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

21 November 2017

My Professional Learner’s Toolkit

Clark @ 8:07 AM

My colleague, Harold Jarche, recently posted about his professional learning toolkit, reflecting our colleague Jane Hart’s post about a Modern Learner’s Toolkit. It’s a different cut through the top 10 tools.  So I thought I’d share mine, and my reflections.

Favorite browser and search engine: I use Safari and Google, by default. Of course, I keep Chrome and Firefox around for when something doesn’t work (e.g. Qualtrics).  I would prefer another search engine, probably DuckDuckGo, but I’m not facile with it, for instance finding images.

A set of trusted web resources: That’d be Wikipedia, pretty much. And online magazines, such as eLearnMag and Learning Solutions, and ones for my personal interests. I use Pixabay many times to find images.

A number of news and curation tools: I use Google News and the ABC (Oz, not US) in my browser, and the BBC and News apps on my iDevices. I also use Feedblitz to bring blogposts into my email.  I keep my own bookmarks using my browser.

Favorite web course platforms: I haven’t really taken online courses. I’ve used Zoom to share.

A range of social networks: I use LinkedIn professionally, as well as Slack. And Twitter, of course.  I stay in touch with my ITA colleagues via Skype.  Facebook is largely personal.

A personal information system: I use both Notability and Notes to take notes.  Notes more for personal stuff, Notability for work-related. I use Omnigraffle for diagrams and mindmaps.  And OmniOutliner also helps when I want to think hierarchically.

A blogging or website tool: I use WordPress for Learnlets (i.e. here), and I use Rapidweaver for my sites: Quinnovation and my book sites.

A variety of productivity apps and tools: Calendar is crucial, and Pagico keeps me on track for projects. I use Google Maps for navigation. I use SplashID for passwords and other private data. I often read and markup documents on my iPad with GoodReader. CloudClip lets me share a multi-item clipboard across my devices.  Reflection: this overlaps with the personal information system.

A preferred office suite: I don’t have a preferred suite, though I’d like to use the Apple Suite. I use Word to write (Pages hasn’t had industrial-strength outlining), Keynote to create presentations (e.g. one from each suite). I don’t create sheets often.

A range of communication and collaboration tools: I use Google Drive to collaborate on representations.  I have used Dropbox to share documents as well. And of course Mail for email.   Reflection: this overlaps with social networks.

1 or more smart devices: I’d be lost without my iPhone and iPad (neither of which is the latest model). I use the phone for ‘in the moment’ things, the iPad for when I have longer time frames.

So, that’s my toolkit, what’s yours?

Jane's toolkit diagram

15 November 2017

#AECT17 Reflections

Clark @ 8:10 AM

Ok, so I was an academic for a brief and remarkably good period of time (a long time ago). Mind you, I’ve kept my hand in: reviewing journal and conference submissions, writing the occasional book chapter, contributing to some research, even playing a small role in some grant-funded projects. I like academics, it’s just that circumstances took me away (and I like consulting too; different, not one better). However, there’re a lot of benefits from being engaged, particularly keeping up with the state of the art. At least one perspective… Hence, I attended the most recent meeting of the Association of Educational Communications & Technology, pretty much the society for academics in instructional technology.

The event features many of your typical components: keynotes, sessions, receptions, and the interstitial social connections. One of the differences is that there’s no vendor exhibition. And there are a lot of concurrent sessions: roughly 27 per time slot!   Now, you have to understand, there are multiple agendas, including giving students and new faculty members opportunities for presentations and feedback. There are also sessions designed for tapping into the wisdom of the elders, and working sessions to progress understandings. This was only my second, so I may have the overall tenor wrong.  Regardless, here are some reflections from the event:

For one, it’s clear that there’s an overall awareness of what could, and should, be happening in education. In the keynotes, the speakers repeatedly conveyed messages about effective learning. What wasn’t effectively addressed was the comprehensive resistance of the education system to meaningful change.  Still, all three keynotes, Driscoll, Cabrera, and Reeves, commented in one way or another on problems and opportunities in education. Given that many of the faculty members come from Departments of Education, this is understandable.

