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

19 September 2017

Patty McCord Litmos Keynote Mindmap

Clark @ 3:53 PM

Patty McCord, famous for the Netflix Culture Deck, spoke on culture. She talked about sharing the stage with sports coaching legends, and how they were personal but focused. Her stories of the early days of Netflix and how they made tough but fair decisions were peppered with important lessons.

Keynote mindmap

30 May 2017

Deliberate Practice

Clark @ 8:03 AM

A colleague pointed me to a intense critique of master’s programs in Instructional Design, and it raised several issues for me. So, I thought it’d be worth discussing.  The issue is that the program didn’t provide any practice in designing courses from go to whoa, it was all about theory. In the comments, many people talk about how the programs they went did include projects, but this raises issues around the role of programs as well as what practice means.

Is a master’s supposed to be about skill-building?  Is it job training?  In the original academic model, I’d argue that an advanced degree would be to augment your experience with some theory.  E.g. if you were an accountant, or an engineer, or even a designer, with experience under your belt, you’d go for a master’s to serve as reflection in developing the concepts you perform under.  You might (and should) apply them, but that’s not the focus.

David Merrill has made the case that there should be bachelor’s programs in ID, and I think this makes sense.  And maybe that’s where you’d actually get the hands-on experience designing courses.  Of course, the reality is that many master’s (and even bachelor’s degrees) have become vocational training. Which raises the second issue.

Then the question becomes: how much practice?  Indeed, if I need to develop a practical skill, I need to perform the skills.  And too much of education and training, just doesn’t do it.  The author talked about deliberate practice: where you focus on one element with a coach there to critique your performance.  It could be faked problems, or a real apprenticeship, but it’s a tight coupling between designed action and guided reflection (what instruction needs to be).

Look at performance where it matters: flight, warfare, medicine. You’re gradually scaffolded from simple practice to complex. Heck, if I want to learn fire-fighting, rather than a classroom and then one go at a burning building, I’d rather have a simple building, then gradually ramp up the complexity (victims, second stories, inflammables, …).  All with some instructor yelling at me when I screwed up!  Yes, there’d be content, with animations about how fire spreads, and some facts about smoke inhalation and the like, but the focus would be on performing.

And this holds true for job skills whether it’s vocational training or university (which is increasingly being expected to prepare people for jobs).  Accounting?  Analyze statements for biz problems, make recommendations for reallocation, etc. Quite a bit, that drives you to the content.

My take-home: if you have real practice, you need reflection. If you don’t, you need real practice first. Focused practice. Intense practice.  Scaling-up practice!  We need to get our ratios right.   If you’re needing skills, then make sure you’ve got good practice up front.

15 November 2016

Collaboration, Communication, and Cooperation

Clark @ 8:03 AM

Teams, Communities, & Networks for collaboration and cooperationIn thinking about the Coherent Organization, the original proposal from my colleague Harold Jarche was that were two key attitudes: collaboration and cooperation. And I find myself talking about collaboration and communication.  It’s time to try to reconcile those, and propose why I think collaboration is a new business watchword.

So, Harold argues that there are two key ways of working, collaborating and cooperating.  To him, collaboration is when you’re committed to a goal to achieve, whether involuntarily or voluntarily.  Cooperation, for him, is when you have the willingness to continue to contribute on an ongoing basis: putting out your own work, commenting on others, and answering questions. And he suggests that cooperation is the more important, as it’s more voluntary. And I agree that it’s likely that needs will drive collaboration, and cooperation comes from within (and in a safe environment).  I think he’s talking about personal commitment, and rightly so.

So why do I talk about communication and collaboration? Because the vehicle for cooperation is communication, and so we not only need the impetus to contribute, but the skills. He’s talking about creating an effective network, and I’m talking about getting the job done.  He’s nurturing a culture, and I’m about developing practices.  Which are both needed and mutually reinforcing, and so I think we’re agreeing furiously.

And as I write this, my own thinking is changing. I do believe collaboration is what’s going to get things done for organizations in the short term, but I think there are two notions of collaboration.  One is the traditional form of a team working on a project. However, there’s another approach that takes the longer term view.  Here, it’s about people keeping a casual eye on what’s going on and serendipitous sparks fan flames.  That does require cooperation, of course.

