Archive | September, 2013

Take this advice from a man who wears a hat

22 Sep



Consciousness = a medium without a message

21 Sep


Writing about consciousness is a bit weird. Reading someone’s writing about consciousness is even weirder, so I’ll keep this short. For me, light provides a great metaphor for understanding the nature of consciousness. I’ve always liked the notion that it is the reflection of light off of objects that allows me to perceive them. In counseling and coaching, we often try to get clients to understand that their difficulties with other people, their greatest loves and their greatest frustrations, are….when investigated….simply reflections of themselves in the actions of others. In this sense, our minds perceive objects “as we are” not as they are.

But I recently found another great nuance to this metaphor. This one is provided by Marshall McLuhan, who in the 1960s, produced some challenging theories about the nature of human communication. His most popular aphorism, “the medium is the message,” has been extremely helpful in understanding the difference between subject and object. I am reminded of Bob Kegan’s work on adult development and how the subject of one stage of development becomes the object of the next stage. Anyways, one thing jumped out to me from McLuhan’s book, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. In this book, he proposes that media itself (newspapers, radio, books, etc.), not the content they carry, significantly influence our experience and understanding. McLuhan suggests that a medium affects the society in which it plays a role not by the content delivered through it, but by the characteristics of the medium itself. And here is where it gets interesting, because McLuhan pointed to the light bulb as an example. He shared that a light bulb does not have content in the way that a newspaper has articles or a television has programs, yet it is a medium that has a social effect; that is, a light bulb enables people to create spaces during nighttime that would otherwise be enveloped by darkness. McLuhan states that “a light bulb creates an environment by its mere presence.” He describes the light bulb as a medium without any content. 

I think this is a perfect metaphor for consciousness. If you’re a student of meditative theory, then you might recall any number of people or texts that make this same allusion. The one that immediately comes to my mind is Epstein’s Thoughts without a Thinker. McLuhan’s insight into intersubjective communication is profound. The medium and its implicit structure determine what can be communicated. Similarly, consciousness and its implicit structure determine what can be perceived. Awareness, by definition, is without content and because of this we are never fully aware of it. It sits in the background…it IS background…which provides us with the occasion of perception. It is the medium that allows us to perceive objects around us, which we then mistake for ourselves (again, Plato’s Myth of the Cave comes to mind).  Anyways, I thought it was a great way to think about the nature of consciousness. Just as light allows us to perceive objects around us, but we are unable to perceive light directly, it is the same with consciousness (although, with practice, we can actually perceive this background). I think this is why descriptions of non-dual awareness so often include elements of “illumination.” Anyways, it is just a thought.  


Who Would You Be Without Your Story?

18 Sep

You have to check out this video of Byron Katie working with a lady who believes, “my mother shamed me.” I am always encouraged and liberated after watching these videos. All of my bullshit stories…”I should be successful,” “people should love me,” “I should be treated with respect,” “people should be nice to me,” blah, blah, blah….all of these stories running through my mind. And as soon as I drop the story and accept reality as it is…I find that things begin to change. I can take action without striving for approval. I act out of a sense of abundance not lack. I act out of freedom and not dependence.

These videos make it beautifully clear how our beliefs constantly get in our way. “Who would you be without your story?” Katie always asks. I’m still exploring that answer and I look forward to sharing that exploration with others.

The video is a bit long, but if you have the time, it’s a great way to sit in some truly transformational practice.

*Note: if you’re not familiar with Byron Katie’s work, then she might come across as a bit harsh or judgmental. Understand though that the people who attend these workshops are there to get the truth. They’ve reached a point where they are tired of their story and they a re brave enough to ask for some help. The questions that Katie asks, and the responses that she gives are always intended to help the other person realize their truth.

Intellectual Courage (or a short rant against post-modernism)

10 Sep

Power Without Authority

4 Sep

“If a rhinoceros were to enter this restaurant now, there is no denying he would have great power here. But I should be the first to rise and assure him that he had no authority whatever.” — G.K. Chesterton to Alexander Woollcott

25 Trends in Learning Technology

1 Sep

What are the hot new learning technologies? Well, I’ve read all of the literature (well, almost all…) and here is my list. Some of the trends are high-level and deal more generally with the field itself, others are about specific technologies. But if you wanted to quickly get up to speed on what’s happening out there, then this list of keywords would be a great place to start.

Learners have access to an overwhelming amount of content. Who is going to decide what information is the most relevant or what are the best courses? Crowd-sourcing, aggregation, and expert opinion will become more popular as there is an increasing emphasis on the quality of information over quantity.

  • Blogger’s opinion about industry is well-respected and provides community with real-time data on emerging trends
  • A LMS lists available courses with user ratings from 1-5 stars
  • Aggregators (ex., bagtheweb, Bundlr, Storify)

“User-Focused Design”
User interface design has become a central disciple in the elearning market and it’s becoming increasingly popular for all learning technology. In this way, the shift is away from pure engineering power to elegant functionality. The success of a technology is now commonly measured by the “ease of use” not just the processing power.

  • LMS systems maintain their backend machinery, but user only sees personal learning environment (PLE)
  • Internal search functions mirror Google’s simple search box
  • Data is presented as a series of simple, graphical boxes mirroring the design of mobile phones apps

This is a broad trend that moves the power away from traditional experts, content creators, and learning professionals into the hands of the learners themselves. This shift touches informs all learning technology. In general, learning technology professionals are increasingly focused on how to empower individuals and groups rather than how to influence or sell to them.

  • Open-source LMS and content creation programs Crowd-sourced aggregators that show user ratings
  • Communities of Practice
  • Wikis, blogs, messaging User-focused design

“Continuous Learning Environment”
The broad idea means that the distinction between production-time and learning-time is becoming increasingly blurred. Mobile learning and performance support tools are good examples of how “learning” and “work” are becoming increasingly integrated.

  • Performance support technologies
  • LMS systems that collect informal learning data
  • Mobile technologies that allow learning to take place anywhere at any time
  • Less interest in instructor-led training

“Augmented Reality”
Augmented reality allows digital enhancement to overlay the physical world via digital screens on tablets, smartphones, or some predict wearable devices. Built upon the use of mobile devices, includes trends like the use of QR codes as well as performance support tools based upon context.

  • Augmented reality app on mobile phone overlays technical specifications of machine needing repair (ex. Mataio, Aurasma Junaio)
  • QR codes on medications link to instructional videos on proper application
  • Xbox Kinect camera is easily accessible and has been used successfully in some learning applications

Studies prove what most people already know; most learning takes place on the job in informal settings. In the past, most of this learning has completely escaped measurement and tracking. This trend touches many learning technologies as the field tries to get a handle on the continuous learning environment.

  • Tracking informal learning in a LMS (ex. Tin Can API)
  • A twitter hashtag is provided during a conference to facilitate networking
  • Performance support provides learning as needs arise

Generically “the cloud” refers to the entirety of a computer network (typically the internet), which connects all software and hardware to a central infrastructure. This trend refers to a growing integration of the internet and formerly closed employee learning systems. The advantages are increased efficiency, and interoperability.

  • Cloud-connected “smart objects” will provide real-time data to better adapt performance support to user’s immediate needs
  • Cloud-based LMS (ex. OpenSesame)
  • Cloud-based content authoring tools (ex. Udutu, Composica)
  • Cloud-based mobile app development tools

A trend that describes the expansion of Google’s search technologies and aesthetics into more markets, web applications, and contexts. This means a greater emphasis on self-serve learning based on large databases of knowledge. Internal knowledge management, CoPs, wikis, etc. are all expected to contain relevant information which the employee can access quickly via simple user-focused interfaces.

  • Internal systems searching mirrors user experience of internet searching
  • LMS interfaces are increasingly focused on providing users with simple, uncluttered designs
  • Internal knowledge is catalogued according to popularity or user ratings

Learning analytics are increasingly important both for gathering data on users actual behaviors and for backend problem identification. Sophisticated analytics are no longer limited to expert statisticians. This trend is about gathering as much raw learning data as possible and also how to best make meaning of it.

  • LMS systems are gathering smaller units of data for more precise measurement (ex. Xyleme)
  • Web analytics (i.e. Facebook, Google) are informing learning assessment and evaluation
  • LMS systems are improving data analysis and reporting

A massive open online course (MOOC) is a type of online course aimed at large-scale participation (sometimes thousands), is openly accessible via the web, and runs over several months like a traditional classroom course. MOOCs offer courses from traditional educational institutions and/or from custom providers.

  • Approaches to instructional design must increasingly account for large-scale interaction
  • Coursea, Udacity, edX, Academic Room, Erasmus, Kahn Academy, Codeacademy, Minerva

Mobile means both that the workforce is increasingly mobile (asynchronous work, geographically dispersed, and/or employees not tied to a specific work station) and that the usage of mobile devices (tablets & phones) for workplace learning is dramatically increasing.

  • Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trends which put emphasis on interoperability and personalization
  • The development of mLMS systems (ex. Blackboard Mobile, CertPoint VLS, Xyleme)
  • Employee accesses internal wiki when working in the field
  • Mobile content authoring tools (ex. eXact Mobile, dominKnow Learning, Emantras MOBL 21)

“Open Source”
Increasingly learning technologies are being developed for free use. Often design and implementation details are available as well to allow for the evolution of these technologies by their users. A main principle of open-source development is peer production and collaboration with free distribution being the ultimate goal.