Another repeated emergent theme (at least for me) was the need for meaningful research. What was expressed by Tom Reeves in a separate session was the need for a new approach to research grounded in focusing on real problems. I’ve been a fan of his call for Design-Based Research, and liked what he said: all thesis students should introduce their topics with the statement “the problem I’m looking at is”. The sessions, however, seemed to include too many small studies. (In my most cynical moments, I wonder how many studies have looked at teaching students or teacher professional development and their reflections/use of technology…).

One session I attended was quite exciting. The topic was the use of neuroscience in learning, and the panel were all people using scans and other neuroscience data to inform learning design. While I generally deride the hype that usually accompanies the topic, here were real researchers talking actual data and the implications, e.g. for dyslexia.  While most of the results from research that have implications for design are still are at the cognitive level, it’s important to continue to push the boundaries.

I focused my attendance mostly on the Organizational Training & Performance group, and heard a couple of good talks.  One was a nice survey of mentoring, looking across the research, and identifying what results there were, and where there were still opportunities for research. Another study did a nice job of synthesizing models for human performance technology, though the subsequent validation approach concerned me.

I did a couple of presentations myself that I’ll summarize in tomorrow’s post, but it was a valuable experience. The challenges are different than in corporate learning technology, but there are interesting outcomes that are worth tracking.  A valuable experience.

10 November 2017

Tom Reeves AECT Keynote Mindmap

Clark @ 7:11 AM

Thomas Reeves opened the third day of the AECT conference with an engaging keynote that used the value of conation to drive the argument for Authentic Learning. Conation is the component of cognition that consists of your intent to learn, and is under-considered. Authentic learning is very much collaborative problem-solving. He used the challenges from robots/AI to motivate the argument.

Mindmap

9 November 2017

Derek Cabrera AECT Keynote Mindmap

Clark @ 7:25 AM

Derek Cabrera opened the second day of the AECT conference with an insightful talk about systems thinking and the implications for education. With humorous examples he covered the elements of systems thinking and why it means we need to switch pedagogies to a constructivist approach.

Mindmap

18 October 2017

Stay Curious

Clark @ 8:09 AM

One of my ongoing recommendations to people grew out of a toss-off line, playing off an advertisement. Someone asked about a strategy for continuing to learn (if memory serves), and I quipped “stay curious, my friends”.  However, as I ponder it, I think more and more that such an approach is key.

I was thinking of this trend the the other day as “intellectual restlessness”. What I’m talking about is being intrigued by things you don’t understand that have persisted or recently crossed your awareness, and pursuing it. It’s not just saying, how interesting, but recognizing connections, and pondering how it could change what you do. Even to the point of actually changing!

It also would include pointing interesting things to other people who would benefit.  This doesn’t always have to happen, but in the spirit of cooperation (in the Jarche sense), we could and should contribute, curate, when we can.  And, ideally, leaving trails of your explorations that others can benefit from. Writings, diagrams, videos, what have you, helps yourself as well as others.

Old Infoworld magazinesI was reminiscing that more than 30 years ago, on top of my job designing educational computer games, I was already curious. I still have copies of the magazines containing reviews I did (one hardware, one software), as well as a journal article based upon undergraduate research I was fortunate to participate in.

And that persistence in curiosity has led to a trail of artefacts. You may have come across the books, book chapters, articles, presentations, etc. And, of course, this blog for the past decade and more. (May it continue!) However, I’m not here to tout my wares, but instead to point to the benefit of being curious.

As things change faster, a continuing interest is what provides an ongoing ability to adapt. All the news about the ongoing changes in jobs and work isn’t likely to lessen.  Staying curious benefits you, your colleagues and friends, and I reckon society in general.  You want to look at many sources of information, track tangential fields, and be open to new ideas.