I’ve recently been reading Stephen Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From, and Keith Sawyer’s Group Genius  (both recommended), and it’s clear that true innovation is about getting people to work together over time.  Real innovation percolates, suffers mistakes, and can’t be forced or planned. While I think progress can be made by teams working on specific needs, the change in my thinking is realizing that the longer term process of real innovation requires continual contribution in networks. What Sawyer terms ‘collaboration webs’.  And this will require cooperation.

As an aside, there are still big opportunities for collaboration tools.  On a recent #lrnchat, a colleague shared how she was collaborating on presentations using Google Slides. And I’ve done much important work with others using Google Docs and Sheets.  And tools exist for diagramming, and white boarding, and more.  Still, the tools feel embryonic. I want voice and text live as well as comments. I want to have flexible representations mixed in, so I can be working on numbers and diagrams and text in one doc (a brief eulogy here for the fabulous program Trapeze that had a revolutionary document model decades ago).

While collaboration may get the immediate focus and the ink inches (I guess pixels these days :) – because of new tools, and the immediate business benefits – I think the longer term need will be to create an environment where the culture, the practices, and the tools are aligned for successful learning.  I think there’re reasons to focus on both, but the important thing is to recognize the differences and get both right. Amy Edmondson, in her book on organizational agility Teaming, suggested using the term ‘learning’ instead of innovation, as it focused on longer term and made it safer.  So perhaps I’ll talk about organizational learning for the long term, and use collaboration for the short term work.  What do you think?


9 November 2016

Extending engagements

Clark @ 8:06 AM

In a couple of recent posts, I’ve been telling tales of helping organizations, and I wanted to tell at least one more. In this case, I’m extending the type of work I’ve done to have a real impact, still with a low overhead.  The key is to include some followup activities.

Serious eLearning

In one instance, a person who’d attended my game design workshop wanted to put it into practice.  With a colleague, they were wanting to improve their online learning to better support their stakeholders, and wanted to deepen the experience.  The goal was to provide their learners opportunities to practice success skills.

We knew they were were going to be developing scenarios, so the key was the develop the skills of these two. Consequently, we arranged a series of meetings where they’d deliver their latest work, and I’d not only critique it, but use it as opportunities to deepen their understanding. This occurred over a period of a couple of months, on calls for an hour or so.  Each call would occur a short time after they delivered their latest version.

It took several iterations, but their outputs improved substantially.  When we were comfortable with their progress, the engagement was over.

Learning Strategy

In another instance, a company was moving to a ‘customer experience’ focus, and wanted to workshop what this meant for the training function.  They had already planned on using a particular process that involves a team of stakeholders on a week-long meeting, and in particular that process called for one outsider (yours truly).  Beforehand, I got up to speed on their business and current status.

During that week, I found my role to continue to advocate for taking a bigger picture of meeting customer learning and performance needs.  They found it easy to slip back into thinking of courses, but continued to ‘get’ that they should look at augmenting their work with performance support. Given that their product was complex, it became clear that ‘how to’ videos were a real opportunity..    They were particularly excited about the concept of ‘spacing’ practice, and loved the spacing diagram originated by my colleague Will Thalheimer.

What’s more important is that we also built in several ongoing reviews. So, their process had a few subsequent deliverables, and we worked out that they would come through me for feedback.  In general, new ideas can backslide if not reinforced, and this process helped them cement in several new features, including a new emphasis on the videos.

consulttaleslogoThe point being, extending engagements with a few simple followups provides a much higher likelihood of improvement than just a one-off.  It doesn’t take much, and the outcome is better.  It is a spaced practice, really, and we know that works better.  I reckon the marginal extra investment yields a much bigger benefit.  Does that make sense to  you?

25 October 2016

Reconciling Activity and Decisions

Clark @ 8:04 AM

In preparing to work with a client on developing their learning science understanding, I realized that I was using two representations about meaningful learner interaction that could be seen to be conflicting.  On the one hand I talk about using decisions as a basis for design, and on the other I refer to activity-based learning. And I have separate diagrams for each.  What was necessary was reconciling activity and decisions.

decision structureSo first, I talk about how we should be putting learners in the place to make decisions like they’ll need to be making after the learning experience.  We need to put them in a context, and then a particular event triggers the need for a decision. And then there are options for actions to take.  From the design point of view, there are correct answers, and wrong answers. These wrong answers, of course, should reflect where learners go wrong, reflecting reliable misconceptions. People don’t make errors randomly, mostly, but instead reflect inappropriate models being brought to bear.  And after their choices, there are consequences. I like for those consequences to be represented first, before the external feedback comes in.  This is just a better multiple choice question (or other canned interaction), but…

