Friday, July 29

Why Internal Training Departments can't keep Type-A personalities

I believe training should be one of the most important parts of an organization. Yet training is often (not always) one of the least important (if that is just perception, or reality as well, depends on the organization,). One thing I have tried to understand is why this discrepancy.

One observation I previously posted was that training promotions often lead to career ghettos.

But something that I would like to explore here is the reactiveness of training. Training almost always sweeps up after the parade.

  • There is a big crisis, it is studied, it is researched, task forces look at root causes, and THEN training is presented as an answer and implemented.
  • A new application is developed, piloted, tested, and THEN training is developed
  • Sales people pioneer this great new technique, it is identified, vetted, and THEN training is brought in to scale it up.

This constant lag drives Type-A's batty. Almost all leave the department. Some flee to vendors, but then they still have to deal with the Type-B's who are left in the training department.

It is hard to know how to circumvent this, or even if it should be circumvented. But in understanding the role and profession, it is hard to ignore it much longer.

The "can you learn from computer games" gotcha!

David's comments got me thinking.

There is an emerging argument with which I disagree that goes something like:

"Some of you are saying that computer games teach.
If you say computer games teach, aren't computer games teaching violence?"

My argument back is saying:
  • Chess teaches you some general strategy.
  • Chess does not teach you how to kill kings.
We all must increasingly look at content through the lenses of linear, systems, and interface/cyclical. The reason is not just that we should think of teaching that type of content, but that we are teaching that type of content. This gets to the whole school issue as well.


Every day, in every class, students learn interface/cyclical skills. Again, these are the highly precise skills they learn through constant repetition. Here are some examples of the types of cyclical content that our K-12 experiences have taught, and we refine in corporate classes:

  • How to be called by the teacher when you know the answer;
  • How not to be called by the teacher when you do not know the answer;
  • How to be the first to answer all of the easy questions;
  • How and when to ask for extra help to feign interest;
  • When to make eye contact when listening to a teacher;
  • How to draw in notebook when pretending to take notes;
  • How to obtain very good snacks/lunch; and
  • How and when to observe classmates without getting caught.
Classes also inadvertently teach students a tremendous amount about the system in which they are. This is where I would like to also quote John Taylor Gatto:
  • The first lesson I teach is: “Stay in the class where you belong.”
  • The second lesson I teach is for students to turn on and off like a light switch with every new topic.
  • The third lesson I teach students is to surrender their will to a predestined chain of command.
  • The fourth lesson I teach is that only I determine what curriculum the students will study.
  • In lesson five I teach that a student's self-respect should depend on an observer’s measure of his or her worth.
  • In lesson six I teach is that every student is being watched.
Until we get a handle on these different content types, we will teach mostly the wrong stuff, even/especially if people test well.

Saturday, July 23

On Being Digital

So first I read about age being a factor in Tom Hoffman's post, Outta My Way Geezer!

Then I see this cool movie by Stephen that he refers to in his post about Moviemaker.

So, here's my movie about the subject of being digital.

So using Moviemaker or another tool that shows you are a digital native, what do you think?

Happy Movie Making,
Donald Clark

Friday, July 22

How Bill Gates is overhauling High Schools

Over the past few years I have read several articles about the US$30B (that's right, thirty billion) Gates Foundation set up by Bill Gates to fund several key initiatives including improving education and global health. Of course you can do a lot of good with that kind of money and though I have read articles on the foundation it always seem to be more PR oriented than talking about end results. With regard to education Bill is probably best known for his recent speech that contained the quote "America’s high schools are obsolete". However I came across today a very interesting article that specifically talks about how the Foundation is giving out large grants to encourage changes in high schools and uses one high school as a concrete example.

Bill Gates' Guinea Pigs
The Gates Foundation wants to remake American education, and ground zero for their billion-dollar experiment is Mountlake Terrace High School. Results so far? It's been a learning experience.

This notion of creating smaller specialized communities within a high school I think is a very interesting concept (my high school had over 3,000 students) and I wonder what implications it could have for corporate learning and adult education. We keep hearing about how learning is more informal and less formal but high schools struggle with the same sort of challenges we face - high drop out rates, low test scores, one-size-fits-all mentality etc.

How do we balance the notion that for communities "smaller is better" with "the bigger, the better" (see the recent BusinessWeek article The Power Of Us - Mass collaboration on the Internet). How much does it matter anymore what we know versus who we know? Is knowledge disposable? (like water; after learning how to drink you just dip into the well when you need it).

What do you think?
Is the foundation just wasting it's money?
Who cares - this has nothing to do with adult learning!
This is the next generation of workers so we better pay attention

Hit the Comments link below and tell us your thoughts!

Tuesday, July 19

Text- The Neglected Media in Multimedia Design

Occasionally we gloss over the basics. Here's a good resource, Usability News, and a good read on single versus multiple column layouts that we can apply to learning and elearning materials.
In summary, the major findings regarding line length, justification, and multi-column displays and online reading have been:
  • Longer line lengths generally facilitate faster reading speeds.
  • Shorter line lengths result in increased comprehension.
  • The optimal number of characters per line is between 45 and 65.
  • Paging through online text generally results in better comprehension than scrolling.
  • Reading speed is faster for both single and multiple columns, but preference is for multiple short columns.
  • Left-justified text is read faster than full-justified text.
From Is Multiple-Column Online Text Better? It Depends! by J. Ryan Baker, full article here:

Apologies about the duplication to readers of my own blog, but I thought this worthy of posting here. Even an immersive VR simulation has been known to start with or include some text.

Thursday, July 14

Online Learning in Higher Education

IRRODL (International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning) has a nice article on the diffusion of online learning into mainstream college offerings. In addition to some very interesting data in their review of the current state of online learning, the authors put forward four variables that their research indicates are key in the adoption of technology for online learning by faculty members:
  1. levels of interaction in their online courses (more is better)
  2. technical support
  3. a positive experience in learning and developing their online course
  4. the discipline area that they teach
Higher Ed folks, does this research ring true for you? What's your experience with getting faculty to adopt online learning? Everyone else, does there seem to be parallels in your areas?

Thursday, July 7

Esse quam videri

That's Latin for "To be, rather than to seem." It's the state motto of North Carolina, and that's the only way I know that, for I left my Latin studies behind long ago.

If you work for a business, be a business person.

T+D (formerly called Training & Development) is the magazine of ASTD (formerly known as the American Society for Training & Development). The cover story of the last issue tells WLP (workplace learning and performance) professionals that Business Acumen is Priority One.

The article, Build Your Business Acumen, tells us that we WLP professionals "need to think and talk like their internal customers." The article advises readers to understand the business and how it operates, to use business terminology to gain credibility, to recognize business priorities, to create a value proposition, and to advance the learning and performance business agenda. Follow the instructions and you can become an Enabler, trusted by management to help run the business.

This is fine advice but it doesn't go far enough. You can do more than sharpen your business acumen, use management's vocabulary, and position yourself as an understanding, savvy helper. Instead of acting like a business person, why not become one? "Earning a seat at the table" is not enough; you need to be invited back frequently.

If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it's a duck. If a WLP professional looks like a business person, walks like a business person, and talks like a business person, why shouldn't she join a business community of practice and become a business person?

Am I being too subtle? You are paid to help create value, not to train people or design learning environments: those are but the means to an end. Make yourself profitable. Add value. Don't fake it. Just do it.

As Janis Joplin advised, "Don't compromise yourself. You're all you've got." Esse quam videri.

Monday, July 4

Fireworks are Fabulous!

To our colleagues from the US, the Blog Squad hopes you had an enjoyable and safe Independence Day weekend. To everyone else, don't you just love it when an event calls for fireworks?

Well we're about to launch a number of firsts for Learning Circuits Blog. Some cosmetic like the new masthead for the top of the front page (the fireworks won't be there forever) and some clean up of the screens to finally a nearly complete archive of LCB's history back to April 2002.

I hope you noticed the quote included in the masthead. This thought from The Cluetrain Manifesto is a perfect description of how the members of the the Blog Squad have represented to me what they'd like LCB to become. A place for light hearted buy serious discussions leading to new insights and ways of doing our jobs. And it needs to involve you as well. We're not the "experts who have the crystal ball" regarding eLearning's future. The solution will come in collaboration with verterans of our field as well as the newcomers with new ways of thinking.

A few weeks ago, we added an FAQ and in the next week or so we'll be adding an interactive Blog Squad roster section to the site that will help you get to know the members of the team better.

There's a lot popping here at the Learning Circuits Blog, so forgive the noise. But we just had to shoot off a few fireworks to let you know!