This isn’t just your choice, of course, ideally your organization is supportive. These lateral inputs are a component of innovation, as is time to allow for serendipity and incubation. Orgs that want to be able to be agile will need this capabilities as well. I suppose organizations need to stay curious as well!

 

29 September 2017

Mundanities

Clark @ 8:02 AM

This post is late, as my life has been a little less reflective, and a little more filled with some mundane issues.  There’re some changes here around the Quinnstitute, and they take bandwidth.  For a small update on these mundanities with some lessons:

standing deskFirst, I moved office from the side of the house back to the front. My son had occupied it, but he’s settled into an apartment for college, and I prefer the view out to the street (to keep an eye on the neighborhood). Of course, this entailed some changes:

My ergonomic chair stopped working, and it took several days to a) find out someone who’d repair it, b) get it there, wait for it to get fixed, and get it back.  It’s worth it (a lot less than replacing) and ergonomics is important.

Speaking of which, I also now could get a standup desk, or in my case one of those convertible desks that lets you raise and lower your workspace. I’ve been wanting one since the research has come out on the problems with sitting.  We’d previously constructed a custom desktop (with legs from Ikea!), for the odd shaped room, so it was desirable to just put it on top. So far, so good. Strongly recommended.

Also bought a used bookshelf (rather than move the one from the old office).  Real wood, real heavy.  Used those ‘forearm forklift’ straps to get it in. They work!  And, this being earthquake country, had to strap it to the wall. Still to come: filling with books.

At the same time, fed up with all the companies that provide internet and cable television, we decided to change. (We changed mobile providers back in January.)  As I noted previously, companies use policies to their advantage. One of the approaches is that they sell you a two year package, but then there’s no notification that the time’s up and the rate jumps up. And you can’t find just a low rate provider (I don’t even mind if it’s higher than the bonus deal). Everyone uses this practice. Sigh.

As I said, I can’t find anyone better, but just decided to change. That involved conversations, and research, and installation time, and turning off the old systems.  At least we’re getting a) a lower rate, b) nicer DVR, and c) faster internet.  For the time being. While the new provider promised to ping me before the plan runs out, the old provider says they can’t. See what I mean?  Regardless, I’ve got a trigger before it expires to sign up anew. Or change again.  That’s the lesson on this one.

And of course there are some conversations about some upcoming presentations. I was away last week presenting, and have one coming up next month (ATD China Summit, if you’re near Shanghai say hello) and several in November at AECT in Jacksonville.  You’ve seen some of the AI reflections, more likely to come on the new topics.

And there’s been some background work. Reading a couple of books, and working on two projects. Stay tuned for a couple of new things early next year.

The lesson, of course, is trying to find time to reflect while you’re executing on mundanities is more challenging, but still a valuable investment.  I fight to make time, I hope you do too!

20 September 2017

Transparency

Clark @ 8:09 AM

I believe that transparency is a good thing. It builds trust, as it makes it hard to hide things.  And trust is important. So, in the spirit of transparency, it occurred to me to share a little bit about me and this blog. Here I lay out who I am, why I write it, and what I write about.

You can find out more via the ‘about Clark Quinn’ link in the right column, but in brief, I saw the connection between computing and learning as an undergraduate, and it’s been my career ever since. It’s not just my vocation, but it’s my avocation: I enjoy exploring cognition and technology. And while I’ve done the science and track it, what I revel in (and have demonstrable capability for), is applying cognitive and learning science to create new approaches and fine-tune existing ones.  Learning engineering, if you will.

And, for a variety of reasons, I do this as a consultant. I make my living providing strategic guidance for clients.  I speak at events, and write books, but my main income is from consulting. Which means you should hire me.  I assist organizations to improve their processes and products, both tactically and strategically. My clients have been happy, and find it’s good value. What you get are unique ideas that are practical and yet effective. Ideas you aren’t likely to have come up with, but are valuable. I really do Quinnovate! Check out the Quinnovation site for more.  Of course, I do have to live in the real world, and so I need to find ways to do this that are mutually beneficial.

