Posts Categorized: Learning

ASTD 2004 Comments

There is an excellent conversation on Jay Cross’s blog regarding collaboration technologies and informal learning. Jay is presenting at ASTD 2004. This is well worth the read.

Also, from e-clippings is this first impression of the ASTD conference.

More people, buzz and swag than other, recent e-learning conferences

New (and Improved) LearnNB Website

The new LearnNB website was launched today. There’s much more content, and we will be using this as a portal for many other initiatives, such as our R&D community of practice. Learn NB’s aims are:

Promote the export of New Brunswick’s experience, knowledge, expertise, products and services in e-learning and related fields.
Facilitate partnerships between the private sector, governments, universities, and non-governmental organizations in pursuit of the above.
Assist the Province of New Brunswick and the Atlantic Region through the ongoing development of our human capital and, in so doing, to be able to more effectively export our collective competence in e-learning capacity building.

The site is brand new today, and I’m sure that there will be a lot more information soon. Once we get some blogs, wikis, trackbacks and RSS feeds on this site we’ll know that we’re getting somewhere 😉

Ensemble Collaboration Launches

Ensemble Collaboration, an elearning company in Fredericton, New Brunswick, has formally launched this afternoon, and is no longer in "stealth mode". The product launch is happening at the ASTD conference.

Ensemble’s offerings are collaboration and mentoring tools. The collaboration application suite is based on Search, Live Help, FAQ’s, Discussion and E-Mail functions. None of these are new, but they are all wrapped together, with access to a larger network than you would normally have in a single course. There is a demo module on collaboration available, featuring Jay Cross.

ASTD Conference

The ASTD Conference and exposition launched today in Washington. There are few local exhibitors at this year’s conferenc; nothing like the late 1990’s when we had about 20 vendors at Online Learning. Perhaps the largest local exhibitor is CSTD, which includes the newly-formed New Brunswick chapter. Other local companies are Ensemble Collaboration and LearnStream.

It’s nice to see that there is a Performance Improvement track at ASTD and I would appreciate any comments from delegates at this year’s conference.

Jay Cross on Workflow Learning

Jay Cross has written an article for ACM’s eLearning Magazine on workflow learning, which is, in a nutshell "how workers improve performance in a business ecosystem."

The concept and realisation is a bit more than this though. Workflow learning combines technological advances like web services and XML, with business process improvement (BPR, Six Sigma, HPT, etc.) and puts it all into a knowledge management/performance support framework. What’s exciting about workflow learning is that the technology has caught up to some of the theory, and the globalized economy is making workflow learning (or something resembling it) a necessity.

These are interesting times for learning professionals focused on business performance.

Quotes on Learning

From Quotes on Learning:

In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists. – Eric Hoffer

Hope all Canadians are enjoying the long weekend! This is best one of them all – it’s fairly warm and the mosquitoes aren’t out yet 😉

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".

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.