Friday, June 29, 2007

Kineo Interview with Yours Truly

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of talking with Stephen Walsh of Kineo. I met the Kineo guys back at the April e-Learning Guild Event here in Boston and we've stayed in touch since.

Stephen and I talked about everything from rapid e-Learning, SecondLife and FaceBook, to the current exploding universe of e-Learning (what Gary Woodill referred to in yesterday's Emerging e-Learning Technologies presentation as the "hype cycle"). I feel honored to be included among such e-Learning notables as Jay Cross and Clive Shepherd who have also been interviewed by Kineo. Fancy company!

Because it was a Skype call, Stephen recorded it and you all can listen here.


Update: I realized an embarrassing typo in my headline. I had written "Your's Truly" when it should be "Yours Truly".

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Emerging Technologies in e-Learning

I sat in on a lunchtime WebEx presentation with Gary Woodill -- Director, Research and Analysis, Brandon Hall Research. The topic: Emerging Technologies in e-Learning. (You can buy each of the three reports in this series for a mere $495.)

About Gary: Classroom teacher in the early 70's. 1984 doctorate in applied psychology. Developed over 60 e-learning programs. Lives in Ontario, Canada. Started with Brandon Hall in November.

"Emerging" = kinds of e-learning that are just starting to show up -- in labs, new company offerings. A big explosion in the last 2 years.

In the 90's there were one or two ways to do e-Learning: CDRoms and then the web. Pages and pictures and some sound and we turned the pages and took a test. This was "e-Learning 1.0".

Gary has worked on three "Emerging e-Learning" reports
  • Emerging E-Learning Technologies: Have looked at 52 emerging technologies. Can look at the TOC. (This was the focus of today's talk).
  • Emerging e-Learning Content: 45 different content formats
  • Emerging e-Learning Services: 24 different services
e-Learning Timeline:
  • 1920s teaching machines, radio, filmstrips. It's been around for a long time. Anytime a new thing comes out it's described as "revolutionary" - it's going to change the way we do things.
  • Even the pencil sharpener was considered revolutionary -- fear that we'd lose the ability to sharpen a pencil.
  • 1980s CD ROMS. Then the world wide web.

We've gone through one generation of online learning. Now we're into web 2.0 -- new technologies that weren't there 10 years ago.

e-Learning = teaching and learning through electronic methods. (Jay Cross in 1998) Not just self-directed learning, not just page turners.

Understanding e-Learning: The Restaurant Analogy

Dining Room + ordering service + food prep + delivery service = Dining Experience

Learning and environment technologies + requirements gathering + preparation of learning activities + delivery of learning activities = Learning Experience

Can go to a big restaurant and have lousy food -- similar gap with online learning. Instructional designers can take the tools and create a good learning experience or not.

Self Serve
Can also pick up packaged food -- self-service from a vending machine, etc.

Self-direct learning experience == a standard course prepared and available on a web site. Just like a vending machine, you do it by yourself.

Fast Food
Food prepared in small components -- small chunks cooked and rapid delivery.
Learning objects: standard small chunks put together and done in a rapid e-learning experience.

What if a whole new way of delivering high quality meals is developed? Hilcona out of Lichtenstein -- new frozen food tech.

Disruptive technology:
  • Restaurants vs. Frozen Foods
  • Movie Theaters vs. Blockbuster
  • Wired Phones vs. Cell phones
  • F2F Training vs. Online Training
A lot of current online training is not disruptive, still incremental.

Incremental vs. Disruptive Innovation.


Some forms of online training support current ways of doing things
  • Virtual classrooms, presentation software, authoring tools, assessment tools, LMS.
  • Doesn't change the basic model of an expert/teacher delivering to a group of learners. Requires some changes, but not highly disruptive.
What can we do with this new tech that we couldn't do before? Disruptive technologies radically change how we do things.
  • Global Networking (finding any info at any time from all over the world)
  • Artificial Intelligence (affective computing, computer can personalize based on who you are)
  • Peer to Peer Technologies (instead of teacher being in charge -- people are learning from each other. This is how a lot of young people work today. They often don't take courses unless required/certification. I have a problem, where is the answer? Web? Book? Person in next cubical?)
  • Collaboration Software
  • Learner generated content (instead of teacher preparing things, learners put things online and edit together. Sometimes it's not even consciously done -- they might put up photos and tag them -- don't mean to generate content for others, but they do)
  • Wearable computing (being a cyborg and having implants is the stuff of sci fi -- but it's not that far away)
"We look at the future through rear-view mirrors." (Marshall McLuhan) -- I'm not trying to be a smarty-pants here, but I looked this up and Gary was close: "We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future."

Wireless vs. Horseless
Wireless will go the same route as the horseless carriage. We won't be talking about wires in a few years.

How you teach will depend on who you are teaching.

Technology Innovation Cycles:

Some books about technology innovation if you want more on this --
Innovation Cycles look like this:
  • Pioneering efforts to solve a problem
  • Breakthrough developments
  • Skepticism/new efforts by established companies
  • New designs -- explosion of forms -- this is where we're now with e-learning
  • Dominant design emerges
  • Consolidation, mergers, companies disappear (talked about the e-Learning Hype Cycle -- with the bust in 2000/2000 -- now we've got the same hype with web 2.0 -- we'll see a similar boom & bust cycle).
  • Incremental changes
There are always reactions to change and resistance: Western Union -- "the phone has too many shortcomings..."; AT&T gave back computer networking after a 6 month trial....

Established Product vs. Disruptive Change
Companies get worried and make "strategic changes" in their product -- add a new feature -- this is what's happened with established e-learning companies. But they're not looking at the disruptive changes.

