CORPORATE INSTRUCTION IS STILL DISCONNECTED FROM MILLENNIAL LEARNING STYLES – A LIST BASED ON OBSERVATIONS IN THE WORKPLACE

By this time we all know the tropes that define who millennials (M) are, how they act and their fundamental personality characteristics. You’d think with all of this proven—and nowhere is it more evident than in large corporations—that learning programs would have been adjusted to align instruction with M proclivities for workplace education.

Having just spent some time at an F100 company I can affirm with great certainty, most instruction is still a series of bland courses and in some cases long and winding webinars. It bears remembering we are in business of transmitting only three things: knowledge, skills, and behaviors. I saw few instances where any modifications to training accommodated the ways in which young employees would spark to, tolerate, let alone benefit from anything being taught unless it was compulsory. And of course, pushing training down to a M will just shut down their attention. So, with a grudging acceptance of what had to be learned, skills absorbed only if they had immediate utility, and behaviors, well…let’s just say the millennials I was working with and around were not among the receptive.

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You can refer to two articles I had written back in 2014 about multi-generational learning and see even then, there was a clear rubric and tactics for reaching millennials. Unfortunately, making a case to adjust corporate learning programs and actually rewriting and modifying delivery are at polar ends and still out in the frozen tundra. [Overcoming Generation Differences When Building Learning: Part 2

NOW EVERYONE WINS: OVERCOMING GENERATION DIFFERENCES WHEN BUILDING LEARNING]

So, what to do. CLO’s it seems, unless really enlightened, have not passed down by policy the need to make learning aligned to what will soon be their largest contingent (25%) of employees. The company I just left dictated to the CLO that webinars would be the mode of choice for sales enablement and product knowledge – and they were level set to be 60-90 minutes. For sales staff! A double whammy there, right? A young millennial in sales is being taught essentially in the exact opposite learning style that would yield useful results.

A LIST OF WHAT MIGHT ATTRACT AND DELIVER USEFUL LEARNING TO MILLENIALS

  1. Learning has to be in small bits and any of these learning elements I’ll mention need not be delivered in any particular order– but they will be repeated in what I call a multi-touch ecology. Hyperconnectivity is baked in to millennials as is multitasking. Millennials are 2.5 times more likely to embrace and use new technology. This approach has elements of microlearning but it benefits the learner because it is repeated in other modalities & technologies.
    • For instance, in a short form course, organizations might deliver one or two elements of knowledge, skills or behaviors, make it interactive and/or with gamification and require responses. Consider collaboration within the methodology. Those responses are recorded and then the course is revisited for learners to rectify any incorrect responses. Nothing radical here except for the amount of time on learning – short attention spans will be honored.
  1. Learning with multi-modal exposure. Consider the power of a short, sharp podcast (or many) accessed and aligned to courseware – further amplifying recently introduced content.
    1. Questions posed in the podcast might be pushed out to mobile devices where, once again responses would be entered and tabulated.
  1. We’ve just laid out three modes: a short course, a podcast, and mobile learning. Let’s not forget dedicated pages on Facebook for content, polling and collaboration, and Twitter or SnapChat for instant feedback. Short videos right off Smartphones – 10 seconds worth – carry incredible power to influence, to convince, to give testimony. New tech must serve the learning purpose and be considered ‘cool.’ Finally, a mentor or coach would have the opportunity to not only work with the individual millennial but also learn what modalities worked best – and what components of this ecology yielded both cognitive results and emotional commitment. Multiple touches of the same knowledge, skills and behaviors are vital to retention and even more so for sales staff.
  1. These elements have all the benefits of autonomous learning, can be collaborative if so designed and tend to be informal. All three criteria are in the personality set of younger employees.

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Multiple touches—that is delivering the same content over different methodologies and modalities are essential for millennials. Learning is short – but repeated with multiple touches

  1. Learning can be collaborative
  2. Learning is couched inside compelling technologies
  3. Learning is interactive
  4. Learning is delivered on demand
  5. Learning is multi-modal
  6. Learning has digital with human feedback
  7. Learning is autonomous
  8. Learning content while repetitious is tolerable with multiple modalities
  9. Learning with multiple touches will be the norm
  10. Learning will be put to use because it happens over time – not a one sitting – therefore it will always be top of mind

As I looked around the work floor, I noted my millennial colleagues who, to a person were hard working, committed and extraordinarily helpful to an older geezer like me. Nevertheless, they also shared the frustrations they had with long, drawn out courses, for instance during onboarding, that might have been produced in 1999. That’s no way to motivate people who come predisposed to do good work. When learning is delivered to their particular learning characteristics, they become empowered, more loyal and see the corporate culture as honoring their personal temperament. That’s a lot of big wins. It’s up to the corporate masters to commit to modify learning, reach, and reach out to the millions of new workers whom they will be leading and managing now and more so, in the very near future.

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Learning Design: The Great, The Good and The Good Enough

This could be a story about buggy whips. You might know the classic management tale of the craftsman who was proud of building the most handsome and useful whips to spur on carriage horses at the turn of the last century. Unfortunately, as you you probably know the tale, carriages once replaced by the automobile rendered his lovely product useless.

I have watched from the trenches and sidelines as classes of learning professionals are now being divided —again by technology into two camps; those who know how learning should be constructed and craft it and those who can manufacture, at time and cost savings, the actual product.

Learning designers strategize how to solve problems to achieve performance improvement applying theory to fact and constructing course elements, flows and production processes. They gain agreement with stakeholders about content, audience, time on learning and assessment and the larger components of an experience. They scaffold the project so each step falls into place in a logical progression. In some cases, the learning designer will offer a narrative reflecting the content back to the stakeholders to ensure the critical content is captured. Additionally they might also write the actual storyboard incorporating the elements including the interactive and experiential (as well as social) elements that will make the course interesting if not compelling. The best and greatest courseware, the most inventive and exciting depends on a designer who can sculpt content into a story, then work with an interactive and/or graphic designer to sharpen the user experience across multiple platforms finally passing the work to a developer to program—as designed—for implementation.

Background3

Developers are those folks who know how to use the tools chosen by the enterprise to express content online in an effective and dynamic format. For the past number of years, while learning theory and ideas about making courses exciting have evolved growing with the speed and bandwidth available for elements like video, developer tools have been refined exponentially. Think of the industrial model—build an assembly line, now improve the assembly line and the tools—then make better products. However, this works well only when everything being made is a replica set to standardized requirements. Learning is not like that. Even when producing multiple courses with similar content, the opportunity to breathe excitement into each one is more present when designers do what they do best and developers express it. No template, no matter how sophisticated can allow for all the shadings required by great learning. Instead developers take the tools and either use them out of the box or, as I saw in a number of organizations, create, and in most cases struggle to build work-arounds expressing the designers intent while trying for hours to keep within the constraints of the software. An entire industry has been built around PowerPoint (by example) as the foundation for programs like Articulate. And the tide is with them since money flows downhill from big corporate enterprises and their subordinate constituencies. Better, faster, cheaper. And good enough.

The precedent for this was the explosive improvement in desktop publishing more than a decade back; once an associate learned the software they could generate print materials. The problem—and the connection to the current argument, is simply that these folks were not trained as graphic designers. The results spoke for themselves; a lot of bad design, quickly produced and reproduced. Moreover, when it was accepted by many managers as ‘good enough’ the die was cast for the attitudes we see now in learning design and development.

Here lies the collision and connection: In the hopes that ‘rapid’ eLearning cannot only reduce the time to create courseware the tools, ever more nuanced, allow developers to become designers as well. It’s seductive; managers cut down head count, more work can be pushed out the door by learning groups under pressure to deliver fast changing content, and costs drop when the designer, a more highly trained, often senior and knowledgeable resource can be set aside or redeployed. I don’t believe there has been a study conducted on performance improvement or even a Kirkpatrick view of which types of courses yield intended results. But I do know anecdotally that learning designed courses, where each professional works to their strength always seem to have an A-ha factor. Most other courses—those of the template kind—are utilitarian and though they might satisfy the requirements or outcomes, learner satisfaction cannot compare. This is dangerous and grows more so every day as multi-generational learners want different kinds of learning experiences.

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The facts are there is room at the learning table for both types of development. However, there is no real lobbying group or organized industry to support the learning designer model. My fear is that learning and instructional design preparation will move even further towards the industrial model, templatized learning produced by individuals whose preparation has introduced them to a fair amount about learning…and the skillsets demanded to operate the tools. Unfortunately, there is too much complexity and uniqueness in learning to allow for excellence when this mashup becomes the status quo.

Those of us who have grown up in the era of learning design are more than ever segregated from access to development. Even with HTML5 used by great developers who can customize components to meet learning design objectives with wonderful precision, I see a rending of the system that will soon go the way of the buggy whip. So much of life today, from the professional sphere to just everyday life seems to be populated by people who figure that good enough is just that. Time is precious, financial strains are everywhere, the speed of life is overtaking the human ability to sustain its own sense of equilibrium in a world of instant everything. So let it go and accept the outlier will be the customization of learning only when absolutely defended by insistent clients with the budget and care to desire excellence. Otherwise, wait for tools to exhibit their next iteration, artificial intelligence.

 

WHEN YOUR LEARNERS ARE ENGINEERS… BETTER KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE

It can’t be a secret that stereotypes are often well proven by personal experience. And in my many years building learning, whether facilitated instruction or elearning it’s a cardinal rule that instructional designers need to know many aspects of their target learner’s personality traits. One, and maybe the most important metric, is their profession. The notion this alone determines both the techniques and design elements you should employ suggests the challenges you’ll face when the precepts of good learning are antagonistic to the personality characteristics of your audience. I don’t believe there is a more difficult group (I don’t mean they’re not nice people mind you) of learners—but whose typology seriously conflicts with story-based instruction than engineers.

If we’re going to create quality knowledge transfer, skills building and behavioral changes in our engineer audience then it pays to peel back their character traits that research and experience seem to bear out: Engineers are:

  • problem solvers
  • perfectionists
  • appreciate intelligence in others
  • creative within their field
  • argumentative when supporting their point of view
  • dogmatic
  • risk averse
  • emotionally detached
  • impersonal and reserved
  • not particularly diplomatic
  • uncomfortable with ambiguity and vagueness

Naturally, we can characterize any group of homogeneous learners who were drawn to their profession because these traits were naturally occurring. Also within any profession, practitioners lean into the traits most prevalent in the group and therefore further prove the stereotype. To be fair not every engineer exhibits all these traits, and the degree to which they are demonstrated or expressed vary considerably.

Regardless, given these traits engineers (it’s no stretch to hypothesize) prefer training or education delivered in a very practical way. It is an exhibition of their personalities. In other words:

  • Goals that are clearly presented
  • Results that are measurable/quantifiable
  • Material that is focused directly on achieving stated results
  • Visual elements included only if they directly illustrate a critical concept
  • Information presented in logical sequence and in order
  • Direct, to the point, facts with proofs
  • Concrete examples presented with no ambiguity; delete anything not directly aligned to training objectives

So what would a learning solution look like if it were built to an engineer’s specifications?

  • Clear unambiguous, quantifiable outcomes
  • Screens with material presented in logical order, point by point—like bullets for example
  • Literal, temporal and sequential presentation of information
  • Few if any checks for understanding (the assumption that if the material is correctly presented they’ll get it right; a certainty among engineers)
  • All facts, no emotive content need apply such as scenarios/stories
  • Tell, show, do; period

Many engineers would be just fine with a PowerPoint presentation or its equivalent with the addition of examples if necessary. The sample below is a screen from a course designed by engineers with no input from a learning designer.


Huh? As you can tell this even violates their preferred modalities.
Even an engineer would have problems understanding what this is trying to communication let alone teach.

Finally, let’s look at the considerations an instructional designer might regard as quality learning strategies, techniques and methods when building learning.

Content would have:

  • Objectives achieved through both cognitive learning and intuitive understandings
  • Preview and review experiences
  • Provisions for options, decision making risk taking
  • Employ checks for understanding, feedback and remediation
  • Images that both illustrate learning points, used to generate time, place, emotional content or as another modality for retention; and infographics that explain concepts visually w/o narrative content
  • Offer examples as scenarios/simulations and especially stories
  • Use emotions to help cement retention

By now you can tell I am arguing that the disconnect between the way engineers prefer their information delivered and the best practices in learning are estranged if not divorced from each other. That said; as the learning master how can you reconcile these differences. If your goal is to present information that yields a higher degree of knowledge transfer, what roads are open that will improve learning uptake and therefore performance while enticing engineers to see the learning design as interesting but compelling.

Two Methods for Designing Learning Engineers will Appreciate

  1. Leverage their primary mental framework and traits while chunking and organizing information with enrichment materials to enhance learning retention.

Let’s take the information in the sample screen and deconstruct it.

The objective seems to be an explanation of how automatic data synchronization takes place.

In the current screen learners are told after CM has been added as a Managed Element it is cued up for synchronization. This is followed by two qualifying conditions; one positive the other negative. To monitor the process, the learner is offered a navigation string to access software that illustrates a screen where the process is made evident. While this seems to have logic and order, it is a mashup of too many ideas in one space. Engineers, though we didn’t mention this earlier, really don’t like to waste space so they jam in as much content in one place as possible. This has a double negative effect; there is too much information to digest and it is often confusing and overwhelming, particularly in the screen above since there are two disparate operations.

Now look at this example. Without changing he content—there’s only one element chunked differently—the actual application moved to another screen—there’s much more clarity. There is a logical flow of information and the two options are more distinctive and differentiated. A screen like this meets more of the engineers’ preferences; even though the former seems to be more chocked full of information—it really is jammed up and more difficult to absorb. No doubt when the screen is composed with adequate white space, learners have a better visual experience.

More importantly on the next screen, using a tool like Captivate, the learner could manipulate the data and work through a ‘Show Me, Tell Me, Let Me Try’ option to enhance participation, add interest, and show proofs of fact.

So screen design, which is a function of the instructional design process leads to more clarity and more information presented in a direct and functional manner meeting the engineer’s preferences for ordered delivery of content.

2.       Organize courses to take advantage of engineers drive away from ambiguity

It’s too easy being deceived into building courseware that relies on one set of online screens to sustain the entire learning program. Often, engineers need to learn applications, new hardware, and software and apply their learning to initiate a new method of processing information or bringing new equipment online. When this type of knowledge AND skills must be transferred a blended approach works best.

Recently I designed a learning protocol that required engineers to work with an application in a lab setting with opportunities to use software to program hardware to work to specification. However, they needed to have fundamental information before the lab experience. Initially the client believed that once on site in the lab the facilitator could deliver the content and then lead the lab experiences. This would have proven to be overwhelming for both instructor and learner. The time on learning would stretch to five or more days. Lecturing from the platform while walking engineers through the content and then transitioning to the software application training was a model this company had used before. No wonder their ability to fill seats in the training facility was regularly less than 30%.

The solution was to develop an initial introduction to the course material online followed by a synopsis of each unit of learning into a guide distributed well ahead of the onsite lab experience. After each ‘chapter’ in the Learner’s Guide, a short check for understanding would be completed and forwarded to the facilitator. He would then review the responses, see the areas where there was most confusion, and later start the lab session with remediation of those areas. Only then would he begin to deliver the lab (software application) experiences.

The Instructor’s Manual would provide all the labs, screens, teaching scripts and software application directions. Each individual operation would be shared with the engineers in sequence after an explanation of where this experience aligned with content in the Learner’s Guide. Application operations would be selected to include those that posed the most challenges; others would be worked up by engineers on their own time, during or post training with an open invitation to query other participants or the facilitator. In total the amount of lab time would be reduced, learners would have all their deficits resolved during the remediation period and the need to explore over 700 potential individual application operations in the lab unnecessary.

Using pre-instruction, passing responsibility to learners to be ready for the lab, allowing the facilitator to quickly resolve areas of confusion and finally engage learners in the lab with the most critical and challenging aspects of the application made better use of time and left engineers with a sense of community and competence.

Going back and reviewing the way engineers prefer to learn you can see that in online or facilitated instructional design, awareness of their particular personality traits can be mitigated. Better yet—if you are able to design learning with their considerations in mind, engineers, though always a tough crowd, can be reached and taught in an effective way and one where their opinion of the education experience will more than likely be positive.

THE TEACHER-BUILT TEXTBOOK REVOLUTION IS HERE: A GIFT TO PROFESSIONALS OR A POX ON INSTRUCTION

In the modern era, the textbook is still the spine from which teachers deliver information. Despite the ubiquity of Wikipedia and the web, most teachers rely on a single source to reference the bulk of instructional material for knowledge transfer to their charges. Some texts are terrific; contemporary information well researched, written and compelling with story-based content attractive to the mass of students. However along with soaring prices, how up-to-date can they be—and how often will new editions replace dated volumes?

Textbooks are generally written by more than one primary author and reviewed by committees of content experts, practitioners in that field, and university educators. They are often generated as often by changes in information in the field as by publishers whose teams of researchers not only scan for the latest information but for the need to sell books.

Which text is selected is as much political as pedagogical; sometimes by fiat resulting from state or national tests to which the textual content must align, or on the local level by committees of educators who select from a narrow range of choices that must satisfy the same requirements. Texts compel teachers adhere to the proscribed curriculum so a higher percentage of students will pass their state’s test. Text selections can, unfortunately become an expression of political or cultural orientation. When school boards—think Texas or Kansas here—demand textbooks align to standardized or ‘high stakes’ tests that themselves are replete with prejudicial, politicized and questionable information the truth dies in the false rhetoric among the vehement and vocal critics of modernism . Darwin, the barometer of scientific objectivism and generally accepted fact, like climate change, Reagonomics, the Civil War, the canon of literature and other hot issues—might be revealed in a realistic and balanced manner in some texts, but meet fierce opposition in these municipalities. In such places you can be sure publishers will accede to the wishes of the textbook purchasers—customers—and modify their product to sell. Put succinctly, in some states, school districts and schools, dinosaurs died and became oil, yet in those same oil-producing states, dinosaurs were domesticated as transportation.

Into the fray steps the software, Apple’s iBooks Author:

“So, the big story is really about how this effects the billion(s) dollar industry of textbook publishing. Apples iBooks will sell for no more than $14.99. So, if the publishers are looking to keep their profits at current levels that most likely means someone is going to get cut out of the deal. It’s obvious that someone is the author. But the good news is that with a free authoring tool and the iTunes/iBook marketplace, I think the authors may end up getting the better end of this deal.
I’ve been it for several years now but I’ll say it again, “Teachers will be the next millionaires.” (Emphasis by the author) With today’s technologies, and the new technologies just around the corner, there is no reason why a great teacher couldn’t produce content for sale, and mentor students for a fee, and make a very good living.” (“Apple Announces Textbook Revolution.” www.elearndev.blogspot.com, 19 January 2012)

At first blush, this seems fantastic. Taken from a purely instructional perspective, the ability to create a multimedia text that will surely fascinate this generation of learners and incorporate disruptive technologies is profound. Kids live in this world every minute. Finally school catches up to real life. Wow! Couple this with online sharing and collaborative ventures and we are in reach of best in class teaching and reference materials. Note the author quoted above (Brent Schlenker in this case, a very sharp educator and aware blogger) grows misty over ‘great teachers’ producing ‘great textbooks.’ This presumes only great teachers will master the tools and build terrific texts–up to the minute, media rich and iconic.

