make our garden grow

17 01 2007

konrad glogowski recently shared his personal disappointment caused when he realized that he had been shutting down the  blog communities of his 8th grade classes each june at the end of the school year.  his post, i will be a gardner is worth reading both for what it has to say about building communities but also as an example of the power that honest introspection  conducted before the blogosphere can hold.

as the blogmeister for learning circuits blog, I’ve been looking at ways to nurture an online community as well.  konrad’s thoughts regarding building a communal history and building the means to assure that  contributions to the community will not evaporate for some trivial reason (the end of the school year for example) are well taken.  he further says he used to think of himself as the architect of the communities his students formed but has changed his metaphor to that of a gardner.

having lived in boston, the home of urban communal gardening, i think the metaphor of gardening is a apt one. 

konrad’s points are well taken.  when leading or seeking to build a community it’s important to let the individuals explore the topic(s) at hand freely and openly.  but at least as importantly, they must be able to explore their own growth path as a member of the community.

konrad’s thoughts jive well with a great blog post i recently stumbled upon by bud gibson on the community engine entitled high octane blogging — how to form business community.  gibson sets out three dynamic components he describes as vital to building a vibrant community.

  • creating an information space where participants can see each other
    as well as other related information from outside the community.
  • giving participants their own soapbox where they can say what they want and getting them to say it.
  • giving participants feedback so that they know what they are writing is having an impact.

while they are a bit broad in nature, i think we’re seeing evidence in conversations around The Big Question feature at LCB.  (more no that in a post on LCB soon.)  add to this list, konrad’s emphasis on archiving a communal history and I think you have a solid set of guidelines for community building.

I’ll close with the lyrics from the finale of bernstein’s classic opera, candide, which see quite apropo.

We’re neither pure, nor wise, nor good
We’ll do the best we know.
We’ll build our house and chop our wood
And make our garden grow.
And make our garden grow!

quality vs. speed – we’ve created a monster!

17 01 2007

over on learning circuits blog the january big question is about instructional design and the trade offs between wanting to build the best possible learning experiences and the continual pressure coming from rapid e-learning efforts. 

while i’m a tad slow off the starting line for this month’s big question, it’s been nice to have a chance to read through all of the great posts already written in response.  as I was trying to solve the technical snafus that blogger, cocoment, and mysyndicaat threw at me, i did have the chance to check out what everyone else was saying.

one of the things i have enjoyed about the big question in it’s first few months on lcb is the diversity of thought and opinion being expressed side by side.  this month has been no exception.  so the bulk of my answer will stitch together some of the thoughts I agreed with from the other replies.   sort of a frankenstein’s post if you will.

i’m with geetha krishnan who questions whether quality is really a variable.  i like his definition of quality:

quality in e-learning is something that delivers what the learning objectives necessitate, what the content merits, and what the learner needs.  it is about the nature of the learner’s experience with the learning product.

tom haskins uses cool charts and graphs to make the argument that the best scenario is when there there is a concensus in favor of usability amongst stakeholders of a project.

along the same lines, anil mammen has a great statement about the focus of learning materials development:

Whatever be the instructional challenge, the focus should be to find
the most appropriate learning solution that can be rolled out in
“reasonable time” (when the content is still relevant, when things have
to be addressed quickly, before costly mistakes are made…)

karyn romeis takes the argument that quailty is quality when she says:

Even when the schedule is tight, the end product must WORK. It must
deliver the goods, or it has been time (and therefore money) wasted.  

she argues that when confronted with a schedule that is too tight perhaps learning professionals need aggressiveness training to help them push back for more time. 

david wilson turns the debate in discussing the role of technologies in shortening time on task which has a positive impact on development.  the downside of rapid technologies is to take the wrong people out of the process

A collapsed development model also means collapsing the expertise
involved. With SME production that means minimal e-learning or even
learning expertise (e.g. instructional design). It also often means
limited technology understanding or knowledge of the tools and
associated standards.

to this point, my frankenstein’s post has a tremendous amount of strong advice and direction for us to consider on future projects.  it seems we are very focused on solving the problem within the project management framework.  but i really don’t think it ultimately is the answer as it stands now.  no, my creation needs something more than more than refined project management skills.   igor, bring me the brain!

as have some of those i’ve quoted above, clive shepherd feels there is a need to think outside our bigger-better mindset.

