Thursday, May 27, 2010

Velcro + Ipad = heart

iPad + Velcro from Jesse Rosten on Vimeo.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Thinking about Social Media

Way back, kids, back in the dawn of time -- like maybe twenty years ago -- my interest in the Internet had two major prongs.

One was the access to information. To me, the potential of the Internet was the ability  to research the topic of my choice with ease. I wanted a super public library mated with The Whole Earth Catalog.  What it turned out to be was so much more than I could have ever hoped.

The second major prong was the idea of the social net. From the very beginning I was involved in "lists"  where I could connect with other people who shared interests like me. It didn't matter if I was the only one like me in Rochester, NY. There was someone else in Garland, TX or Billings, MT and not only could we easily find each other, but we could talk via email as much as we wanted to.

With the advent of the term "social media", all the cool kids are thinking about how this aspect of the Web is changing our lives, how we do business, how we connect. Here is a site you might want to check out: Social Media Today's primary mission is to "help global organizations create purpose-built B2B social communities designed to achieve specific, measurable corporate goals by engaging exactly the customers and prospects you most want to reach." It is also an aggregator of writing about social media and the social web. You can also add your own blog to their lineup. Check it out!

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology

The National Educational Technology Plan 2010 was published this March. (You can download a copy of the Executive Summary here.) If you work in educational technology, I encourage you to take a look at this -- it is pretty interesting. Here are some points that I found especially interesting:

  •  21st Century competencies that our students must have include critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration and "multimedia communication".  I'm not sure what they are thinking of for multimedia communication -- Use of multimedia tools in presentations? Webinars? 
  • Students must be able to both develop deep understanding in specific content areas and make connections between content areas.I think that it is the connections between content areas that is most important, because that is how new knowledge is created.
  • Assessment of student performance must happen while there is still time to make improvements. I'm afraid that this will be translated to mean have more standardized tests. I believe it would be more useful to teach students how to self-assess. A score on a standardized test is not as valuable as the ability understand one's own strengths and weaknesses, and to chart a course of perpetual improvement.
  •  The Plan calls for a shift from teachers that are "solo practitioners" to one of "connected teaching." To make this possible, the Plan suggests that teacher professional development must stop being "episodic and ineffective" and become "collaborative, coherent and continuous." I believe that we need to move from a model where teachers are dispensers of facts, and more fellow learners who model how to assess, plan, and execute learning.

Monday, May 17, 2010

What is the Future of e-Learning?

Just recently, someone asked me, "Where do you think eLearning is going to be in the next 3 to 5 years, given the rise of "Web 2.0" and social media? Great question! I think the seeds of the future are here, in front of us.

One of the ideas I collected when I was an MBA student at the Simon School (excellent program, by the way!) was that notion of information costs. Information costs mean that decision making is more effective when it is executed closest to the place where the question arises because detail and meaning are lost in the transfer of information. For example, let's say you own a big retail chain that caters to the 20 something crowd. And you aren't a 20 something. You are a 50 something who has money and business experience, but not the life that is typical of your typical customer.

When you are deciding what merchandise you should stock, you are probably doing a lot of things like asking representative samples of your customers their opinions and using statistical analysis to determine what you are selling. Those sorts of things are what people do to answer the question, "How many pairs of skinny jeans should I buy this quarter?"

But the 20 something salesclerk in your shop knows that people try on your faded and ripped jeans but they rarely buy them. She knows that they like the edgey look but they hate the fact that the waist band is just a smidge too tight. She knows that if the waistband was, say 1/8" bigger, people would be buying those faded and ripped jeans every time. And since your biggest competitor doesn't offer them, you would be selling them to everyone who wanted them.

So the 20 something salesclerk who you pay a little over minimum wage, actually knows more about your business than you do. Why? Because she is closer to the place where the customer is making the decision about what pair of jeans to buy. If you could somehow empower that 20 something salesclerk to actually order the stock for her store (oops, I mean YOUR store!), you might actually do better than you are doing now.

What does this mean for eLearning? That most efficient decision for what to learn is the one made by the student.