Yet generating business isn’t why I write this blog.  I started writing this blog as an experiment and originally tried to write 5 days a week (but was happy if that ended up being 2-3 times a week).  My commitment now is 2 per week (which rarely yields 1 or 3).  And I haven’t monetized it: there’s no advertising, and while I occasionally talk about where I’m speaking or the like, I haven’t used this as a way to sell things. Hopefully that can continue.

So, the reason I write is to think ‘out loud’.  It’s largely for me: it makes me think. I’m just always curious! I’ve previously recounted the story about how I was on a panel answering questions from the audience, and one of my fellow panelists commented that I had an answer for everything. And the reason is in the ongoing attempt to populate the blog, I’ve looked at lots of things. As my client engagements have been in many different areas, I also have wide-ranging experience to draw upon.  And I just naturally reflect, but getting concrete: diagramming and/or writing, provides additional benefits.

Thus, the process of continually writing (for over 10 years now) means I’m looking at lots of things, reflecting on them, and sharing my thoughts. I also make a point to look at related fields, and look for connections. I also look at what’s happening with technology. In general, I look with a critical eye, as I was trained as a scientist.  I think that’s valuable as well, because there still is a lot of nonsense trotted out, and there’s always some new buzzword that’s being loosely tossed about. Blogging’s given me cause to continue to tune my thinking, and at least some folks have commented that they’ve found it useful.

Mostly I write about things related to technology, learning, and individual and organizational implications. It includes diversions to innovation, design, wisdom, performance support, and the like, because they’ve implications for practice. In many ways I see approaches that aren’t well aligned with how we think, work, and learn, and that strikes me as both a shame, and an opportunity to improve. And that’s what I enjoy, finding ways to improve what we do.

So that’s it: I blog to facilitate my understanding, because cognitive science and technology is my passion. It isn’t a direct business move.  I do need to make a living, and prefer to do it in the area of my passion, and fortunately have been successful so far.  (Which isn’t to say you shouldn’t find a reason to use me, there are never enough opportunities to assist in improvement, and I’m not a sales person ;).  And yes, this life is a learning experience all in itself!  I hope this is clear, but in the interests of transparency I welcome your inquiries and comments. Stay curious, my friends.

 

19 September 2017

Mark Kelly C3 Keynote Mindmap

Clark @ 1:06 PM

Astronaut Mark Kelly gave a warm, funny, and inspiring talk.  He used stories from his youth, learning to fly, becoming an astronaut, and being husband to Gabby Gifford to emphasize key success factors.

(I confess that owing to his style of elocution, punctuating stories with very pithy comments, I may have missed a point or two at the beginning until I picked up on it.)

 

30 August 2017

Coping with Cognition

Clark @ 8:03 AM

Our brains are amazing things. They make sense of the world, and have developed language to help us both make better sense together and to communicate our learnings. And yet, this same amazing architecture has some vulnerabilities too. And I just fell prey to one, and it’s making reflect on what we can do, and what we still can’t. Our cognition is powerful, but also limited.

So, yesterday I had a great idea for a post for today. Now, I multi-task, and I have several things going at once. I have strategies to get these things done despite the fact that multi-tasking doesn’t work. So for one, I have a specific goal for several of the projects each day. I write tasks for projects into a project management tool. I even keep windows open to remind me of things to do. And I write non-project oriented tasks into a separate ToDo list.  But…

I didn’t document the blog post idea before I did something else, and got distracted by one of my open projects. I don’t know which, but I lost the post.  Many times, I can regenerate it, but this time I couldn’t.

