e-pologia? nah.

28 10 2006

harold jarche discusses albert ip’s decision to drop the "e" from the name of his blog which is now entitled "random walk in learning."  (though don’t change your rss feed aggregator, the url remains as it was.)  ip maintains that having the "e" in front of learning commits us to only talking about learning when technology is involved.  jarche concludes:

Perhaps the creation of the “learning technologies” field has done us a
disservice in spawning a separate discipline from learning (or
education or training). As tool builders and tool users for millennia,
we cannot escape our technologies, nor should we give them over to a
small priesthood of experts.

obviously i have some interest in this issue with two "e’s" hanging off the front of my blog’s name. you can check out my comment that i made on harold’s blog over in the green cocomments box in the left sidebar.

i may be weird, but i’ve always considered myself to be in the learning profession. Blueheavenlye
to me the "e" in elearning doesn’t mean i seen technology as being a higher calling to learning.  the chalkboard and textbooks are both forms of technology used in learning situations.  a good counselor or manager knows to get out from behind the desk when seeking to create an environment of openness when they are seeking to understand what an employee is saying.  i’d maintain that thats a good use of the technology in a learning situation.

for me the "e" does indeed stand for a particular subset of technologies that include computers and other electronic devices used to send or receive data.  it also includes the internet/worldwide web and other video and audio transmission and retrieval systems to which these devices are connected.  it also represents the human interface between learner, facilitator and these tools.   blogs, wikis,  rss, metadata tags, high definition digital video, voip, spread-spectrum technologies,  wireless broadband, mobile communication devices, other world environments, massive multi-player online games and others are affording new opportunities for learning to be accelerated and to reach learners who have previously been under-
served either by access to education and educational resources or by instructional biases and limitations.

i’ve never seen myself as some sort of expert here to guide a congregation of followers to a promise land that only i and a few others truly understand.  i’m more the nutball daredevil jumping off a ledge into an unknown pool of water who screams back up to his friends, ‘see!  the water’s just fine.’  in one of the very first posts to this blog, my bonnie lies over the ocean – mixing metaphors part 2,   i talked  about  elearning  in the  workplace  being a vast ocean of knowledge as we pushed the limits in the areas of education, technology and business.  this vast ocean was, and in many respects still is, terrifying to educators and business people. (techies by nature aren’t terrified of open water.)

to me, being a learning professional who specializes in elearning means i’m willing to test the waters.  check out that new technology and figure out if it might help improve learning.  if it does, then it’s my duty to make it make sense to other learning professionals.  it boils down to the same things no matter what technology you use or don’t use.  i’m here to help improve the following process:

  • determine if there is something that someone must, should or wants to learn
  • find the motivational lever that will help them through the learning process
  • help them find or present to them the content they need
  • guide them in understanding, learning or mastering the information or behaviorBrightyellowheavenlye
  • finding a way to re-enforce what they have learned over time to assure that it sticks
  • assessing or helping them self-assess whether or not they have learned what they set out to learn.

that i happen to do this via new and emerging technologies means putting an e before learning is warranted.  i won’t apologize for that.   if  i’m too focused on the technology and forget that above process is what’s important then you have permission to change the name of my blog to "e e."

hey shithead! the new phone book is here!

28 10 2006

ok, my dog’s name isn’t shithead and i’m not excited about the new phone books and i’m not quite as funny as steve martin was in the jerk.  but "hey diva, the new technorati numbers are here" just didn’t seem to hang together as a headline.  hmmm….

Technoratioh, did someone mention technorati rankings?   how conveeeennient!   i happened to notice earlier today that my technorati rating had dropped under 100,000 for the first time since i’ve been doing eelearning!  look!

87,020!  I had been hovering around the 125,000 range until we pulled off the big question over at learning circuits blog (which had a nice bounce too, but i’ll address that over there.)  now before you get too worried about me getting a big head, i have read vicki davis’  10 reminders for bloggers climbing the rankings.

but for a day or so don’t mind me if you catch me in my robe and pajamas down by the mail box screaming, "look shithead…er, i mean diva!  i’m somebody!"

six word plan

27 10 2006

mark oehlert has posted a fun challenge on both his blog e-clippings and on learning circuits blog:

so here is the challenge – think of six word lesson plans. use just six
words to describe the objective(s) of a course, a unit, a module, a
lesson, an entire college career – whatever your preferred length of
instruction is,

so here’s my go at it:

share -> connect -> forget -> reflect -> learn -> reconnect

give it a try.

