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Friday, December 23, 2005
Thursday, December 22, 2005
Global Learning: Mr Cross, currently you are working on a book about informal learning. How do you define informal learning?More
Jay Cross: Well, I had to redefine all learning in order to write the book because the world is changing so fast. The concepts we had when knowledge was fixed in place, like something you could put in a library, don’t work anymore. So I look at all learning as adaptation to the communities that matter to you, to your ecosystems, if you will. Informal learning is simply that, which is not directed by an organisation or somebody in a control position.
Sunday, December 18, 2005
I haven't had any success importing Blogger entries into the new site. And then I'll need to shift subscriptions and pointers to the new blog. This will probably be my hobby for the month of January.
Take a look if you don't mind seeting something primitive.
I cannot count the times I've heard some PowerPoint jockey explain wisely that the Chinese character for Crisis combines the ideograms for Danger and Opportunity.
Today's New York Times explodes this myth. The characters of weiji mean "a genuine crisis, a dangerous moment, a time when things start to go awry. A weiji indicates a perilous situation when one should be especially wary. It is not a juncture when one goes looking for advantages and benefits. In a crisis, one wants above all to save one's skin and neck!"
Saying something is so doesn't make it so.
Which brings me to our president, who justifies illegally spying on citizens because we are at war with terrorists. War? What war? The U.S. has not declared war on terrorists. This is merely incendiary language to get us riled up. The War of Terrorism is like the War on Poverty; it's a metaphor. Duh.
W and his cronies conjured up the War on Terrorism because Americans are traditionally loyal to wartime presidents. I suspect the invasion of Iraq follows the same logic. Maybe W. shirked military service, but now he's Commander in Chief, so you're expected to salute (unless you're unpatriotic).
Homeland used to mean "the country where somebody was born or where somebody lives and feels that he or she belongs." Now the accent is on home. Imagine these rag-top terrorist bastards invading your house, smashing your stuff, raping the women, killing the children, and blowing the place to smithereens by detonating a truckload of plastic explosive in your driveway.
Be Vigilant... and report any suspicious person or package to local authorities or TSA personnel, warns the Transportation Safety Administration. The TSA is using money that could otherwise go to improving education and healthcare to pay more than 50,000 people to frisk passengers and search suitcases. They put thousands of federal air marshals on tens of thousands of flights each month.
In the last 30 days, I've been searched like a suspected smuggler, patted down, and asked to remove my shoes, undo my belt, and hand over my luggage for inspection. Many times. As if a terrorist is going to walk into this rather than simply blowing up an unguarded post office or university administration building. Since putting one passenger out of a hundred through this wringer would achieve the same deterrent effect as doing everybody, the TSA either does not understand statistics or is just fanning the flames to remind us we're at war.
I don't like to see the government wasting my money. I don't like being lied to. I don't like having my country look stupid on the world stage. I don't like alarmist propaganda putting people on edge. I'm mad as hell but I guess I'll have to wait for the next election to do anything about it.
Which brings me to the Bay Area Rapid Transit district (BART). These are the guys who hired an aerospace company to design a subway and ended up with non-standard gauge rails that only accommodate expensive cars manufactured in France.
BART's ace security team has mounted posters like this one just in time for the Christmas season.
A poster like this is highly unusual but I haven't figued out who to report it to.
Saturday, December 17, 2005
Curt Bonk and Charlie Graham's The Handbook of Blended Learning is being released today.
If you know my thoughts on the whole blended business, you'll be surprised to find that I wrote the foreword to this tome. I'll share the unedited version:
Foreword to The Handbook of Blended Learning
By Jay Cross
Monday, 27 December 2004
When Curt Bonk asked me to contribute a chapter to this book, I flat out refused. As you might guess from the quantity of top-notch authors who appear here, Curt is persistent. He asked me again, and again I turned him down, this time with an explanation.
