Posts Categorized: Learning

Learning …

I’ve been on my own for just over a year, and as I had a couple of days off over the holiday weekend, I thought I’d reflect on what I’ve learned, or confirmed, this past year:

  • Learning: is a process, not a product – subject-based teaching is a mistake – we have to focus on process skills like metacognition, problem solving and collaborating, because the subjects will change. I first realized this through Kieran Egan’s writing, and it has been reconfirmed many times.
  • Work: Markets are conversations – it’s only through conversation that we begin to understand each other – success comes when producers and users understand each other, and help each other.
  • Technology: It’s a world of ends, and innovation happens on the edges – look at the edges to find opportunities (but not traditional financing).
  • All Three: Marshall McLuhan was right; especially regarding the Laws of Media.

These are the messages that are staying with me.

Goals of Public Education

Jeremy Hiebert makes a good point about evaluating the goals of public education.

How well would you do on a Grade 11 algebra exam right now? How’s your current knowledge of your country’s political history? Photosynthesis? Even those of us who remember some of this stuff would have a hard time explaining how the "knowledge" had helped us in any meaningful way. Educational reformers would tend to agree that the system is not achieving its goals (maybe has never achieved them), but the solution isn’t to do more of the same thing … it’s time to question the goals themselves.

I agree that most public education tests the wrong thing. On Kirkpatrick’s scale; the public school sector would get to Level 2 (Learning), but we should be focusing on Level 4 (Results), or Phillips’ Level 5 (ROI). But it’s not even as simple as that.

We have to question the goal of public education itself – is it to develop better citizens, better thinkers, better individuals, or better workers? As Kieran Egan showed in The Educated Mind, some of these goals compete with each other. We cannnot ask our schools to help our children develop good behaviour, learn thinking skills and pick up workplace skills – for a workplace that has yet to be created. Schools should concentrate on what they can do best – develop thinking skills. A second area could be physical skills – Mens sana in corpore sano.

This lack of focus, and being pulled in many directions by every special interest group, ensures that our public schools never have a core area of focus. If we, as a society, can give the schools a mandate to develop cognitive skills (and we will take care of the behaviourial and social issues) then our shools can have something that can and should be measured. Until the mandate is clear, the results will be unclear.

Copyright in Education

Via Mark Oehlert is this article from the Toronto Star by Michael Geist on copyright law in Canada.

The challenge facing Canada’s parliamentarians and copyright policy makers is they must find a way to reconcile these opposing visions [Internet as distribution channel versus Internet as creation medium]. The Supreme Court of Canada has indicated that a balanced approach is to be the guiding objective in that regard, noting in one recent case that "excessive control by holders of copyrights and other forms of intellectual property may unduly limit the ability of the public domain to incorporate and embellish creative innovation in the long-term interests of society as a whole, or create practical obstacles to proper utilization.

According to Geist, our elected representatives in the Bulte committee (part of the Standing Committe on Canadian Heritage), have not taken the time and effort to arrive at a unique Canadian solution for copyright in the education sector, but "… rather than working toward a balanced and limited Internet exception for education, the Bulte committee simply considered the competing proposals presented by educational groups and rights holder groups and recommended the latter proposal."

The section of Bulte’s report on technology-enhanced learning is interesting. Instead of recommending to "Amend the Copyright Act to clearly state that the ?��Ǩ?�fair dealing?��Ǩ�� defence in section 29 applies to education and teaching purposes, in addition to research or private study, review or news reporting", the committee recommended:

… that the Government of Canada put in place a regime of extended collective licensing to ensure that educational institutions?��Ǩ�Ѣ use of information and communications technologies to deliver copyright protected works can be more efficiently licensed. Such a licensing regime must recognize that the collective should not apply a fee to publicly available material (as defined in Recommendation 5 of this report).

More efficient licensing is not going to help us provide the access to quality online education that we need. It will only increase the costs of development for educational institutions. But the federal government is not responsible for education; the provinces are. These extra costs will be foisted on the Provincial departments of education and our universities.

CSTD-NB Meeting

The NB elearning Industry and the New Brunswick chapter of CSTD will be holding a meeting on 24 June in Fredericton in the Chancellor’s Room at the Wu Center UNB Campus – Fredericton, 10:00 AM – 2:30 PM. Coffee starts at 8:30 AM. On the agenda:

  • International Strategic Plan for eLearning NB
  • Election of CSTD-NB Executive

The interim executive asks:

Do you have any industry issues that you would like to have addressed leading up to and or at the next industry meeting?

Personally, I would encourage all training & development professionals as well as those interested in learning issues to join the CSTD chapter. You can join online, at the CSTD website. This is the first time that I can remember that we have a professional association for our field. A few years back, some of us had considered creating a chapter of ASTD or ISPI. It’s good to have a Canadian organisation that we can belong to now.

Please consider joining, and please consider attending the general meeting. Our chapter will only be as strong as our members.

Here is the agenda (for those not on the e-mail list):

9:30 AM – Learning Industry Networking Breakfast

10:00 AM – Opening, Steve Kelly, CSTD NB

10:03 AM – Presentation: ASTD Expo – Background/Overview – Steve Kelly and Ben Watson, VP CSTD NB

10:15 AM – R & D Community of Practice, Harold Jarche, Jarche Consulting

10:25 AM – LearnNB Web-site, George Butters, Web Developer

10:35 AM – Presentation: International Marketing Strategy – Development Plan and Implementation Alternatives, Gary Stairs, President, CSTD NB

11:05 AM – Break

11:20 AM – Group Discussions (Marketing Strategy Recommendations)

11:45 AM – Group Responses

12:00 PM – Learning Industry Networking Lunch

12:45 PM – Election of Officers

1:00 PM – Announcements/Soap Box

1:20 PM – LearnNB Executive Activities – Alan MacAulay, Treasurer

1:30 PM – Presentation: Innovations Symposium 2005 – Krista Kennedy, Interim Project Manager

1:40 PM – Q&A followed by Adjournment

There is also a discussion document that was sent by Steve Kelly. You can ask me or Steve to e-mail you the PDF, entitled – Four Key Recommendations for the NB Learning Industry 2004-2007.

Great Value from NRC’s e-Learning Group

Seb Paquet, who works at the National Research Council’s e-learning group, with Stephen Downes and others, has been asked to quantify his impact on the research community. Personally, I see the connections that Seb and Stephen make on a daily basis. They are two critical nodes in the research dialogue of the e-learning community of practice.

Seb has helped me get started as a blogger and connected me to the work of some brilliant researchers, such as Lilia Efimova. Seb’s contacts helped to connect the open source bloggers at the last Moncton Cybersocial. Without Seb, Steve Mallet would not have showed up. As a result of the connections made at this event, a number of us are already discussing new business relationships. Seb’s published research informs my own research and practice, as many of my clients are interested in this "blogging thing". Seb’s perspective of the global community is a real inspiration for those of us in underpopulated, somewhat rural, New Brunswick. More recently Seb created the Atlantic Canada Bloggers wiki, a great map of who is blogging – the link is shown on my External Links [no longer available].

Stephen’s OLDaily is a great source of information, and I’m not sure how he finds the time to do it. His website is a treasure trove of information, insight, and sometimes contention (a good thing). Stephen’s Edu_RSS and Ed Radio are two small innovations that he developed in response to requests from the community. Stephen is someone who seems to be constantly giving back to the community.

I definitely feel that I am getting great value for my tax dollar from Seb, Stephen, Rod and the rest of the staff at the NRC.

Collaborate to Compete

I’ve been reading Collaborate to Compete: Driving profitability in the knowledge economy, by Robert Logan and Louis Stokes (ISBN: 0470833009). The book’s main premise is that the Internet is the medium by which collaboration has become an essential business process. Collaboration is the key to actually making use of knowledge management. I was initially intrigued by this book because I had read one of Logan’s previous works, The Fifth Language: Learning a living in the computer age, and was interested by the references to McLuhan’s work on communications theory and Toffler’s books, such as The Third Wave and PowerShift.

