Jay Cross
Jay Cross

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Learning Conversation
Saturday, March 12, 2005

Yesterday morning Mark Oehlert and I met at Macromedia's new headquarters at 601 Townsend to deliver a webinar using Breeze.

Macromedia is moving across Townsend Street into the old Baker & Hamilton Building. Construction is in progress. It's a great, funky, industrial-chic space reminiscent of the former Digital Think offices up the street. The "Breeze Broadcast Center" is a pleasant conference room chock full of computers and audio gear.

The teaser for the session read: "The Real Dirt on eLearning. Described by his wife as the "Jon Stewart of eLearning," Jay Cross will stretch your thinking about any aspect of learning you want to talk about. Our learning conversation may cover the foolishness of blending, what's wrong with the ROI yardstick, how instructional designers can quadruple their pay, the time sickness gripping Western civilization, "Blink learning," or why most of us are so stressed. What topics do you want an outside viewpoint on? Email us at seminars@macromedia.com. Otherwise, we'll have to listen to Jay drone on about gossip from the training conference circuit, speculation on the next big thing, and reflections on the checkered history of eLearning (a term Jay originated a little over five years ago.)"

Up front, I explained that we were conducting an experiment. Today we were going to engage in conversation, not presentation. We have no script. Our agenda is updating one another and answering participant questions.

I was rebelling against the instructor-centric model that dominates most webinars. A presentation is "pre," something prepared in advance. It presumes that the presenter is going to lay it on the audience. Real learning takes place through dialog and interaction. It's a conversation. The "con" is Latin for with. It's a shared experience. That's what we were shooting for.

I had posted a set of PowerPoint slides to call on if we needed visual support but we did not use them. The session was primarily a conversation with Mark, Macromedia's Tom King, and me, with all-too-infrequent questions from the audience.

The hour-long dialogue was marred by a variety of glitches, among them lack of clarity about our format, mis-match of audience and topic, insufficient monitoring of online questions and audience mood, social distance between presenters and participants, and jerky video quality.

Breeze performed perfectly. We brought our problems on ourselves. While I tend not to be too forgiving, I think we did okay for the first time out.

I plan to continue experimenting with online conversations. Several people have asked for a presentation on workflow learning. Others want to delve into things we did not get to in the first session.

This may become part of what we offer through Emergent Learning Forum. Suggestions?

Macromedia has placed a recording of the event here. (If you get impatient with the discussion, fast-forward with the little slider on the timeline graphic.)

Mark was in town for Serious Games Summit at the Game Developers' Conference, and he was really charged up about what he heard and saw, particularly in contrast to learning conferences. The gamers were zealous, just-do-it, deep-thinking folks. Learning professionals (I'm guilty of this, too) jabber on about delivering content, measuring things after the fact, and techniques for improving one's PowerPoint slides. By contrast, the gamers were talking about narrative technique, cognitive science, motivation, and economics.
The Serious Games Summit is a two day event that covers the intersection of games, learning, policy and management. Today, major corporations, government and military institutions, foundations, educators, and non-profits are turning to games and commercial entertainment technologies as a new approach to simulations, training, education, and other practical applications. The result is a new field where computer and video games are applied to "serious" purposes-other than entertainment. These serious applications to gaming represent a growing financial outlet for game developers, where projects can produce both economic and social returns.To help share current knowledge, expand communication among peers and advance emergent best practices, the Serious Games Summit brings together a premier lineup of speakers, presentations, and panels that will appeal to customers, developers, and evangelizers of serious games.

Where's the fervor within the instructional design and training community? Is the fire going out?

Mark and I spent the next six or seven hours touring San Francisco and doing the Vulcan mind-meld thing. It's amazing how much one picks up through osmosis. Here's Mark inside the walls of Fort Point, the Civil War-era Army post nestled under the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The Golden Gate is under continual renovation and repair. Mark said it reminded him of an LMS. Building it the first time is but the tip of an iceberg.

Soon they will build a suicide barrier on the bridge. I have a more cost-effective alternative. Why not place a dispenser of cyanide pills at each end of the bridge? Anyone sufficiently suicidal to jump 220' to their death is pretty determined to do the deed anyway. Were they to take a pill instead, the money now spent on the Coast Guart rescue squad and the suicide barrier could be diverted to, say, education. The study for the barrier is expected to run $2 million. The barrier itself will cost $15 to $25 million.


The weather was marvellous. Here, turtles sun themselves in the Palace of Fine Arts lagoon.


Ah, the Palace of Fine Arts. All that remains of the Pan-Pacific Exhibition of 1915.


Adding to Tokyo's collection of odd tourist photos....



Blogger Harold Jarche said...

Re: "The hour-long dialogue was marred by a variety of glitches, among them lack of clarity about our format, mis-match of audience and topic, insufficient monitoring of online questions and audience mood, social distance between presenters and participants, and jerky video quality."

I agree that there was a mis-match. Seemed to be two conversations going on. One looking at the macro issues and the other mired in the micro weeds. I found that there were too many in the audienec looking for "the" quick fix to their specific issue. A whole bunch of people trying to find new customers too.

Overall I enjoyed your perspectives, and could have kept the conversation going for hours. I'll follow-up on this.

1:22 PM  
Blogger Ben Watson said...

Great post Jay. It provoked me enough that I posted my thoughts over at the Learning Circuits blog:
under 'O Collaboration - Where Art Thou?"
as I was fraid that the comment box here couldn't handle the length.

You accomplished what you hopefully set out to do - you made me think.

1:58 PM  

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