What about the mediocre teacher who also has the technical chops to produce a compelling volume? Even if their books are clearly viewed as insipid, who is to say they won’t be adopted somewhere? The contrarian in me (a former teacher, administrator, university professor and state consultant—and textbook author) worries that we may be launching a confabulation of substandard information produced by competent software manipulators with substandard or politicized content. And where will teachers get the energy and time to organize and design and develop unique interactive texts. Even with the relative simplicity of the tools. It’s possible they’ll default to the lowest common denominator amongst content to push out material viz, rapid elearning, to speak to students in their ‘umwelt’ and that looks close to entertainment or at best edutainment.

Schools of education are totally in the Stone Age here so don’t expect teachers to experience development techniques to help them become instructional designers. Not all teachers are good writers, nor have they been trained in the profundities and nuances of graphic and interactive design. Besides the very real daily issues of keeping groups of students on task and in line are still job one in most classrooms.

Here’s a rubric that I believe tosses into the ring a way in which to examine what teacher-built texts could be.

It’s certainly not comprehensive, rather a point of departure. I’d like to start some dialogues here, look forward to a debate about the realities that will eventually present themselves as the tools roll out, and teachers commit to self-authoring. So I’ve drawn my line in the sand. I hope great teachers can not only master the technology but gain the time to produce first-rate contemporary texts—ones that can change as real facts become known. And students will be the real beneficiaries to the extant they can respond in kind by building their own materials questioning and inventing other realities. But it’s all too likely that without standards that had better evolve quickly, there’s an equal chance given the history of school progressivism, teacher built texts can be equal to the worst produced by publishers.

GAMIFICATION – PLAYING AT (NOT) LEARNING

When I first heard the term ‘gamification’* I had the sensation of a spider wiggling down my shirt at a picnic. It’s in the same league as ‘monetization’ and ‘level set’ and, ‘incubator’, words coined to make professionals sound, well, professional. I’m not against jargon in general; shortcuts are good if they are pithy and have substance. Not so ‘gamification.’ Defined originally as ‘funware’, it demeans both game playing and education. For the most part, game playing aims at developing recall. For lower level objectives, I suppose this would be tolerable if it weren’t distracting from higher-level intellectual outcomes.

For clarity, Games are well-crafted stories built in digital form with learning objectives frequently placing the learner in real life decision-making situations. They use the best practices of education and peda-androgogy and because they are dynamic and built to the same standard as say ‘World of Warcraft’ I find them admirable. I wish there were more and were applied with greater frequency but they are, as you might expect rather pricey.

Gamification is not Games. They’ve be clearly invented by instructional designers/educators in lust with technology. I have a wonderful cliff near my house they can be lobbed off. Its parallel in the public school universe is extrinsic reward schemes granted to students for showing up for class on time, good behavior and completing homework. In other words…as I see it, bribery. (I know this is contentious). I know there are many gamification fans and supporters out there and I respect your desire to improve public and corporate education. Just prove that the time, energy and money pays quality learning dividends and I’ll rethink my position.

VALUE

Let’s set the record straight: If game design is used to make learning through technology more interactive and engaging, count me a fan. When gamification means achievement badges, reputation points and virtual currency, contests, Farmville, or systems for rewarding the acquisition of knowledge or skills—especially in a professional enterprise—I raise an eyebrow at the quality of employees and the (lack of) management resources that sees the need to move them to action with these techniques. A little immature, don’t you think? Reward systems are best used, and have been employed as marketing tools by product managers and marketers to move stuff off the shelves or entice people into chasing a purchase. Wrapping this around new metrics like ‘engagement analytics’ purveyors believe they can empirically demonstrate positive results—commercial and educational. Gaming is a tool that’s become a practice morphed into an industry with commercial drivers. (By the way, note I have not given any space to naming these enterprises…I’m not shilling for them. Look them up if you’d like but don’t be swayed by the hot graphics, testimonials and the robust claims).

Frequent readers of this blog know I am a skeptic. So using any metrics, I challenge Gamification builders to reveal learning performance improvement by users in their real work achieved by Gamification techniques alone. And within a reasonable time period.

A last point: In a learning environment, game interactions become not just exploitations of the basic human trait towards distraction, but will defocus the learner from the real content to be transferred.

*(The term may have been first coined by Nick Pelling in March 2004 for his gamification consultancy startup Conundra Ltd, via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamification). I presume Pellings’ was a commercial venture process.

Seth Godin has recently written, “Knowing about a tool is one thing. Having the guts to use it in a way that brings art to the world is another. Perhaps we need to spend less time learning new tools and more time using them.” (Emphasis is mine).

In any learning environment, this is the common process applied, whether called A.D.D.I.E. or an analogue:

  • There are Problems
  • Preferred solutions are known and become objectified targets
  • Learners acquire knowledge and skills to practice solutions, first guided and then independently
  • They revisit decisions to modify solutions were they learn they have fallen short
  • Recap: A summation of the learner’s solutions aligned to the preferred solutions
  • Look back: Review for changes in performance shortly after the learning and at intervals as necessary

Here is a brief taxonomy of learning techniques in use now and when designed to meet objectives quite useful. They also obviate the need for games and reward systems. Also, while most are part of traditional computer-based elearning they can easily be designed as disruptive, via migration to tablets/smartphones.

Low Level Online Learning Interactions
These are used primarily as checks for understanding, previews, and reviews. Once coded the content can be dropped in matching desired outcomes.

  • They include– Rubber Bands, Fill In’s, Drag & Drops, Matching, and both verbal and visual constructions are typical. The names are generic with many names for similar actions
  • The media has traditionally been Flash when built locally
  • Off the shelf products, e.g. Articulate, Captivate, Camtasia, Lectora, and other rapid authoring tools support basic interactions but are somewhat superficial given the need to employ these in a variety of environments
  • Mass market availability permits any instructional designer with knowledge of the tools to design for a series of learning based checks

Mid Level Interactive Techniques – as Guided Practice

  • Scenarios: For instance: Replication of ‘Office Events,’ Selling, Soft Skills, Application Use (Step by step w/correction)
  • Simulations: For example: Decision Making > On point, real time type action –oriented Sims with feedback loops for self-correction
  • Media: Static Images w/Voice Over, Avatars w/Voice Over, Simple Animations, Flash, HTML5 Most are one-offs where the content is very specialized, e.g., healthcare, though most can be generated using an authoring template.

Higher Level Techniques – Best used when moving from guided to independent practice

  • Virtual Realities w/Active Role Plays as Real Time Events
  • Stop Action Realities – Decision/Crisis Points
  • Real actors/real dialogue, built as a ‘digital shorts’
  • Could be avatars as actors but roles and actions are true to life and specific to the client’ need
    Media: Video, HTML5, Flash
    Quite a few of these become fully realized Games as the content is completely bespoke – custom made for each experience.

SUMMARY

If these are done well, and have meaning and utility for the delivery of knowledge, skills and behaviors, in content as diverse from salespersons to management training, the concept of gamification is superfluous – rendering it cartoonish and beneath the intellectual and cultural status of the learners.

The reality is elearning is best when it is highly interactive with an emphasis on true situations. Gamification, with its emphasis on rewards for achievement is not a learning tool. It is an attempt to motivate; to actually move learners from passivity to those who are committed to the topic at hand. I trust that well designed instruction requires neither badges, awards nor competitive scoring to create effective learning uptake and performance improvement. Let’s do a great job of developing compelling elearning and leave the Gamification on the shelf where it belongs.

Taming Information Overload Before it Devours

Not too long ago we needed design tools like an artist’s palette demands a variety of colors; both to provide many ways to communicate both cognitively and emotionally. Now we have the technological capacity to deliver learning to anyone in the learning style to which they best respond across multiple platforms irrespective of time and geography. With the gate down learning designers can roam far and wide (and deep) to match content, to methods of communication to outcomes.

The challenge is just because we can do anything doesn’t mean we have to do everything. The temptation to employ every idea and methodology is an organic consequence of information overload. And pushed at us by the hour (minute, second?) in all kinds of forms has in many ways had the effect of distracting our ability to solve problems. Rather than making learning design more direct and focused, content is too easily diluted by non-essential information—that, while interesting and valuable—does nothing to amplify the quality of the learning solution. At the same time, as this graphic illustrates, our brains just can’t take it all in. We’ve run out of cognitive space—and most of us do not delve any deeper, wider and in some cases outright ignore anything new having burnt out chasing the innovation comet.

We Are In The Throes Of Pedagogical Pleonasm
What a wonderful word to describe the use of more words than necessary to express and idea. For instance, ‘at this moment in time” presumably means “now.” That’s an apt metaphor of the forces with which we contend. It’s fair to wonder how much is information in courseware is enough and how to maximize delivery for the strongest and most effective outcome.

Information overload, combined with powerful expressionistic tools suggest developers can all too easily be blown off course even when their instructional targets, objectives and KPIs are solid, and more importantly clear. Where the challenge used to be filling in minimal material driving instructional designers to request more help from SMEs, too much available content is driving us towards a condition of learning pleonasm.

The Cure – Specificity Is The Antidote For Distraction
What can a developer, learning designer or courseware developer do to ensure the required elements; the colors of the educational project are included while taming the information overload beast?

Here’s a list of those elements to think about when starting to build learning in a global environment crowded with information from which exclusions, rather than inclusions become more important. As white space on a page offers visual relief, often room for reflection in learning can come only from careful pruning.

  1. Prepare with Clarity
    Long before objectives are even a mote on the screen, conversations with clients that result from questioning and probing; listening for cues and clues to what a client really expects as an end result will pay dividends later. Remember your client’s client is your learning target – not the payer. The performance that gets measured often means continually reminding the ‘paying’ client that understanding.How will those who complete the course differ in knowledge, skills, and decision making, from their naïve colleagues? I’ve yet to see a statement on an SOW that highlights those differences in writing. We write around it but we just assume…and that is too vague.

2. Write highly targeted, clearly demonstrable objectives
No matter how many projects I lead or, I am continually flummoxed by outcomes written by experienced instructional designers that offer no demonstrable measurement to check for acquisition of learning. Going one-step further not only developing the objective, but articulating the way in which each will be taught and assessed. And put it in writing.

3. Ensure you include KPIs
Key performance indicators drill down one-step deeper articulating specific qualities (or quantities) within each objective. Many times KPIs are most effective if ranked in a rubric or table with the most desirable condition at one end and the unacceptable at the other en

4. Operate with Precision
Instead of building in standard ISD form, with outlines, chapters, sections, modules and such, work the opposite way. Give in to information overload; put anything and everything related to the topic into a narrative overview. Then, with the objectives and KPIs on a giant billboard, bring out the scalpel and cut away anything that offers no direct benefit to the learning.

5. Ensure there are milestones and reviews, a standard practice that now takes on added importance – emblazon the objectives across the top of every QA review document,

6. Perform cohort studies for each group of learners when the course completes.
Since each has had the same experience, discover if your courseware or project has had the intended effect or outcomes. When comparing two courses as equal as possible, the one that has applied these steps should be more effective in learning uptake, time on course, and even likeability.

So…in our information rich world, the best courseware and education you will build resists the temptation to include every fact and figure that imparts more information, but in doing so dilutes specific performance objectives. More is often just…more, not better. What serves the learner and leads to desired performance outcomes signals your vanquishing information overload.

Getting Close to the Ground

Notwithstanding the imperatives of cultural expectations, by the time a kids are in high school their trajectory has much been dialed in: College, training of some sort, the military, or work. There are subsets of each; the junior college to build a reputable GPA to get into a four-year school or a career that demands certification of some sort, vocational training institutes for technical knowledge and skills for local employment, or military service born of patriotism, money for college or, particularly in this economy, a lack of options.

So there’s been this pecking order going on for more than sixty or more years. College for the boardroom, classroom, higher academic pursuits like law and medicine; technicians who draw blood, troubleshoot computers and provide public service from police to municipal workers of all types, and tradespeople who through a ‘connection’ can apprentice through a union sponsored program or intern with a generous business owner.

But what about ‘those’ kids barely who after barely graduating from high school, are now sitting home or hanging with friends playing video games, no job in sight, and no skills for sale. Moreover, as time progresses whatever skills they might have had are aging out. They fell through the cracks these kids, no idea how extricate themselves from the bottom and every day less and less self respect. You’ve seen them; the single mother, the nineteen to twenty five year old whose vision of the future just doesn’t exist, out on probation, the chronically unemployed whose craft is gone forever when the hammer and vise was replaced by the keyboard, the iPad and cheap overseas labor. These are the ‘losers’; with no jobs they hang out scratching for change at some meaningless job (if they’re lucky) while living communally. Some have returned to, or never left home, relocated to the basement now that their bedroom is a home office.

As an alternative, sensing an opportunity to do good (for money) arrives on the scene the online training institute to try to fill this void. With a low threshold for admittance, plus one-to-one counseling, applicants also find a friendly financial aid department that helps them get the loans and grant money to set them on a path to a future. For their money (to be paid back of course) they receive their textbooks and a computer. All the courses or programs are focused straight at jobs and careers. Some are frighteningly fundamental: Keyboarding as a course in 2011? As it was explained to me, many of the younger students are whizzes at World of Warcraft, but can’t send email or surf the web—let alone write with Microsoft Word. They have never owned a computer.

These ‘institutes’ (a bit overinflated to imbue solemnity) are a reasonable alternative to being a ‘loser’ wouldn’t you say? It’s what I call ‘close to the ground’ education. Learn ‘right now’ material for the most contemporary and in demand employment sector, get educated or certified fast and go get a job. The best of these schools have a placement operation—well connected to businesses, nationally and locally, since students are online everywhere and matching graduates to employers should be job 1. Because learning starts with simple core material, virtually guaranteeing success, formerly ‘anti-students’ will hang on as their achievement becomes habitual.

If the story is well told and marketed in the right communities operations like this can sweep up those youngsters, single moms, potential petty criminals, people looking for a way up and out who were left behind.

And I agree with the entire premise but for one prickly issue. The curriculum, for the vast majority of courses are products of textbooks remodeled for online delivery by…I don’t know…a teacher, course developer, practitioner in the field? This practice includes lifting tests as well. Consider that some phlebotomists might be good online teachers and even help write a meaningful and realistic course, but what would be the odds? In a world where, with some serious due diligence a course can be created from online sources, how can that be defensible if only as cutting corners get programs to market fast. BTW this new educational domain is reinvigorating the bottom line for textbook publishers.

So my reservations—a demand for more course development rigor and a change in the delivery of instruction—should be addressed. At some point, after these schools are at moving at full charge, and I hope they do, educators are going to come a-knockin’ and they will not like what they see.

My prescription is very simple. The material a field practitioner writes must be shaped into learning by a certified educator (the model we know best – instructional designer and SME) to create viable courseware. The curriculum for each school that accepts or helps funnel federal money as loans to students must be accredited for academic programs and audited regularly like high school regional reviews. And why must all instruction be online? Surely, with a bit of effort administrators can discover ways to make the courseware include humans—even if only as out-of-class experiences.

What would I want to measure as benchmarks of success? How many students in a certificated course have graduated, what is the drop out percentage/rate and most importantly, how many graduates are working. This is not only a fair longitudinal study; I would offer the same challenge to America’s high schools.

It’s an imperfect model at present. However, those institutes with which I am familiar are working towards meeting higher standards. Don’t let my liberal tendencies fool you—there’s nothing wrong with making money when offering opportunities for success. Even a bit noble actually. No other initiative has made any substantial change for the educationally disenfranchised, and touted there’s a glimpse of a future. Raise the quality of these institutes, tighten alliances with businesses, raise awareness and market the heck out of them in every community. One of the highest callings of all enterprises is the specter of hope. Since the government is fighting among itself, and the Department of Education can’t get its act together, let private enterprise have a go. At this point, there is little to lose and much to gain.

10.2 STRATEGIC WAYS to ENSURE LEARNING BEGETS PERFORMANCE IMPROVEMENT

“A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that works.”

Would you like to guess the year this hypothesis was coined?  That’s right!  1652. What a year!

If you find this concept plausible, if the clarity with which business results are expressed, then the more accurate learning objectives can be formed.  Further, the more likely instruction can be well designed to achieve the intended outcomes.  A + B = C. This is a simple system really – inputs and outputs built along a continuum.

But hold on – We can’t calculate, quantify, or qualify achievement unless measured against a benchmark.

While we can all agree a yardstick is required, we often have a hard time decoding points A and B, a decision provided by the business identifying current and preferable conditions.  Now pivot over to learning where content is made from the distance between those 2 points.

A valuable exercise would seek to align the delta of between A and B as content now expressed by outcomes defined by the business and subsequently the ability of learning organization to tightly couple the content to media, methodology, trends, and technology.  This is a simple system, quite linear and logical and when well executed, can sustain grand outcomes no matter the difficulty and complexity demanded by the challenge.  Though we are in the realm of change management education is either a tool or a driver of the desired change; either way it is central to a reconstitution of an organization or, for that matter, a brand.

Let’s step back a bit.  Gaule was a Church of England clergyman taking advantage of the newer technologies of his day, e.g. a rudimentary telescope and measuring instruments, good eyesight, resilience, and a compelling drive to ‘know’ wrote in 1652 that if one system made of many supporting facts was proven correct than others of the same kind would likely be equally correct.  When interconnected a more complex system was revealed.  But for a complex system to be true, all of its minor truths must be so.  ‘Here endeth the lesson,’  said at the close of C of E services no doubt Gaule led or worshipped.

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I hope readers are shaking their heads at this point warbling a mighty DUH.  “This is so obvious – it’s what we always do,” you’re thinking.  We follow ADDIE, or Gagne or Aldrich, et.  al. so we always meet objectives.  Really?  How many learning developers—from the inside the company or delivered by external vendors dare create true assessment—on the job results that reveal measurable business improvement metrics, or fall back on the (recently departed) Kirkpatrick settling for learner satisfaction that will magically morph employees into production megatrons, or build authentic appraisals that may expose the absorption of the learning but say nothing about how the learning becomes dollars.

The point is we have two simple systems; one for determining what will most likely justify the time and money put into benchmarking efforts  that expresses success—and another for design and delivering  a method that will most likely meet results.  Doing it right the first time means the business must be clear not only about content but about their expectations.  Then the learning team surgically examines these outcomes and designs a system to deliver performance improvement using the appropriate tools.

Two enterprises, two sets of tasks for one unique outcome.  How can we skew the odds in favor of building to square the first time?  Is there a magic sauce?  Well, no, but after almost 40 years in learning, and thousands of hours of design and development in every medium, at every subtask from writing narratives to managing multi-million dollar global rollouts I’ve observed the following characteristics present in successful engagements.  Perhaps there are others or more—these are the ones I’ve viewed and in which I’ve participated.

5.1 Simple Things A Business Must Do To Ensure Learning Will Yield Quality Results

1.  Know Exactly What Success Will Look Like.

Find the delta of what is now and what should be.  Whether quality or quantity, people or object centric, how will you know it when you see it. The business must identify where the failure lies, e.g., the poor commission of the sales staff is a micro issue; but failure to perform over time will have macro consequences.

2. Communicate Business Goals Throughout The Enterprise.

Everyone must understand what the business is about, what it does, who it serves and where and how money is made—and the drivers of that income.  When an employee has a panoramic view of the company and recognizes how their participation is vital, the door to learning opens.

