finally facing facebook

28 08 2007

i have to admit that i’ve put off checking facebook. the idea of joining yet one more social networking service was too much to bare. but recent comments by a number of learning professionals piqued my interested to the point that i had to check it out.

i have to report that after a week or so of getting to know facebook, it seems like a great service. i can identify a few macro features that i can point to as huge benefits over most other networking tools.

first is what i’ll call a low threshold to entry. it’s incredibly easy to get your profile up and running. unlike most tools i’ve used, you don’t have to have a “complete” profile before you can enter the community. in fact, every piece of your profile that you complete seems to trigger one community benefit or another. so there’s great motivation to keep going back to add a few more things when i can.

second is the intuitive interface is clean and the user can redesign it easily. so many of the other tools are cluttered and determine what you will see on each screen. what if i don’t have a blog on the network? why do i have to see that blank box reminding me that i’m not a true community participant because i haven’t started a new blog on the community site? (see my comments on blogging below for more.) the interface makes is incredibly easy to understand how i can add new features/applications to my facebook and control what will happen when i do. so i want to use the “my questions” application. i can decide whether my questions and/or answers are displayed on my homepage. what about my friends’ questions and/or answers? They can be added to my homepage as well.

a third feature that i absolutely love is that i don’t have to write a new blog in facebook nor do i have to replicate and republish my posts to eelearning to have them appear in facebook. i can simply link to eelearning from facebook and i can list eelearning’s posts on my home page. my friends can link to eelearning as well just as i can link to their blogs! finally! this has been one of the most annoying things about social networking tools to date. everyone expects you to create a new blog for their community! this has been annoying because the technology has been available to do exactly what facebook does. but nobody has done it until now. this alone will keep me coming back to facebook.

my initial impression is that the possibilities for networking with facebook are very extensive and powerful. am i just in a honeymoon period? what’s your experience?

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missing the transfer

25 08 2007

i had the opportunity to meet cal wick, ceo of fort hill company, when he called on gap inc. to pitch his company’s products. cal is one of those inspiring ceo’s who run a company because he has an idea that he thinks will make the world a better place.

in a recent email newsletter, cal blasts current instructional design models for not delivering where it really matters – transfer to the learner’s work.

So I reviewed various instructional design models including ADDIE, Dick and Carey, Kemp, ARCS, Gagne’s 9 Events, Kolb’s Learning Styles, Rapid Design, and others. I was struck that while each provides powerful insights into the learner, the learning situation, and the measurement of learning, none explicitly takes up the challenge of how to get people and institutions to apply what is being taught.

figure out what we need to teach them, build the learning event(s) and activities that will present it most effectively, conduct the activities with the learners, check that they were paying attention and can satisfactorily feed back the target content/skills and we’re satisfied. nice, neat, complete, and generally ineffective. cal says he spoke to a number of students and graduates of top line graduate education programs about how much of what they had been taught dealt with transfer of knowledge/skills to the job. he found that the answers ranged from “nothing” to “not much.”

cal suggests that current instructional models can be extended in three ways to insure this vital transfer of knowledge. First, he suggests that we need to extend our instructional models to cover the transfer period.
The processes, principles and tools we use are good, but we don’t extend them far enough. Second, provide a roadmap. instruct them on how to apply their new knowledge. Third, make sure that the learners have support for their efforts to apply the new knowledge.

these aren’t groundbreaking ideas. when I met with cal three years ago, this was his message then. and they were part of what i was advocating in my post addie? isd? hpt? adapt or die! but it still seems to be a chronic problem for learning programs.

the other day, while I had the television on for distraction while I was trying to rid my laptop of a virus, i overheard a national football league head coach answer a reporter’s question of why he constantly repeats his message to his players. he said, “a lot of times they need to hear it again to get it. but sometimes i need to hear it again.”

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getting others to follow

23 08 2007

the other day on growing, changing, learning, creating; tom harkins issued a challenge to all us learning folk who have been blogging about the problems in the learning world. in his post transforming other educators, tom proposes that we need too appreciate where educators are at – overworked, under-resourced, and unappreciated – and to guide them along their path of discovery to their own understanding of the change they much undertake.

While I totally agree with tom on the tactics he proposes, I don’t think he goes far enough. there are two major factors which workplace learning professionals must overcome in addition to becoming self-aware regarding their own practices.

First, as I’ve said a number of times in this blog (see buggy whip makers, addie? isd? hpt? – adapt or die! and what’s wrong with workplace learning?), if learning professionals don’t move away from the infrequent, face-to-face classroom model to a more ever present, workflow-model approach to learning, other players in the organization will fill the void that is being left by our unwillingness to change our ways. This is a change that is happening as you read this post.

The second factor is that many of us are working in organizations which are still mired in the beliefs that training is a necessary but undesirable overhead cost and that our job as learning professionals is to go in where there is a problem and fix it as quickly as possible (ie, least amount of money and as little time away from the job as possible for the learners) and, hopefully, permanently. Even those who understand that radical change to organizational learning is needed are fighting an uphill battle in such environments.

To deal with these additional two factors, i’ll add to tom’s “vertical dimension” and “appreciative space” the need for a continued white-hot spotlight on the immediate realities of the workplace’s true needs for learning. Finally, those of us who have been in the lead need to exert pressure on senior management to recognize the organic nature of organizational learning and to provide our colleagues with the tools and exemplars that will enable them to drive change from within.

granted, my two additions are not as fun and as laid back as tom’s challenges, but no one has ever said this tsunami of change was going to be easy to surf.

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a new twist on an old reference

14 08 2007

recently i was goofing off and hit my stumble upon button to see what would come up from the world wide web. i was pleasantly surprised when one of the first sites to come up was visuwords. visuwords touts itself as a graphic visual dictionary. the only online competitor to visuwords that i know of is visual thesaurus which i have reviewed in eelearning wiki.

you can enter any word you’d like to learn more about into visuwords and you will be presented with a virtual tree of not only the word and it’s meaning, but all the words in visuwords that are related to your word. For instance, i entered “blog” and came up with this little two branch tree.

visual dictionary blog example

visuwords wins points over visual thesaurus with it’s very stylish design and easy to read graphics. the graphics are the key to visuwords and a key to the shapes and colors is provided at the bottom of the screen. (see the full image of my “training” tree by clicking on the image below.)

learning example of visuwords

the fact that visuwords is based upon Princeton University’s wordnet – an opensource database constructed by faculty, staff, and students. because the technology used to make visuwords work is also opensource, this powerful resource is available for use at no cost. (visual thesaurus costs a minimum of $19.95/year) the one feature that I noticed visual thesaurus wins out over visuwords is the fact that visual thesaurus organizes the words related to the search word in semantic groupings (similar meaning). visuwords just scatters the related words where ever they best fit on the page.

both tools are fabulous and should receive consideration by students, writers, and anyone else who used to lean on their dictionary for spelling, synonyms and nuances in meaning. while $20 isn’t alot of money, why spend it on visual thesaurus when visuwords is very similar and is free?

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