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

27 April 2011

Org Development and Social Media

Clark @ 6:12 AM

On principle (and for pragmatic reasons), I regularly think about how to define what I do, and to look for areas that are related.  As a consequence, I wonder if there’s another area I’m falling into, and more importantly, an interesting intersection that might warrant some exploration.

With my ITA colleagues, I’ve been looking at how to help organizations broaden the scope of the learning function to include informal and social learning, and leverage them to make organizations more successful.  And, given that it’s not about the technology, it ends up being a lot about how to create environments where social media can be used effectively.  This led me to wonder what was the proper category for that work. Is it business information systems?  However, that seems largely to be about databases. Is it industrial/organizational psychology?  That largely seems too focused on the individual, and on psychometrics.  That’s when I looked into organizational development (OD; as our associate, Jon Husband has champions with his wirearchy work).

If you read the definition of OD, you see “effort to increase an organization’s effectiveness and viability”. That’s largely what we’re on about, too.  As the Working Smarter Fieldbook says: “We foresee a convergence of the ‘people disciplines’ in organizations. As the pieces of companies become densely interconnected, the differences between knowledge management, training, collaborative learning, organization development, internal communication, and social networking fade away.”   However, some of these fields are reasonably technology savvy, while others are more focused effective people processes.

As I look through the suite of approaches that OD takes, it feels very familiar.  Workshops, facilitations, the interventions used resonate very comfortably with what I’ve used and seen work.  The goals are also very similar.  However, I don’t see a lot of awareness or interest in technology.  I’m wondering if I’m missing a huge swath of work in leveraging technology to facilitate organizational development.  Or whether there’s a need and opportunity to start some cross-talk and look at the intersection for opportunities to leverage technology as a tool to increase an organization’s effectiveness and viability.  Kevin Wheeler, who’s organizing the talent event I’m presenting at in Sydney and has background in OD, opted for the latter.  What do you think?

26 April 2011

Quinnovation Does Australia

Clark @ 6:08 AM

My itinerary for my upcoming Australian visit has largely converged.  I land on the 22nd of May at around 6:30 AM, but that will give me what will likely be a grueling day of staying awake to get on schedule, and then depart on the 1st of June, no doubt weary but happy.  In between is a lot of really interesting things I’m looking forward to:

I’m excited about the Australasian Talent Conference (discount code: ‘CQ11’), covering the entire talent management space, which looks to be a great event:

24th: I will be running two half-day workshops:


Performance Technology Strategy

25th: I will be sharing the stage with Prof. Sara de Freitas of the Serious Games Institute, talking about, not surprisingly, serious games

26th: I will lead a general session talking about social media

Then, on the 27th, I’ve the pleasure of heading down to the University of Wollongong to talk with my friend and colleague Prof. Sandra Wills and audience about her book on online role playing and mine on mobile learning.

To cap off the visit, the E-learning Network of Australia will be hosting me to offer two different workshops:

30th: a half day on deeper instructional design

31st: a full day on game design

(You can do either or both, but unless you have sufficient background in the former, you probably shouldn’t take the latter alone. The ElNet team includes my friend Anne Forster, and looks like they’re generating an exciting community for elearning folks in Australia.)

Hopefully, I’ll see some of  my Aussie friends from UNSW and elsewhere over the intervening weekend, and maybe even catch a surf if all the necessary elements align.  Looking forward to a visit to my second home, and hope to see you at one of these events!

25 April 2011

A new literacy? There’s an app for that

Clark @ 6:07 AM

The ubiquity of powerful mobile devices able to download applications that enable unique capabilities, has led David Pogue to coin them “app phones“.  Similarly, the expression “there’s an app for that” has been part of widespread marketing campaign.  However, it turns out that apps are more than just on phones.  Facebook has apps, as I just heard about BranchOut as a job hosting extension of the popular social network (I’m preparing for my talk at the Australasian Talent Conference).  Of course, there are other apps I don’t get involved in, such as all the quizzes, because I’m worried about the data they share, but there’s a meta-point here.

Increasingly, organizations and providers are creating APIs to their environments, which allow other organizations to add value in ways that expand their ecosystem.   This is of benefit to both parties and the users of the environment, with appropriate caveats about how the information is used.  From the user point of view, there are extensions to environments and tools you use that can give you unique capabilities.  And, from the personal efficacy department, being able to find and use these extensions is a new skill.  In the Personal Knowledge Management framework of my colleague Harold Jarche, it’s be a new component of improving personal productivity.

First, as an overarching component, you need to understand that platforms can, if properly developed, allow others to add new capabilities.  Then, you need to be aware of the ways in which you’d like to augment your capabilities (accessorize your brain), know which platforms you’re on, choose the most plausible platform and channel (while there’s a Facebook app available for your app phone, it may  not support the app you need, and it may need to be desktop or mobile web), be able to search for the app you need (which may require tapping into other PKM skills like leveraging your network), and be able to hook into it, use it, and keep it handy.

Personal efficacy seems to me to be a growing differentiator.  Jay Cross cites how the exceptional Google engineer is estimated to be 200 times more valuable than the average engineer.  While some of this will come from skills, I suspect that a lot, and a growing component, of success will come from continual improvement both organizationally and individually.  Watts Humphrey makes a compelling case for the benefits of self-improvement process in software engineering, and it’s clear the process generalizes to other tasks.  Jay and I have previously argued (PDF) that improving the ability to learn might be the best investment you could make, and this is a component of being effective: knowing when to augment your capabilities and how.

New capabilities are emerging rapidly.  Understanding them conceptually and clarifying their unique capabilities gives you a handle on generating the skills you need to take advantage of them in a generalizable way.  I reckon apps meet the criteria.

22 April 2011

The Pad and the Pod

Clark @ 6:06 AM

I had a conversation today where I was asked about the difference with a tablet versus a smartphone (or pad versus pod :).  This is something I’ve been thinking about, and some thoughts coalesced as I answered. I don’t think this is my definitive answer, but it’s worth wrestling with (learning out loud and all that).

The must-read for mobile designers, The Zen of Palm, shows data collected from years ago on the early Palm devices (Figure 1.3) which showed the difference between usage of desktops versus handhelds. The general pattern is that folks access desktops a few times a day for long periods, while handheld devices were accessed many times a day for very short periods.

I believe this is still largely true: we tend to use our smartphones and similar devices as learning/performance support as quick access to information.  While we might listen to music, that’s a different thing.   Yes, there will be times we access a video or read a document or even listen to a podcast, but the usual use is as quick access.

And I think we use tablets more like desktops.  We settle down with them for longer periods of time, and engage more deeply. They’re often about content consumption, and they may also be for content creation, in both cases more so than the smaller devices.  And I think it’s more than a quantitative difference, I really do feel it’s qualitative.  Yes, this blurs when we’re talking about 7.1″ tablets instead of 10″, but overall I think it holds.

Which naturally leads to the question of what’s the difference between a tablet and a desktop?  And here I’m on stranger ground.  I think one of the interesting phenomena of the tablet experience is the ‘intimacy’ of the experience. You’re holding the device and touching it.  It’s in your arms, instead of at arms-length.  And I believe, without having come up with empirical ways to document, that’ it’s a more personal engagement. It helps that the first successful instance, the iPad, has an overall aesthetic that’s elegant, so media look good and the user experience feels natural.  I hate the over-used phrase ‘intuitive’, but many inferences about how to use the device play out.

So, in a sense is the tablet a mobile device?  When it’s acting like a desktop: being used to take notes, for instance, I don’t really consider it a truly mobile device, but when it can be with you to meet needs that you’re unlikely to consider meeting with a laptop, and it can deliver some meaningful interaction that’s more immediate than you’d accomplish with even a netbook, a tablet definitely is a mobile device.  And there are plenty of those times.

Fundamentally, though they can share apps, I think a pad serves a different need than a pod.  I think the pod is more performance support and learning augmentation, while the pad is more full learning.  There is overlap, and each can act as the other, but if you’ve got both, I reckon you’ll find this to be the case.

Naturally, I’m still thinking that a real learning opportunity for the pad will be when they can be more than content consumption, and actually do meaningful interaction. Not just quizzes, which can be done now via mobile web, but immersive simulations and serious games.  And you can do that now, but  not in a cross-platform way. We need a standard, like ePub for ebooks, but one that supports simulation-driven interaction.  Flash could’ve been it, but the performance problems have been a barrier.  It’s not clear whether HTML5 will meet my desires, but otherwise we need something else.  When we’ve got that capability, we have a market to provide more meaningful experiences to learners.

The implications for design are to not be exclusive to either, but if you’re designing performance support, you might be thinking more pod, and if you are thinking more full task and full learning, you might be thinking more pad.  That’s what I think, what do you think?

20 April 2011

New Horizon Report: Alan Levine – Mindmap

Clark @ 6:06 AM

This evening I had the delight to hear Alan Levine present the New Media Consortium’s New Horizon Report for 2011 to the ASTD Mt. Diablo chapter.  As often happens, I mindmapped it.  Their process is interesting, using a Delphi approach to converge on the top topics.

