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

25 September 2012

Transcending Experience Design

Clark @ 6:46 AM

Last week’s #lrnchat touched on an important topic, experience design. I’ve talked about this before, but it’s worth taking several different cuts through it.  The one I want to pursue here is the notion of transformative experience design.

A number of years ago, now, Pine & Gilmore released a book talking about an Experience Economy.  In it, they posited that we’d gone from the agricultural economy, through a product and service economy, to what they termed an ‘experience economy’: where people paid for quality experiences. You can see this in themed cruises & restaurants, Apple’s product strategy, Disney, etc.  I think it’s a compelling argument, but what really struck me was their next step. They argued that what was due next was a ‘transformation economy’, where people paid for experiences that change them (in ways that they desire or value).

And I argue that that’s what my book Engaging Learning was all about, how to create serious games, which really are experiences with an end in sight. The point here is not to tout the book, but instead to tout that a meld of experience design and learning design, learning experience design, is the path to this end.

There are things about experience design that instructional design largely ignores: emotion, multiple senses, extended engagement.  While I feel that not enough has been written systematically about experience design (interface design yes, but not the total cross-media picture, e.g. Disney’s Imagineering), their intuitive approaches acknowledge recognizing the ebb and flow of emotions – motivation, anxiety – and beliefs about one’s role (epistemology, there I said it).

On the other hand, learning design is (properly done) grounded in cognitive science, with empirical results, but is incomplete in breadth.  We know what we do, but our view is so limited!

Together, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.  It’s about thinking beyond content, it’s about contextualizing, designing to “bewitch the mind and ensnare the senses”.  Really, it’s about creating a magic experience that transcends content and truly is transformative.  Are you ready to take that next step?

24 September 2012

Learning Design isn’t for the wimpy

Clark @ 6:19 AM

I’ve had my head down on a major project, a bunch of upcoming speaking engagements, some writing I’ve agreed to do, and…(hence the relative paucity of blog posts).  That project, however, has been interesting for a variety of reasons, and one really is worth sharing: ID isn’t easy.  We’ve been given some content, and it’s not just about being good little IDs and taking what they give us and designing instruction from it.  We could do it, but it would be a disaster (in this case, that’s what we’re working from, a too-rote too-knowledge-dump course).  And it’s too often what I’ve seen done, and it’s wrong.

SMEs don’t know how they do what they do.  Part of the process of becoming expert is compiling away the underlying thinking that goes on, so it moves from conscious to subconscious.  So when the time comes to work with SMEs about what’s needed, they a) make up stories about what they do, or b) resort to what they’ve learned (e.g. knowledge). It’s up to the ID to push back and unpack the models that guide performance.  Yet that’s hard, particularly when they’re not domain experts, and SMEs have issues.

It takes a fair bit of common sense (remarkable by how uncommon it is), and willingness to continually reframe what the expert says and twist it until it’s focused on how they make decisions. There’re formal processes call Cognitive Task Analysis when you need them, but a ‘discount CTA’ approach (analogous to Nielsen’s ‘discount usability‘) would be appropriate in many cases.Such an approach includes getting some really good examples of both successes and failures of the task under consideration, and working hard to extract the principles that guide success.  But SMEs can’t be order takers; they have to be willing to fight to understand what decisions do learners need to make that they can’t make now, and how to make those decisions.

It really helps to either have a deep background in the field, or a broad background.  You can get the former by teaching ID to  a SME, or having an ID work in a particular field for a long time.  The latter works if you’re more in the ‘gun for hire’ mode. You then need, however, a broad knowledge that you can draw upon to make some reasonable inferences. That’s what I typically do, as my deep expertise is in learning design, but fortunately I’m eternally curious (used to lie on the floor with a volume of the World Book spread out in front of me). Model-based and systems thinking help immensely.

You really have to work hard, use your brain, draw upon real world knowledge and go to the mat with the material.  If you’re not willing to do this, you’re not cut out to be a learning designer. There’s much more, understanding the way we learn, experience design, and more, but this is part of the full picture.

