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Berlin
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
I arrived in Berlin yesterday morning, checked in at the misnamed but reasonably-priced Hotel Berlin Plaza, plugged in my laptop, and tapped away most of the day as I watched the snow drift by. The Plaza does not have internet connections; in fact, they charge 2,5 Euros an hour to use Microsoft Office on the one public PC in the "Business Center."

Berlin is in Christmas dress. The trees of the Ku'damm are a sea of white lights. Fanning out from the ruins of the Friedrich-Wilhelms Gedank Kirche run are scores of festive booths serving hot mulled wine, fancy candles, meter-long bratwurst, ornamenets, and more.

I shared lunch today with Gary Woodill, a font of wisdom about learning origins and esoterica. He told us about the distributed intelligence of slime mold. One of these guys doesn't know jack but put a bunch of them together, and they can navigate a maze. Separate and re-group the maze takers; they'll go through the maze faster than a new group! Then there's the explanation of why codfish have failed to return to the banks of Newfoundland after years of overfishing. The fishermen had taken all the adults, obliterating the collective wisdom of where to go for food.

Gary is finishing up an ebook for Brandon Hall, and I've been doing my author thing, so conversation turned to books. The slime and cod stories could make interesting alternatives to the One-Minute Cheese Manager books. Someone needs to write The Stupidity of Crowds, a history of English football louts. The opportunities are endless.

Educa is becoming one of the world's meeting-points for thought leaders. Within ten minutes of walking in the front door, I'd become involved in half a dozen conversations that started on my blog or in Abu Dhabi or in email. Werner Trotter, who heads press relations for Educa, and I talked about the power of the Educa imprimateur to bring the right people together and the excitement of web/learning/life 2.0.

I am really looking forward to the next few days.

Wake-up call
Saturday, November 26, 2005
My noggin is filling up with learning fluff from the net, the street, books, conversations, and subscriptions. think I know how Johnny Mnemonic must have felt. He's the William Gibson character with a hard drive implant in his head. If he doesn't download after a while, well, let's not go there. It's not a pretty picture.

We live in surreal times. I have no doubt but that we just passed the knee of the exponential curve of everything, the ride up the hockey-stick handle is getting faster, and soon the nose-cone of our vehicle will begin to glow from the heat. I told a professor today that our culture train is whizzing along at about 600 KPH, way past the speed where the wheels were predicted to fall off. Sorry for the mixed metaphor. It's late. And the acceleration just slammed me back in my seat.


Abu Dhabi can be truly beautiful.


We stopped by the city fish market to buy shrimp for dinner. Unlike New Orleans, here it's okay to eat Gulf shrimp.


These two guys cleaned out my pockets very smoothly, and I have lots of trinkets to prove it. In fact, I'm way out of luggage allowance and will probably send FedEx some business tomorrow. Tomorrow night I am off to Berlin. The mercury there has fallen to 32F.


For a wealthy country, Abu Dhabi has its bargains. I took a $1.25 taxi ride across the isthmus in front of my hotel, visited the Heritage Village ($1.25 admission), and later bought a nice-sized package of safran for, you guessed it, $1.25. The UAE is also an amazing national rag-to-riches story.

The photo of Abu Dhabi at left was taken about the time I was a college student. Almost all the buildings were huts made of thatched palm fronds. The sheikh's fort, in the lower right foreground, had a couple of stucco houses inside the walls. Now Abu Dhabi looks like lower Manhattan (if it had all been put up in the last 25 years. And maintained.)

These are an antique pearl scale and size-checker. Until the 1930s, the locals dove for pearls. Then the global depression and the Japanese invention of cultured pearls wiped that business out.

The Heritage Village is a mini-Williamsburg or Mystic Seaport. This fellow lowers a goatskin bag on a pully down into the well. He throws a line over the ox's hump. The ox swurls around 180 degrees and lumbers along for 15 or 2o feet. Water gushes out into irrigation ditches that water several small plots. I had just finished Verna Allee's The Future of Knowledge before I saw this. She explains how little has changed in human commerce over the years.

We could not have picked a better place for a World Cafe. The Emirati have lots of practice. I have learned the intensity of meetings in a "third place," neither work nor home, but rather a place to gather for honest conversation.


It was beginning to heat up. When it's too hot for camels to stand, it's way over my limit.

When the old, historic souk (market) burned down a while back, it was not rebuilt. I imagine a gleaming bank tower stands there now. I wandered around this six or seven stall replica. Then I walked along the road (nice Gulf breeze making it comfortable), past a few pricey-looking boats, and into the Marina Mall, the home of IKEA, Carrefour, and a nine-screen multiplex cinema. It's like walking a thousand years in 15 minutes.