See, our brain has limitations, and one of them is a limited working memory. And we have evolved powerful tools to support those gaps, including those mentioned above. But we can’t capture all of them.  Will we be able to? Unless I consciously acted at the time to do something, whether asked Siri to note it, or made a note, those ephemeral thoughts can escape.  And I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.

The flaws in our thinking actually have advantages.  We can let go ideas to deal with new ones. And we can miss things because we’re focusing on something. That’s the power of our architecture.  And if we focus on the power, and scaffold as much as we can, and let go what we can’t, we really shouldn’t ask for more.

Our ability to scaffold continues to get better. AI, better interfaces, more processing power, better device interoperations, and smaller and more capable sensors are all ongoing. We’re learning more about putting that to use by via innovation.  And yet we’ll still have gaps. I think we should be ok with that. Serendipity and experimentation mean we’ll have unintended consequences, and generally those may be bad, but every once in a while they may be better. And we can’t find that without some ‘wildness’ (which is also an argument for nature conservation).  So I’m trying to not get too upset.  I’m cutting our cognition some slack. Let’s not lose the ability to be human.

24 August 2017

Extending Engagement

Clark @ 8:09 AM

My post on why ‘engagement’ should be added to effective and efficient led to some discussion on LinkedIn. In particular, some questions were asked that I thought I should reflect on.  So here are my responses to the issue of how to ‘monetize’ engagement, and how it relates to the effectiveness of learning.

So the first issue was how to justify the extra investment engagement would entail. It was an assumption that it would take extra investment, but I believe it will. Here’s why. To make a learning experience engaging, you need some additional things: knowing why this is of interest and relevance to practitioners, and putting that into the introduction, examples, and practice.  With practice, that’s going to come with only a marginal overhead. More importantly, that is part of also making it more effective. There is some additional information needed, and more careful design, and that certainly is more than most of what’s being done now. (Even if it should be.)

So why would you put in this extra effort?  What are the benefits? As the article suggested, the payoffs are several:

  • First, learners know more intrinsically why they should pay attention. This means they’ll pay more attention, and the learning will be more effective. And that’s valuable, because it should increase the outcomes of the learning.
  • Second, the practice is distributed across more intriguing contexts. This means that the practice will have higher motivation.  When they’re performing, they’re motivated because it matters. If we have more motivation in the learning practice, it’s closer to the performance context, so we’re making the transfer gap smaller. Again, this will make the learning more effective.
  • Third, that if you unpack the meaningfulness of the examples, you’ll make the underlying thinking easier to assimilate. The examples are comprehended better, and that leads to more effectiveness.

If learning’s a probabilistic game (and it is), and you increase the likelihood of it sticking, you’re increasing the return on your investment. If the margin to do it right is less than the value of the improvement in the learning, that’s a business case. And I’ll suggest that these steps are part of making learning effective, period. So it’s really going from a low likelihood of transfer – 20-30% say – to effective learning – maybe 70-80%.  Yes, I’m making these numbers up, but…

This is really all part of going from information dump & knowledge test to elaborated examples and contextualized practice.  So that’s really not about engagement, it’s about effectiveness. And a lot of what’s done under the banner of ‘rapid elearning’ is ineffective.  It may be engaging, but it isn’t leading to new skills.

Which is the other issue: a claim that engagement doesn’t equal better learning. And in general I agree (see: activity doesn’t mean effectiveness in a social media tool). It depends on what you mean by engagement; I don’t mean trivialized scores equalling more activity. I mean fundamental cognitive engagement: ‘hard fun’, not just fun.  Intrinsic relevance. Not marketing flare, but real value add.

Hopefully this helps!  I really want to convince you that you want deep learning design if you care about the outcomes.  (And if you don’t, why are you bothering? ;).  It goes to effectiveness, and requires addressing engagement. I’ll also suggest that while it does affect efficiency, it does so in marginal ways compared to substantial increases in impact.  And that strikes me as the type of step one should be taking. Agreed?

 

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