Geez, I can't even go with "Tom K" to differentiate here...OK how about, the piece that Kuhlmann wrote is entitled "Is Google making our e-learning stupid?" and is a play on a piece by Nicholas Carr that appeared in the Atlantic Montly entitled "Is Google making us stupid?" Bear with me, I know its a lot of stage setting.
I had read the piece by Carr (thank goodness his name isn't Tom) and I liked it. What I didn't like was the discussion that seemed to grow out of a bunch of people who didn't even read the article. Anyway, Carr cites Maryanne Wolf, a developmental psychologist at Tufts who argues that "Reading, is not an instinctive skill for human beings. It”s not etched into our genes the way speech is. We have to teach our minds how to translate the symbolic characters we see into the language we understand. And the media or other technologies we use in learning and practicing the craft of reading play an important part in shaping the neural circuits inside our brains." Awesome, of course as an anthropologist/historian, we kind of knew that. We're familiar with the impact that technology has on reading and larger impact that has on society - affecting the way people read is one of the most powerful pressure points in civilization.
Wolf also argues that "When we read online, she says, we tend to become "mere decoders of information." Our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged." Now that I have a bit of an issue with. When we start talking about our ability to make rich mental connections, I don't think that has ever been stronger - what has happened (IMHO) is that we have moved that activity from a solitary pursuit to a collaborative one. Just look at the process of writing this post. I read King, then I click and read Kuhlmann, that jogs something and I go to the Carr piece - then I have two more pieces that I'm going to mention that hadn't thought about connecting until now and then I'll hit "publish" and all of this will go public for consumption, comment and so on. So, back to Kuhlmann.
I love what Kuhlmann does is this article. Here is a veteran of elearning and guess what he is talking about? DESIGN! Brilliant observation that if our literacies are changing, e.g. the "power browse", the duh, maybe we should change the way we provide information to people. Let's not forget that eLearning, by definition is "e" so it only stands to reason that maybe we should look to the dominant ways that people consume other forms of "e" materials for clues on how to shape ours. Great stuff! Practical tips as well on the rapid design front.
I do however, want to point to two additional pieces that somehow I have been able to make mental connections between...if you haven't already, read James Paul Gee's book What Video Games Can Teach Us About Learning and Literacy. Important work there on how to understand games as another form of literacy - as you read, just substitute Google for games and you'll get the idea that different may or not be better or worse but it is different and our understanding, our mental models need to change to keep up.
Finally, kind of on the other side of the coin, read "Hamlet's Blackberry: Why paper is eternal" by William Powers. For the anthropologist in me, this article was a clear rejoinder on the power of the physical to affect multiple cognitive and emotional domains.
Wait...I forgot to include "Why Professor Johnny Can't Read: Understanding the Net Generation's Texts" from Mark Mabrito and Rebecca Medley. Takes up an extends Kuhlmann's point and goes from his rapid elearning focus to a focus on education and on the responsibility if not the requirement of teachers to work to understand the texts of next-generation students. Brilliant!
So this was a long post and I'll assume you just skimmed it. :-)
This is a slick, engaging, funny site. I haven't figure out how to use any of this on a learning/training site but its cool. I do wonder though if 23.95 is a good price for the "ghettoblaster"......
This story from Inside Facebook hipped me to what has to be one of the slickest apps on the iPhone. This translation of the desktop-based Facebook experience is flawless. By that I mean that while not exactly the same, the designers clearly looked at the user experience they wanted to provide and then looked for ways to do that within the confines of this technology.
Wow Mark, that sounds like a good way to start our mobile learning projects.
I'm glad you think so. I think the design process is just sooo much more interesting when there is an actual user in the mix.
I had a little time now to digest all that I heard at the user experience/design conference named UX Week 2007 and put on by Adaptive Path.
I don't think I'll spend as much time as I might otherwise going through my thought on each individual session because if you follow that link above there, you can find all the slides for all the sessions. I will say that it is interesting that in addition to the slides you can also rate each session and leave comments about each. Total transparency. As we look for ways to improve conferences, this is a point we should ponder on. How would you feel if the ratings for a session you presented say at ASTD or the eLearning Guild were instantly available for public consumption? I know how I feel about this but I'd like to hear from some people - instant, visible ratings...boon or bane?