web 2.0 isn’t a cure-all

26 10 2006

there’s been a bit of excitement about a new application called slideshare.  as michael arrington on techcrunch calls it powerpoint + youtube.  now it’s been my belief that for an application to truly be a noteworthy web 2.0 application it should enhance a user’s experience beyond what they might otherwise be able to do.

edward tufte must feel like he’s shouting into the wind with this latest powerpoint "enhancement.’  tufte has said "powerpoint is evil" because it forces presenters into a format of endless bullets and non-expository statements of 10-20 words per page with an obligatory piece of clip art.   i do agreeBlog_review_box_slideshare
with him that unfortunately the vast majority of presentations made with powerpoint are just as he describes.  (usually with some manager or teacher reading word-for-word through the endless bullet points.)  however, i am less ready to blame the tool than i am the user.

i strive to use powerpoint as a demonstration tool or, at worst, a set of guideposts for my presentation.  i use images, animations and motion to demonstrate or illustrate a concept.  for example in a presentation on what newborns know for a learning theory class, i created an animation in which a ball rolled behind a screen.  sometimes it came out on the other side, sometimes it didn’t.  this illustration of a classic perceptual experiment conducted with infants was praised by my audience because it made them "feel" the experience as i was discussing the concept.  another slide in the same presentation i played with the looming ball concept (babies will raise their hands when a ball is coming at them evidencing an understanding of distance) just for a bit of fun and to maintain attention.  a third slide i used images and motions to explain how categorization develops in a child from 6 – 18 months.

so back to slideshare.  after alan levine’s glowing review of slideshare, I had to check it out.  so i grabbed the powerpoint presentation i just mentioned, signe dup for a slideshare account and uploaded that sucker.  the upload interface is very nifty and it didn’t take long for my presentation to be fully converted in to a flash presentation ready for viewing and sharing.  one of the cool things about slideshare is that you can embed the resulting presentation in a blog or website very easily.  like this:

if you take a look at the presentation you’ll see that slides 6 (ball and screen illustration), 7 (looming ball), and 11 (demonstration of categorization) don’t work.  so it dawned on me.  they take pps files as well as ppt files so maybe a powerpoint show (pps format) would work.  wrong!  same damn thing.  so the result is that if you do somehow break out of the paradigm of powerpoint usage that tufte blasts, slideshare will bring you right back to it!

while the interface is quite slick on slideshare, it’s functionality takes away any positive features powerpoint brings to the table.  you can see my full review of slideshare on eelearning wiki, but in short, slideshare might qualify as a web 2.0 application, but it it’s a poor example of web2.0.

knowing knowledge

23 10 2006

i’ve been waiting for chance to talk about george siemens’ new, self-published book, knowing knowledge.  this is the cornerstone theory of george’s new theory of learning which he calls connectivism.  i had the great fortune a few months ago to edit george’s manuscript of the book for him.  having spent a great part of my career in the pubimage of knowing knowledge coverlishing industry, i have alway enjoyed the excitement  that I feel when I’ve had the priviledge to  preview a book that is going to have impact.  knowing knowledge I think is such a book.

in part 1, george takes on the traditional challenge in books on knowledge and learning of trying to define these term. he posits a theory that many will blast as relativistic, but he avoids the cartesian trap by placing knowledge in the connections between people and objects.  connectivism allows for a priori knowledge without falling into fatalism and  a posteri  knowledge without the atomistic, self-centered world view of many followers of descartes. learning then becomes a matter of pattern recognition and personalizing our experiences.  we are continuously assessing and hypothesizing what we have learned vis a vis the new data being presented to us now.

this is powerful stuff in that it not only explains common everyday knowledge and experience, but explains how breakthrough knowledge and innovative thought appear next to the mundane.  michael jordan talks about "just knowing where the ball is going to be."  football quarterbacks sense the openings in the patterns.  evidently individually we all have different abilities to decypher different patterns with varying degrees of ease.  thus you find someone like albert einstein saying to the reporters who were constantly hounding him, "why are you following me, i’m just a scientist."  quantum physics is just a set of patterns, no different to einstein than the patterns that make up the concept "breakfast."

in part two of knowing knowleimage of change process chartdge, george turns to the question of "what does this mean in the real world?  if your journey to understanding elearning has involved frequent visits to elearnspace.org then this section will feel very much like home to you.  it’s "siemens-ism" at its best.  george runs through a host of issues around the social nature of learning and knowledge, the interaction of learning and organizations, what this all means for education – both personal and societal.  clearly, these are the patterns decyphers with jordan-esche ease.