The bell curve is made up of these areas:

  1. Developing Technologies
  2. Ascending Technologies
  3. Peaking Technologies
  4. Maturing Technologies
  5. Declining Technologies

(don't buy maturing and declining tech; problems with developing technologies -- important to understand where particular technologies are on this curve.)

List of 52 Emerging eLearning technologies: I just typed down some of these, you'll have to view the slide deck for a full list....
  • Animation Tools
  • Avatars
  • Blogs
  • Clickers
  • Gaming Tools
  • E-Portfolios
  • Mobil Learning
  • Personal Learning Environments
  • Personalization
  • Rapid e-Learning
  • Semantic Web
  • Simulation Tools
  • Social Bookmarking
  • Social Networking Tools
  • VoIP and Telephony
  • Wikis
  • Wearable
  • Peer to Peer
  • Authoring Tools
  • Haptics (the ability to touch things and get a sense of force feedback. Can put a glove on and you think you're feeling something...)
  • Learning Objects and Repositories
  • Location-based Technologies
  • Mashups (came from hiphop -- artists would take samples and pieces and put them together into one creative work. On the web = hybrid -- take content from multiple sites and put them into one. example: Google Earth + local pizza parlors + your personal photographs on top of that. Instead of building website on a server, can build a website that pulls from multiple. Uses SOAP -- simple object a protocol...)
  • Simulation Tools
General Trends:

  • Move from client-server to service oriented architectures (mashups) -- changes power relations and info control and where things can come from. Don't need to do it yourself -- can pull free info and put it into your site and add things to it.
  • Move from page metaphor. "Browserless web" -- ala Google Earth -- full networked application -- like CD ROMs days -- direct application.
  • Learner in more control -- push vs. pull
  • Complex multi-channel learning -- different "personalized" mix for reach learner (Trails study done at University of London -- move around the web you leave a trail as to where you went....)
  • From passive receiving interactive activities and collaboration
Mashups, SOA, and Services: Welcome to Web Hybrid Applications (from the e-Learning Guild)

Physical Technologies vs. Social Technologies:

  • Products change first, followed by processes
  • Classrooms as technologies
  • Now we have physical technologies and social tech is trying to keep up.
  • People don't like to change, so skepticism is that resistance.


Agents: codebaby -- incremental -- doesn't change the model of someone telling you something. It's a talking head, a virtual agent. If your skeptical -- it's no different than standing in front of a classroom. This has been useful with literacy. Tire company -- used virtual agent to deliver online without a lot of reading.

Audio/Video Pulseplanet 2 minutes sound portraits of the planet earth.

Digital Ink: -- can write on a whiteboard with your finger. As he writes the equations, the whiteboard solves them.

Tours & Virtual Field Trips -- construct a tour online with John Udell using Google maps of Keene, NH. This was an example of a mashup.



Collaboration Tools: wikipedia, flickr, digg


Motion Capture:

Immersive Environments/Virtual Reality: secondlife (check out Brandon Hall's island on Education Island)

Wearable Computing:
Smart Underwear

Get a hug from thousands of miles away from a cell phone:
Gizmodo Hug Shirt

These disruptive tech will change radically how we do things.

New generation of e-Learning is more disruptive. Mix of tech, applications and services.

Change is constant.

Look at where you are at on the innovation curve.


Learning Objects:
I was always skeptical of learning objects. People don't learn in chunks. It came from software objects -- works for programming code, but doesn't work for people. They may be a starting point, but they are generally not reusable because people want to change them. It's a descending technology.

If you're at the beginning of e-Learning -- Brandon Hall has an e-Learning 101 publication.

What you've heard today is based on the reports we've done. In those three reports, over 5,000 links to these technologies.

The new disruptive technologies are about collaboration. How you get people together. These are the ascending technologies. In the new few years, we'll see more of these and they will work better.

What tech are in a decline?
  • LMS have matured -- there's a generation of them that in decline. Proprietary LMS are in a decline. Any LMS needs to have open-standards (not just open source) so you can take your content to another source. LCMS is in decline -- because the learning object model doesn't really work.
  • Service-oriented architecture will replace that learning object.

My thoughts:

Gary's a good speaker. Over 300 people were on the call. Some issues with WebEx. There were no huge lightening bolts for me, but it was interesting.

Hug shirt? Hmmmm....

The browserless web -- that's new to me.

No surprise to see that rapid e-Learning is in the list of ascending technologies.

I can't imagine life without a pencil sharpener and would probably hurt myself severely if I tried to sharpen a pencil by hand. Think about all the old skills we've lost that we don't even think about. What skills will the next generation not even miss?

What dominant designs will emerge as we get through this next phase in the industry? I think rapid e-Learning will be a big one.

I was a victim of the e-Learning Hype Cycle of 2000/2001. The CD ROM based training company I worked at did not successfully make the leap to the Internet. Who will be the victims this time around?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Facebook for the Enterprise

I'm still mucking around in Facebook, trying to get it.

Found this article, via Alec Saunders: Facebook for the Enterprise = Facebook. Provides some real examples of how business-folk are using FB; compares Facebook (emotional attachment) to LinkedIn (static resume).

But for the first time I can merge my social and business lives in ways that are not intrusive, that feel intuitive and which are both highly productive and deeply satisfying.

The Rise of Rapid e-Learning

Mike Alcock, MD of Atlantic Link Ltd has written an article over at The Rise of Rapid e-Learning.

Some insightful industry analysis, surrounded by a lot of marketing speak.

I'm going to quote heavily from the article here, inserting my own thoughts along the way.