The World Wide Web is becoming more and more democratizing as it develops. Where content was more or less controlled by subject matter experts or webmasters in the past, now we see content being developed by unlikely individuals (like me!) and groups of people. Now we have blogging and crowd sourcing. Anyone can be located and linked to or friended. Universities are making their teaching content available for free. Search engines are incredibly powerful. This means learners will be able to and want to direct their own learning. They won't be looking to anonymous experts in text books, or for Grand Poopbas of Learning to tell them what they need to learn and in what order.

So we are now in a time when the efficiency of learner-directed learning can be combined with easily located and rich content. And here's another factor. Employers are asking their teams to actually create knowledge. Unless you want a job that uses the phrase, "Do you want fries with that?", that's what you are going to be asked to do. Most of the other kind of jobs, the jobs our fathers had, have moved to other locations where labor is cheaper than it can be here.

So what changes to our eLearning does this demand?

It is critically important that we give our students a framework for evaluating their own gaps in skill, experience, and knowledge. If they don't have a way to determine those gaps, they can't accurately determine what they need to learn. I don't think I can ever think of an instance where a course or a class started with a methodology for the student to self-evaluate. Either the instructor assumed that if I was in the class I need to know the material, or the instructor managed the evaluation process and owned the results. This is going to have to stop. I predict that students will simply not participate in learning experiences that don't include this element.

Additionally, our content needs to be chunked in to smaller bites and indexed so that learners can locate the specific piece they want to find. Learners need an easy way to build on existing content, to make connections with others and to vet the expertise of their fellow collaborators. That's what the future of eLearning will look like.

Friday, May 07, 2010

If this has happened in the last twenty years, what will the next twenty bring?

It's amazing to me how fast the social web has unfolded.

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Sunday, May 02, 2010


This morning I was reading over the job postings for positions on LinkedIn. (Not to worry - I'm not going anywhere! I just like to stay on top of what is requested/expected for folks in my line of work.) I saw a position that looked really interesting -- a consulting job for an Instructional Design Manager in India. That is, it looked interesting until I got to this line:

Client follows the ADDIE model of Instructional Design and Development.

People, people, people! ADDIE isn't anymore an instructional design model than "lather, rinse, repeat" is a design model. ADDIE, for my non-instructional design peeps means Analysis, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate. A design model that has "Design" as one of it's phases -- that's not terribly helpful. A design model should give me guidelines on how to design -- how to decide what's in, what's not,  to chunk, order,  present content. Seeing this statement tells me that whoever wrote the job description, and likely whoever is the hiring manager, has no idea what it takes to make good, instructionally effective content.Working for these people would be a nightmare because I would be continuously struggling to educate management/the client on what the heck we were trying to do.

Likewise, when I'm interviewing candidates and I ask them "What instructional design model guides you most?" and they reply, "The ADDIE model," I know they haven't a clue. Take a few minutes and simply scan the results of a search on "instructional design" and then you can at least toss around names like Merrill and Clark. Otherwise, I can guarantee you - we won't be chatting at a second interview!

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Turning a Corner

One of my goals for 2010 is to continue to develop my ASL competency. I have to attain a level of "Intermediate" by July 2010. I just got the results back from my lasted evaluation and I am at "Survival Plus" which is the step right below Intermediate. So I have move thru five levels since I started studying two years ago.

And that is very wonderful. But I had two things happen this week that help me to understand that I really am getting better at this. First, a kid who has been working for our department for six months came in to tell me that he was leaving, that he appreciated the opportunity to work in the department and he is moving to Washington DC to take a job at a company that a friend of his has started. And he said all that in ASL and he said it only once AND I understood it! And I didn't have that minute of panic and "oh no, he's signing to me!" feeling -- I just understood him!

Second: I have been looking at youtube videos of jokes told in ASL. Up until today, I couldn't understand anything, but today, I got the joke! Whoo hooooo! Here's the link if you are interested in it!

I tell people all the time that if you keep working on something, if you don't give up, that you will get better and better. It sure feels good to see the evidence in my own life!