I told him I considered blended learning a useless concept. To my way of thinking, blending is only new to people who were foolish enough to think that delegating the entire training role to the computer was going to work. I could not imagine unblended learning. My first-grade teacher used a blend of story-telling, song, recitation, reading aloud, flash cards, puppetry, and corporal punishment.
Is it not nutty for a learning strategist to ask “Why blend?” The more appropriate question is, “Why not blend?” Imagine an episode of This Old House asking, “Why should we use power tools? Hand tools can get the job done.” For both carpenters and learning professionals, the default behaviour is using the right tools for the job.
Since I have made it to my fourth paragraph without a footnote or a passive sentence, you have probably already figured out that my perspective is corporate, not academic. My bottom line is organizational performance, not individual enlightenment. Not that I am dismissive of research. In nearly thirty years in what we used to call the training business, I have read my share of Dewey, Kolb, Bransford, Gagné, Schank, and John Seely Brown, but as a businessman, I also pay allegiance to Peter Drucker, Stan Davis, and Harvard Business Review. And I hobnob with least a dozen of the authors you are about to read.
Here are a few issues for you to consider as you ponder this fine collection of observations and advice from learning pioneers around the globe.
What’s a blend?
First of all, these are not useful blends:
· 40% online, 60% classroom
· 80% online, 20% face-to-face
· 80% workshop, 20% online reinforcement
After reading a few chapters of this book, you will see these for what they are: oversimplifications.
Four or five years ago, it was commonplace to hear, “We’ve tried eLearning. People didn’t like it. It didn’t work very well.” This is akin to saying, “I once read a book. It was difficult to understand. I’m not going to do that again.” The book in your hands describes rich variations and applications of eLearning. After reading it, you’ll find that you can no more generalize about eLearning than you can generalize about books. Consider this description of a blend from Macromedia’s Ellen Wagner.
“Evolving blended learning models provide the essential methodological scaffolding needed to effectively combine face-to-face instruction, online instruction, and arrays of content objects and assets of all form factors. For example, in such a blended learning scenario, a student may find him or herself participating in a face-to-face class discussion; he or she may then log in and complete an online mastery exercise or two, then copy some practice exercises to a PDA to take advantage of what David Metcalf calls “stolen moments for learning” – those times between classes or meetings, while on the train, or waiting for an appointment. Think about sending a text message with results of your practice sessions to someone in your virtual study group using your mobile phone - and getting a voicemail with feedback on your results when you arrive at the end of your flight.”
People don’t know what they like; they like what they know. For example, many assume that face-to-face instruction is the one best way to teach and that online learning is inherently inferior. They seek ways for online initiatives to support the high-grade face-to-face experience. As discussed in this book, Capella University turns this view on its head, asking what face-to-face support is required to supplement online learning. Having found online learning universally effective, Capella uses face-to-face only to further social goals such as building one’s support network or creating informal affinity groups. From their perspective, a blend may contain no face-to-face element at all.
Blended learning can take place while waiting in line at the grocery store or taking the bus home. Its ingredients may be courses, content chunks, IM pings, blog feedback, or many other things. Interaction is the glue that holds all these pieces together. Interaction comes in many forms, not just learner and instructor, but also learner-to-content, learner-to-learner, and learner-to-infrastructure. Interaction, especially in learning communities, can create an experience so compelling that it makes workers hungry to learn and drives otherwise sane people to pay $4 for a cup of coffee at Starbucks.
What goes into the blend? Great recipes are the product of generations of experimentation, tasting, and refinement. eLearning is at the same embryonic stage as American cuisine when home chefs rarely started a sauce without a can of condensed mushroom soup, and garlic was reserved for scaring away vampires.
First generation eLearning was initiated, delivered, and completed online; however, its consumers lost their appetites. Today’s tastier recipes include organizational skills assessments, books, content objects, workshops, clinics, seminars, simulations, collaboration, technical references, learning games, and links to communities of practice, both online and off..