3.  Define With Precision, Exactly What Is Expected To Change Post-Learning And Why.

And how it will be measured.  And by whom.  Following on the heels of #2, the specific nature of the learning initiative is clarified.  This will generate buzz, cross-talk and may be some push back.  That’s great.  Whether from professional staff or union reps, work towards understanding and acceptance before the learning is built.  This is an opportunity to introduce the concept of change management.

4. Bracket The Learning Experience By Time And Effort.

The demands made on the time of the learner—and whether learning will be part of the working day or on their own time needs to planned and accepted.  This is especially critical as we move to social media where technology to deliver learning on demand, including mLearning follows the learner around 24/7.  What is management prepared to do to encourage participation which by design might become an intrusion on ones private time?

5. Provide One Example Of An Observable And Positive Outcome.

Tell a ‘big win’ company story by communicating its history, good and bad decisions, solutions, heroes, and goats.  Publicize these ‘war’ stories.  Think reality TV.  From the CEO outward ‘soft’ communications changes companies into learning cultures.  Humanizing an enterprise, especially a multinational behemoth is critical to successful change.  Good internal marketing with collateral and internal PR goes a long way to make an individual feel like part of something grand instead of a cube farm drone (Remember ‘Office Space?’ If you haven’t seen it please do).

5. 1 Regression Test:

Everyone in the company should be encouraged to provide their own ‘war’ stories; tales of success and overcoming the odds.  And ensure these get compiled and disseminated worldwide.  Everyone likes to be noticed and in print (on the screen page), it carries a lot of juice, ergo loyalty and effort.  These stories will be part of the CXO’s/Enterprise wide communications practices.

5.1 Responsibilities of a Learning Organization that Yields Business Performance Goals

1.  Seek To Understand The Organization In Its Entirety.

Regardless of the scope of the project, the learning team must become virtual employees of the business.  It is seductive to believe you may achieve learning outcomes at arm’s length, resolve the immediate business goal, and consider the assignment successful.  However, to fully grasp how even modest courseware can influence the equilibrium of the organization, recognize, and learn operations, product, marketing, logistics, etc.  Then you can build better learning because you can see how your piece fits into the whole. Even if you work for the company you should do the same.

2.  Interaction with the client organization is necessary at all levels.

The more tightly coupled the learning organization is to the business the more effective the results.  While a project manager may represent  the client, direct evidence that senior leadership comprehends the outcomes of what this project means (even a limited project) to the enterprise is non-negotiable.  He or she must be a stakeholder in the initiative and must check progress even if infrequently.  Now there are three clients; the immediate project manager who needs the learning product; the real client, the learner; and now a CXO.  All expect actionable changes from their – and your efforts.

3.  Compel The Organization To Synthesize The Project In Writing.

A summation of the project, goals, schedules, milestones and QA reviews plus administrivia is the minimal communication required in an SOW or equivalent.  Typically, the goals of our learning solution would be  stated in behavioral terms.  That’s too broad.  Information must be more granular.

For instance, here’s an objective: The lab technician will learn how, and practice manipulating contaminant material.  Clear enough for the course — but too general for planning the learning.  What you really need to know are the underlying components of that objective: Why does the material have to be handled in such a way; what happens if the operator does not comply with material handling processes; what effects result from failures that exceed the norm?  How will you – and the company – be able to assess whether the operator is indeed following procedure and how often not.  You should plan – within the learning – a method of benchmarking compliance – what is and what is not tolerable. Moreover, do this first, before planning the learning design.  Capture all of this information, archive it, and treat it as a contract.  Share this with management as a check for understanding.

4.  Play To The Medium

Every learning program usually starts with a proclamation, “This will be online e-learning because it must migrate to 4 geos.  Or a blended learning solution, we’ve found, is the best way to engage learners.”  Frankly, that’s inductive reasoning – making generalizations based on individual instances – a not very reliable construct.  Be clear varying outcomes demand unique construction process and elements.  How you create interaction online, with mobile learning as an add-on, will be completely different then a blended approach with webinars.  Learning works best when built specifically to the strengths of the medium.

5.1 Ensure Your Customer Relationship Management Is Faultless.

Servicing the client is your mantra.  Know who has the gravitas to champion the project or the authority to pull it  The individual highest on the food chain who—if you’ve done everything right up to here—will defer to your judgement and insights.  However, if you believe – and can back up – a problematic element even if expected by the enterprise, speak up.  By now, your organization should be acknowledged as a team with a depth of understanding capable of making good decisions for their business.

5.1   Avoid Cognitive Dissonance

The discomfort felt at when there’s a difference between what a learner already knows or believes, and new information or a new interpretation should be resolved early.  Just as the business wrestles with decision-making and problem solving, discord among the learning team must be resolved or greater difficulties will arise during the build out.  If these issues leap the chasm and get on the companies radar, I’ve seen businesses torpedo the project fearing that infighting diminishes effort, a focus on quality, and a sense that the learning team works in conflict.

In the end, no learner should be left saying, “Yes, that was a great course and I learned a lot but they really didn’t understand how this affects me.”  With diligence and truth – your learning – built on a foundation of insight and accuracy – will meet or exceed the organizations expectations and make believers of skeptics.

So, two simple systems aware of each other’s challenges.  The learning team must broker the effort to make the project work.  Sometimes this means educating the business. And of course, the business must open itself to close inspection.  Success can be summed up as good communication, awareness of each company’s unique challenges, and respect for the process as much as the project that will ultimately improve performance and profitability.

Anyway, that’s what I know to be true.  I’ve seen it and lived it.  Sorry for the wordiness but it’s a big, important topic.

I’ll take questions now.

Getting Closer to Bond, James Bond

I don’t believe it’s a secret that information design is gaining traction in the learning world. With so many form factors from smartphones to oversize touch screen computers – and now the iPad, revolution/revelation how we handle data, text and imagery, plus coherent manipulation of screen objects is becoming of paramount performance.

The latest Bond films depict a glance at this next next iteration. Confession—one ticket to geekdom for me: I was as much intrigued by the “desks” and how agents moved around data in a hologram-like environment as the action sequences (Well maybe not THAT much). Huge amounts of materials, available for comparison and evaluation.

From the hawkings of Edward Tufte, a right turn past Gary Hustwit and a stop at frogdesign and you’ll note the amount and placement of data is becoming a considerable factor in two and three-dimensional design.

It can’t be too long for a leap past the ‘pad’ family into another once imagined environment—now sitting on a someone’s drive are plans for total spatial manipulation; that is integrated, animated, user-manipulated, four dimensional access to information. Of course, any real adoption, even if the tech is ready, will occur only after manufacturers and developers have sucked dry holes from their current product margins.