Subject matter experts are embracing the more sophisticated rapid e-learning tools which allow server side development with international collaboration and “instant” course deployment. They have become adept at incorporating flash animations, pdfs, PowerPoint presentations, audio-visual material and any number of other techniques for getting training messages across to users in effective and imaginative ways.

This sounds like a bit of an overstatement to me. How adept are these SMEs really getting? Are they producing high-quality e-Learning? Is it really the SMEs using the tools? Are they working with in-house instructional designers? Does anyone actually have any real statistics on this? I'd be interested to see those.

This continuing technological development means that e-learning developers can no longer rely on being more technologically sophisticated than rapid e-learning and need to utilise their other natural competitive advantages to sell their services. These lie in their creativity, knowledge, understanding of instructional design techniques and their experience.

I completely agree with this. E-Learning development houses need to be able to demonstrate a clear value in their services. Why should companies go with e-Learning vendors when rapid e-Learning tools are available? Why pay someone else $25,000 when you can buy Articulate or Captive for under $500 and do it yourself? Either these companies won't have the time or the resources to do it internally, or they will be looking for that extra-edge that a focused e-Learning company can provide: instructional design expertise, graphic design, interaction design.

Next, the author provides a short case-study. I think this is definitely the wave of the future. I've seen this trend with my company as well:
Laurence Wilson, who runs an independent e-learning consultancy, recently employed this approach on a project for recruitment giant Vedior. By building the courses for Vedior on-line using a collaborative authoring tool, he was able to share the development process with the end customer, ensuring that the client was happy with every stage of the development. At the end of the development cycle, Vedior purchased the tools so that they could update and maintain the courses that Laurence had developed. The client can now commission Laurence to create additional courses for them, confident in the knowledge that they will receive top quality materials that they can then maintain themselves.

Have the e-Learning vendor create the first few custom programs. Then take the development in-house, using rapid e-Learning tools. Vendors create solid relationships with their customers this way -- creating an environment of collaboration and respect for mutual expertise. A partnership grows.

...further change in the industry which I believe, within five years, will see rapid e-learning tools being used almost universally in the production of e-learning, both in-house and by consultants. Many companies will continue to buy e-learning from consultants in order to draw on their non-technological expertise, but they will insist on these courses being written using rapid e-learning tools which enable the company to collaborate on, amend, and extend the learning as it suits them.

Let's see what happens.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Blogging Dinner Table

Brian Grenier did an interesting informal survey of the edublogosphere, the results of which are quite interesting.

I was really struck by the age graph with the most respondents falling in the 35-50 year old range. Perhaps because that's me, and I like being trendy (well, not really).

Brian asks, "Though I am curious as to why the 18-30 year old segment is not better represented?"

I think the answer is that they're all on FaceBook and MySpace.

I did a interview with a twentysomething the other day, and thought her online habits were somewhat revealing. Granted, this was one person. She has FaceBook up all day long and reads a few of her friends' blogs, so that she can keep in touch. I would say the main point of her Internet usage is to stay connected in her personal life.

I remember way back to my twenties and I was much more interested in my friends and meeting new people than in professional development. FaceBook would have been great.

Carolyn commented in my interview post,
I try to do an informal survey of students when I go to campuses to deliver orientations to our online courses. The big three for our students are Facebook (almost every student has an account), chat and text messaging on mobile phones. The big driver for our students seems to be the need to stay connected with friends.

As I've, ahem, matured and married and had children, my social needs are much less in the forefront. But my need and desire for professional connection and professional development have certainly grown. And blogging fits that need. Blogging fills a gap I didn't even know I had.

It's a web 2.0 professional maturity lifecycle model.

Getting Pysched for FaceBook

I'm definitely feeling out-of-my element in this whole FaceBook thing. I'm trying to get into it and discover it's potential professional uses. I now have five friends (in case you were wondering). And I've joined a group: FaceBook for Business in which I've posted some questions, gotten some answers, and been asked to participate in a beta test for a FaceBook widget.

I'm just scratching the surface, I suppose. There must be more, or is there?

Ran across this article, The Psychology of FaceBook, which talks about the collecting of friends and relationships aspect of it all.

FaceBook is in transition, that's for sure. I am joining for the first time with completely professional interests. Others have established identities and networks built on personal interests. Is it ok to blend this all together? Doesn't that threaten to get too weird?

I see FaceBook groups for instructional designers, but not much is going on there. There's an e-Learning group -- on first glance it appears to be just a collection of people without the content of the blogosphere.

If you're interested in exploring, please friend me. I'm feeling lonely and really nerdy. I need a bigger collection. I'd like to push this somehow, but I'm not sure.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Buzzing Blogging Hive

This morning I had the pleasure to chat live with Brent Schlenker and Allison Anderson in one of Brent's occasional "talk casts". It was very cool on many levels. If you're up to it, listen the end of the hour or so (and bless you if you actually make it to the end) Brent and I just ramble on a whole variety of e-Learning topics.

Early in the conversation Brent asked us about our blogging experiences. I shared my beehive metaphor, which I now share with you in a more fully fleshed out form:

Way back when, when I first started blogging (gosh, it was the summer of 2006; can't believe how much time has gone by! Seems like just last year....) -- so way back then I experienced the web in as a one-dimensional form. A flat wall of websites and wikipedia and stuff.

When I first tried out blogging, I was in a vacuum. I hadn't read other people's blogs yet, so I didn't get it. It was a very flat world.

Somewhere along the line as my current job evolved, I started doing more "research". And I started reading more blogs. And it was like pulling a board away, starting to get a peek at what lay underneath the flat wall.

Somewhere along the line, I got up the guts to actually comment on someone's blog and then I realized I needed to just throw my voice into the mix. It turns out, I had something to say, and I wanted to be a part of whatever this thing was/is.

Eventually the board came off completely. There was some chipping of paint and a bloodied finger on a rusty nail. Underneath the flat wall, I discovered a teeming hive of hard-working honey bees. Buzzing loudly. A lot of cross-pollination. Dripping with the sweet nectar of knowledge, the honey of all of this collective work.

This flat web wall became a whole 'nother world.

Each of us is in our own little honeycomb cell, but we journey far throughout the day.

Hives overlap -- where are the boundaries between corporate e-Learning and educational technology and k-12 teachers and higher ed and non-profit management and enterprise 2.0?

The boundaries get blurrier the longer I buzz around.

The Queen Bee for whom we're all working -- is she the greater good of humankind? Is it all that noble? I hope so.

It sure is fun.

image courtesy of stockexchange: Alison Oxley

Profiles of a Twentysomething and a Fiftysomething Learner

In the fact-gathering phase for an e-Learning strategy project I am working on, I have the fun task of interviewing a whole bunch of potential end-users. I love schmoozing and getting to know people, so this is a perfect way for me to spend my work day. It's not work, it's fun!

Yesterday I conducted my first two interviews: the first was with a woman who had graduated from college in 1979; the second was with a 2003 college graduate.

Now these are just two people, but they are real people who are in the workforce who are making use of technology tools. Here's their technology stories:

"Jane" graduated from college in 1979. She works from home and is her own boss. She self-reports to be "pretty savvy" when it comes to technology. She has two kids, ages 18 and 20.
  • Uses Word, Office, Excel, Outlook and communicates heavily with email.
  • Watches YouTube, when her children tell her to see something that's funny.
  • Her kids have FaceBook pages, but she doesn't. Nor does she see herself ever having one.
  • She doesn't have a blog, but she has read a few on sports. "I hear about people’s postings on their blog, but to tell you the truth I’m so busy that I don’t have time to do that. If I have time to do that I’d rather be working in my yard. I sit at my computer all day long."
  • She doesn't know what SecondLife is.
  • She plays some games on her computer (solitaire), but doesn't want to download anything on her laptop because she's "nervous about getting infected with stuff."
  • She uses the web every day and uses Yahoo for searching, sometimes Google.
  • She's taken online continuing education classes to maintain her various professional licenses. I take continuing ed all the time for all of my license. Most of the time I do it online. It’s so much more convenient!
  • She's participated in webcasts for work, but has never given one herself.

"Susie" graduated from college in 2003. She works at an elite academic institution and self-reports an "extremely high comfort level" with technology.
  • "Tries to avoid" YouTube, although sometimes watches things with her husband.
  • An active FaceBook user -- she logs on in the morning when she gets to work and leaves it open all day. "I probably check it about 5 times a day." It's how she keeps in touch with close friends.
  • She's never heard of Twitter.
  • She's never heard of SecondLife.
  • She reads a few of her friends' blogs to keep up with their families. Has just discovered Google Reader, so sees that this could increase.
  • Doesn't play computer games, "I never go online to play." But then she admitted to being addicted to warfish. Of warfish she says, "it’s like Risk. I’m very competitive so I hate losing. It’s addictive – they send you an email when it’s your turn. The games can last 2 days to a week. Depends on how fast people respond. I play with friends." (Warfish requires an invite from another player -- talk about creating intrigue and a desire to play. If anyone can hook me up, I'd love to take a look. It sounds like a very interesting approach to gaming).
  • Doesn't have her own Blackberry, but uses her husband's when they're together.
  • A personal laptop is essential.
  • "If I don't have access to my computer, I feel lost."
  • Used BlackBoard in college, but found it sterile and not aesthetically pleasing. "It didn't encourage you to go on unless you absolutely needed to. I sometimes went on to get notes."
Interesting, isn't it?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Some Buzz on Buzzword

If you haven't already heard the buzz (I clearly hadn't), be sure to check out Buzzword. It's a web-based word processing tool built in Flash 9 by a Boston-based company called Virtual Ubiquity. They call it "Rich Collaborative Authoring." All I know is that it sure is purty!

It's not out yet (due to launch this spring, which is now officially over today). Some fabulous built-in collaboration tools, including real-time commenting by multiple contributors.

In a blog post, they talk about design:

It’s not just an obsession with making things look good, but it’s the belief that good design enriches life, that design matters. It matters that the look and feel of an application support the work. It matters that the person at the keyboard enjoys the experience, that they have fun using the tool. We’re providing the writer with a work environment, and we want it to be a compelling, enjoyable place to be.
This looks much nicer than Google Docs.

You can find more More Buzz on Buzzword here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Using FaceBook

I'm trying to expand my horizons a bit these days and have been taking a closer look at a whole bunch of tools out there, including SecondLife and FaceBook.

FaceBook seems like such a student-world application, and yet folks say more and more "grown-ups" are using it. There was a great NYTimes article a few weeks ago about a mom signing up for a FaceBook account, completely appalling her teenage daughter. (I'd go look up the link for you, but why bother? You'd have to be a paying customer...)

My kids are far from their teen years, so I went ahead and created my own FaceBook account awhile back. I initially had just one friend, who I think had joined to find a FaceBook dating scene that didn't exist. It didn't feel like FaceBook would have a lot of professional promise.

Then, just this week, Michele Martin asked me to be her FaceBook friend and I felt like I'd been promoted to the popular kids' club. We traded emails and I wrote a message on her wall. That's about as far as it's gone. But it's a start.

So I've got this client I'm working with to help define an e-Learning strategy, and I'm thinking about what role FaceBook should/could play in their plan. This client has a cross-generational membership -- from college students to older alumnae. Very close ties to universities. No firewall or technical infrastructure. A lot of the membership already has FaceBook accounts. I'm interested in how we could leverage that existing community for better communication, learning opportunities, networking, etc.

The challenge is that my client would want to have a private, closed community that would only be accessed by its membership.

I know FaceBook does provide a fair amount of control as to who you can let view your profile. That's all set at the individual level.

I'm interested in how one would mix communities. So if a user is a member of this "closed-community" but also has an existing FaceBook presence, can you keep these worlds separate?

Would the better approach be to create a real-closed community using something like Ning? Or Moodle? Although I think there's a real downside to creating multiple profiles and pages all over the place....

Any experience in this front? Any suggestions?

Come to Dinner -- Spreading the Word

So Who Exactly IS Coming to Dinner? (Take the Survey) : Bump on the Blog

Found this link via Christy Tucker who says it's a, "Discussion about the lack of diversity in the education technology blogosphere, including a survey to try to measure a snapshot of the population. Go take the survey and help him get a good set of data."

So I'm spreading the word and saying: go take the survey and add your own little self into the mix.

I think where the results will get tricky is in how one defines "edublogosphere". All of us e-Learning bloggers certainly promote educational technology. And then there are consultant-types who focus on performance improvement within organizations, of which learning and training is a key component -- and thus technology. It all blends together. Where does one blogosphere end and the next begin?

When I first started blogging, I too wondered out loud where all the women were. Since then, I've made a conscious effort to connect with women bloggers -- although women still make up less than half of my blog roll. Check out Janet Clarey's posts on the same subject: Women's Voices in the Edublogosphere.

Charlie Goes to Digital Mountain

Check out this great slideshow created by Scott Gavin posted over at RandomMind. An excellent vision of how web2.0 is/will change the way we work.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Google Docs

I played around a bit with Google Docs this weekend. Well, I actually worked with Google Docs this weekend. Inspired by recent posts from Harold Jarche and another one today from Wild Apricot on using Google Docs in nonprofits (thanks to Michele Martin for the link). I took some work home without having to lug my laptop. It was lovely.

I was talking to my CTO about my experience. His concern, of course, is that now that the information is not stored centrally it's harder to manage. And the fear that someone who shouldn't get to it will. Aah -- corporate control. Always the issue.

Now I see that you can publish a Google Doc right to my blog, so I'm going to try that now. Not sure if it gives me any advantages over writing a blog entry in Blogger. Any one done that? When, where and why?

Update: When I published the post, it didn't have a title. I don't see in Google Docs a way to do this. It appears to just title your document with the first few lines of text. Nor can you add tags when publishing to your blog.

Visual and Auditory Multi-Tasking

From the Eide Neurolearning Blog: Voluntary Control of Attention - Visual and Auditory Multi-Tasking

There is a yin and yang effect between visual and auditory attention. When one is looking, then auditory processing areas go down, and when one is listening, then visual processing areas go down. Mixed visual-auditory stimuli have an underadditive effect, so that if you have to do both at the same time, total brain activation goes down....

In Ruth Clark's book e-Learning and the Science of Instruction, we learned not to ask a channel to multi-task. For instance, don't show a detailed animation and have text on the screen with an audio narration. That's an overload of the visual channel.

So it's interesting to think about this underadditive effect where "total brain activation goes down" if presenting in both visual and auditory at the same time. I don't think the answer is to only show a visual, or only have audio. Otherwise, what's the point of multi-media? Is multimedia the same as multitasking?

Friday, June 15, 2007

ADDIE: It's a Process

This is probably an argument made in any Instructional Design 101 class; I don't think I'm saying anything new here...

Mark Oehlert points to Tom Werner's post Design Shouldn't Always Mean Instructional Design and agrees with Tom that instructional design is different from design.

Tom says,

(By instructional design, I mean a design model that typically prescribes elements such as learning objectives, presentation of information, practice with feedback, and evaluation that ties back to the objectives. There are many instructional design models. A classic one is Gagné’s. A common one is ADDIE - Analysis-Design-Development-Implementation-Evaluation.)

I don't think ADDIE and Gagne are really in the same class. I disagree that ADDIE is an instructional design model. There's nothing in ADDIE about learning objects or the presentation of information. Most e-Learning vendors mention ADDIE or some form thereof on their websites as if it was a real science about creating effective learning.

To me it's an instructional design process -- or even higher level than that , it's a project management approach. You could apply the ADDIE model to software development, right? But there's nothing particularly instructional about ADDIE.

An instructional design model is one that informs the design of the learning experience itself. Whether you use objectives, assessments, exercises. How you motivate and connect with your learner. I consider Gagne's Nine Events of Instruction a model. (Whether or not you agree that it's a good model, well that's a whole 'nother story...)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Defining an e-Learning Strategy: Planning the Kickoff

In the spirit of building a Community of Practice -- sharing ideas and processes -- I thought I'd try and share what I can of a current project.

This is a big consulting project -- a first for me -- in which we have this amazing opportunity to work with a large organization to help them define their e-Learning strategy. I've done a lot of e-Learning projects, created a lot of courses, but this is the first time that I've been a part of the strategy itself.

I did a lot of research in preparing our proposal and making our sales call. Apparently, that paid off since we got the gig.

And then it was time to start working. First things first -- get ready for the kickoff meeting. We had about a month between the time the contract was signed and the scheduled date of the meeting.

Here's what I did in those weeks. Some of these steps happened simultaneously or in no particular order at all. It was fairly organic.