At the University of Phoenix, I developed a classroom-based business curriculum in 1976. A dozen years later, an online program debuted. More recently, UoP introduced blended programs which combine some classroom and some online (see chapter from Brian Lindquist). Add more classroom and the result is the “local model” blend; add more online and the result is the “distance model.” Some blends are like “vibration cooking,” i.e. a pinch of this, a handful of that, and however much wine is left in the bottle. C’est bricolage.
As Nancy Lewis and Peter Orton document here, IBM’s four-tier model shows how the ingredients of the blend must be matched to the nature of the outcomes sought. Web pages work fine for performance support. Simulations are good for developing understanding. Groups learn from community interaction and live virtual programs. Higher order skills require coaching, role play, and perhaps f2f sessions. Each dish requires its own recipe.
Blends are more than a learning stew, for as the authors here amply demonstrate, blends fall along many dimensions. Some of these dimensions are listed in the chart below.
TABLE: Possible Dimensions of Blended Learnin
A Blend of Blends. The ideal blend is a blend of blends. Take the last dimension above, formal to informal learning. Study after study finds that most corporate learning is informal. It’s unscheduled. It’s learning on the job. It’s trial-and-error. It’s asking someone who knows.
If informal learning is so important, dare we leave it to chance? If we seek an optimal result, we cannot. Instead of a single blend which calls for x percent of this and y percent of that, I propose we take the blends of many of the authors here into account. We must replace one dimensional thinking with simultaneous consideration of dozens of pie charts, matrices, and comparison tables.
The many cooks of The Handbook of Blended Learning do not spoil the broth. On the contrary, their diversity of opinion and method enrich the book. Editors Curt Bonk and Charles Graham are to be congratulated for preserving the unique flavor contributed by each author.
Mike Wenger and Chuck Ferguson of Sun Microsystems make a strong argument for thinking in terms of a learning ecology instead of a blend of classroom and eLearning. “Classroom” deprives the concept of the rich, multifaceted experiences that take place there. Similarly, “eLearning” covers over the multiple possibilities born of the marriage of the learner and the Internet. There’s simply a lot more to it than that.
School’s out. Corporations seek self-reliant workers they can trust to do the right thing without supervision. Every manager wants “self-starters” on her team. Yet when it comes to learning, many workers wait for others to tell them what to do. Why don’t they take matters into their own hands? I think it is simply a vestige of schooling.
Several hundred years ago, compulsory schools were set up as a separate reality. Students were seedlings, while schools were the greenhouses to protect them from outside elements. The mission of schools was to transmit values and teach a body of knowledge. The noise of the real world might taint the righteousness and clarity of the lessons.
Schooling taught us to think of learning as something a person does in isolation and that its ideal delivery takes place in the classroom or the library, cloistered from the outside. Group work is by and large discouraged (it’s called “cheating”). Authorities choose the curriculum. Self-direction is viewed as rebellion.
Some of these same “authorities” credit me with coining the term eLearning. I would never use the word in the executive suite. Why? Because senior managers equate learning and schooling, too; they remember school as an inefficient way to learn. They are not willing to pay for it.
What is wrong with this picture? How many times have you seen a diagram of the learner-centric model that’s supposed to crowd out the instructor-centric model? It usually shows various learning modalities (e.g., content, the web, discussion groups, video conferencing, live help, etc.) arrayed around the worker.
The image is misleading. It implies that the learner is of paramount importance. In the corporation, however, the work of the group comes before the work of any individual. The learner-centric model retains vestiges of the classroom and its one-to-many oversimplification of how things really work.
There’s an even larger problem: work is typically not part of the picture at all. Imagine a situation where a worker must respond in real time. Say there’s an important customer asking about an order or something has gone haywire in the automated warehouse. Learning must be filtered through what’s happening in the work environment. Otherwise, the worker may accept the customer’s order even though there’s nothing in the warehouse to ship.
Blending workflow learning.