If the consequences of the initial decision  lead to a new situation and new decisions, now we’re talking a full scenario (whether implemented via branching or a full simulation-driven experience). Note that this is also the structure of a game.  In fact, this emerged from game designer Sid Maier’s quote about how games are a series of interesting decisions. Hence, serious games are a series of interesting and important decisions!  And, of course, this is programmed in advance (if we’re not talking about online role playing), so learners get feedback without necessary human intervention (though there’re powerful benefits to collecting discussion around the learning challenge).

activity structureHowever, I also have characterized learning as a series of activities, and those activities generate some work product and are (ideally) annotated with reflections. These products can (and arguably should be) cast as a response to some storyline that has them in a role related to the ones they’re likely to be in after the learning experience (even with some exaggeration).  These are complex outputs that are unlikely to be aut0-marked, and can be the basis of either or both of peer or mentor review.

The benefits here are that when we make the work product reflect real practice, we’re developing a suite of outcomes beyond just the content. We can require different formats –  presentations, spreadsheets, documents – developing modeling and communication skills. We can require group work, developing interpersonal skills. And we’re developing time management and project management skills as well. The tradeoff is the amount of mentoring time.

The challenge, then, is to identify the differences, and then think about when you’d use each.  The obvious difference is the simpler  structure for decisions.   While a branching scenario or programmed simulation/game is more than one decision, it’s still more linear than creating a product.  Developing a product is typically a series of many decisions! Hence the difficultly for auto-marking, but also the power for learning. It depends on the learning outcome you need, of course.  Now, too many activities in a short period of time could tax instructor time, so the best answer (as in many things) is to have a blend.

That’s my reconciliation of activity and decisions.  Does it make sense to you?  What did I miss?

9 June 2016

Soraya Darabi #FocusOnLearn Keynote Mindmap

Clark @ 7:30 AM

Soraya Dorabi opened the second day of the FocusOn Learning conference with a presentation on how data is changing learning and performance. Hampered by technology hiccups, Soraya talked about the ways in which all digital platforms generate data and how that data could be leveraged to support personalized education. She also raised the issue of the ethical entailments.

8 June 2016

Scott Dadich #FocusOnLearn Keynote Mindmap

Clark @ 7:54 AM

Scott Dadich, editor-in-chief at Wired, opened the eLearning Guild’s FocusOn Learning conference with a keynote on Designing the Future. He presented three meta-narratives – stories that emerge and transcend an individual article – that he said define the future. Transportation is being fundamentally being transformed by applying network thinking. Virtual reality is growing, but the disappearance of the ‘device’ can transform our experience of presence. And machine learning means we may not comprehend the intelligent behavior that emerges.  Interesting stuff!

17 May 2016

Reading List additions

Clark @ 8:15 AM

I’ve been reading a few other books, and have written up some book reviews on two of them.

For the Revolution Reading List, I strongly encourage you to read Amy Edmondson’s Teaming, it’s a great review of the needed changes for organizations to embrace innovation.  My eLearn Mag review is here.

For no specific list, but as a book that was really transformational for my thinking, Todd Rose’s The End of Average really helped point out the problems with our current obsession with simplistic evaluations of people.  My review for eLearn Mag is here.

And some thoughts on Doug Engelbart, a visionary who’s contributed greatly to our thinking can be seen in this article for Learning Solutions, here.

As always, I welcome hearing your thoughts on these, or your own recommendations!

17 March 2016

David Kwong #LSCon Keynote Mindmap

Clark @ 6:57 AM

David Kwong wowed the Learning Solutions audience with amazing tricks and a bit of insight into the nature of magic based upon our brains.

9 March 2016

The Quinnovation Spring ’16 Itinerary

Clark @ 8:08 AM

As usual, there’re a number of events queued up for the coming months:

I’ll be at Learning Solutions doing a couple sessions, one on measurement, one on culture, next week March 16-18 in Orlando. Both key issues in the ‘revolution‘.

And I’ll be at FocusOn Learning June 7-10 in Austin, with a workshop on mobile cognition, an introductory mlearning session, and a talk on context.

I’ll also be keynoting the International Conference on eLearning in the Workplace June 15-17 in New York.

There’re a couple more that may be showing up, and of course there’re some special events for clients happening in various places as well.  If you’re going, say ‘hello’!

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