Posts By: Harold Jarche

Balancing Work, Life, Dreams

Dave Pollard has another thoughtful post, reflecting my own attempt at achieving some kind of work/life balance. If you know me, or have followed the external links, you know that I volunteer at the Atlantic Wildlife Institute. We are a charity, and therefore are constantly low on operating funds. The work I do here is very gratifying, but highly paid. As a new consultant I’m always looking for the next project, or working on the current project. In between I try to spend some time with my family, or get out for a cycle.

The subject of work/life balance came up today with some business partners, and we’re all trying to keep the work coming, but try to do something meaningful at the same time. If we just wanted a paycheck, we would have stuck to regular jobs, but I’m sure that we’re all idealists at heart. Dave Pollard’s advice from a friend is to keep two lists (1 – things that pay well & 2 – things that make a difference). Start with the top item from list 1 and then try to do the top item from list 2.

My friend’s advice was simple. "Write the damn book. Now. Get it finished, get it out there. Then decide if you can afford, on your own terms, to do either or both of your two Next Things. If you can’t, pick the thing from List 1 that gives you the most money, and/or the most spare time to keep working on the plan, and the skills development, that you need to do the two Next Things, and do it, for as long as you have to."

Sounds like good advice to me – get on with it!

Universities and Learning

Sometimes I feel that universities in North America are out of touch with the needs of the knowledge economy, especially with observations like Daniel Lemire’s, on whether there will be universities in 20 years. However, after reading Kathleen’s conversation regarding teaching at a Berlin university, it seems that our hurdles in creating a learning society are small compared with Europe’s.

First, we have very few LMS systems at the FU in general, and most of what passes for "e-learning" here is the creating of "modules" — electronic versions of texts packaged in Pavlovian form — and these are indeed designed to occupy the masses. I think much of it has to do with the German university: it is under-capitalized, its relationships to society are ambivalent, and it has nothing of the dynamics of the US system. Somewhere online I’ve got an article by Mitchell Ash and Daniel Fallon who make the institutional comparison.
On a deeper level, you are assuming a respect for individuals and a high premium on personal expression and communication that, I’d guess for profound historical reasons, does not pertain here.

Culture runs deep, and it seems that in North America we may be better prepared for the creation of collaborative learning organisations than other parts of the world.

Performance versus Learning

Sometimes learning professionals (trainers, educators, instructional designers) get caught up in their own world. Here’s another reminder about what’s really important – performance. From e-clipping’s interview on collaborative technologies with Jay Cross:

I made up the word elearning because I wanted to highlight learning, but I don’t think learning is at the head of the train.
It is performance that is at the head of the train and only a fool would expect to get results from the technology alone.
It is the technology in support of key organizational goals that is key, and that involves incentives, leadership, innovation, esprit de corps….and this is all mixed in together.
As a matter of fact I’d be somewhat sceptical of any company that would highlight their intense [use] of collaboration technologies if they left out "What is important to us is to serve our customers and this is how we go about it".

Blogging as Performance Support

Last week, blogs were being discussed on CBC Radio One and Tod Maffin suggested that blogging was on its way out. A different perspective from Kathleen is that blogs help you get what you need done. She needed help and posted it on a blog, and the right person, with the right experience contacted her.

I absolutely love how the peer-to-peer network in the blogging world led me directly to the right person.

If blogs are also perfomance support tools (in addition to knowledge repositories, etc.) then blogging may be around for a while yet.

Website

We have the basic functionality set up for community of practice on the LearnNB website.

All new information will be posted there.

Schools, Computers, Libraries & Games

From Blogoerlert’s e-clippings is More SHOCKING evidence that people can learn from games!!:

But Brenda Laurel, a game designer who has worked with educators, says that anyone hoping to rescue the American educational system with games should be realistic.
"I’ve been involved in trying to insert games into schools since 1976, and I’ve come to the conclusion it doesn’t work," she said.
In her view, American schools have degenerated from learning environments into production lines for children taught to obey authority figures.
But not all is lost, she said. Instead of relying on schools to teach kids how to use games to learn, libraries equipped with computers and video games may be the place where such learning can happen. Ultimately, she said, new forms of learning are about new ways of thinking. And some game designers are working to help foster that change.

This got me thinking again about our local laptops in schools question. Many schools and educators are not receptive to the idea, so why not bypass the reluctant schools and educators and target libraries instead? Maybe our government should fund more computers in public libaries, fund additional operating hours and fund resource specialists. This would breathe new life into our public libraries and allow for experimentation in developing fundamentally new learning environments. I’m sure that the public libraries in New Brunswick would gladly take the +million dollars that are being earmarked for laptops in schools.

Basic Unit of Learning

This comment on Weblogg-ed by Alan Levine jumped out at me;

It just goes to show that despite pontification about being "learner centered" or "student centered" most institutions, systems, and course management monstrosities are still stuck in the "course" being the basic unit of organization, rather than the student.

It seems pretty clear; the basic unit of learning is the person. This person is indivisible. All learning activities, products and strategies must be centered around the person. We can then go on to develop environments for many people, but the individual is the building block – not the learning object, the course, the programme, or the institution. All of these are temporary organisations that the individual may use, or be part of.

The power of search engines, blogs, wikis, aggregators and other low threshold access tools is that they give control back to the learner. But we don’t have many good design models for the creation of real learner-centric environment. Most of our models are prescriptive, but there is a lot of work being done by Jay Cross, Don Morrison, ISPI and many others, to address this need. These are exciting times for learning professionals who are willing to explore new models with some empowering new tools.

More LEG

Jay’s comments on this week’s meeting of the Learning Economics Group. Jay has added to Brenda Sugrue’s initial conceptual model, giving us his usual insight into this fuzzy world of learning, technology and business. I like the fact that Jay is pointing out the power relationships (e.g. Boss’s Ego) as well.

Kolabora Videoconferencing Review

Today I attended Robin Good’s free webinar on low-cost videoconferencing tools.

During this session, Robin (aka – Luigi Canali De Rossi) presented 9 systems, varying in price and pricing models. The two top scorers were systems I had never heard of before – Wave Three Session and Marratech. One insight that I picked up from Robin is that vendors need to create diversified products around core technologies in order to achieve mass customisation, because no two clients’ needs are the same. He was also critical of high-priced software, because customers cannot invest a lot of money in systems that could become useless with the next technological advance in a couple of months. It seemed that many people in the multinational audience were vendors, but Robin’s focus is buyers (hurray!).

Robin is an excellent web speaker, and his evaluations are to the point. You can see his other reviews on the Kolabora website. Stay tuned to his website for future live presentations.