Google away! I googled "Defining an e-Learning strategy" and various iterations thereof. I read articles, followed links, looked at websites. You know how that's done.

All the vendors and consultants say pretty much the same thing and follow the same process. Which may mean a few things:
  1. They've all got the system down and it works
  2. They're all flying by the seats of their pants and have borrowed heavily from each other's sites so they sound like they know what they're doing
  3. A few people know what they're doing and the rest borrow heavily from the real experts' sites....
I tagged some of the resources I found on, which you're free to grab yourself. If you have any suggestions, please offer them up! (I'm cammybean on -- try adding me to your network and make a for: cammybean list. I'll do the same for you!)

So from my research, I came up with the basic structure of the project and what information we needed to gather and define in order to help us make recommendations for the future. I wanted to discover and understand:
  • Overall project goals
  • Their organization and structure (Org chart, training org structure, staffing skills, cultural issues)
  • Current training and communication initiatives -- what are they doing now?
  • What would they like to do? Vision for the future.
  • Financial benchmarking to create an ROI statement
  • Technology infrastructure
  • Content specifics

Ask for Help

I'd done all this research and had a general sense of what to do. But I wanted to get some input from someone who's actually done this. So I solicited some advice from the noble Clive Shepherd, who I had the pleasure to meet at the e-Learning Guild event in April here in Boston. I told Clive what I had come up with and asked for his ideas on how I should structure the kickoff meeting.

My kickoff meeting experience has been historically very focused on a specific content project. The scope of this seems much larger than that. There will be more stakeholders, more input at this stage. And I want to be sure to give the client the confidence that we have the smarts to execute it well.

I asked Clive how much should we attempt to get done in this kind of kickoff meeting. With a strategy session like this, do you just dive right down into the nitty gritty details? Do you try to keep it more high-level? Does it just all depend on who's going to be there, etc? Any suggestions for what should be done as worksheets or breakout sessions?

Clive suggested that we keep the meeting at the high level.

Don’t waste time at your meeting getting them to inform you of stuff they can send you in advance or afterwards, e.g. structures, existing training, costs, etc. Let them know what you need to prepare for the opening meeting.

At the meeting, have them explore the strengths, weaknesses of their current offerings and the threats and opportunities they believe they are facing (a SWOT analysis). You can contribute by explaining the opportunities afforded by the many manifestations of e-learning. Then you can work together to articulate goals, look at the alternative ways of achieving these and agreeing next steps.

This was really helpful input. So I scaled way back the scope of what I was going to try to do in the meeting and decided to keep it more high level. I liked the suggestion to explain about the many manifestations of e-Learning: a little e-Learning primer, if you will.

Taking Care of the Prework

I created three main worksheets and questionnaires that I sent off to my client.
  • Understanding the Organization -- organizational structure, current training initiatives, resistance to change, content specifics, etc.
  • Financial/ROI -- current training- and technology-related costs.
  • Technical Infrastructure -- servers, software, etc.
Answers to some of the questions started pouring in well before the kickoff meeting. I had numerous phone calls with my main project contact. We dissected org charts and talked through all the details. I took lots and lots of notes. By the time of our kickoff meeting I already had a pretty good sense of the organization and some of the challenges they were facing regarding technology, education and communication.

Planning the Kickoff Meeting

Because this client had so many stakeholders that needed to be included in the meeting, we decided to break our kickoff into two separate sessions: two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon.

My goal was to get everyone on the same page, share goals and strategies, fears about e-Learning, talk about current issues and begin to identify some possible routes to take.

The agenda went a little something like this:
  • Welcome
  • Introductions (Have everyone introduce herself and discuss role/stake in the project)
  • What is e-Learning (I talked a little bit about what e-Learning is and isn't, some of the tools available).
  • SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats)
  • Vision for the Future (General brainstorming session on how we can use e-Learning to support learning and communication in their organization)
  • Wrap-up & Next Steps
Time permitting, I'll try to write a post at some point about the kickoff meeting itself.

Personal Hard Drive

Mark Oehlert made some very sparky comments as he enters into the "raging PLE debate." (I love being part of raging debates -- it's really fun, isn't it?) Mark writes,
"You wanna know what a PLE is? Its called your head."

I said a similar thing in a comment on Tony Karrer's blog the other day:
Isn't the main tool of the PLE our very own little brains? It's the best software around and completely portable. I can take it with me from job to job; from hobby-project to family life. It's personal and personalized. It's mine and a corporation can never ever own it...or can it?

Tony came back talking about all the tools he uses as an extension of his brain. This is true. We use technology for storage. But as Mark points out, that's different from "learning."

So maybe the PLE that we're all talking about here is really a Personal Hard Drive. It's a storage place for all that information. Late, we go back to our various storage facilities for all the hard-core processing we do with our brains.

Nevertheless, the storage facility does support the learning process, doesn't it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

My Personalized Personal Work Learning Environmental World

Tony Karrer asked in the comments on my PLE post yesterday,
I'm curious if you distinguish your learning environment (tools, skills, etc.) from your work environment (tools, skills) in any significant way (especially in the context of tacit work)?
Well, this is a good question. One that I'll have to consider for awhile here...the slow learning of blogging...thoughts trickle down and excited ideas bubble up. It's just a giant percolating coffee pot inside my brain these days.

At first glance, I'd say that most of my "personal" learning does not happen with technology tools at all. I read books, I talk to people, I experience. Most of what I'm doing outside of work these days involves the care and feeding of two small people, ages 2 and 4.

Those of you who've done the small child thing know there's not a lot of time for extras, especially if you work full-time. There are plenty of opportunities for learning: usually it's at least one lesson a day in patience and deep-breathing.

But the boundary has gotten fuzzy for me. e-Learning creeps into the world of parenting. Through blogging and access to this wonderful community beyond the walls of my office, I've started to get passionate again about my work.

Through watching my kids play with technology tools, I KNOW that things are changing; that e-Learning will be a fact of life for them. So I feel the need to understand e-Learning more from the education and lifelong learning standpoint than just boring old training. Their school days will be quickly upon us. I need to be prepared.

Because I work in the technology field and because the world is becoming increasingly technology-driven, the boundary between personal and work has gotten really really fuzzy.

(Oh boy, am I going to start making a big map of my learning world now? It just might happen....)

But the truth is, I do use some "tools" to manage my personal learning:

  • iGoogle kind of changed my life. I have links to sites I like to read that may or may not pertain to my work world. I have a Big Lebowski quote generator on my home page that always makes me laugh. (Not learning, but humor is essential!) I keep track of the phases of the moon. I read the NY Times headlines. Because iGoogle goes with me, it has become a place for both work and personal interests.
  • I use Google bookmarks to manage links of personal learning interest. Increasingly, I'm also using, but that's mostly for work-related links so far.
  • Google Reader. Well, let's just say that I have to force myself to NOT check up on things after I've put the kids to bed. If I make that mistake, I end up dreaming about PLEs all night. Good lord. Learning never stops, does it?
  • I have a huge wish list in Amazon to help me track all of the books I'd like to read, when I have the time....this list spans e-Learning, parenting, fiction, spiritual....The ideal is that I'd go check the book out from the library, but my schedule hasn't allowed for many library visits these days. Sometimes I actually buy a book. And then, sometimes, I might just start reading that book. When the stars are properly aligned, I might even finish said book. (I currently have at least 5 books in progress next to my bed).
  • I started a private Live Journal, but I've only written there a few times.
  • I blog, therefore I am. Personal is work; work is personal. I blog at work, I blog at home. It's all relevant to the big picture that is me. Blogging has a positive effect on my work-life expertise -- countless client conversations have gone all the better because of something I read just yesterday or wrote about the day before.
  • I have an old-school paper-based journal that is sometimes about personal and sometimes about blog entries. Even that's starting to get fuzzy.
  • Our home computer sits in our kitchen (we have a tiny house). It's really easy to search for anything at a moments notice.
  • YouTube is our tv. We don't have cable tv and get about two channels on broadcast. Is YouTube learning or just entertainment or a bit of both?
  • I read the New Yorker at home. It's paper! Always something cool to learn. Implicit lessons in how to write good. I mean well.
  • * UPDATE: I've recently started using Google Notebooks. (OK, yes. I'm a Google Girl. But it's so easy. All in one place and in my face). Trying to implement some form of GTD action lists, keep track of blog ideas, research lists, etc. This is still messy as I do a lot of that "tacit" work upkeep in a paper notebook as well. I tried using Google Calendar, but that got overwhelming. I've stuck with Outlook Calendar -- which is all work and any outside appointments that might conflict with work. And I also keep a datebook in my bag -- I like to flip through the pages and see what I did, what I have to do. I don't keep this up as much as I used to now that so much else is electronic. But I do miss that palpable record of my life. I've got engagement calendars that go back 20 years.
So that's some of where my life is right now. As my kids get older, I'm sure (I hope!) that there will be room again for my old and new personal interests. They were many. I used to do pottery and yoga and hand-drumming and provide professional therapeutic massage and get a lot more exercise and do random artwork and sewing projects and some knitting and much more *personal* writing (and yet I write more now than I've written in years!) and and and....

And although I didn't always think about it as learning, I certainly was learning a lot. And still am. These days the topics are different. And I suppose the truth is that the topics always change. That's what keeps this journey so darn interesting...

Monday, June 11, 2007

Personalization does not equal Personal

I've been catching up this morning on all the recent PLE posts, particularly Tom Haskin's recent entries. Today, Tom mentions that "James Ryan left an extensive comment on Enterprises that love PLE's. He reveals the thinking about PLE's inside the financial services industry:

(A PLE/Education Portfolio owned by the learner) also requires a means for the learner to accept updates to their PLE, made by people providing training, so the student has a verified training record, verified qualifications and ce points/hours or other measurement."

This got me thinking more about the words "personal" and "personalization".

Corporations can "personalize" a Professional Learning Environment (aka an LMS), allowing users to add their own widgets; they can allow trainers to update a user's training record; they can let the user set preferences.

But that does not equal a Personal Learning Environment. That's just a personalized Professional Learning Environment.

The line between Personal vs. Professional is not alway clear. For some folks, there is a distinct demarcation: I leave the office and I leave behind my work and my work-related training environment. And then my real life and learning begins. Work pays the bills and that's it.

Where the boundary between the personal and professional is less distinct and more Permeable -- that's where you will find Passion. Folks who are passionate about what they do will find their personal and professional learning environments co-mingling. Work does not end for the day and then life begins.

For folks who are not passionate about their work -- many who reside within the traditional, corporate firewall -- the PWLE is Pointless.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Instructional Designers' Tools

There's been a good conversation going on over at Christy Tucker's Experiencing E-Learning blog about instructional design.

Christy has been writing about how to get started in instructional design and what technology tools you might need.

I think I'm somewhat of an anomaly in the field. I don't do any programming. I don't build courses. I don't do any graphic design. I use Word, PowerPoint, Visio. I can now also say that I use blogger and wikis.

If you want to know what I do on a daily basis, read my job description. Maybe I'm not an instructional designer at all.