This morning a woman dressed head-to-toe in black, full head scarf -- looking through the one-way gauze -- walked by me at the mall; she was jabbering into a cell phone. A more daring young woman was in black, but her skirt had a slit almost up to her waste so when she walked, you saw a flash of her scarlet pants underneath.

Things that look old-fashioned to the inexperienced eye must appear like science fiction to locals my age. Were I an Emirati, I wouldn't have gone to a local high school because when I was a teenager, the country didn't have any high schools. Growing up without running water or electricity, eaking out a living from arid, scrubby soil, and not being knowledgeable about the larger world, and twenty-five years later to be buzzing around in an air-conditioned Mercedes, inhabiting a high-rise luxury condo, parenting kids who have cell phones and computers... Can you imagine what that must feel like?

I suspect the Emirati will be better prepared for what's up ahead than the Americans. When I talk with people about the acceleration of time, they think it's some theoretical deal, like Einstein or Heisenberg. No, this is the real deal.

Five years from now, you're going to feel like an Emirati my age, shaking your head but not about to turn it down. And today, when I'm thinking about effervescent knowledge and nanotech, you have a question about how to grade informal learners? Or whether WebCT is a keeper? Or how to be sure workers are competent? Or the definition of education?

As I said, this island is really big on coffee. My advice if the accelerating pace of change does not concern you: forget that stuff. Wake up and smell the coffee.

Notes from the scribbler
Friday, November 25, 2005
A printed manuscript of my book on Informal Learning just arrived. Four hundred pages of characters and runes. It's intimidating. Maybe that's why none of the people I sent it to for comment are responding. A Dutch writer who saw the manuscript wrote back less than a day later. "That's a BIG book you have put out there. This informal learning thing is interesting. And just like last year, I find your writing inspiring, not very practical, but inspiring and that is often more important, at least, it is more important to me than practicalities of daily problems."

I'm trying to finish up a section on ecological systems approaches, comparing living organizations to other biosystems. Did you know that were it not for the lowly dung beetle, Africans would be waste-deep in dung in a month? Or that if the bees and butterflies diappeared, so would your food. Take away the worms, the soil will turn acidic, and plants would not grow. Watch out for corporate DDT!

The FlickR Blockade here is now in its fifth day, so this is the only place you're going to see these photos!

To cut down on accidents, the Interior Minister of Kuwait has announced that ex-patriates in Kuwait will not be allowed to drive unless they have a college degree and an income of more than $1,200 a month.


Paul took this picture of his wife Cathy and our group at Finz Restaurant last night. Next door, an ersatz Cuban band was blasting Buena Vista music to the delight of a thousand writhing Latinos and friends.


The open kitchen at Finz. I took this from my seat.


Toni Luskin's nails. A computer graphic of her Gucci scarf was sprayed on her digits.


Not cheesecake. Or beefcake. I wanted to show you a feature all bathrooms should mimic. The mirrored wall is all steamed up, save this portion over the sink. I assume a rear-projection heater lies behind the mirror.



If it published in the Middle East, the Friday New York Times would be the fat one. It's our one-day weekend.


Observations
Thursday, November 24, 2005
Pictures from the FlickR free zone. This feels so strange. I resized these in MS Paint and uploaded them via Blogger.

The Emerging Elearning signs along the Corniche Road have come down. Party's over.


The Hilton's beach is on the Gulf but behind a breakwater.


German women delude themselves that their skin is impermeable to cancer.


Infidels at the pool.

Life’s been good to me so far
The old Joe Walsh song is thumping in my forebrain.

I have a mansion
Forget the price
Ain't never been there
They tell me it's nice

I live in hotels
Tear out the walls
I have accountants
Pay for it all

They say I'm crazy but I have a good time
I'm just looking for clues at the scene of the crime
Life's been good to me so far

I’ve been a little under the weather, so I’m eating light. Last night’s supper was a small shellfish salad. This morning I ordered the Japanese breakfast from room service. I've drunk three litres of San Pellegrino in the last 24 hours. And no alcohol.

Around one o’clock this afternoon, I figured I needed some sunlight, so I walked across the street to the Vasco’s, the Hilton’s beachside restaurant, thinking maybe I’d order a light salad.




