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

27 June 2012

An integrating design?

Clark @ 6:02 AM

In a panel at #mlearncon, we were asked how instructional designers could accommodate mobile.  Now, I believe that we really haven’t got our minds around a learning experience distributed across time, which our minds really require.  I also think we still mistakenly think about performance support as separate from formal learning, but we don’t have a good way to integrate them.

I’ve advocated that we consider learning experience design, but increasingly I think we need performance experience design, where we look at the overall performance, and figure out what needs to be in the head, what needs to be in the world, and design them concurrently.  That is, we look at what the person knows how to do, and what should be in their head, and what can be designed as support.  ADDIE designs courses.  HPT determines whether to do a job aid (the gap is knowledge), or training (the gap is a skill).  I’m not convinced that either really looks at the total integration (and willing to be wrong).

What was triggered in my brain, however, was that social constructivism might be a framework within which we could accomplish this.  By thinking of what activities the learners would be engaged in, and how we’d support that performance with resources and other learners and performers as collaborators when appropriate, we might have a framework.  My take on social constructivism has it looking at what can and should be co-owned by the learner, and how to get the learner there, and it naturally involves resources, other people, and skill development.

So, you’d look at what needs to be done, and think through the performance, and ask what resources (digital and human) would be there with the performer, the gap between your current learner and the performer you’d need, and how to develop an experience to achieve that end state.  The notion is what mental design process designers may need going forward, and what framework provides the overarching framework to support that design process.

It’s very related to my activity framework, which nicely resonates as it very much focuses on what you can do, and resourcing that, but that framework is focused on reframing education to make it skills focused and developing self learning. This would require some additions that I’ll have to ponder further.  But, as always, it’s about getting ideas out there to collect feedback. So, what say you?

26 June 2012

Sims as CTA

Clark @ 6:43 AM

I had several great conversations over the course of last week’s #mLearnCon that triggered some interesting thoughts.  Here’s the first:

I was talking with someone charged with important training: nuclear.  We were talking about both the value of sims to support deep practice, and the difficulty in getting the necessary knowledge out of the subject matter expert (SME).  These converged for me in what seemed an interesting way.

First, the best method to get the knowledge out of the heads of SMEs is Cognitive Task Analysis (CTA).  CTA is highly effective, but also very complex.  It requires considerable effort to do the official version.

A different thread was also wrapped up in this.  Not surprisingly, I believe simulation games are the best form of deep practice to help cement skills.  I believe so strongly I wrote a book about it ;).

And the cross-pollination: I believe that we’ll be passing on responsibility for defining curricular paths to competency in areas to the associated communities of practice.  Further, I believe we will have collaboratively developed sims as part of that path, where we use wikis to edit the rules of the simulation to keep it up to date.

The integration in this context was to think of having the SMEs collaborate on the design of the sim as a way to make the necessary tacit knowledge explicit. It would make their understanding very concrete, and help ensure that the resulting sim is correct. Of course, they might rebel in terms of exaggerating and basing the practice in fantastic contexts, but it certainly would help focus on meaningful skills instead of rote knowledge.

The barrier is that experts don’t really have access to what they know, so having a concrete activity to ground their experience in practical ways strikes me as a very concrete way to elicit the necessary understandings.  CTA is about detailed processes to get at their tacit knowledge, but perhaps sim design is a more efficient mechanism. It could have tradeoffs, but it seems to disintermediate the process.

OK, so it’s just a wild idea at this time, but I always argue that thinking out loud is valuable, and I try to practice what I preach. What think you?

20 June 2012

5 Phrases to Make Mobile Work

Clark @ 10:01 AM

Today I was part of a session at the eLearning Guild’s mLearnCon mlearning conference on Making Mobile Work.  For my session I put my tongue slightly in cheek and suggested that there were 5 phrases you need to master to Make mLearning Work.  Here they are, for your contemplation.

The first one is focused on addressing either or both of yourself or any other folks who aren’t yet behind the movement to mobile:

How does your mobile device make you smarter?