I think my dinosaur status as an instructional designer stems from the fact that I've always worked for e-Learning vendors where the programming, graphics, and ID are distinct, separate job roles. I have my expertise, you have your's.

If you're an instructional designer within a corporate training group, it seems -- most likely -- that you'll be asked to both design and build courses. Christy uses HTML, Dreamweaver, and sess Flash in her future.

Rapid e-Learning tools, like Articulate, change the amount of actual technical skill an ID would need within such a group. My company creates customized course development templates for organizations. Course developers (who may or may not be instructional designers) use Flash to create courses, but they don't need to know how to use Flash at all.

Rapid e-Learning tools make building courses almost as easy as writing documents in Word. Easy breezy. So instructional designers won't need to be technical at all. That's what I like.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Personal Learning Earthquake

Sometimes tectonic plates shift and earthquakes form cracks in the crust. Tidal waves appear. This happened to me yesterday. Although it wasn't that violent.

A whole bunch of things just clicked into place and I almost audibly said "aaah, I get it now" in the middle of a client meeting.

My personal view of e-Learning is from the corporate side of the aisle. My career-wide client list includes banks, supermarkets, manufacturing companies, insurance companies, department stores, more banks, pharmaceutical companies, and yet more banks.

So the PLE conversation has been, for me, framed in terms of the LMS and tools. How do you make an LMS into a PLE? And why bother? I didn't really get it. Michele Martin wrote that excellent post, which got me thinking and then Tom Haskins wrote some more excellent posts....

And it started dawning on me that the PLE was about a revolution in learning -- about teaching people to learn -- about empowering individuals to take control of their own learning environments, their futures. And -- maybe -- also providing them with tools. And teaching people how to use the tools for their own growth.

Yesterday I was sitting in an e-Learning strategy kickoff meeting with a different kind of client for me: A non-profit organization of women that has strong affiliations with higher education. Their membership spans a lifetime. (With very little imagination, you can probably figure out what kind of organization I mean). Not the type of group with which I have had a lot of personal interaction, and certainly no professional contact.

It's a very exciting project. My job is to help this organization think about how they can use technology to support learning and community. (This is a good time to be me!)

As I sat in our kickoff, I realized what a noble vision this organization has. They take a wholistic view of education and learning. Empowering members to live their lives fully through personal development, career development, leadership, community. The care of a whole person.

And then my little earthquake about PLEs. Again, probably a no-duh for a lot of you thinkers out there: Schools -- secondary and higher education -- should be empowering students early-on to take control of their own learning, to learn how to learn, to have a PLE, to think of their own growth, to help individuals take control and expand their minds. Universities are starting to do this.

Tony Hirst writes In Personal Learning Environments are also Social... (thanks again to Downes for the link):
So if I talk of a PLE as a thing, I really mean enabling technologies that let me aggregate a range of tools into a space. And why would I want to do that? So institutional providers can give their students something - a place to go - when they arrive on day one that will provide them with access to tools and information services that they are likely to find useful over the course of their studies.
Organizations like the one I am working with now are in a unique position because they may have relationships with individuals over decades; not just over the course of their studies, but over the course of their entire adult lives.

PLE is a concept. An approach to living. Lifelong learning. Lifewide learning.

The tool, the environment can only belong to the learner.

Tom Haskins wrote, "Life is my PLE." Education and academia and parents are in a good position to teach that notion. The PLE is not a corporate responsibility, but a societal one.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Be the Node

To Michele Martin's most excellent post on the Psychology and Skills of Personal Learning Environments....

First off, I have to say that this entire PLE conversation hasn't really sparked much for me. It just seems like a no-duh. Karyn Romeis talked about "lifewide learning." Yes. That's it, isn't it?

So all the talk about tools and maps has struck me as odd. How do we quantify or control something that is so unique to each of us? For me, I add -- why bother? Just do it. (I'm a practical person at heart; not a theory-based one).

All the many cool tools and widgets and features that really smart people are creating -- that's all we need. More and more of that so we can all pick and choose and figure it out for ourselves.

And maybe not even that. People have been learning forever without widgets and web2.0. Maybe it was even "personal learning" before the term PLE came along.

I don't see a traditional corporation every truly embracing the theme of PLE -- at least in the pure sense of the term "personal". Most corporations want way more control than that. A truly empowered employee may not be the one that sticks around. With PLEs, there may be just way too much personal learning happening on company time for a CEO's comfort.

We're all learning in our own personal ways and we're each going to figure out how to best support that...

To paraphrase Stephen Downes, "be the node, Danny."

So, you have a PLE if:

If you're interested in personal growth and development. If you don't want to stagnate. If you do want to have some element of control in the random direction that your life might take. If you do get excited by new interests, new directions. If you don't want to go crazy. If you don't want to be bored. If you've even got the time to spend on anything beyond the job, the family, the stress, the balancing act.

To have a PLE, do you need to first be aware that you are learning? Stephen Downes makes the point that you can't separate life from learning. But is the awareness of the fact that life is learning available to everyone?

To have a PLE, do you need to be aware that the term PLE exists? I have a PLE, therefore I am learning on my own terms.

OK. So my practical side says, stop talking about it and just do it.

But then Michele says, "My personal motivation in all this is the desire to figure out how I can empower others to explore creating their own personal learning environments." And then that dormant social activist in me sees how I can do more good in the world than just recycle. (You people are so inspiring!)

I think maybe PLE is another word for the upcoming Revolution of Enlightenment.

It's a Personal Learning Evolution.

If you're aware that you have a PLE, do you get to advance to the next level?

(Be the node, Cammy. Be the node. Stay up late on a Saturday night blogging in a bleary sort of way, that's a start.)