The maitre d’ suggested I sit inside, as a large banquet had taken over the entire patio. I grabbed a seat in a little nook by a window. Soon a familiar fellow in a dishdasha was by my side. “Did I want to join the banquet?” I didn’t think so. He said he remembered me from the conference. I asked if he'd attended the conference. Only when Sheikh Nahayan was there. The banquet was another lunch hosted by His Excellency. Now I could see him sitting at the head of the table. They were just finishing up, but His Excellency wanted to treat me to lunch.

The Sheikh and I talked briefly as he departed. Tayeb was surprised to see me but greeted me warmly. Mustafa, the Syrian fellow I'd had lunch with at the Sheikh's came along. They were off, and food began to arrive.

My Maserati
Does one eighty-five
I lost my license
Now I don't drive

I have a limo
Ride in the back
I lock the doors
In case I'm attacked

I'm making records
My fans they can't wait
They write me letters
Tell me I'm great

So I got me an office
Gold records on the wall
ust leave a message
Maybe I'll call

Lucky I'm sane after all I've been through
(Everybody sing) I'm cool (He's cool)
I can't complain but sometimes I still do
Life's been good to me so far

A salad of radicchio, butter lettuce, arugula, prawns, and lobster chunks appeared, soon accompanied by a spicy lentil broth drizzled with crème fraishe. The main course consisted of a lamb chop, spicy chunks of hamoor (a Gulf fish), some savory camel, a great langoustine tail, and I forget what else. Desert was tiramisu with chopped nuts, its chocolate container surrounded by swirls of pistachio cream and apricot coulis. Good, strong coffee.

Now I’m going to take a nap.

I go to parties
Sometimes until four
It's hard to leave
When you can't find the door

It's tough to handle
This fortune and fame
Everybody's so different
I haven't changed

They say I'm lazy but it takes all my time
(Everybody sing) Oh yeah (Oh yeah)
I keep on going guess I'll never know why
Life's been good to me so far.
Yeah, yeah, year.





Great new tools keep appearing in my toolbox

Werner Trotter
pointed me to RollYO, a service for running your own selctive search engines. His Edutrain RollYO searches, for example

* grayharriman.com
* mcgeesmusings.net
* ottergroup.com
* downes.ca
* elearnspace.org
* elearning-reviews.org
* clomedia.com
* educause.edu
* elearnmag.org
* researchblog.ecornell.com
* elearnopedia.com
* elearningguild.com
* cetis.ac.uk
* distance-educator.com
* elliottmasie.com
* masie.com
* internettime.com
* elearningpost.com
* parkinslot.blogspot.com
* eduforge.org
* e-learningcentre.co.uk
* flosse.dicole.org
* darcynorman.net
* elearningeuropa.info
* learningcircuits.org

Many of these are sites I track on my SuprGlu aggregator, Jay's Eclectic Tastes. I've put Werner's RollYO link in the right column there.

Notes from the underground
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Work is moving right along here in my writer's cottage hidden away in the Abu Dhabi Hilton. My book now tops four hundred pages and that's before adding the graphics.

Michelangelo said the statue was inside the stone. All he needed to do was chip away the superfluous marble to let the statue emerge. I've stuck together a sufficiently massive stone so as of today I'm taking out the chisel, praying that the statue that emerges won't be too avant guard.

At Emerging Elearning, several of us addressed the importance of FlickR as exemplifying not only a nifty way to share photographs, but also as a social networking device, a learning tool, and good entertainment. For the past two days, going to FlickR gets this response:



I notice that this embargo started soon after FlickR posted one of their humorous downtime notices that "FlickR is taking a massage." When the kiddy-porn blockers sees hundreds of thousands of people flocking to a site about massage, the system probably goes on red alert. I wrote to complain and have had no reply, but I imagine my email went directly to the electronic shredder without intervention.

On the other hand, yesterday's local paper covered the news that Bush told Blair he wanted to bomb Al Jarezza, the only television station telling the Arab side of the news in a professional manner. Last night I watched Al Jarezza for a while; it was a lot more interesting than watching The Sopranos with Arabic subtitles. Even joking about obliterating (W's explanation for a leaked memo on this plot) shows our president to be seriously stupid. How would we feel if Osama had blown CNN and a chunk of downtown Atlanta off the map because he felt their news coverage was biased and incendiary?

I believe that humankind is basically good and that the flat world will be a better place to be. It will also highlight our indivdual brands of ignorance. Locking arms in unity will not be a day at the beach.

Emerging Elearning Day 3
Monday, November 21, 2005


This has been a wonderful day. We completed the circle of our World Cafe by sharing people's contributions with the Minister of Education Sheikh Nahayan.

