Reading Breeds Success

“I wish I had more time to read.”

Do you find yourself saying the above? I definitely do. It seems that when I make the time to pick up an article, a book, anything, I become engrossed in it and can’t put it down. Though conversations and interactions have the power of being enlightened, nothing pushes my analytical buttons like reading a well developed argument. But I have to remind myself to make time to do it. Too often, when I get home from a long day at work, I want to just “shut off my brain”. But the reality is that reading is like exercise for the brain, it reenergizes it.

In his blog post entitled The Most Important Thing You Can Do…, Mitch Joel explains how some of the most successful people he encounters are avid readers, and even writers. I particularly appreciate when Mitch shares the following observation:

The majority of newspaper and magazine articles are probably right on the edge of valuable reading, but the guts of reading that will truly make you smart and successful comes from the high brow stuff. The books, periodicals and longer thought/research pieces.

Mitch goes on to write:

The depth, the journey, the time alone that allows your own brain to wander and think is a critical part of where creativity and originality come from.

Kudos Mitch! I truly relate to this statement and feel too many people become satisfied with surface knowledge of things and neglect to dig deeper. Granted, we cannot be experts in every field, but specifically in our professional field, we must ensure that we include quality pieces in our reading diet.

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This post is cross-posted with Brandon Hall’s Workplace Learning Today

Are We Using the Term Social Learning too Loosely?

I’m glad that the always thought-provoking Janet brought this up. There comes a time when we need to really look at what the activity of learning really is. It is nice to find a new model every day that explains what X might be but unless we are truly analysing these models, implementing them, testing them, juxtaposing them, really, all we are doing is surfing the Web.

And as a side note, very few people I know have the chutzpah to title their blogpost “The clusterfuck known as social learning”. 😉

Janet quotes Gary Woodill:

Learning through the use of social media is a set of implicit assumptions that if people are using something called “social media”, then “social learning” must be taking place. This is a confusion of the means with the ends.

I think, when it comes to the new social learning crowd, we’ve got us a case of groupthink. I’ll be the first to say I’ve been part of the problem. However, I think we’ve got to slow down before we flood search engines with models that are not models and definitions grounded in little more than what someone else said.

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What does it mean to be a blogger in the field of training and development?

My first book entitled Edublogging: A Qualitative Study of Training and Development Bloggers will be available as of March 1, 2010. The official Website is located at edublogging.com.

A book? Really?

Absolutely! This is somewhat of a career dream come true for me. Though the book contains the full list of acknowledgements, two key individuals were key in helping me accomplish this project.

Firstly, I will forever be grateful for having the wonderful Associate Professor Saul Carliner, from the Department of Education at Concordia University as my thesis advisor. He guided me whenever I had a question. He allowed this thesis to be my own work, but steered me in the right the direction whenever he thought I needed it.

Secondly, my deepest gratitude goes out to Ray Taylor who has been there for me as an informal sounding board for my half-formed ideas. He challenged me to interrogate my positions and statements and was there for me until the end, providing much needed edits under tight time constraints. Much gratefulness goes out to him now for being a very patient editor and publisher! I also am very proud to be the author of the first title published by his new venture’s Acorda Press.

What does it mean to be a blogger in the field of training and development?

In this innovative research project, Kristina Schneider takes an in-depth look at five edubloggers from an insideres perspective. Using a qualitative design methodology, Schneider paints a unique portrait, pitting bloggers against their readers, and uncovers the essence of presence, credibility and professional development in the blogosphere.

The result, based on cross-case analysis that took place over a four month period, identifies the key phenomena of motivation, writing style, community building and other general practices that define the professional who also happens to be a blogger. Finally a substantial set of questions emerge about the nature of blog content and readership.

Edublogging: A Qualitative Study of Training and Development Bloggers by Kristina Schneider will be available as of March 1, 2010.

Visit edublogging.com for more information.

The eLearning 2.0 Survival Guide – Assessing the Credibility of Web Sources

I delivered a presentation on The eLearning 2.0 Survival Guide e Assessing the Credibility of Web Sources at the Brandon Hall Innovations in Learning 2008 conference which was held in San Jose, September 2008.