In the knowledge era, learning is the work. Harvey Singh’s prescient chapter proposes the most important blend of all -- the marriage of learning and work. He describes self-perpetuating systems of continuous improvement. Smart software applies its awareness of conditions and context to take a hand in concocting the ever-changing blend. Cycle times shrink to the point that all business becomes a real-time activity.
The components of Harvey’s workflow learning blend are:
· Portals and web parts
· Internet and mobility
· Granular knowledge nuggets
· Workflow automation and knowledge linking
· Human and automated virtual mentoring
· Presence awareness
· Business process and performance monitoring
· Continuous knowledge capture and feedback
· Real-time notification, aggregation, and decision support
· Integrated learning and enterprise applications
· Interoperable, re-usable content framework
The end of blend. So, given the breadth of choices, is it worthwhile to read a book about blended learning? Yes, I think it is. As Elliott Masie says, “The magic is in the mix.”
“Blended” is a transitory term. In time it will join “Programmed Instruction” and “Transactional Analysis” in the dust-bin of has-beens. In the meantime, blended is a stepping stone on the way to the future. It reminds us to look at learning challenges from many directions. It makes computer-only training look ridiculous. It drives us to pick the right tools to get the job done.
Enjoy the book. Don’t just read it. Make it a blended learning experience. Discuss the cases with colleagues. Incorporate it into your plans. Reflect on how to apply its wisdom. Blending will help you learn.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
I just received an invitation to the Fifth International Conference on Neuroesthetics in Berkeley next month. This year's topic is the Flavors of Experience. "Please join us as internationally renowned scientists and artists discuss the brain’s responses to such things as gourmet food, fine wine and aromatic perfumes."
Last year's conference on empathy in the brain and in art was one of the more meaningful days of 2005 for me.
Understanding how chocolate, champagne or Channel No. 5 can elicit intense reactions and enhance long-term memories promises to guide scientists in their research of how pleasure centers and the memory system in the brain are connected. Likewise, chefs, vintners and perfumers can learn from scientists how our brains respond to their products.
At the day-long conference, speakers will range from Yale University’s Dana M. Small, an expert in how the brain processes flavor, to San Francisco Zen Center’s Ed Epse Brown, a priest, cook and author.
By the way, the conference is free.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
I'm finding that people can buy my definition of learning as adapation.
They understand the logic of learning without boundaries.
The question I hear again and again is "How can we assess the quality of informal learning?" My response is two-fold:
- How can you assess the quality of formal learning?
- The measure of success is how well workers get the job done.
Sunday, December 11, 2005
Dave Gray's Visual Thinking School is simply wonderful!
Saturday, December 10, 2005
CLO Magazine, December 2005
Slide after slide of bulleted sentence fragments is an awful thing to sit through. If the speaker giving the presentation reads them to you word for word, it makes a bad spectacle even worse. Regardless of these unpleasantries, PowerPoint has become the language of business.
PowerPoint also happens to be learning’s most popular authoring tool. Many software packages enable learning and development leaders to narrate a PowerPoint presentation and upload it to the Web. The problem is that if live lectures are ineffective, prerecorded ones online are going to be even more ineffective. Unfortunately, being a subject-matter expert doesn’t necessarily make someone an expert public speaker. Sadly, many experts think the purpose of a PowerPoint presentation is to expose the audience to content and pure information—as if emotion plays no part in getting a message across.
However, it makes no more sense to blame PowerPoint for boring presentations than to blame fountain pens for forgery.
Steve Denning, the author of several books on storytelling, recalls not being able to get fully engaged into someone’s PowerPoint presentation. He recognized that PowerPoint can be too concrete, and therefore, he abandoned PowerPoint in his own presentations in favor of telling stories. No one missed it. When you hear a powerful story, you internalize it. Your imagination makes it your story, and that’s something that will stick with you.It makes no more sense to blame PowerPoint for boring prsentations than to blame fountain pens for forgery.
Cliff Atkinson’s book “Beyond Bullet Points: Using Microsoft PowerPoint to Create Presentations That Inform, Motivate and Inspire” shows how to use Hollywood’s script-writing techniques to focus your ideas, how to use storyboards to establish clarity and how to properly produce the script so that it best engages the audience.