For the near term (< 1 year), he identified the two major technologies as ebooks and mobile devices (with a shoutout for my book: very kind).  For the medium term (2-3 years), he pointed to augmented reality and game-based learning (though only barely touching on deeply immersive simulations, which surprised me).  For the longer term (4-5 years), the two concepts were gesture-based computing and learning analytics.

A very engaging presentation.

mind map of Levine talk

18 April 2011

Mentoring Results

Clark @ 6:16 AM

Eileen Clegg from the Future of Talent Institute (and colleague, we co-wrote the Extremophiles chapter for Creating a Learning Culture) pinged me the other day and asked about my thoughts on the intersection of:

  1. The new role of managers in the results-oriented work environment (ROWE)
  2. The topic of  blending the Talent and Learning functions in the workplace.

She’d been excited about Cognitive Apprenticeship years ago after hearing me talk about it, and wondered if there was a role to play. I see it as two things: orgs need optimal execution just as the cost of entry: that’s where apprenticeship fits in, but they also need continual innovation. That needs collaboration, and we are still exploring that, though there are some really clear components.  Though one of the nice things about cognitive apprenticeship is that it naturally incorporates collaborative learning, and can develop that as it develops understanding of the domain.

I admit I’m a little worried about ROWE from the point of view that Dan Pink picks out in Drive, about how a maniacal focus on results could lead to people doing anything necessary to achieve results. It’s got to be a little more about taking mutual ownership (producer and whoever is ‘setting’ the result) that the result is meeting the org need in a holistic (even ‘wise’ way).

What has to kick in here is a shared belief in a vision/mission that you can get behind, individuals equipped to solve problems collaboratively (what I call big L learning: research, design, experimentation, etc), and tools to hand for working together. You apprentice both in tasks *and* learning, basically, until you’re an expert in your domain are defining what’s new in conjunction with your collaborators.

Expressed by my colleague was a concern that there was a conflict between”(a) supporting someone’s learning and (b) being invested in the success of their work product”. And I would think that the management is NOT directly invested in the product, only in the producer.  Helping them be the best they can be and all that.  If they’re not producing good output, they either need to develop the person or replace them, which indirectly affects the product.  However, this isn’t new for mentors as well: they want their charges to do well, but the most they can do is influence the performer to the best of their ability.

As a component, learners need to develop their PKM/PLN (personal knowledge management, personal learning network). And 21st century skills aren’t taken for granted but identified and developed. In addition, the performance ecosystem, aka workscape – not only formal learning but also performance support, informal learning, and social learning – is the responsibility of the integrated talent/learning functions (which absolutely should be blended).  And ‘management’ may move more toward mentorship, or be a partner between someone strategizing across tasks and a talent development function in the organization.

As an extension to my ‘slow learning’ model, I think that the distinction between learning and performing from the point of view of support needs to go away. We can and should be concerned with the current performance and the long-term development of the learner at the same time.  Thus, the long term picture is of ongoing apprenticeship towards mutually negotiated and understood goals, both work and personal development.

14 April 2011

Me, ‘to go’ and on the go

Clark @ 6:02 AM

Owing to a busy spring pushing the new book on mobile, I’ve been captured in a variety of ways. If you haven’t already seen too much of me talking mobile, here are some of the available options:

  • Cammy Bean did an audio interview of me for Kineo (cut into sensible size chunks)
  • Terrance Wing and Rick Zanotti hosted me for a #elearnchat video interview
  • I also have given a series of webinars on mobile for a variety of groups, here’s a sample.

Also, with the Internet Time Alliance, we gave a webinar on Working Smarter.

Coming up in the near future:

As I mentioned before, I’ll be in Sydney for the Australasian Talent Conference talking games and social learning, and workshopping mobile and elearning strategy.

In addition, however, I’ll also be running a deeper ID session and then a game design workshop on the same trip with Elnet on the 30th and 31st of May and an event at the University of Wollongong (more soon).

In June, I’ll be presenting at the DAU/GMU Innovations in eLearning conference that’s always been an intimate and quality event.

Also in June, I’ll be running my mobile design workshop and presenting on several different topics at the eLearning Guild’s exciting new mobile learning conference, mLearnCon.

And I’ll be participating virtually with a mobile event with the Cascadia Chapter of ASTD also in June.

In August, I’m off to Madison Wisconsin to keynote the Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning, as well as running a pre-conference workshop.

There’s more to come:

  • The CSTD annual conference in November in Toronto.
  • The Metro DC ASTD chapter in November as well.
  • Other things still on the bubble; stay tuned!

All of these events have great promise regardless of my participation, and I encourage you to check them out and see if they make sense to you. If you attend one, do introduce yourself (I’m not aloof, just initially shy).  Hope to catch up with you somewhere.

7 April 2011

Learning Experience Design thru the Macroscope

Clark @ 6:29 AM

Our learning experience design is focused, essentially, on achieving one particular learning objective.  At the level of curricular design, we are then looking at sequences of learning objectives that lead to aggregate competencies.  And these are delivered as punctate events.  But with mobile technologies, we have the capability to truly start to deliver what I call ‘slow learning’: delivering small bits of learning over time to really develop an individual.  It’s a more natural map to how we learn; the event model is pretty broken.  Most of our learning comes from outside the learning experience.  But can we do better?

Really, I don’t think we have a handle on designing and delivering a learning experience that is spaced over time, and layered over our real world activities, to develop individuals in micro bits over a macro period of time rather than macro bits over a micro bit of time (which really doesn’t work).  We have pieces of the puzzle ( smaller chunks, content models) and we have the tools (individualized delivery, semantics), but putting them together really hasn’t been done yet.

Conceptually, it’s not hard, I reckon.  You have more small chunks of content, and more distributed performance model. You couple it with more self-evaluation, and you design a system that is patiently persistent in assisting people and supporting them along.  You’d have to change your content design, and provide mechanisms to recognize external content and real performance contexts as learning experiences.  You’d want to support lots of forms of equivalency, allowing self-evaluation against a rubric to co-exist with mentor evaluation.

There are some consequences, of course.  You’d have to trust the learner, they’d have to understand the value proposition, it’s a changed model that all parties would have to accommodate.  On the other hand, putting trust and value into a learning arrangement somehow feels important (and refreshingly different :).  The upside potential is quite big, however: learning that sticks, learners that feel invested in, and better organizational outcomes.  It’s really trying to build a system that is more mentor like than instructor like.  It’s certainly a worthwhile investigation, and potentially a big opportunity.

The point is to take the fact that technology is no longer the limit, our imaginations are. Then you can start thinking about what we would really want from a learning experience, and figure out how to deliver it.  We still have to figure out what our design process would look like, what representations we would need to consider, and our associated technology models, but this is doable.  The possibility is now well and truly on the table, anyone want to play?  I’m ready to talk when you are.

4 April 2011

Snake Oil and (April) Fools

Clark @ 6:19 AM

For April Fool’s of this year, we (the Internet Time Alliance, with large credit to Jane and Harold) posted a message on our site:

The Internet Time Alliance (ITA) has spent much of the past year on a mission.

We have located and assembled a huge collection of informal learning content.

Today we’re publishing it and offering a free subscription to all individuals as well as corporate rates.

“Without content there is no learning. Repositories of informal learning content
such as this will underpin
much of the social and informal learning over the
next 5 years.”
Lois Kean, CLO, Polar Foil LLC*

Sign up today for the ITA Informal Learning Collection!

Clicking the link took you to another page where we explained:

The Ultimate Content Collection for All Your Informal Learning Needs!*

*Nothing but snake oil here, folks.

The Internet Time Alliance can help you navigate the snake oil and work smarter with Informal and Social Learning. Any time after April Fool’s Day, that is ;)

While the ad was a joke, the issue is real: folks can still believe that there’s no learning without formal content. That may be true for novices, but those who know what they’re doing and what they need can very well learn from resources they find on their own, and from each other!

The content may be out there, or it may have to be co-created, but it can’t be in the hands of formal designers and it can’t all be found in the corporate resources.  As things get more complex and faster and more unique, the need for access to others and the rich resources of the internet are a bare minimum.  There’s a role for formal learning and formal content (e.g. performance support), but supporting learners to have access to a much richer suite of resources than an L&D team can design can really empower people. Moreover, having them help each other and create new understandings and knowledge is the key to making progress in this new, faster, world.

We’re seeing companies succeed with these approaches, in small instances and across the organization.  It’s not that there isn’t a role for formal content, it’s just that, as my colleague Charles Jennings talks about, the 70:20:10 rule (individuals tag valuable learning as coming 70% from the workplace, 20% from mentoring/coaching, and only 10% from formal leaning) suggests that our investments in effort and support are not matched to the value of the contribution.

You do want to go beyond just formal learning. It may seem we go over the top, but I’ve found that if you want to get people to Y, you have to talk about 2Y to have any chance. If you just talk about Y, you’ll get them to .5Y.  And we really believe that the benefits – a more positive workplace, a more nimble organization, greater innovation and problem-solving – significantly outweigh the relatively low costs.

So, what’s it going to be, snake oil or social and informal learning?

*Lois Kean is an anagram of SnakeOil and Polar Foil is an anagram of April Fool

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