Presentation Summary

It is no surprise that integrating Web 2.0 tools to learning is an innovative practice that is catching on quickly. Pushing the Web’s potential for democratizing information, Web 2.0 social computing practices are well aligned with constructivist learning strategies. Enabling learners to develop multiple perspectives can foster analytical and critical thinking.

What is worrisome is the transition from a spoon-fed model of education to a self-directed and discovery model without reconfiguring the approach to learning. Are individuals applying fact-checking rigour to the content they access? What criteria are they using? What do they consider to be expert knowledge? Are they simply looking for other sources to confirm what theyeve found or are they actually analysing the source of the information? Are they aware that information, correct and otherwise, spreads like memes on Web?

My presentation was largely be based on research I have done for my M.A. in Educational Technology thesis which is a qualitative study of people who write blogs on training to be used in the professional development of people who work in the field. The question lies in the authority and credibility of these blogs, and by extension Web content in general.

You Just Might Digg This!

What makes a blogger credible? What gives them authority? How do we measure their success?

In a blog post entitled Blog Metrics: Six Recommendations For Measuring Your Success, Avinash Kaushik, a Web Analytics Practitioner, writes about 6 ways to measure the impact of your blog. In summary, they are:

  1. Raw Author Contribution
  2. Holistic Audience Growth
  3. Conversation Rate
  4. “Citations” / “Ripple Index”
  5. Cost
  6. Benefit (ROI: Return on Investment)

His post is actual a very informative read. The approaches he discusses are however purely quantitative, except for a certain degree of qualitative metrics that might be included in the ROI analysis. He addresses non-traditional or unquantifiable values, which is similar to what I discussed in my blog post on consultants 2.0.

Digg.com
Digg.com

However, Tools that gather opinions on the quality of content have been emerging on the Web. An example of such a tool is Digg, a social media application that enables Internet readers to share the content they discover from anywhere on the Web with others. The way Digg works is that readers submit or “Digg” their appreciation of a Web resource. Other members of the Digg community will have access to the review and will either ignore it or “Digg” it themselves. When a resource receives a substantial amount of “Diggs”, it gets promoted to front page status. Digg explains its vision in the “about” section on the Digg Website:

And it doesn’t stop there. Because Digg is all about sharing and discovery, there’s a conversation that happens around the content. We’re here to promote that conversation and provide tools for our community to discuss the topics that they’re passionate about. By looking at information through the lens of the collective community on Digg, you’ll always find something interesting and unique. We’re committed to giving every piece of content on the web an equal shot at being the next big thing.

It would be interesting to find out how will tools like Digg affect the way content will be perceived on the Web? Even if the tools for critical analysis are available, will readers have the necessary critical analysis and thinking skills to utilize them properly?

I recently defended my thesis in which I analyzed what it means to be a blogger in the field of training and development—an edublogger—as well as the credibility of blogs intended for the training community. The specific research questions were posed from the insider’s or emic perspective.

The objective of this study was to attempt to paint a portrait of an edublogger and uncover areas for further research. This is one of those areas.

Informally, I’d find it very helpful to have your opinions now. What is your take on the potential of such tools? How does it relate to the raison d’être of blogging?

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Putting the Learner in the Driver’s Seat

Ever notice that a long trip is seems shorter when you’re the one driving? When I’m a passenger and I don’t have anything to distract me, I feel like a trip can go on forever. But when I’m behind the wheel, my mind is constantly engaged, thinking, processing and deciding. I actually prefer driving a manual transmission because I feel like I have more control over the car. (Sidebar: Earlier today, Karyn Romeis posted a very another interesting analogy about learning and driving and I discovered it after writing mine. Ah! I love mini-zeitgeists!)

In a post entitled Here’s Why Unlocking Your Course Navigation Will Create Better Learning, Tom Kuhlmann discusses the number one reason (I’ve heard) for why certain people are adverse to eLearning courseware:

Courses need to be designed to accommodate the uniqueness of each learner. And that doesn’t happen by trying to control them.