The point being that there are lots of ways we’re all already using mobile to help us perform.  We look up product info while shopping, use calculators to split up the bill, we call folks for information in problem-solving like what to bring home from the grocery store, and we take photos of things we need to remember like hotel room numbers or parking spots.  If you aren’t pushing this envelope, you should be.  And if folks aren’t recognizing the connection between how they help themselves and what the organization could be doing for employees or customers, you should be helping them.

The second one focuses on looking beyond the initial inference from the phrase “mlearning”:

Anything but a course!

Here we’re trying to help our stakeholders (and designers) think beyond the course and think about performance support, informal learning, collaboration, and more.  While it might be about augmenting a course, it’s more likely to be access to information and people, as well as computational support.  Mobile learning is really mobile performance support and mobile social.

The third key phrase emphasizes taking a strategic approach:

Where’s the business need?

Here we’re emphasizing the ‘where’ and the ‘business’.  What’s important is thinking about meeting real business needs, with metrics and everything.  What do the folks who are performing away from their desks need?  What small thing could you be doing that would make that activity have a much more positive impact on the bottom line?

The fourth phrase is specifically focused on design:

What’s the least I can do for you?

It’s not about doing everything you can, but instead focusing on the minimal impact to get folks back into the workflow.  Mobile is about the 20% of the features that will meet 80% of the need.  It’s about the least assistance principle.  It’s about elegance and relevance.

From there, we finish by focusing on our providers:

Do you have a mobile solution?

Look, mobile is more than just a tactic, it’s a platform, and you need to recognize it as such. Frankly, if a vendor of an enterprise solution (except, perhaps, for computationally intensive work like 3D rendering and so on) doesn’t have a mobile solution, I reckon it’s a deal-breaker.  This is where mobile is really the catalyst for change: it’s bringing a full suite of technology support whenever and wherever needed, so we need to start thinking about what a full suite of support is. What is a full performance ecosystem?

So there you have it, the gist of the presentation.  If you master the concepts behind these phrases and employ them judiciously, I do believe you’ll have a better chance of making mlearning work.

19 June 2012

BJ Fogg #mLearnCon Keynote Mindmap

Clark @ 10:08 AM

BJ Fogg, known from his work on persuasive technology, talked about making persistent behavior change via tiny habits. Very interesting research with important implications both personally and commercially.


14 June 2012

The Wedge in the Door

Clark @ 5:40 AM

When I started talking about mobile, I thought it was interesting adjunct to desktop computing. In fact, in my early (2000) article on mobile learning, I said “Soon there will be essentially no distinction between mLearning and elearning.”  And I admit that I was wrong.  At least partly.  Let me explain.

It depends on how you define elearning. If you mean courses on the web, period, then I would be dead wrong. If, however, you believe elearning encompasses performance support, social, and informal learning, then I was right.  And I can fortunately say that I saw at least part of the vision: “accessible resources wherever you are, strong search capabilities, rich interaction, powerful support”.  Of course, I missed cameras, and GPS.

The reason I bring this up, however, is I now see, as Google has exclaimed, “Mobile first”.  I think that mobile is a wedge to open the door to much more.  It indeed may well be the first solution you should be looking to!

If you view mobile as a platform, you start bringing in all the platform capability perspective you see with the desktop (it’s used for everything).  And this perspective lets you view the role of mobile as more than learning, but instead impacting everything the organization is doing. You should be thinking this way anyway, but I see it too infrequently. Which is why mobile may be a wedge to open up change.

This is important for the L&D group to get their mind around: mobile isn’t about courses, it’s about supporting performance in all ways.  With this perspective comes several things: the opportunity to take a bigger role in the organization, the requirement to break down the silos, and a necessity to start thinking differently.  Are you ready?

7 June 2012

Jane Hart #iel12 Keynote Mindmap

Clark @ 10:53 AM

Jane Hart, in her personable style, told a compelling story of the what, why, and how of informal learning. She suggested it was about self-directed learning, that it’s already happening, but that there are valuable ways the L&D group can assist and support.