This book puts together a lot of knowledge management theory and models in an easy-to-read manner. The introductory chapters are a good review of writings on the subject over the past decade. As the authors build on the concept of collaboration and what it means for the Knowledge Age, they use the example of the scientific community. Scientists were some of the early adopters of the Internet and have been collaborating (and competing) within communities of practice for some time. There are no leaders and everyone is rated by peers on the value of his/her ideas. Logan and Stokes believe that large organisations, especially corporations, can create similar collaborative environments, and they provide examples of collaboration using Intranets and IT systems such as Vignette and LiveLink. I think that many of their premises have value. For instance, using the techniques of Marshall McLuhan, the authors state that there are five collaborative messages of the Internet:

The two-way flow of information,
The ease of access to information enhanced by information design,
Continuous learning,
The creation of community.

However, they fail to show in a convincing manner how collaborative communities can be created and sustained within command and control enterprises. One could take their practical steps in building a collaborative organisation, and have a good chance at success. The problem would arise when the enlightened despot who has allowed this initiative, decides to leave, or is replaced. Scientific communities have succeeded because no one is in charge, and people can come and go without destroying the community.

I believe that the Logan/Stokes model has much more potential outside their suggested areas. Their formula for measuring collaboration quotient could be used when micro-companies decide to get together for a project – a model that they don’t discuss. This book mentions a lot of technologies, especially technology brand names, but fails to mention web logs, wikis, RSS or aggregators ?��Ǩ��� and it was published this year. These are the best collaboration tools on the net in my opinion.

Despite these perceived [by me] limitations, I think that this book would be a valuable asset for anyone working in the field of knowledge management, communities of practice or virtual teams. I will try to apply some of the models and tools and see how they work. Perhaps the best aspect of this book is that it is NOT about technology, but understanding technology.

In closing, we remind the reader that an IT tool like a collaborative knowledge network will not by itself create a collaborative organization. The human side of the equation, in which attention is paid to vision, trust and leadership, is at the heart of a collaborative organization.

Retention of Staff a Critical issue

The Globe & Mail reported today in the careers section that "managers hold the key to keep staff happy". It also reported on a survey conducted by Career Systems International that showed the top ten reasons why employees stay with an organisation. The number one reason was "exciting and challenging work", but the number two was "career growth, learning and development". Pay was only number four. this is one more business-critical reason to pay attention to learning issues in the workplace. it’s also why learning should not be seen as "bolt-on" strategy, like adding a training program, but should be integrated into all aspects of work. As reported in this issue, retention of core staff is necessary to stay competitive, and learning plays a significant role. Learning is business, and business is learning – finally.

Consensus Building from the Oneida Nation

In the book Systems Thinking: Managing chaos and complexity by J. Gharajedaghi (ISBN 0750671637), there are many concepts and examples of systems thinking. This is a book to read many times. One of the examples that Gharajedaghi provides is of the Oneida Nation. Their process used to solve problems is one that could be used for online communities, with three distinct roles to be performed in achieving consensus.

Using different attributes and characteristics for each of the three symbols of turtle, wolf and bear, the culture, to its credit, had identified and separated the three distinct roles of pathfinder, problem formulator, and problem solver. The role played by the wolves is that of pathfinder / synthesizer. Wolves display purposeful behavior by setting the direction, dealing with the "why" questions, identifing relevant issues, and defining the agenda and context before they are presented to the turtles, the problem formulators, to define them. The defined problems are, in turn, passed on by the turtles to the bears, the problem solvers. Bears generate alternatives and recommend solutions. Solutions are returned to the turtles to check on their relevance and potency before referring them back to the wolves to check on their relevance. Wolves are finally responsible for integrating the solutions, keeping the records, and ratifying and communicating the final agreements. Wolves keep the fire alive by motivating and monitoring others.

Like the Six Nations Confederacy from which this model comes, different individuals or groups can play different roles in order to find the best solution for an entire community of society.

The Learner’s Perspective

I spent today as a student in a training program. It’s been a while since I’ve been on this end of the stick. Much of the day was put your mind in neutral and go with the flow. The demonstration & performance piece was very good – here’s how to do it, and now you do it. Could have had better feedback though.

This day as a learner reinforced what I know as a performance technologist. Training without clear performance objectives, that are relevant to each learner, is useless. Also; anything is better than death by PowerPoint (bulleted lists of the instructor’s notes). For many people it was a day outside the office. For me it was the loss of a day’s revenue, or even worse, an opportunity cost. When your own money is on the line, you become a more discerning buyer. This is the future of training – be relevant or be gone.