he concludes the book with a 5-domain implementation model which outlines how connectivism can be implemented system-wide in an organization.  while it may seem daunting, that is only a reflection of the complexity of the organization, not connectivism itself.   one concern i do have is that george states that the implementation model is triggered by an organizational change having occurred.  it seems odd to me that the model wouldn’t either be involved in the change process, or perhaps even precede it  – participating in the creation of the need for change.

despite the amount of information covers, knowing knowledge is an accessible presentation of a complex set of concepts.  his use of a non-linear writing style makes reading through sections of the book easier, encourages reflection, and invites the reader to  "dip in" to refresh your memory on any particular section.


knowing knowledge is available through george’s new site knowing knowledge.   you can download pdf files of the book for free!   the links are found on the blog in the entry entitled knowing knowledge – pdf files.  The various charts in the book are in black and white in the pdf’s.  to link to the full color charts, you can find them on george’s flickr site under the group knowing knowledge.  finally, true to his theory, george has posted the manuscript to a wiki where he’s invited everyone to come and help make knowing knowledge better.

eventually, printed copies will be available for purchase through amazon.com.

imagining the internet

22 10 2006

my latest time sink has been a site called imagining the internet: a history and forecast.  it has been created and maintained by faculty, staff and students and elon university with the support and funding of the pew charitable trust’s internet and american life project.  Imagining_the_internetthe site is a great interface sitting adopt  of a database formed by the data from three "predict the internet" surveys pew conducted in the 90’s, in 2004, and 2006.

what’s fascinating about how imagining the internet has been put together is that not only does it look forward 150 years in to the future, but it goes back 150 years and looks at predictions around the then just emerging new media of telegraph, telephone, and television.  now i have to admit that i’ve always been a bit jaded when i hear an expert say "in 100 years, humans will……"  but i’ll be a little less so after reading these quotes from the late 1900’s:

on the future of telephones

as reported in the book  "bell" by robert v. bruce, kate field, a british reporter who knew bell, predicted in 1878 that eventually:         

"while two persons, hundreds of miles apart, are talking together, they  will actually see each other."

(she’s talking about video chat two years after bell patented the phone?!?!?!)

at&t chief engineer and electrical review writer john j. carty projected in his "prophets column" in 1891:

"A system of telephony without wires seems one of the interesting possibilities, and the distance on the earth through which it is possible to speak is theoretically limited only by the curvation of the earth."

(he’s talking about cell phones 115 years ago!?!?!?  – although he was abit off on coverage gaps.  curvation of the earth? i wish!!!)

on the furture of television

a report in the indianapolis xtar apcril 9, 1927:

"spectacles may be staged in distant cities and be transmitted for the entertainment of individuals hundreds of miles away.  onversations may be held across the sea and the          parties see each other as clearly as though they were gathered in the same room. distance will be annihilated for sound and sight and the world made immeasurably smaller for the purposes of  communication."

(i checked thomas friedman’s grandfather did not pen this for the star.)

so now I’m thinking that these predictions probably bordered on being considred lunatic by these writers’ temporal peers.   so i looked at the predictions fo the future from today and looked for the lunatic fringe amongst them. 

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xblogs: the road less traveled

16 10 2006

while checking out the social networking weblog,  a new-to-me blog, i stumbled across quite a gem.  the escape plan by kim and jason kotecki is an xblog (short for experiential blog).  while the escape plan is a great xblog journey through 40 days to free yourself of adultitis, it’s the underlying instructional design of an xblog that captured my attention.Lesstravel

As Kim and Jason explain it on their xblog alley page;

an experientialblog (or xblog) is a blog that inspires active participation in eventsor activities, leading to the accumulation of knowledge or skill. youmight think of it as a community self-help or how-to blog.

the general design of the xblog, as they have created it is simple yet  powerful:

  1. it has a finite number of posts, each of which constitute a specific step towards a stated goal.
  2. community is created by readers (voyagers) who share comments on their experiences.
  3. it is written by an individual or team of sherpas, who lead the experience and guide voyagers in the journey.

while it might be a whole heck of alot of fun to learn something using this approach in a group, it really has it’s power in being an individualized journey that draws upon the wisdom of those who have walked the same path before you.   as long as the tasks in each blog post are kept open enough for the individual to interpret how they will fulfill the task this becomes a potentially powerful way to use blogs to drive informal learning.

i’ve had a number of interesting ways to us xblogs for workplace learning bubbling in my mind as i’ve been writing this.  in fact, if you happen to be reading this and are intrigued about giving it a try in your organization, drop me a note.  i happen to be available these days!

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