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Me explaining that we had appropriated the cafe concept from Bedouin hospitality.

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His Excellency, Paul Mace, moi

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These are starter photos. Wherever the sheikh appears, a bevy of professional photographers is grabbing shots. Sitting next to him, I felt like a celebrity at the Oscars. Click, click, click, click. Anyway, I should have enough photos to fill several albums in a day or two.

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I'll be in Abu Dhabi another week, focused on writing the Informal Learning book. The last few days in the UAE have been a terrific learning experience for participants, my friends who joined me here, and me. This afternoon I decided that this experience will become a chapter entitled "Conversations."

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Everyone I spoke with deemed Emerging Elearning 2005 a success. Videos of major presentations are already up on the conference site. Tomorrow we plan to set up a mail list to keep the flame alive by continuing the conversation we have started.

Blogging live from Emerging Elearning
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Jery Michalski is chair of today's sessions on Lifelong Learning. Jerry asks the audience what they think Lifelong Learning means. A woman with a wonderful Irish lilt to her voice brings up making time for reflection. the head of the woman's college says you don't learn well without knowing your style. The head of the Dubai Women's College thinks LLL depends on curiosity.

Bernie Luskin is our first keynoter this morning. Senge says planning is learning. Bernie's going to fill in the cracks between the previous days' presentations. He'll focus on 10 advances in learning. What's new?

He will use some avant guard language. We're in the communications century. Bernie thinks of the 80s as the era of spreadsheets, the 90s were the decade of the gadget (blinking tie clips, talking earrings); now we're in the communications age, the beginning of the age of communications and programming.

We are digital. Two vital questions: What needs to change? What needs to stay the same?

The "e" is strangling progress with over-reliance on technology. It should stand for exciting, emerging, energetic, exceptional, ephemeral, engaging, elastic, evangelistic.

Curiously for a guy with Ph D in psychology, Bernie says the amygdala is located in the forebrain.

Interrupt! The Australian ambassador takes the stage. He says you couldn't have found a worse speaker to talk about what's coming up. Or anything else for that matter. However, he hopes that we will take everything he says as gospel. Australia has numerous ties with higher education. The University of Western Australia and HCT are announcing a new masters degree program in petroleum technology.

Jerry is taking the stage. He will tell us
  1. some stories of Fiona, Peter, and Joi
  2. Then, three Ps: persistence, power tools, play
  3. Finally 21st century skills
He will focus on informal learning. How do you get along? Emergent phenomena: the use and recombination of things that are there for other purposes.

Nothing beats face to face. Being here trumps any technology. Learning is social. Why do we know so little about it?

Fiona is Jerry's '62 Sunbeam Alpine. Alpine owners mailing list. Detailed instructions answer people's questions about maintenance.

Peter Kaminski: Maven. Low-key guy. He's on a number of the mail lists Jerry subscribes to. When a question pops up, give Peter a few hours and he will find the answer and share it. Mavens (who know a lot and are willing to share), Connectors (who put people together) and Salespeople (who sell ideas) populate Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point.

Jerry''s The Tipping Point, The Social Life of Information, Communities of Practice (how do I find and use them), Bowling Alone (unaffiliation), The Wisdom of Crowds, Achieving Success Through Social Capital, Linked.

Joichi Ito, who lives his live sort of inside out. He leverages technology to do wonderful things. Flickr not only shows your photos. Tags. All sorts. Cats in Sinks. Transparent screen. Bookmarks on del.icio.us. Keep up with a feed on any topic. If you could look over the shoulder of a dozen people....

Joi has a 24-hour tesxt chat. 108 users...late at night. People are there 24/7, even when Joi is not there. You can talk or (privately) whisper. Joi blogs: a lot. Member of ICANN.. Remarkable transparency. Doc: all I'm doing is my email on the web.

Joi in warcraft. Guilds. Playing with social engineering. Joi now
Second life.

Joi knows Peter. These are linked social networks. If you don't put out informatoin on what you're doing, you won't connect. Virtuous circle.

PersistenceUnder the net, it was impossible for an individual to leave something of yourself for others to see. Any person can find a free website and leave behind words, interactions, or code.

Power Tools. Mailing lists. Chat. IM. VoIP. Scfreen sharing . Social networking. Media Sharing. Bookmarks. Video sharing. Podcasts. Screencasts. (tour possibilities). Machinima... (makes the equv of a movie) Blog Search. Weblogs. Feeds. Tagging. Wikis. (which imply trust), Context and Memory Tools, Visualization, Group Productivity. Each of these things come from diffferent worlds. We need to rethink them arounde human preferences, very plastic, task forucsed, Free them from their history.