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. That was a quote from the opening day. Kinda puts a new spin on subject matter expert doesn't it? I really thought that Andrew Hinton's presentation on the idea of user experience as Communities of Practice was excellent. The pieces of his discussion that focus on how professional communities seek to define their domain and their practices and establish an actual discipline resonated with me as I watch the learning/training industry attempt to move itself toward a more standardized level of expertise/competence through the various certification programs that are all afoot at the moment.
I was also truly and deeply impressed with the work that has gone into the design of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project. The presentation by Lisa Stausfeld and her team was a tremendous demonstration of the power of design. From the hardware to the software to the iconography...the effort really is a holistic effort and I think the power of this will become more and more evident as the laptops themselves are deployed around the world. Peer-to-peer mesh networking, open source OS, this is a tool that is also expressly built on an educational theory. Seymour Papert, was a former colleague of Jean Piaget and founding faculty member of the MIT Media Lab. He is the progenitor of the constructionist school of thought which he defines as "The word constructionism is a mnemonic for two aspects of the theory of science education underlying this project. From constructivist theories of psychology we take a view of learning as a reconstruction rather than as a transmission of knowledge. Then we extend the idea of manipulative materials to the idea that learning is most effective when part of an activity the learner experiences as constructing a meaningful product." The OLPC work makes this theory real as "Activities" and community are at the heart of how the program is designed.
Other good sessions included Pattern-based Design Communication Design Techniques and Semantic Technologies from Cameron Hunt. I do have to say though that I think I expected more from the conference. Now admittedly, I am outside my field here and thus my iron sights might be off a bit but for a firm like AP, that can come up with something like the Charmr...I thought they'd have put a bit more design into the actual conference.
While we were repeatedly reminded of the Twitter account and the Flickr tag there was little to none in the way of networking outside of good old f2f. I mean it wouldn't have taken a lot to stand up an Attendr map for the event. There were also issues with the rooms...oops forgot to print the rooms for the sessions in the program guide. The HUGE name badge with the whole schedule on the back was cute but hardly functional. Why the waiting outside of the rooms before sessions? Why no prior notice of the MSFT -sponsored breakfast until the afternoon prior? What's with the lunch tables with topics with no member of AP at each of the tables to help things along? Why all the session swapping - especially when it seemed a lot of those that were switched were AP folks? While none of these were really major, they gave me the feeling of a group feeling its way along instead of the end result of an imaginative design process.
So definitely go through the session slides - there is some good stuff in there and some stuff on the primacy of the user experience in design that the learning/training community would do well to take to heart but for me, I think I'll follow AP and it's outstanding and imaginative product/experience design work from a distance for now.
So this is a shot from the opening session of Adaptive Path's UX Week. Right now I'm sitting in the audience listening Deborah Adler, the designer who's Master's Thesis became the redesigned Target pharmacy bottles - Clear RX.
I think the big take-away from this session is that she began with a problem, people taking the wrong medicine, and then selected as her starting point - the user - not the system. What's amazing is how amazing this seems to us...why is that? Why do we have such a system focus - why do we choose to serve the machine first....I once heard one Navy ship described as a machine they built and then figured out how to put humans in. Does that sound like anybody else's experience with an LMS? An authoring tool?
Maybe we need to go back and start with our users and what their interaction with our products is like.
I know that recently the whole idea of learning styles has come under attack. While the original article in the Telegraph is interesting, I heartily recommend heading over to the post that Stephen Downes' did on this and read the comments. Specifically, the comment by 'Kevin Kelly' deserve some additional unpacking.
I think the heart of this is echoed by other comments on Stephen's post and that is that while people may demonstrate preferences - all things being equal - toward one medium or another - these preferences are like personality traits and as KK asserts "a preference does not imply exclusivity." We can be aware of their presence without doing something as rash as the Brits and use them as a classification model for students.
All that being said, I have a strong preference these days for the visual/graphic. Perhaps this is a small rebellion of the textual hegemony of my grad school days...history doesn't allow for a lot of pretty pictures. So in honor of that preference (are learning styles a lifestyle choice or are they biological?) I present the following visual resources I have stumbled across of late: