I’ll be offering the game design workshop in Taiwan as part of the DIGITEL 2007 conference (“The First IEEE International Workshop on Digital Game and Intelligent Toy Enhanced Learning”. It’s only the second time it’s offered in Asia, and it’s offered at a very good price compared to what it usually costs at most US conferences. If you’re anywhere near (Japan, Korea, China), it’s probably the cheapest opportunity you’ll get for this typically well-reviewed workshop (I work hard to make it good, and keep improving it). I’d love to see you there.
Archives for 2007
Tune out now if you don’t want to hear me go off on a few of life’s irritations:
1. A little over 2 years ago I jumped to Sprint to get the then-new Treo 650. I’ve loved the Treo, with the ability to add apps to have it make me smarter, and have been happy with Sprint’s coverage, call quality, etc. They had a reasonable data package, and I could even use it to do DialUp Networking (DUN), letting my laptop dial into the internet in the few times I wasn’t connected in other ways (e.g. hanging out in an airport awaiting a flight). Had to replace Treo and my laptop at the same time for different reasons, and suddenly the DUN (DialUp Networking) doesn’t work (after 1.5 years). I seldom enough use it, but I finally took some time to try and debug the problem.
No, it’s not a miscommunication between the two new systems, instead: “oh, we disabled that to make you sign up for an actual DUN package” at $30/mo extra. That’s not what they said, but that’s what they meant.
Well, I’m a few months past my 2 year lock-in, and they’ll give me a deal, but now I’ll wait to decide whether I’ll spring for GSM (traveling overseas more of late), or maybe go back to Sprint. But the ClueTrain means that the happy relationship I’ve had with Sprint has been sullied. Any opinions on Cingular or Treo on T-Mobile?
2. Speaking of my Treo, I happily updated it to handle the stupid change in daylight savings time (stupid because the case that it saves energy has been pretty much debunked, though it made my conf calls with Norway better for me), and our Macs handled it just fine. But after following the system-prescribed steps for our pathetic Compaq PC (came with a use-preventing flaw, and after sending it away to get it fixed it came back with the front USB ports not working), it won’t successfully boot even after following the prescribed rescue methods. American business has to cope not only with spiraling costs of healthcare, but broken software, no wonder we’re having trouble being competitive.
3. I’ve got 3 different programs open to handle IM, with windows for each I’ve got to find space for. I’ve Adium to handle both MSN and Yahoo, with clients on each. Then I have iChat for AOL IM; Adium could handle it, but I gave my Mom my old iSight when I upgraded the house computers and now we can video chat (with my Dad gone and us hundreds of miles away, it’s better than a phone call). Finally, I have Skype for calls and chats with folks I want to keep in touch with who’re on that protocol (and for overseas calls). I’d have Gizmo as well, as it’s supposed to be better than Skype, but 3 is already too many!
Many times I use IM just to see if someone’s open to a call (I can type fast, but while I’m really a phoneophobe, sometimes speaking is more effective for negotiating understanding), but with people on different protocols everywhere it’s a real pain. Many biz folks don’t have the problem, as their org’s standardized, but others of us have to be available through many channels. As someone once said: “the nice things about standards is that there are so many of them”. Ahem.
This month’s Learning Circuits big question is What Would You Do to Support New Managers? I’ve noticed that some create long answers to these questions, but I try to be brief. Of course, I risk people missing the nuances of my reply, but there’s only so much time in a day ;).
I remember a project we did with a client who had just this problem. They’d developed a set of exercises to assist the ‘promoted from the frontline’ managers in switching to the new role of manager. They did a good job of breaking down the tasks into small chunks, and our task was making an online version. NOT, of course, just putting them online, but revising them to achieve the objectives in the new media. Now if only I could remember what those chunks were…
This is a great example, by the way, where there’s an attitude change and major skill set development as well. The attitude change has to be one of moving from being a colleague and perhaps friend to being a respected manager. There’re a whole bunch of associated skills including comprehending business drivers, aligning and measuring performance, inspiring (versus just motivating), coaching, etc.
So what would I do to support them? Let them listen to some folks who were in the situation and learned lessons, have them explore their own views of management and compare to other views, provide them with principles and safe practice, and then scaffold that practice over time while providing them with a community for support. And I’d practice what I preach, inspiring them, coaching their performance, basically modelling the behavior I would want them to adopt.
It’s really the case of how I’d like to be developed as a manager!
Well, it was a busy time to begin with, but the time for my Dad‘s remembrance was an unexpected (although necessary and fulfilling) addition to the load. As a consequence, I’ve had my head down with little time for reflection. However, there’s been an interesting synergy between a project I’ve been doing and a framework I’ve been developing.
I’ve had the pleasure of working with Verna Allee (who I mentioned earlier) on a project, and getting to know her stuff better. I’ve also been abstracting from some work with a business partner across several organizations, assisting their elearning strategy. One of the things I saw was that there was a reasonable sequence of steps to take in moving from ‘content on a screen with a quiz’ and ‘virtual classroom’ to a technology-empowered performance environment.
I decided to justify the steps by mapping the organizational and individual benefits from each step, and they reliably include broader reach and more organizational value as you move up the chain. I also believe (but have yet to map, and not sure I can or will) that the steps have to proceed in this order. Or, rather, if you adopt one of the tactics, you’ll have to retrofit the others to move up a level.
I’m willing to be wrong about that last, of course :). I’ll be talking about this at the eLearning Guild’s always excellent Annual Gathering, so maybe we’ll have a chance to talk about it further.
Over at GamaSutra, there’s a great example of a Design Document for a game. As I talk about in my workshops, they freely switch between lookup tables, flow charts, and other ways of representing their thoughts.
It’s nice for them to be willing to share this peek inside commercial game development, and there’re some great ideas about things like different paths for different players (here: simple score, puzzles, and real ‘twitch’ skills). Recommended.
The day before yesterday I listened to Jay Cross give his spiel on informal learning. I’m already a fan, but apparently some people were having trouble mapping it into concrete action plans the last time he gave it, and I suspect he wasn’t putting enough initial framing around it. It got me to thinking…
Jay was using O’Driscoll’s model on the relative role of formal versus informal learning, and it occurred to me that one of the ways to think about the role of informal learning is filling in the middle. For the novice, you need courses to get the learner up over some initial knowledge/skill hurdles. At the top end, you need to provide a way for experts to converse and negotiate understanding. But what are you doing for the middle?
What do I mean? Jay got Cisco to talk about how they were making videos of presentations available. I’ve heard of a case where engineers asked a firm to record the white papers as podcasts for listening to in the car. And all that rapid elearning (read: narrated powerpoints and captured webinars) similarly qualifies.
The point being that informal learning is about putting resources out there for the folks who are beyond courses, but are not yet ready to be creating their own resources. Making these resources and making them available, and allowing ways for these learners to tap into the expert conversations (and the experts) as well as begin communicating with peers, is what you need to do.
So, are you neglecting the middle majority, or not?
What I sent to United today:
As too often happens, my flight home was delayed, and I was going to miss the Bart train home (meaning waiting from 12AM to 4AM for the first train of the morning). The purser on the flight … talked to me, found out I was on his way home, waited ’til my luggage emerged and took me with him to his car and then to a Bart station which caught the last train with 10 minutes to spare.
Without knowing me, he just did the right thing. I thought you ought to know that as far as I’m concerned, he’s a true hero. He didn’t even want thanks, but I said that if one is willing to complain, one should also cheer the good things, and so I wanted to make a point to let you know about how one of your employees made a big difference to one of your travelers.
As I look at the larger picture (I’ve been reading Verna Allee’s books on Value Networks; great stuff), I’ve been thinking about the type of organizations we need. One of the rubrics is that it’s no longer about ‘know-how’, but about ‘know who’, since what we need to know how to do is no longer static. We need to be able to do new things and we need to ‘know-who’ can help us. Which is all true, but even if you know what you need to do, you may not be as well-equipped to perform as if we include another factor.
I first heard David Batstone talk about his book Saving The Corporate Soul at an eLearning Forum meeting in downtown San Francisco. I’ve become a subscriber to his ezine and enjoy his regular columns on ways in which corporations are and can be (or are not) socially responsible, as well as the other work he points to.
In his most recent edition, he points to a piece of work talking about “know why”. The point is that even if workers know what to do, if they don’t know why they’re doing it, they’re not going to perform as well.
This ties into organizational vision and values. In Financial Times (I think, I read it in transit to/from Norway), someone was talking about how business goals are more than platitudes about strategy, but instead you need to know what you’re doing and why it’s the right thing. The CEO has to be about more than cold logic, but have a vision, and an organization has to communicate it’s passion throughout the enterprise. This isn’t core values unless it’s lived (I worked for an organization that talked about three core values, and then reliably violated one in dealing with employees!).
The Cluetrain Manifesto tells us that lack of authenticity will come back to haunt an organization, and I think that, in addition to other factors, unless employees live and breathe the organizational values, the company is doomed. Values-driven performance will trump sheer smart execution (it’s simple Wisdom after all).
Tony O’Driscoll, who works for IBM around learning, technology, and organizations, has finally started his own blog. I’ve subscribed, as I’ve liked his thinking in the past (I use his diagram on in/formal learning). I have to admit I’m hoping his posts will get briefer from a purely pragramatic perspective (hey, it’s not the only one I read in a day!); in keeping with my site title, I try to keep my posts small, but I know others can be more thoughtful. So, check it out!
Today my father died. It wasn’t unexpected, he’d been ready for years, and we’re fortunate that his final demise was relatively quick and painless. He was an interesting guy: born in east Colorado at the edge of the prairie, he grew up with wide open spaces, even spending time as a cowboy (“stupidest job in the world” he used to say, “hard work, low pay, and no girls”).
His dad had a bank that was wiped out by the Depression. My grandfather continued to work until he paid back every single person who’s money he’d lost before he again started settling his own financial future, and this had a great impression on my dad.
Named for his dad, he shared his Dad’s preference for being called by his middle name, Nives (pronounced Neeves). It’s become a family tradition for middle names, shared by me and my first-born son. May it continue.
He had an amazing talent for building and fixing things. He used to build radios and trade them for things like cars. He was a good story-teller, and from what I heard it’s amazing he managed to survive to an age where his youthful temper mellowed and he was able to settle down and have a family. When I knew him he had remarkable patience, certainly with machinery.
He never finished college, but spent time in the war in the Navy (the picture is from his days serving as a tail-gunner in a dive-bomber, the duty he was required to have to balance his time in then-secret radar). After the war he visited his sister in Southern California, and ended up working for Northrop Aircraft for 32 years until he retired.
He migrated to facilities because he knew every sort of engineering: electrical, hydraulic, civil, you name it he knew how it worked and how to plan it, build it, maintain it, and dismantle it. He would stand up to contractors, employees, even management when he was right, and convince them to do it his way.
He avoided management as long as he could; they finally promoted him while he was on vacation, and he ended up with responsibility for the entire mile-long plant in Hawthorne. I hadn’t known him as a leader, but while he had no patience with fools, he was blind to color and background and his employees from Hungarians to Burmese were fiercely loyal. I learned from the notes from his retirement party that he was relentless in ensuring there was justification for requests for facilities services. I got a chuckle from this note: “people learned to disagree with him one way, with respect” (the “one way” was underlined by hand).
After retirement (he left early, when the job wasn’t fun anymore), he traveled the world with my mom. They were quite humble and frugal throughout their lives, and rode in local buses and stayed in the cheapest accommodations in the most interesting places, with new stocks of stories to tell such as camping in tents with lions padding around outside(!).
They greatly valued education; really the only reason to be excused from the dinner table in the middle of the meal was to go look up something in the encyclopedia or the dictionary. We knew we had to try our hardest, but they were happy with whatever the outcome of that was.
When they weren’t traveling he volunteered time doing what he’d always done for almost anyone, fixing things, particularly as a handyman for a local shelter. Tragically, a late diagnosis and botched surgery for Dupuytren’s cost him the use of his hands, and brought to a close his one real passion in life. Subsequent persistent pain and loss of hearing also contributed to his lack of enthusiasm in his last years. Yet he still welcomed a drink, a laugh, and beamed at the sight of his grandkids.
I was always impressed that he maintained his idealism throughout his life, caring about doing the right thing rather than the expedient thing. He was security-oriented, and passed up many chances to do better financially to ensure we were never without food and shelter. He had his flaws, but he was a very good man overall, and I was proud to call him “Dad”. Rest in Peace.