managed to sneak in my point about how they don’t need to cost millions of dollars.

He followed up asking about whether we needed to consider a supportive environment for learning, and I opined about considering the emotional side of elearning, and moved to the notion of not expecting self-learning capability, but nurturing it.

He proceeded to challenge me about the importance of cognitive science for organizations, and I talked about how we need to design how people really perform, and really learn, not how engineers or designers believe we should. He changed topic, saying several years ago he’d have thought it would be crazy to put courses on a phone. I replied that it is crazy (though Merrill Lynch found higher success with executives for compliance on a Blackberry, but it was likely more about lack of interruptions), that mobile learning is about extending the learning experience, not replacing it, and that performance support was the real area.

It was an interesting experience. I don’t mind extemporizing, though it’s a wee bit anxiety-inducing. It’ll be on TV on Sunday morning in Colombia (translated to Spanish). Wonder how many will see it? Well, at least you can read it.

Medellin meditations

Clark @ 10:19 AM

I’m in Medellin for Sena’s eLearning 07 conference.  I got in late last nite, and have had half a day here so far.  Great wireless at the conference center.  Slower at the hotel.  The people are friendly and handsome, and they’re taking good care of us.  Lance Dublin started us off this morning, and his previous 2 times talking have clearly paid off as he knew how to cope with simultaneous translation and with making jokes work across cultures.  Hope my session goes half so well tomorrow.

The place reminds me a bit of Taipei, what with green hills, and lots of motorcycles. Not as hot, since it’s quite high, though I expect near the coast here it could be a wee bit like a sauna.  Not as much smoking, but you notice it since it’s not confined.

I’ve already had a local dish for breakfast, Catal-something, which was beans, rice, and some meat and supposedly egg.   Yummy.  A snack for mid-morning (elevenses) was a roll filled with ham in a sauce.  Lunch soon.  Can you tell I’m a bit of a foodie?

Sena, the sponsoring government agency is doing many cool things both with and without technology.  The obvious include English language classes online, and  with internet being distributed out to the far reaches of the country with busses.  Other projects include  police not only being sent around to be police, but also doing service projects, and other things essentially technology independent but making great strides in further the agenda of the country.

I hope to have more, hopefully when I’ve had more rest!

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