Mitch Kapor #iel12 Keynote Mindmap

Clark @ 6:40 AM

Mitch Kapor shared his passion for and belief in the need for computers to help address the problems in education. He was clearly concerned about the low ranking of the US in STEM, and talked about the promise of tech when used appropriately. He cited two examples he’s invested in.


6 June 2012

George Siemens #iel12 Keynote Mindmap

Clark @ 11:06 AM

George Siemens delivered an enlightening talk contextualizing analytics, tying the need for more effective coupling in decision making with new types of data.


Tony O’Driscoll #iel12 Keynote Mindmap

Clark @ 6:34 AM

Tony O’Driscoll kicked off the Innovations in eLearning Symposium with an entertaining and apt tour of the changes in business owing to information change, and the need to adapt. My take was that organizations have to become in a more organic relationship with their ecosystem by empowering their people to engage and act. His final message was that the learning community are the folks who have to figure this out and engage.


Taking the step

Clark @ 6:07 AM

A while ago, I wrote an article in eLearnMag, stating that better design doesn’t take longer.  In it, I suggested that while there would be an initial hiccup, eventually better design doesn’t take longer: the analysis process is different, but no less involved, the design process is deeper but results in less overall writing, and of course the development is largely the same.    And I’m interested in exposing what I mean by the hiccup.

What surprised me is that I haven’t seen more movement.  Of course, if you’re a one-person shop, the best  you could probably do is attend a ‘Deeper ID’ workshop.  But if you’re producing content on a reasonable scale, you should realize that there are several reasons you should be taking this on.

Most importantly, it’s for effectiveness.  The learning I see coming out of not only training shops and custom content houses, but also internal units, is just not going to make a difference.  If you’re providing knowledge and a knowledge test, I don’t care how well produced it is, it’s not going to make a difference.  This is core to a unit’s mission, it seems to me.

It’s also a case of “not if, but when” when someone is going to come in with an effective competing approach.  If you can’t do better, you’re going to be irrelevant. If you’re producing for others, your market will be eaten. If you’re producing internally, your job will be outsourced.

Overall, it’s about not just surviving, but thriving.

Yes, the nuances are subtle, and it’s still possible to sell well-produced but not well-designed material, but that can’t last.  People are beginning to wake up to the business importance of effective investments in learning, and the emergence of alternate models (Khan Academy, MOOCs, the list goes on) is showing new ways that will have people debating approaches.  It may take a while, but why not get the jump on it?

And it’s not about just running a workshop. I do those, and like to do them, but I never pretend that they’re going to make as big a difference as could be achieved. They can’t, because of the forgetting curve.  What would make a big difference isn’t much more, however.  It’s about reactivating that knowledge and reapplying.

What I envision (and excuse me if I make this personal, but hey, it’s what I do and have done successfully) is getting to know the design processes beforehand, and customizing the workshop to your workflow: your business, your processes of working with SMEs, your design process, your tools, and representative samples of existing work. Then we run a workshop where we use your examples. Working through the process, exploring the deeper concepts, putting them into practice, and reflecting to cement the learning.  Probably a day.  People have found this valuable in an of itself.

However, I want to take it just a step further. I’ve found that being sent samples of subsequent work and commenting on it in several joint sessions is what makes the real difference.  This reactivates the knowledge, identifies the ongoing mistakes, and gives a chance to remediate them.  This is what makes it stick, and leads to meaningful change.  You have to manage this in a non-threatening way, but that’s doable.

There are more intrusive, higher-overhead ways, but I’m trying to strike a balance between high value and minimal intensiveness to make a pragmatic but successful change. I’d bet that 90% of the learning being developed could be improved by this approach (which means that 90% of the learning being developed really isn’t a worthwhile investment!).  It seems so obvious, but I’m not seeing the interest in change.  So, what am I missing?

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