brain and learning principles

28 07 2006

in exploring the new horizons for learning site, i came across an interesting set of articles by renate nummela caine and geoffrey caine.  in their research on the human brain and learning, they established twelve principles regarding how we learn and what prevents us from learning.  their twelve principles are:

  1. All learning is physiological.
  2. The Brain-Mind is social.
  3. The search for meaning is innate.
  4. The search for meaning occurs through patterning.
  5. Emotions are critical to patterning.
  6. The Brain-Mind processes parts and wholes simultaneously.
  7. Learning involves both focused attention and peripheral perception.
  8. Learning always involves conscious and unconscious processes.
  9. There are at least two approaches to memory: archiving individual facts or skills or making sense of experience.
  10. Learning is developmental.
  11. Complex learning is enhanced by challenge and inhibited by threat associated with helplessness.
  12. Each brain is uniquely organized

quoted from 12 Brain/Mind Learning Principles in Action – One Author’s Personal Journey.

i particularly found it interesting that they included #3 (search for meaning in innate) and #5 (the role of emotions).  in my mind, these are two critical aspects of learning that have too often been left out of the mix in workplace learning. 

it’s been my experience that there’s a believe that employees are lazy and avoid training at all costs because they don’t want to learn.  this is an arrogant dismissal of negative feedback.  we’ve blamed the learners rather than face the fact that we’ve offered up irrelevant, boring learning experiences.  employees learn every day.  they have to, it’s in our nature as human beings.  it’s just a matter of what they choose to learn and whether that jives with what the company needs them to learn.

the workplace is generally considred a place where emotions are supposed to be held in check.  even the expression of happiness is often expected to be muted and controlled.  let alone emotions like anger and sadness.  that learning has traditionally ignored the emotions is not surprising.

there are some breakthrough programs which have begun to explore using emotions as a way to stimulate learning.  one such program was regarding for sexual harassment training which began with the learner receiving an email asking them to gather up their files on one of their employees and reporting to their managers’ office immediately because of a personnel issue.  imagine how your heart would be racing and your mind would be sorting through all of your interactions with that employee.  your attention would be laser beam as you sat down with your manager.  now granted, poorly conducted, such an approach would be dangerous, so training of the manager in this case would be paramount.  but if done well, the learner would never forget the lesson taught.

all 12 of these principles are thought provoking and have much to say about how the facilitation of learning can and should be approached.  i curious about what the LCB community has to say about them.

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flickr mashups

24 07 2006

as i’ve mentioned before, surfing the waters of web 2.0 mash-ups can be an exercise in "why am i doing this?"  many of the applications that are being
put foward through mash-ups, tagging and search capabilities are simply
useless.  but here are three flickr mash-ups that are just too cool to ignore.

color pickr and metascope

krazydad is one of those brilliant and creative minds.  he combines his programming ability with advanced mathematics and web 2.0 capabilites to produce some beautiful applications that simply blow you away. colr pickr lets you choose a color – any color in the spectrum – and then it searches flickr’s publicly available photos for photos whose dominant color is the one you picked and renders a dozen or so for you to choose from!  most of the time in less than a second. one click and you are at the photo’s page on flickr.  metascope is also mindboggling in its simplicity and beauty. The two images you see are images i saved while playing with megacope.  the one on the left was formed with images of snowflakes and the one on the right was created with images of frank lloyd write stained-glass windows.  while probably technically not totally web 2.0, i love it.   krazydad has even saved a couple dozen images from metascope as screensavers you can download for free.  my favorite is made up of m c escher drawings! 

flash and flickr

but occassionally you bump into a application like flickr related tag browser v1.1.  i’ve already concluded that this application is going to be my favorite time waster for the foreseeable future.

it’s impossible for it to be simpler.   enter a word and it not only brings up all the photos in flickr that have that word as a tag, it also provides links to 40 or so related collections based upon tags that also appeared with the tag you entered.  try anything.  typing in my hometown (Sandusky) produced 1863 photos.  not too bad for a town of 20,000 people!

the future of media

23 07 2006

this past tuesday i had the opportunity to join some of top media and content names in san francisco for a conference on the future of media that was held concurrently with a similar gathering in sydney, australia.  while troubles with the audio/video link  between the two sites showed why those media aren’t quite yet ready blow text out of the water,  the content of the meeting was tremendous.

in the room in san francisco were chris anderson (wired magazine), john hagel (author), moira gunn (technation), ray kotcher (global ceo of ketchum pr), craig newmark (craigslist), mike linksvayer (cto, creative commons), andy halliday (ceo, ourstory), and david sifry (ceo technorati)

because there was so much covered, I’ll share some in a couple of posts here and some in a couple of posts over at learning circuits blog

the organizing group, future exploration network, put together a rather interesting report on the current state of media and indicators of what the future may hold.  While some were of interest purely to media types (ie, advertising revenues) some were natural cross overs to learning and knowledge management concerns.

the report was published unders a creative commons attribution, share-alike license.  so please note that the following diagrams were created by the future exploration network.  this work is licensed under a creative commons attribution-sharealike 2.5 license.Creative Commons License

a chart from the report that i found interesting broke down the types of content created by americans and australians on the internet. Web Content Creation  about 1/3 of all adult  americans and australians have contributed content to the web in one or more ways.  i think it’s interesting to note that only 8% of american adults have created and posted a blog.  has the blogosphere, at least in america reached it’s peak?  if you analyze the statistics, this means that almost 1 in 10 americans are initiating the blogosphere, another 2 are commenting on blogs and another 2-4 are reading what the others are writing.  seems, if anything, it’s still author heavy.  the last bar seems low when you look at sites like flickr, photobucket, and youtube.  but then again, this data is a bit dated (at least last year)

another of the interesting sets of data was demographic data regarding the age of those who have created content on the web through blog, wikis, their own website or by posting music, photos, and video to sites like flickr or youtube. The common folklore is that the blogosphere is just teenage girls writing their diaries.  well, while 42% of people 18-29 have contributed content to the web, 18% of people 65+ have also contributed content!  With the US baby boomers getting older, you can imagine that number will go up.

finally here is a bit of a shocker. Language of blog posts if, a week ago, someone had asked me how much i would be willing to bet that my answer to the question of what was the dominant language in the blogosphere was correct, i would have put a large sum on my guess of english.  i’d be a much poorer man today if I had done that today.  turns out more blog posts (37%) are written in japanese than either english (31%) or chinese (17%).  with the almost assured explosion of chinese to come, how long will it be before english is in the number three position?

see also:

do you trust me? on Learning Circuits Blog for a summary of the theme regarding trust that arose in the conversations at the conference.

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a leader from around the world

20 07 2006

the headline caught my eye – elearning sector buzzing with activity.   it took me a few seconds to realize that it was from india’s and not a western source.  i found two things very interesting about this interview with vikas joshi, chairman and managing director of harbinger group.  harbinger was named to’s list of top 20 specialized learning process providers. (note: you need a free membership at to view the list.)

the first thing that struck me was that this seems to be pretty big news in india.  hearing the tone of mr. joshi’s comments would the indians are in the elearning business not as a second tier player.  rather they are gunning for world market leadership.  they are hungry and mobillizing!

second, while the following quote include a mangling of kirkpatrick’s name and a twisting of his theory, i found one bit to be quite insightful.  the quote

How do you think the success of e-learning should be measured?

Traditionallydropout or the completion rate has been the measurement tool. If thedrop out rate is close to zero one can measure people’s performance. AsKurk Patrick’s model suggests, one has to look at the following todetermine the success: 

a) Completion rate

b) ROI is an important factor

c) Impact on performance

(before you go giggle about the errors – quick – name, and spell, the full name of the person credited with founding the indian institutes of technology – arguably an equal to mit and oxford and the birthplace of india’s current scientific superiority.)  ok now that we have that silliness out of the way, let me point out mr. joshi’s comment that "if the dropout rate is close to zero one can measure people’s performance."  now it may just be me, but i’ve almost exclusively heard advocates of forgetting about dropout rates in favor of roi analyses or performance measures.  but mr. joshi is correct that unless dropout rates are significantly low, the validity of claiming a learning intervention had any impact on anything is non-existent. 

think about it.  if only 15 of 100 participants complete a learning intervention, but we want to know the impact the course had on the 100, you can see how quickly we’d be shown to be ineffectual in our effort.  if 100 people are targeted for an intervention designed to create the change needed to meet the company’s strategic goals, then we either better be retaining everyone one of those employees until the end of the program AND gaining the improvement required from nearly all  of them or we need to figure out a way to get a bigger pool of learners so that when everyone drops out we’re still left with 100 who have met our goals.

just like our colleagues in the supply chain, all of the slack is being removed from the chain of processes we work with to move the workforce forward.   you know the folks at harbinger group are examining the efficiencies of their processes.  as mr. joshi says,

one needs to understand the business processes for developing a world class product and solution for the industry.

he may not have kirkpatrick’s levels memorized correctly, but he seems to have an answer to winning the race to dominance in elearning dialed in!

(Oh, I almost forgot. The answer to the founder of IIT.  You may have known his last name – Nehru – but I bet there were few if any who knew or could spell his first name.  Jawaharlal Nehru was Prime Minister of India when he called for the formation of universities which would rival MIT.  The seven campuses of IIT are considered to be that today.)


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informal learning survey

19 07 2006

elearning guild should be about to wrap up their informal learning survey.  it seems to me from the questions they ask that they are trying to determine if there is a consensus on what informal learning is and what tasks or events are informal learning.  hopefully there is some commonality.  it seems that every person writing or talking about informal learning has their own definition of what it is.  which of course, makes any forward moving discourse on the subject nearly impossible.

so take a few minutes in the next day or so and go complete their survey.  non-members of the elearning guild who complete the survey can request that a copy of the results be sent to them when the report is completed.  (guild members have access to all guild research.)

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