21 September 2012

Top 10 Tools for Learning

Clark @ 6:22 AM

Among the many things my colleague Jane Hart does for our community is to compile the Top 100 Tools for learning each year.  I think it’s a very interesting exercise, showing how we ourselves learn, and the fact that it’s been going on for a number of years provides interesting insight.  Here are my tools, in no particular order:

WordPress is how I host and write this Learnlets blog, thinking out loud.

Keynote is how I develop and communicate my thinking to audiences (whether I eventually have to port to PPT for webinars or not).

Twitter is how I track what people find interesting.

Facebook is a way to keep in touch with a tighter group of people on broader topics than just learning. I’m not always happy with it, but it works.

Skype is a regular way to communicate with people, using a chat as a backchannel for calls, or keeping open for quick catch ups with colleagues.  An open chat window with my ITA colleagues is part of our learning together.

OmniGraffle is the tool I use to diagram, one of the ways I understand and communicate things.

OmniOutliner often is the way I start thinking about presentations and papers.

Google is my search tool.

Word is still the way I write when I need to go industrial-strength, getting the nod over Pages because of it’s outlining and keyboard shortcuts.

GoodReader on the qPad is the way I read and markup documents that I’m asked to review.

That’s 10, so I guess I can’t mention how I’ve been using Graphic Converter to edit images, or GoToMeeting as the most frequent (tho’ by no means the only) web conferencing environment I’ve been asked to use.

I exhort you to also pass on your list to Jane, and look forward to the results.

13 September 2012

Bob Mosher Keynote Mindmap #PSS12

Clark @ 7:11 AM

Bob Mosher opened the Performance Support Symposium with a passionate keynote about Performance Support.  It strongly made the case for a blended approach, which I support. As with mobile, the time is definitely now.


Organizational Cognition

Clark @ 4:03 AM

A recent post on organizational cognitive load got me thinking (I like this quote: “major learning and performance initiatives will likely fail to achieve the hoped-for outcomes if we don’t consider that there is a theoretical limit to collective throughput for learning”). I do believe organizations have distributed thinking that they apply to solving problems. Usually this is individual, but how might it be greater than that?

I think back to the Coherent Organization, and how folks are collaborating and cooperating in moving the organization forward. There’s lots of thinking going on, in many ways. Folks are solving problems in formal or informal working groups in many ways, whether achieving organizational goals directly, developing themselves together, and furthering the frontiers of their field in a variety of ways. Individual cognitive load we address through providing resources and tools. How do we reduce collective load?

In short, by making access to social networks, to collaborative media, as easy and ‘ready to hand‘ as possible. We want the focus to be on the task, not the tools. It’s about co-creating a performance ecosystem that works fluidly, seamlessly integrating the different resources we need.

It’s cultural as well as structural. You need to remove the barriers to working well, facilitating the ability to constructively interact by welcoming diversity, sponsoring psychological safety, soliciting new ideas, and providing space and time for reflection. You need leaders who walk the talk, learning out loud.

You can’t do this if you don’t understand how folks work and play together, and what it takes to get you there and stay there. The field continues to develop, but you need to be explicit about how this happen, and actively work to minimize interference with effective flow: communication and work.


12 September 2012

Mobile tradeoffs

Clark @ 5:31 AM

A mobile solution is not about the right answer, it’s about the right answer for you. You need to understand the tradeoffs involved in deciding how you’re going to go about creating a mobile solution.  Case in point: what’s your development platform?

Tradeoffs of Web, Custom, or HybridIt’s easy to say “we need to develop an app” (aka ‘there’s an app for that’).   And there are reasons to develop an app, such as speed and elegance.

You could also say: “we’ll do mobile web”.  Again, there are reasons to go this way, too: it’ll work on more devices.

But there are tradeoffs.  Apps can be expensive.  Mobile web may be slow and clunky on any particular device. You can’t just choose one without determining your needs: who’s the audience, what are they trying to do, what do you control, and what’s a given.