Yes! Exactly!

As a consultant, I find myself trying to get clients to understand this constantly. They argue that they want to make sure that the learners don’t skip something very important and that they need to ensure that everyone understand everything the same way – this seems to be very important in the case of certification programs. Maybe they’d be better served consulting with the spirit of Asimov…

Tom then goes on to make a case for problem-based learning:

Locking the navigation is a solution to stopping learners from clicking through the course. However, it doesn’t address why they’re clicking through it in the first place and not focusing on the content. Instead of locking the navigation, create a course that removes the reason to just click the next button.

This is something every good face-to-face to trainer knows well. In order to avoid having a bunch of blank faces staring back at you, you need to interact with your learners by asking a question or by soliciting their opinion, anything to get that little hamster running. The advantage of face-to-face training is the visual feedback that learners are disengaged. In an online setting, you won’t get that feedback and disengaged learners won’t be paying attention to the content, as Janet Clarey and her commenters demonstrate in a post entitled: What to do while attending a boring online learning event: stealth learning.

The premise of problem-based learning is to stimulate the learner to think. You first present a problem, get the learner thinking about it, get them interacting with the content, give them feedback. The idea is rather then spoon feeding the content to the learner, you get learners to arrive to the ideas and concepts you are trying to convey.

It is no wonder that Serious Gaming is getting more and more press and is being considered by organizations as a effective way to deliver training. I’m actually quite excited as I’m designing my first serious game for a project I’m working on – and this is allowing me to design a whole other level of problem-based learning.

I’d love to hear other creative ways people are designing problem-based learning!

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The Capacity to Recall vs. the Capacity to be Resourceful

In a post entitled Brain 2.0 : eLearning Technology, Tony Karrer discusses whether or not it is more important to be knowledge-able rather than knowledgeable. The basic premise is whether or not is more important to:

  • store a bunch of information in our minds that we can recall at any time (recall), or
  • know which information to access, where to find it and how to verify it’s accuracy (resourcefulness)

This reminds me of the research methods class I took a few years back. During one of the first lectures, we learned basic statistical formulas such as alpha coefficient and chi square. Now numbers and I aren’t always friends. I can work through formulas by following instructions but it takes all my concentration to do so and I often make mistakes. I have a tendency to inverse numbers a lot too. Anyhow…

I asked the professor when would it be appropriate to use chi square as opposed to alpha coefficient (I know now that they don’t do the same thing but I’m still not clear on what it is that they do). He answered that it depended on the data and when I would have my data, I’d need to listen to the data. For the exam, all I needed to do is memorize the formulas. Oh boy. That is perhaps when I decided I’d look for a thesis topic that would lend itself well to qualitative inquiry!

I need to learn things in context. If I know why I’m learning something or I have a set use for it, I’m more likely to remember it. So at this time, I can’t remember the formulas for either. But I know that they are available online. The thing is, that right now I have no idea when to use them, nor can I assess the validity of the resource. So I got a B in research methods, lowest grade during my whole MA, but I passed, but not without developing a total aversion to statistics. How absolutely unfortunate.

Tony Karrer refers to Brent Schlenker’s There is no Brain2.0…so why Learning2.0?, where Brent evaluates the pros and the cons of the e in eLearning, something I’ve addressed in another post. He argues that:

We must better understand the learning process in order to create better content and experiences. Its not just behavior that we need to understand. We MUST understand the human brain. (link from original post)

Absolutely, we need to understand how the brain works in order to design better content. If more people did, we’d have less of these page turning eLearning course with information recall assessments at the end of them. We’d create simulations and problem-based learning courses. And if we created these types of courses, perhaps “training” would give individual tools to make contextual decisions rather then be bounded to a set script.

Now I agree with Brent that technology is an important factor and that is where the “e” comes in. However, the technology can be used to store the tools and resources (formulas, language rules, procedures, etc) that we don’t use on a daily basis so that we can concentrate on thinking.

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