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

5 March 2010

Some accumulated thoughts…

Clark @ 5:35 PM

I have had my head down cranking out the manuscript for my mobile learning book. The deadline for the first draft is breathing down my neck, and I’ve been quite busy with some client work as well.  The proverbial one-armed paper hanger comes to mind.

However, that does not mean my mind has been idle.  Far from, actually.  It’s just not been possible  to find the time to do the thoughts justice.  I’m not really going to here, either, but I do want to toss out some recent thoughts and see what resonates with you, so these are mini-blogs (not microblogging):

A level above

I have long argued that we don’t use mental models enough in our learning, and also that we focus too much on knowledge and not enough on skills.  As I  think about developing learning, I want to equip learners to be able to regenerate the approach they should be using if they forget some part of it, and can if they have been given a conceptual model as relationships that guide the application to a problem.

I realize I want to go further, however.  Given the rate of change of things these days, and the need to empower learners to go beyond just what is presented (moving from training to education, in a sense), I think we need to go further to facilitate the transition from ‘dependent’ learning to independent and interdependent learning, as my colleague Harold Jarche so nicely puts it.

To do that, I think we need to take our presentation of the model a little bit further.  I think we need to look at, as a goal, having presented the learning in such a way that our learners understand the concept not only to regenerate, but maintain, extend, and self-improve.  Yes, it is some extra work, but I think that is going to be critical. It will not only be the role of the university (despite Father Guido), but also the workplace. It’s not quite clear what that means practically, but I definitely want to put this stake into the ground to start thinking about it.  What are your thoughts?

More on the iPad and the Publishing marketplace

I’ve already posted on the iPad, but I want to go on a little longer.  First, the good news: OmniGroup has announced that they’ll be porting OmniGraffle (and their other apps) to the iPad.  Yay!  I *really* like their diagramming tool (where do you think I come up with all those graphics?).

On the other hand, I had lunch the other day with Joe Miller, who is the VP of Tech for Linden Labs.  He recently was talking about the iPad and really sees it as a game changer in ways that are subtle and insightful.  As we talked, he really feels that the whole Flash thing is a big mistake: that one of the things you would use the iPad for is surfing the web, and that more than 75% of the web runs Flash.  It does seem like a relatively small thing to let hang up a major play.

Further, as I said earlier, I think interactivity is the  major opportunity for publishers to go beyond the textbook on eReaders, and the iPad could lead the way.  But right now, Flash is the lingua franca of interactivity on the web, and without it, there’s not an obvious fallback that won’t require rewriting across platforms instead of write-once, run anywhere.

Joe did point me to an interesting new eReader proposal, by Ray Kurzweil of all people.  Oddly, it’s Windows-only, so not quite sure the relevance to the Mac (tho’ you’d think they’d port it over with alacrity), but a free, more powerful eReader platform could have a big impact.

Lots of more interesting things on the way, after I get this draft off to the publisher and get back into the regular blogging swing. ‘Til then, take care,  and keep up the dialog!


  1. I discovered your site while searching for information related to Instructional Design and will definitely keep in touch with what you have to say. I work as a multimedia developer for the online department of a private college and enjoyed your viewpoints on eLearning gaming as a means to creating learning experiences. In addition, I am particularly interested in your upcoming book on mobile learning. As a big fan of Lynda.com, I was thrilled when they released their iPhone app and downloaded it immediately. It is liberating to know that learning can take place anywhere and I feel that mobile computing via smart phones and now the iPad and its successors will play a big part in the future of online learning.

    Comment by Leslie Mallare — 7 March 2010 @ 10:42 AM

  2. Clark, I agree with you on the value of models in elearning. I think we don’t see them used enough because, to create a model, an instructional designer has to formalize a process or concept that is often just in the head of the SME(s) and even the SMEs don’t know how they do what they do – they just do it. So it’s hard to get SMEs to make models. As instructional designers, what we usually do when we are given raw content for a course is make a best-guess first draft of a model and then we show this to the SME for feedback. Once they have something to look at, it’s much easier to get their input.

    Your idea of empowering learners to not only “regegenerate, but maintain, extend, and self-improve” models is intriguing. I wonder if newer mind-mapping software, which are web-based apps, might be one way to facilitate this? (I’ve tried Mindomo and liked it, but I’m sure there are others) For example, we could show and explain the current (default) model, but then have an embedded link to one of these mind mapping web apps to allow learners to comment on the model and extend it. What other ways can we encourage learners to maintain and extend models?

    Comment by Robert Penn — 9 March 2010 @ 12:25 PM

  3. While I think the pushback for Flash will be quite high at the beginning, however I think that HTML 5.0 could replace it eventually. While there have been many comments from both Apple and Adobe or their respective proxies, I have read from the developer of NetNewsWire that Flash caused him more grief than anything else. John Gruber of Daring Fireball also makes a good point that Flash is clearly inferior on the Mac and allowing dependence on a third party — in this case Adobe — takes control of a huge part of the user experience out of Apple’s (read Steve’s) hands. As a proponent of the web relying on open standards, having 75% (I would be curious about where this number comes from) of the web running proprietary software that only one company controls rubs me the wrong way. I understand that Flash is what training professionals know and they will be resistant to change as all people are. But in the long run, HTML 5.0 may be a better platform.

    Comment by john busteed — 9 March 2010 @ 1:46 PM

  4. Thanks for the comments! Leslie, hope you like the book (which won’t be out ’til around November or something, publishers are dinosaurs, I’m afraid).

    Robert, I think mindmapping could be one tool, and I got to work with Kathy Fisher many years ago in the early days of Semnet (now Semantica) when she was demonstrating the power of having learners map their conceptual frameworks. I could be thinking more about a potential link between mental models and connectivist approaches, where your models are built not only from rich internal conceptual relationships, but rich external ones too! I certainly think extending the learning experience socially as well as cognitively could be part of the solution.

    John, I was talking today with Ellen Wagner, and she and others think that HTML 5 isn’t a replacement for Flash, that they’re complementary. It’s not just video, it’s interactivity that I care about. Without a solution for interactive applications, my vision of learnlets (little interactive learning apps) just isn’t going to come to life. But that’s my barrow to push.

    Comment by Clark — 9 March 2010 @ 7:46 PM

  5. In response to John, Adobe CS5 will include an iPhone packager for Flash projects which I am very interested in checking out. Currently, I work in Flash and had just started looking into developing for the iPhone but now I plan on seeing what this packager is all about. Personally, I am kind of taking it with a grain of salt. I was working with Authorware back in the day when the Shockwave converter was introduced to allow “easy” conversion of Authorware projects for web delivery. My understanding with Flash is that if the hardware is optimized to work well with Flash (which the Mac is not), then the Flash player can take advantage of those characteristics and not be a drain on the system. I have a huge respect and admiration for Apple products but I do think that the Flash conflict arises from the fact that Apple likes to control the complete experience of using their products — from design esthetics to hardware and software. Flash lies outside of this context and that’s the problem. My hope is that developers can have a more common denominator development tool to work with that can be deployed on all platforms. For a long time, that was Flash (which will certainly allow for Clark’s interactive learnlets). You are right when you note that developers hope that it won’t be abandoned.

    Comment by Leslie Mallare — 13 March 2010 @ 11:34 AM

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress