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

6 December 2017

Conceptual Clarity

Clark @ 8:07 AM

Ok, so I can be a bit of a pedant.  Blame it on my academic background, but I believe conceptual clarity is important! If we play fast and loose with terminology, we can be be convinced of something without truly understanding it.  Ultimately, we can waste money chasing unwarranted directions, and worse, perhaps even do wrong by our learners.

Where do the problems arise?  Sometimes, it’s easy to ride a bizbuzz bandwagon.  Hey, the topic is hot, and it sounds good.  Other times, it’s just too hard to spend the effort. Yet getting it wrong ends up meaning you’re wasting resources.

Let’s be clear, I’m not talking myths. Those abound, but here I’m talking about ideas that are being used relatively indiscriminately, but in at least one interpretation there’s real value.  The important thing is to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Some concepts that are running around recently and could use some clarity are the following:

Microlearning.  I tried to be clear about this here. In short, microlearning is about small chunks where the learning aggregates over time.  Aka spaced learning.  But other times, people really mean performance support (just-in-time help to succeed in the moment). What you don’t want is someone pretending it’s so unique that they can trademark it.

70:20:10.  This is another that some people deride, and others find value in. I’ve also talked about this.   The question is why they differ, and my answer is that the folks who use it as a way to think more clearly about a whole learning experience find value. Those who fret about the label are missing the point.  And I acknowledge that the label is a barrier, but that horse has bolted.

Neuro- (aka brain- ). Yes, our brains are neurologically based. And yes, there are real implications. Some.  Like ‘the neurons that fire together, wire together’.  And yet there’re a whole lot of discussions about neuro that are really at the next higher level: cognitive.  This is just misleading folks to make it sound more scientific.

Unlearning. There’s a lot of talk about unlearning, but in the neurological sense it doesn’t make sense. You don’t unlearn something.  As far as we can tell, it’s still there, just increasingly hard to activate. The only real way to ‘unlearn’ is to learn some other response to the same situation.  You learn ‘over’ the old learning. Or overlearn.  But not unlearn. It’s an unconcept.

Gamification. This is actually the one that triggered this post. In theory, gamification is the application of game mechanics to learning.  Interestingly, Raph Koster wrote that what makes games fun are that they are intrinsically about learning!  However, there are important nuances.  It’s not just about adding PBL (points, badges, and leaderboards). These aren’t bad things, but they’re secondary.  Designing the intrinsic action around the decisions learners need to acquire is a deeper and more meaningful implication.  Yet people tend to ignore the latter because it’s ‘harder’.  Yet it’s really just about good learning design.

There are more, of course, but hopefully these illustrate the problem. (What are yours?)  Please, please, be professional and take the time to get clear about our cognitive architecture enough to ensure that you can make these distinctions on your own. We need the conceptual clarity!  Hopefully then we can reserve excitement for ideas that truly add value.

5 December 2017

Usability and Networks

Clark @ 8:04 AM

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have been using Safari and Google to traverse the networks. And in a comment, I mentioned that the recent launch of the new Firefox browser was prompting me to switch.  And that’s now been put through a test, and I thought it instructive to share my learnings.

The rationale for the switch is that I don’t completely trust Google and Apple with my data. Or anyone, really, for that matter.  On principle. I had used Safari over Chrome because I trust Apple a wee bit more, and Firefox was a bit slow.  And Safari just released a version that stops videos from auto-starting. And similarly, Google’s search has been the best, and with a browser extension and some adjustments, I was getting ads blocked, tracking stopped, and more.  Still, I wasn’t happy.  And I hadn’t figured out how to do an image search with DuckDuckGo (something I do a fair bit) the last time I tried, so that hadn’t been a search option.

All this changed with the release of Firefox’s new Quantum browser. After a trial spin, the speed was good, as was the whole experience.  Now, I want to have an integrated experience across my devices, so I downloaded the Firefox versions for my iDevices as well.  And, as long as I was changing, I tried DuckDuckGo again, and found it did have browser search.  So I made it my search engine as well.

And, after about a week of experience, I’m not sticking with Firefox.  The desktop version is all I want, but the iDevice versions don’t cut it. I use my toolbar bookmarks a lot.  Many times a day.  And on the iDevices, they do synch, but…they’re buried behind four extra clicks. And that’s just not acceptable.  The user experience kills it for me. Those versions also don’t take advantage of the revised code behind the new desktop version, but it wasn’t the speed that killed the deal.  The point I want to make is that you have to look at the total experience, not just one or another in isolation. It’s time for an ecosystem perspective.

On the other hand, I’m still trying DuckDuckGo.  It seems to have a good output on it’s hits.  And the fact that they’re not tracking me is important.  If I can avoid it, I will.  Sure, my ISP still can track me, and so can Apple, but I’ll keep working on those.  Oddly, it seems to return differently on different devices (?!?!).  Still testing.

And, as long as we’re talking the net, I’m going to do something I don’t usually do here; I’m going to take a position on something besides learning. To do so, let me provide some context. I’ve been on the net since before there was a web.  Way before.  Circa 1978, I was able to send and receive email even though there wasn’t any internet. I was at a uni with ARPANET, however, so I had a taste. Roll forward a decade and more, and I was playing with Gopher and WAIS and USENET before Tim Berners-Lee had created http.  That is, there were other protocols that preceded it. (In fact, I was blasé about the web at first, because of that; doh!)  My point is that I’ve been leveraging the benefits of networks for a bloody long time.

And now we depend on it. The internet is the basis for elearning! And, of course, so much more. It has vastly accelerated our ability to interact. And while that’s created problems, it’s also enabled incredible benefits.  Innovation flourishes when there are open standards.  When people can build upon a solid and open foundation, creativity means new opportunity.  Network effects are true for people and for data.

Which is why I’m firmly in the camp for net neutrality.  This is important!  (It must be, because I used bold, which I almost never do ;). The alternative, where providers will be able to throttle or even bar certain types of data will stifle innovation.  It’s like plumbing, telephone, and electricity: they need to be available as long as you can pay your bill (and there need to be options to support those with limited incomes).  Please, pleaseplease let your elected representatives and the FCC know that this is important to you.

 

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