Atkinson recently told me the story of a presentation that made a $250 million difference. Attorney Mark Lanier pled the case against Merck in the first Vioxx-related death trial, brought by the widow of a man who died of a heart attack that she believed was caused by the painkiller. Before preparing his presentation, he read “Beyond Bullet Points,” and invited Atkinson to Houston to lend a hand in putting his presentation together.
“We used the three-step approach from the book,” Atkinson said. “Then (Lanier’s) flawless delivery took the experience beyond what I imagined possible. He masterfully framed his argument with an even flow of projected images and blended it with personal stories, physical props, a flip chart, a tablet PC, a document projector and a deeply personal connection with his audience.”
Fortune magazine’s coverage of the trial describing Lanier’s presentation said, “The attorney for the plaintiff presented simple and emotional stories that strongly contrasted with Merck’s appeals to colorless reason.” Fortune reported that Lanier “gave a frighteningly powerful and skillful opening statement. Speaking…without notes and in gloriously plain English, and accompanying nearly every point with imaginative, easily understood (if often hokey) slides and overhead projections, Lanier, a part-time Baptist preacher, took on Merck and its former CEO Ray Gilmartin with merciless, spellbinding savagery.”
Lanier’s technique was persuasive and aimed to get the jurors to believe in his “simple, alluring and emotionally cathartic stories, versus Merck’s appeals to colorless, heavy-going, soporific reason. Lanier is inviting the jurors to join him on a bracing mission to catch a wrongdoer and bring him to justice.” The Texas jury awarded the widow $253.4 million.
You may be thinking, “I don’t have time to do something that elaborate.” Put that in perspective: If you spend months on a complex project, isn’t it worth a few days to wrap up the results into an effective presentation? If you’re using PowerPoint as an authoring system, remember this: A presentation and self-directed learning are two totally different experiences, and the fact that they both may be in PowerPoint doesn’t change that. For compelling presentations, follow the advice in “Beyond Bullet Points.” And for training that works, follow the tenets of sound instructional design.
Thursday, December 08, 2005
I've read that the never-never land between sleep and wakefulness can realease creative ideas. It's as if the curtain between the conscious and unconscious mind becomes porous. Famously, chemist Friedrich Kekule dozed off on a London bus and awoke having figured out the atomic structure of benzene.
I'd been writing most of the day, so thoughts of informal learning were darting in and out of my head. Around 1:00 am, I began to have an ah-ha. An image of the streamlined, universal, informal learning portal began to form in my mind's eye. An hour later, the image was still fuzzy but I hadn't lost it. Fever dreams! At least lying in the dark shivering wasn't time going to waste. 3:00 am, 4:00 am, and 5:00 am passed by. Occasionally I'd take a swig of mineralwasser, but most of the time I just shivered and smiled to myself that this new software was being pieced together in my mind.
Around 7:00 am, I could wait no longer. I cut on the computer and began sketching my vision.
This reminds me of stories in the Sixties where some guy is high on speed or LSD. He writes for three days straight, finally turning in when he runs out of ink, convinced that he has just written the Great American Novel. Upon awakening, he finds three hundred pages filled with the word mu over and over again.
I think I'll have to wait for my Nobel prize.
This marvelously tongue-in-cheek report looks at 800 studies of learning styles and concludes that there are better uses for educational funding. “Learning style awareness is only a ‘cog in the wheel of the learning process’ and ‘it is not very likely that the self-concept of a student, once he or she has reached a certain age, will drastically develop by learning about his or her personal style’.”
The authors at the Learning and Skills Research Centre doubtless had a rollicking good time coming up with conclusions like “Research into learning styles can, in the main, be characterised as small-scale, non-cumulative, uncritical and inward-looking. It has been carried out largely by cognitive and educational psychologists, and by researchers in business schools and has not benefited from much interdisciplinary research.”