Don’t worry about creating sophisticated interactive multimedia
materials – create a ‘spark’ in the form of a short thought piece, case
history, quotation, picture or whatever and then allow learners to
reflect on this collaboratively with their peers using forums, blogs,
wikis or chat facilities. Much quicker and much more likely to have an

to my mind clark quinn sews the key knot in my creation.

The point is that we need to be looking at a broader space of solutions
than just elearning courses. If we move to a performance focus, we’ll
see that there are times where just an update of how things have
changed is sufficient, or we only need to change the references or job
aids, and sometimes we have a need for a major change to skill set.

stitching all of these pieces parts into one coherent creation is quite a daunting task.  i’ve argued that what is required is an entirely new mindset to our creative efforts.  karyn hinted at one primary change – we need to be more willing to push back.  more importantly, if we get further out in front of the problem, more willing to be proactive  in building new consensus with our stakeholders we can avoid those schedule cutting, scope increasing problems.  we can find higher quality solutions, with less expense and in less time.

i’m not convinced that we have reached anything close to our potential when it comes to  leveraging available assets, technology and process improvements.   as clark argues, we simply can’t expect different results if we keep doing the same things over and over, but just a bit faster and a bit cheaper.   Yes, what i’m proposing is risky, but then again, the stakeholders and learners are at the gates with torches and pitchforks in hand.  what do we have to lose?

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my love-hate relationship with change

12 01 2007

i love change.
i hate change.
over the years i’ve found that me and change have a sometimes delightful, sometimes frustrating relationship. 
change is an opportunity for renewal.  it is a time for deep reflection on what i am doing, where i want to be, and reconsideration my methods for getting there.  in the end, it has been my ability to manage and cope with change that has led to some of my greatest achievements.  when i’ve had the chance to lead others through change i’ve loved the experience and from all reports, i’ve made it easier for those i was leading.
but man, change isn’t fun. whether i have a vision of where the change is leading or i’m trying to cope with the ambiguity that results from unplanned change.  No matter how well you manage it or anticipate it, it still causes distress. neurobiologist in fact have found that change actually causes pain in our brains.  that pain in turn causes the amygdala to fire the flight or fight response to threats. even as experienced as I am with change,  i still struggle with sleepless nights, questions of am i doing the right thing, am i missing something, why me, why now?  change shakes us to the core. it confuses us.  it scares us.

i’ve accepted heraclitus’ belief change is all there is.  to cope with it, i know i have to check in with those around me who care about me to make sure i’m in touch with what’s going on and what I want to stay focused on, and most importantly watch myself to see what I can learn about myself in the process.

"In times of profound change, the learners inherit the earth, while the
learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that
no longer exists." ~ Eric Hoffer

the redmond-centric world spins on

1 01 2007

“The challenge … is how we can adapt to all these issues without incurring fundamental change in the institution of higher education as we know it today.” ― Gerald A. Heeger, in College Planning & Management

i found this quote at the top of a page entitled "challenges for institutions" in a powerpoint presentation developed by microsoft for partners to use in selling vista to educators.  while i’m not sure what specific issues mr. heeger was referring to, it is clear from the powerpoint deck that microsoft is discussing issues of collaboration, access to information, learner driven learning, etc.  interesting that their tact is to assure colleges and universities that they can "adapt to all these issues without incurring fundamental change."

sheesh!, just when you think they might finally be paying attention they prove that they still think the world needs to adapt to the microsoft view of the world.