Play. Hard to bak in fun. Kids want a challenge, not to have everything easy. Just for Fun. Heavy metal umlaut.

Service mashups. Google+Craigs's list. Not done by a realtor. You Tube. Short videos.

21st Century Jobs. Gardeners, facilitators, process experts, graphic facilitators, coarches, guides, researchers, tool trainers, synthesizers, mem extractors. Dan Pink. Right-brain skills are the jobs of the future.

Learning is social, less is more, bias for openness, appropriation is key (reffs on services,k folksonomies) business models lie above the new platform.



Edward Guiliano, President of New York Institute fo Technology

eLearning is so last century. Computers are applicances: ho hum. "I gotta use words when I talk to you," T.S. Eliot.

Tech that create, enable, and empower learning

Great video. Woman hits "carriage return"" and knocks monitor off her desk.

Cultural revolution in Whom we teach, How, Why, What, How we learn.



Emerging eLearning. Live.
Saturday, November 19, 2005
DSC02288Ellen Wagner is on the stage talking about designing experiences that are useful, usable, and desirable. She told a story of giving a presentation, retrieving a phone message telling her a blogger in the audience disagreed with her data, and telling the audience she knew someone questioned her data. She seemed prescient when noting that someone was disagreeing.

Imagine students fact-checking in real time in the classroom. It levels the playing field between student and teacher. Intellectual parity is on the way.

Note on Jerry Michalski's blog...
I'm in Abu Dhabi at the Higher Colleges of Technology, participating in the eMerging eLearning conference, courtesy of my friend and neighbor Jay Cross.

Next to me is XPlane's Dave Gray, who just blogged about Jay's post about Macromedia's Ellen Wagner, who just told a story about being blogged during a corporate presentation.

Recursive enough for you?
Mobile learning is not elearning on a handheld nor all smart-phones nor games nor always on nor interactive. iPods aren't connected.

People want mobile because we are mobile. There’s too much going on to survive without exchanging information on communications.

From Command & Control to Communicate & Collaborate

Change in pedagogy we've been looking for is being forced by learning imperatives biult on connectedness, communication, creative expression, collaboration, cultural awareness, and competitiveness.

Flash... to improve the world.

DSC02285Clark Quinn is presenting his pitch on Using Technology to Make Us Wise. Clark's a cognitive designer. "Wise people look out not just for themselves, but for all toward whom they have any responsiblity."

Beyond smart: sensible decisions. Long-term. Commpassionate. Empathetic.

What would a wisdom curriculum look like? We're drowning in information and increasing change. It's tough to copy. "The proper study of mankind is the science of design."



Day One of this conference had a number of highs for me. To begin with, I had the honor of welcoming people to the conference and introducing the leader of the educational revolution, His Excellency the Minister of Education, the Chancelor of the Colleges, the Patron of this Event, Sheikh Nahayan Mabarek al Nahayan from the conference room of the most expensive hotel in the world, broadcast on national television.

The next high was the World Cafe. Relecting the tradition of Bedouin hospitality, where any visitor is welcomed into the tent, served coffee, and welcomed into conversation, our World Cafe, actually tables covered with flipchart pads in the middle of the school library, welcomed academics, Emirati, teachers, administrators, and speakers. Here's Jerry, starting the first cafe.


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Participants tell me we unearthed some important themes.

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Here's Clark Quinn helping people at the cafe articulate the outcomes.

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xPlane
is creating a visual to explain and continue the conversation.

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Today we used the outcomes of yesterday's World Cafe conversations as input into further dialog.



Here's a peek at the Gala Dinner last night. I may even post some video of yours truly dancing the camel dance. Ellen called a friend in the States who heard the Arab band playing. Cacophony. Her friend said, "That sounds like the Arabian Nights." Ellen said, yes, of course it was.








Fabrizio Cardinali, CEO of Giunti Interactive, demonstrates why device convergence would be handy.


Abu Dhabi Today
Friday, November 18, 2005
Chez Sheikh

DSC02141
His Excellency Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan

DSC02140
Greetings in the majlis

DSC02154
A sumptuous meal beyond description
Great camel!

The Marina Mall

DSC02107
You want luxury? We got luxury. Rolex to Radio Shack.

DSC02122
Carrefour. You never know when you'll
need a bottle of Evian in the desert.

DSC02116
The video in back was showing wipe-outs in these things.

DSC02112
Taking basic black to a new level.



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