Meanwhile, assuming I am correct or at least close, how will this affect learning; corporate, and public education? If you believe as I do the next few years will bring about a decentralization of the command and control that once was school – or the conference hall that “captivated” business learning had better stand by. Check out the work of Dr. Hans Rosling a professor in Sweden who has enjoyed 4 million YouTube hits about Statistics, the driest dry bed in academe takes on the conflation of data and – more importantly its meaning – and makes it fascinating. In our hands (well… his at the moment) is the power to draw meaningful conclusions brought forward through delivery of critical information by comparison, cause and effect, prognostication and even ‘black swans.’ And, most vitally, this give us a pretty good look in to the future.

So what started in the Middle Ages with movable type through the first Macs to the latest Xoom’s our communicative ability will be exponentially staggering.

The net effect is at least two-fold (it should be four-fold if a hologram I suppose, but I’m not capable of manipulating that amount of data in my head) immediate effect. One, as I mentioned would be the further disintegration of the single expert or limited sources of material accepted as gospel and at face value: e.g., courseware that teaches negotiation strategies for example. I look forward to anarchy with facts – though I am more conservative about too quickly abandoning what we know to be true—only how it can be presented. It’s a real respect or an accounting for learners who apprehend information differently. And the second is a requirement that information design and designers are elevated to central roles designing in the multiplicity of communication modes. This should not be a far-reaching serious profession with discourse stretching from type fonts to charting to engineering for holographic zoom effects.

If you haven’t read up on design lately or at all, I suggest you grab, “Universal Principles of Design” by Lidwell, Holden, & Butler; and “The Information Design Handbook” by Jenn and Ken Visocky O’Grady. These are the minimum of a fundamental intellectual and visual vocabulary, and, in addition to Tufte, Don Norman, and Henry Petroski form an intellectual foundation for clarity of design. Some information looks backward in order to tell us about the present and others about making the present more comprehensible. The same movement must be energized on the visual and interactive design side, too.

Not too long from now, we’ll be projecting a space on to which we can further project materials of all kinds – instantly snatching data to not only observe the present but inform what comes next.

I suppose ‘Q’ would have been thrilled – I’m still impressed that James is as comfortable manipulating his super-smartphone as he is a 9mm.

Gadgets You Can Get Rid Of – and Pile Up These Outmoded Education Ideas, Too

Reading Sam Grobart’s article in the NYT yesterday http://nyti.ms/dRe6Eo I found it not only entertaining but pretty accurate. I happen to agree with most of his calls – though I think cheesing the USB Thumb Drive could be a bit immature.  Not every client, for instance will install software to see your stuff.  For now, I’ll take plug and play.  Kill the standalone GPS unit too – a BlackBerry with VZNavigator got me from New York to Holden, Maine (look it up – you won’t find it – though my phone did) as well as my onboard system – and it spoke to me in a much nicer voice.

Ok, so we’ll agree hardware ages out (the last CD is being pressed next week) to be replaced by a new technology or better yet new software offering easier information manipulation, connectivity and storage.  And the pace is accelerating at a ridiculous rate—beyond in most cases our needs or our ability to acclimatize to the environment this technology has created.

I wish the same rapid changes were true in both corporate and public education.  This way, even if a concept fails it can quickly be replaced by another, better one.  How many antique philosophical constructs, techniques and methodologies (and include tech here) must we throw into a crevice to melt in the instructional magma before we get the idea that there are many ways to resolve – and improve learning performance.  Educators, rooted in the 19th century, with some pretense at accepting 20th century thought, and a few 21st century models of knowledge transfer.

In an effort to be short—these items and ideas are top of mind and food for thought.  I invite your dialogue or arguments.  (This will be posted of the Heroes of Education Foundation Group on LinkedIn as well).

In schools:

1.       Shred the attendance book.  Are you seriously still considering – in the age of RFID, etc., attendees and students need to sign in?
2.       No such thing as a computer lab – laptops are cheap enough and accessible so why push anyone into a single use facility. Besides teaching computing is like teaching ‘pencil’.  And kids are way ahead of teachers anyway.
3.       There is no reason the person in the front of the room is the font of all knowledge.  Learners will come prepared differently since different questions will be asked and instructional approaches will have to take on a different flair. A good teacher accepts his/her role has changed.
4.       Don’t throw out ALL the books – just the ones that get worn out having been used for 2-3 generations of students (All novels, texts about grammar and the like, mathematics overtaken by utilitarian math on one side, theory on the other, Social Studies and Language Arts – don’t get me started – and the list burrows in throughout the curriculum .  Add to oversize volumes of art, travel, maps, though.
5.       Push open the fissure just starting to open that is decentralized learning.  We learn in life, not through an artificial construction of life.  Access to information and the ability to share–is the most democratic of ways means the ability to string together meanings, solving problems, building simulations of how to define what learning is.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t teach the requisite foundation building bricks of content – just differently and this is consistent with…
6.       Blowing up the school.  The savings in fuel costs between the boilers and buses will keep any district in laptops for years.  Meetings of learning cohorts have the entire environment in which to gather in a group.  Moreover, if you need a reference remember how school started: Socrates stood beneath a tree enticing those who sought knowledge to come and get it.
7.       Schedules – you must be kidding.  Everyone has a custom schedule – but all have to meet certain requirements.

In the corporate realm, adult learners bristle against having to learn something new – especially if they can’t see the benefit.

1.       All learning should be ‘line of sight’ that refers to two overlapping constructs.  Firstly, what is to be learned needs to be JIT and crisp enough so talent can realize how they will do better, enjoy more, have higher rates of satisfaction when they participate – now willingly.  The other part refers to evaluation.  Why bother to pull staff away from their tasks (which are now heavier than ever) unless management can determine that the input—courseware, etc.—yields a measurable, positive change; from attitude to the bottom line.
2.       Finally, like in schools, what about direct learning.  Is ILT still a viable concept?  We could come up with a half-dozen models to replace top down learning, recognizing, as adults, the freedom to learn by one’s own methodology and style still bears the responsibility of results that are tangible and measured.

There’s my not so small list.  To be sure, a realization that technology is school on a stick is necessary – you can take learning anywhere.  Corporations know this – when staff travels their laptops are precious cargo and many an airline passenger is heads down working on a training program.  Of course, the program might just be a recitation or page-turner that only defeats the real opportunity.

I don’t think we throw out everything – but I believe the foundation is shaking.  As our tools become even more ‘talkative’, the easier change will be.  And it will come, if not from our leaders than down from the streets – because the 16 year old and the 60 year old are closer than ever before and they’ll all want a revolution—or a vigorous evolution at least.

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