And how about this? "The sheer number of dichotomies in the literature conveys something of the current conceptual confusion. We have, in this review, for instance, referred to:
- convergers versus divergers
- verbalisers versus imagers
- holists versus serialists
- deep versus surface learning
- activists versus reflectors
- pragmatists versus theorists
- adaptors versus innovators
- assimilators versus explorers
- field dependent versus field independent
- globalists versus analysts
- assimilators versus accommodators
- imaginative versus analytic learners
- non-committers versus plungers
- common-sense versus dynamic learners
- concrete versus abstract learners
- random versus sequential learners
- initiators versus reasoners
- intuitionists versus analysts
- extroverts versus introverts
- sensing versus intuition
- thinking versus feeling
- judging versus perceiving
- left brainers versus right brainers
- meaning-directed versus undirected
- theorists versus humanitarians
- activists versus theorists
- pragmatists versus reflectors
- organisers versus innovators
- lefts/analytics/inductives/successive processors
- versus rights/globals/deductives/
- simultaneous processors
- executive, hierarchic, conservative versus legislative,
- anarchic, liberal.
The question at the end of the 186-page report asks whether government doesn’t have better things to do with its money, “Finally, we want to ask: why should politicians, policy-makers, senior managers and practitioners in post-16 learning concern themselves with learning styles, when the really big issues concern the large percentages of students within the sector who either drop out or end up without any qualifications?”
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Contemplating my living painting (it rustles in the breeze), a thought from Dwight Eisenhower flowed into my head: "Farming looks mighty easy if a piece of paper is your field and your plow is a pencil."
This morning I want to wrap up a chapter on cultivating the learnscape. The chapter will be advice for composing a productive ecosystem for work and learning. A month ago, I'd have called this Design. Now I cannot.
As a verb, design means:
- design something for a specific role or purpose or effect
- conceive or fashion in the mind; invent
- make a design of; plan out in systematic, often graphic form
- create the design for; create or execute in an artistic or highly skilled manner
- make or work out a plan for; devise
After two cups of good, strong coffee, I find the painting morphing into the redwoods in the backyard, with a Japanese maple in the foreground, backlit by the fog over San Francisco Bay.
Perhaps I could have designed the painting, but I could no more design those redwoods than I could plow a field with a pencil.
Ever see a redwood cone? They are tiny. About the size of a marble. Each cone contains sixty to a hundred tiny seeds; 125,000 seeds weigh about a pound. Sixty years ago, one of those seeds took up residence in my back yard. Several of my trees have grown more than a hundred feet tall. They weigh more than a million pounds. How the hell did this happen? The seed contained a blueprint but the seedling's relationships with its surroundings created the tree.
New workers are seeds in the business ecosystem.
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
I contend the three major factors of value -- investment, return, and time -- don't hold still long enough to be useful metrics.
- Google is worth $3 billion on the books. Investors value it at $125 billion. ROI ceases to have meaning when the "I" is funny-money.
- Inflation used to skew the value of a unit of money over time. Now the units of time are no longer constant. The 21st century will contain the equivalent of 20,000 current years!
- Return is tough to measure in a world where intangibles are worth more than tangibles. Everything's relative.
Brenda is senior director of research for ASTD. She presented the 2005 State of the Industry, a just-released review of trends in workplace learning & performance. Learning is broadening in scope and garnering more investment.
Tony has spent the last year with IBM's Almaden Research Lab researching the value of learning. He described the findings of a study of C-level officer perceptions of corporate learning. The CxOs are strategic but most CLOs are still working in the trenches.
Saturday, December 03, 2005
This afternoon I arrived back in Berkeley, coughing and sneezing, after four weeks on the road. San Francisco - Taipei - Bangkok - Dubai - Abu Dhabi - Kuwait - Frankfurt - Berlin - Frankfurt - San Francisco. Around the world but mainly at night.
My book is in much better shape than it was before the journey. There's a new version at the review site for those who are so inclined.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
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.