You should also be aware of a middle ground, so called hybrid apps. They minimize some of the extremes of both, though they’re no panacea either. You have to know the space, and your own context, to make an informed decision.  

Triggered by an apparent knee-jerk reaction.

7 September 2012

mLearning signs of growth: now Asia

Clark @ 6:17 AM

As I mentioned in my bit on the general stage at mLearnCon, mobile is the fastest-growing giant industry in history (quoting Tomi Ahonen), reaching a billion dollars in the shortest time ever.  This growth has been paralleled for mlearning as well.  I’m seeing signs everywhere…

The eLearning Guild’s excellent mLearnCon mlearning conference has grown every year since it’s start 3 years ago.  There are more vendors, more attendees, more interest.  It’s been a very valuable conference for mlearning.  And my mobile learning strategy workshop was so popular at mLearnCon that we’re running it again at DevLearn!

More people are contributing (and not just the bandwagon folks).  Complementing pioneers like  Judy Brown, David Metcalf, Jason Haag, Robert Gadd, Kris Rockwell, etc. are new folks with valuable perspectives like RJ Jacquez and Mayra Aixa Villar. (See the Designing mLearning resources page for twitter handles.)

New books are coming out too.  Chad Udell’s new Learning Everywhere is a valuable addition to the canon, complementing Gary Woodill’s analyst take on the space in the Mobile Learning Edge and my own two books on design.  It goes deeper into development as well as having a nice business perspective.

And Inge “Ignatia” de Waard is hosting a MOOC on mobile learning.  All this is exciting stuff.

The capstone, to me, is that the first mobile learning conference in Asia is being launched this fall.   In full disclosure, I’m honored to be keynoting (it’s becoming real, with my travel planned, and schedule set), but it looks like a great launch to what will hopefully  be a continuing event.  If you’re in the Asia Pacific region, and are interested in mLearning, it’s the place to be.  There are a number of names I recognize and more to meet.  If you do go, say hi!

5 September 2012

Inappropriate usage?

Clark @ 12:23 PM

A few days ago, my colleague Jay Cross wrote a post on plagiarism, dealing with the fact that some of his work (even an example of some of our collaborative work) was being used without attribution. He preceded me in the use of Creative Commons licensing, but from his example (and Harold Jarche), I placed a BY – NC – SA license in the side bar.  Fast forward to today, and I get alerted by a colleague (thanks, Martin!) that my stuff is appearing without attribution.

Site of my scraped contentAt their site (see screenshot), 4 of the first 6 posts listed are mine. Full grab of the text, graphics, and all.  Not all of mine are there, but many.   The posts may no longer be there by the time you read this, but they were when I was notified, as the screenshot shows.  And, apparently, for a while in the past.  Look at my list of blog posts, and you’ll see that these were my four most recent posts.

Now, the license I mentioned means three things I ask for.  First, you say who it’s BY (i.e. attribution). That it’s NC No Charge, i.e. you’re not making money off of it (if you are, let’s work out a deal). And that it’s SA Share Alike. Others can take your content too. So, you’re welcome to use any or all of a post if you a) attribute it to me, b) don’t charge, and c) you are willing for any work created from mine to similarly be shared.  I see that this group has only violated one, but I’m inclined to think it’s an important one. It’s my thinking, after all.

As you might imagine, this upsets me.  I work hard to put worthwhile information out.  I expect to at least get credit for it, given that it provides no direct revenue (yep, still ad-free).  To have someone take my intellectual property and redistribute under their banner, without at least providing a pointer back strikes me as less than appropriate.  I note Jeff Cobb is getting credit.  Why not me?

Sure I’m grateful that they find it worth quoting, but not if they’re implying it’s theirs.  They’re getting value from my thinking, and I’m not getting anything in return.  Other have redistributed my posts, and they can, as long as they credit me (and aren’t charging for it).  That’s of value to me.  Unattributed, not so much.

By the way, when I pointed this out, several others indicated that this site has or has had unattributed content from themselves or others in the past.  You have to wonder…

Am I too touchy about this?



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