Monthly Archives: January 2006

Learning 2.0: useless buzzword

What is the fascination people have with completely non-descriptive buzzwords? And buzzwords with version numbers?! What the heck is the point of that? That is completely faddish and just plain lazy.

Learning 2.0; Web 2.0 . . . I don’t have clue 1.0 what those are about without going and doing research. Something new about learning? Something new about the web? That’s the most I can get out of those.

At least older buzzwords gave you something to work with. For example, e-Learning: electronic learning — so… either learning about electronics or learning delivered electronically. Not completely descriptive, but at least something I can work with.

Some people are already talking about Learning 3.0, for crying out loud, and praising themselves for their forward thinking! (besides, what about Learning 2.5? Is 2.0 “bug-free”?) What the heck are you people talking about?!

We’re just trying to be too cute and trendy. The point of this industry is to be clear about our communications so people understand what we’re talking about. We should apply that to our internal discussions as well.

24: the movie? Industry buzz and movie information on the most talked-about upcoming movies

Here’s a movie rumor.

Bewitching Prediction Here’s a TV spinoff that should actually make a decent movie. Of course, I liked Starsky and Hutch and Dukes of Hazzard, so my credibility is pretty much shot in this department.

While I like the idea, if they’re going to keep with the Real Time aspect of the show, wouldn’t they have to rename it “2”?

Nowhere Man on DVD Science Fiction Movie and TV Reviews
Oh, man … I loved this show when it aired in UPN’s fledgling season (kind of ironic that it would be released at the same time UPN is closing its doors and joining with the WB to become the CW network).

I still can’t believe they cancelled this one. If this had been on an established network, this show would have been a hit, instead of killed off in its first season.

The ONE thing I appreciated about it being cancelled is that the creators were given enough notice to actually complete the story, though in the last few episodes, so much is revealed that it felt rushed and unnatural.

Still… I’m gonna watch it again!

The review on gave it a “B”. Maybe the experience of watching on the DVD is different, but I would have given this series a solid “A” if not an “A+”. They said:

Unfortunately, the show too often pulls the rug out from under the viewer so that no character is ever above suspicion, no story can be taken at face value, and paranoia reigns. It’s one thing to get inside the character’s head and understand his situation, but for the purposes of storytelling, it undermines the viewer’s confidence in what they are seeing and prevents any true investment in the show or the characters.

I completely disagree with that. I was completely sucked in to this guy’s life. I HAD to watch this show. I scheduled my week around it (which is admittedly sad, but there you go).* I don’t think it was possible for me to be more invested in the main character.

This show was easily as addicting as 24. It’s a shame it wasn’t allowed to live up to it’s potential.

* Yes, those of you who know me think you’ve seen me schedule my life around shows like 24 and others. Trust me. I’m different now. I was much more stringent about it with this show. It was very pathetic.

“Bible bill” sponsored by Democrats

Democrats in 2 Southern States Push Bills on Bible Study – New York Times

A couple of Democrats are endorsing a Bible class in public schools—but only if it’s based on a specific textbook about the Bible (“The Bible and Its Influence”) and not the Bible itself (or, for that matter, any other textbook, apparently).

This has stirred up some ill-will among Republicans who have been pushing for Bible classes for years (which the same Democrats have opposed). They are accusing the Democrats of using religion as a political tool in this election year. And the Democrats really aren’t denying that assertion:

The Democrats who introduced the bills said they hoped to compete with Republicans for conservative Christian voters. “Rather than sitting back on our heels and then being knocked in our face, we are going to respond in a thoughtful way,” said Kasim Reed, a Georgia state senator from Atlanta and one of the sponsors of the bill. “We are not going to give away the South anymore because we are unwilling to talk about our faith.”

Not all liberals are happy either.

Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, argued that “The Bible and Its Influence” was “problematic” because it omitted “the bad and the ugly uses of the Bible,” like the invocation of Scripture to justify racial segregation.

Both points of view here are valid. The Democrats are obviously pandering, though I have no reason to believe that they are being dishonest. And since this textbook purports to show the “influence” of the Bible, it ought to show how it is mis-used as well.

I would imagine some very interesting discussions could come out of a class of this nature—though I don’t think I’d refer to it as a Bible class. As I understand it from this article, it would be about the effect the Bible has had on history, not the message of the Bible itself.

For my money, the best quote was at the end of the article:

For his part, Mr. Stetson, founder of the group that produced the textbook, said a political fight was not what he wanted. “We are the first English-speaking generation to have lost the biblical story,” he said, lamenting that studying the Bible had become “a political football.”

Though I’m not sure his textbook is the answer, I think he nailed the problem.

Corporate ethics

Survey: Unethical Corporate Behavior Stems From Unrealistic Objectives and Deadlines

First of all, the fact that this even warranted study is a heck of a condemnation of the corporate world. That, in itself, bothers me.

On a grander scale, this is also a condemnation (or perhaps a revelation) of our human natures: many of us will cheat to get things done, given the opportunity and a bit of motive (which could be as simple as saving a bit of time or inconvenience). It’s sad, but true.

Anyway… it’s interesting to note that of all the ways corporations combat this behavior, the method that ties directly to the #1 cause is missing: have realistic objectives and deadlines.

I wonder if it ever even crossed their minds.

America’s schools ineffective? Challenges for corporate learning

Parkin’s Lot: Stupid in America

Godfrey Parkin takes the notion (supported by a study) that America’s public schools, on average, produce substandard education, and applies it to corporate environments.

As he says, the condemnation of America’s school system is nothing new. I’ve heard it all my life. In fact, my friends even joke about understanding things “despite our public school education.” The study lists the usual reasons: lack of funding, teacher-student ratios, lack of teacher effectiveness measurement, etc.

One interesting point he makes about funding that I hadn’t heard before:

. . . there is evidence to show that more money often leads to poorer performance – schools tend to spend budget increases on offices, sports facilities, computers, security systems and so on, rather than on better teachers and better educational processes. By contrast, smaller low-budget schools led by passionate educators who have no computers, gyms, or even janitors are producing exceptional results.

Though sad, that makes sense to me. When you don’t have money for the bells and whistles, you focus on the essentials.

Here’s the best part of his post, though:

I don’t buy the argument that the blame for the dumbing-down of America’s youth falls exclusively on the educational system. It seems clear to me that culture, particularly the culture in the family, has failed to instill a strong enough veneration for learning and corresponding intellectual curiosity. Parents abdicate responsibility for educating their kids, particularly when they get a little difficult in their early teens. It is easier to concoct a host of external reasons for a child’s learning problems than to acknowledge personal failure. But learning takes place within an evolving ecosystem, not in isolated instances.

Companies make the same mistake – they think that performance problems should be solved by training, and if that doesn’t work, training gets the blame. How many times do we hear trainers bemoan the fact that the environment to which trainees return almost guarantees that what was learned will never be reinforced or applied? It was only after I left school that I understood the real purpose of homework was not to keep me from going fishing, but to get my parents engaged in the education process. We should do more to integrate learning with the workplace and engage managers and the immediate “work family” in supporting the ongoing development of new skills. Blended learning should blend what happens in class or online with what happens back at work, and that means getting the learners’ immediate colleagues engaged as a support network.

Corporate training departments need to find ways to get more informal learning happening in their organizations. The biggest problem with that, though, is measuring it so they can justify their existence (and I firmly believe they do need to exist). Tough to pull off.

Training Mistakes

Learning2005 – Mistakes
Elliot Masie’s Learning Wiki has a page for common mistakes trainers/instructional designers make, as reported by subscribers to his newsletter. He received over 700 responses — the wiki page is just an ‘executive summary’.

Some of the quotes, I can relate to completely. The ones that ring my gong the loudest are quoted below:

Skill Level/Needs Analysis Mistakes:
– Responding to ‘crisis’ situations with quick-fix training – invariably, it doesn’t work and credibility of training plummets.

Measurement Mistakes:
– Level 3 assessments: we don’t do enough of them. These are crucial and how we show our worth. We have to prove that learners can actually transfer training to the field, because if they can’t, why did they go to training?

– Assessments don’t match the objectives. We have to measure what we said we’d train.

– Not gathering product improvement feedback during training session – too focused on delivery to record.

Inspiring & Relating to Learners Mistakes:
– Designing for the “lowest common denominator” and then expecting everyone (regardless of experience and knowledge) to use the whole program.

Management & Learning Mistakes:
– Being an “order taker.” In other words, failing to help the business understand what the best options are to meet the performance need and, instead, just fulfilling requests as they come in.

Content & Design Mistakes:
– Teaching more than needed: not sticking to objectives.

– Always providing “sunshine” training: what happens when things go right. Customer critical moments typically occur when things go wrong, so preparing learners in some way for those situations can have a dramatic impact on business results.

Innovation & Interaction Mistakes:
– Require people to use pre-course e-Learning and then trainers repeating the content in the follow up workshop through (endless) PowerPoint presentations.

– Failure to use adult learning techniques such as collaborative learning and role playing.

– Courses are not designed or facilitated with a focus on intensity: challenging assumptions, a focus on problem solving and a focus on reasoning complexity.

Technology Mistakes:
– Being guided by what the technology can do rather than selecting technology that can do what you need.

– Not anticipating problems with technology when rolling out e-Learning programs across an organization (assume it will work on everyone’s computer).

– Not understanding the technology and how to use it effectively.

Development, Delivery, Follow-Up Mistakes:
– Learning is very much like marketing: working to influence human behavior towards certain actions/choices. Until learning and development programs are developed with a keen eye towards repetition, reinforcement, and emotional connection (yes, emotional!) – a complete learning package, not a learning event – knowledge and skill retention will suffer.

Wiki’s in a corporate environment

Informal Learning » Blog Archive » The Weirdness of Wiki
Wiki’s are full of potential for learning and communication, and yet for the most part they aren’t being used within corporations (that I can tell, anyway). Jay reports a big reason for that (emphasis added):

The moderator asked people to introduce themselves and say three words about wiki. The positives were terms like exciting, linked, and important. On the downside, people said confusing, disorienting, and weird. Everyone in the group had been on a wiki before, yet a majority still found wikis odd and difficult to navigate.

If the experts can’t use them effectively, what chance does the Average Joe have?

Actually, there are some successful uses of Wiki’s that I am aware of, the most well known being the Wikipedia – essentially an online, publically editable encyclopedia that includes entries you’d be hard-pressed to find in any conventionally published work (which is arguably why it’s so popular).

In fact, of the education-related wiki’s I’ve run across, those presented as an encyclopedia seem to be the most successful. Those that emphasize conversation seem to be the least successful.

I have seen one great example of a wiki used as a project management tool. A friend of mine joined a company that uses a wiki as their main project management and document editing tool, and it seems to be working great for them. It would be interesting to see if other companies are picking up on that idea.

But as a corporate learning tool, especially in a manufacturing company such as the one I work for, I can’t picture it working. Well, maybe that’s too harsh. I can’t picture getting the buy-in and support from management, certainly, and without that the whole thing is doomed to failure. I can think of ways I’d use it, but even within just my team I’m not sure I could get it to catch on. (Though I just had an epiphany about a way to use one for project management….)

What’s the Difference Between Learning and Training?

What’s the Difference Between Learning and Training?

Don’t worry. I’m not going off on another long post about this. I’m really just linking in here because it validates that I’m not the only person thinking about this.

The article from CLO magazine is much better than what I wrote, of course. I’ll just do a quick quote here from Maureen McCormick, director of learning and development, University of Iowa:

Training for a lot of people feels like, what are we training, monkeys? I really believe the word training is going to go away from the field. I don’t really care if you call it learning or training. It’s semantics to me. However, learning plays better up the ladder, and words are powerful. Learning has more credibility attached to it.”

Internet Time Blog » Blog Archive » Jaron Lanier

Internet Time Blog » Blog Archive » Jaron Lanier

When Jaron was speaking at the dedication of the Gates Computer Center at Stanford, he said “Naming a computer science building after Bill Gates is like naming a medical school after Typhoid Mary.” That line didn’t make it through to the live audio feed in Redmond.

heh heh.

Also interesting in that post is the claim that no one knows how a khaen (Laotian instrument) works. I gotta look up more about that. I don’t understand how no one can know how it works. It’s gotta be basic physics, doesn’t it?