  • Open-source course authoring tools (ex. SoftChalk)
  • Open-source LMS (ex. Moodle)

The term “social learning” naturally calls to mind social networking platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Yet social e-Learning tools can include a wealth of other options, including blogs, wikis, discussion groups, email and online content discovered using search tools. The emphasis is on getting information from the community or from trusted individuals within their community rather than relying on experts.

  • Learner asks for assistance on Yammer rather than through formal chain of command
  • The integration of collaborative activities and social networking into a LMS (ex. SkillSoft Ingenius)
  • Communities of practice are internal learning communities that direct their own projects
  • Document and media sharing (ex. Basecamp, Google drive, Dropbox, SharePoint)

In an attempt to keep up with changing technologies organizations must make sure content makes the best use of the device it’s displayed on. The ability to access CBT on a mobile phone is good, but not if the content has not be appropriately optimized for those devices.

  • Starting with a PDF training manual and optimizing the information for use on a mobile device
  • Using Adobe Edge (or other HTML 5 based software) to create different versions of the same informational webpage for desktop, mobile phone, and tablet

Gamification’s proponents argue that it works by making technology more engaging, by encouraging users to engage in desired behaviors by showing a path to mastery and autonomy, by helping to solve problems and being more engaging, and by taking advantage of humans’ psychological predisposition to engage in gaming.

  • Providing achievement points and scoreboards for completed courses and assignment in LMS
  • “Serious Play Awards” find the best learning games each year

This trend is about ensuring that technologies and systems can work with each other without compromising security or usability. Users now interact with many systems simultaneously (LMS, social networking tools, desktop, mobile phone, video conferencing software, etc.) and these systems need to work together seamlessly.

  • Getting LMS content to work on employee tablets within security protocols
  • Ensuring that internal talent management systems (learning, recruitment, performance, etc.) support each other (ex. Cornerstone, WorkForce, Ellegro)

Content needs to be adaptive to the delivery systems and adaptive to the learner’s performance. The user interface needs to be organically adaptive; i.e. the user doesn’t have to change settings, the interface naturally adapts to user behavior. In addition, courses are becoming more adaptive to learners as they progress.

  • A LMS that provides suggestions like Amazon’s “because you bought this, you may also like…”
  • During an online course, wrong answers send someone targeted information

As tools integrate more and more information and more and more users they risk becoming more and more depersonalized. To counteract this, there is a growing trend towards personalized solutions that allow users to create custom solutions for their particular needs. In addition, personalization is the acknowledgement that workers are increasingly blending their work and personal lives.

  • Personal learning environment (PLE) allows user to set learning goals, manage learning, and communicate with other in the process
  • Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) accounts for personal device preferences
  • Web feed management programs (ex. FeedBurner) allow learners to craft the information to which they are exposed

“Self-Service Learning”
Self-service learning is a movement towards employees making their own non-linear choices about what learning content they need and when they need it. For example, employees are more likely to Google search specific pieces of relevant information when they need it rather than signing up for a course that they hope to apply later.

  • LMS includes smaller chunks of content that allow learners to be more targeted in what they want to view
  • Learners are allowed a variety of learning methods to satisfy a competency/proficiency gap

One of the major trends in authoring is the increased production and implementation of video-based information. This isn’t about high-production films, but smaller chunks of user-generated content sparked largely by increased usage and familiarity with video sharing sites like YouTube and Vimeo. The plethora of cameras and the lowered barriers on bandwidth and cloud storage means that videos are becoming increasingly commonplace.

  • Short instructional/how-to videos
  • Video messaging, video blogging
  • Live feeds
  • Video conferencing (ex. goto meeting, Lync, Skype)
  • Flip Camera, mobile phone cameras, Go Pro
  • Youtube, Vimeo

“Performance Support”
The idea behind performance support is simple; provide the right amount of help at the right time. A simple example is word-processing programs that spell check as you type. This concept is shifting the focus of learning interventions from a series of “learning and then performance” steps to a parallel structure in which learning is integrated into the performance of tasks.

  • Call center electronic performance support helps operators navigate complex internal systems
  • Participants attend an instructor-led course on “work/life balance” and afterward receive daily messages reminding them to get up and stretch
  • Online help system prompts a user who seems stuck on an action step (user repeatedly selects “undo”)

An umbrella term that has a range of meanings, but generally refers to web-based models of traditional real-world activities and locations. Virtual workplaces and teams are an increasing reality with tight budgets and more support technology. Growth in this area is around access devices (mobile phones, teleconference rooms), communication infrastructure (cloud, radio networks), virtual depth (virtual worlds, 3D graphics), and adoption (telework, virtual conferences).

  • Teleconferencing and telepresence allow for meaningful collaboration
  • Virtual worlds and virtual conferences mirror physical spaces allowing for greater complexity
  • Multiple learners login into a virtual world for a disaster preparedness simulation

“Second Screen”
Attention is no longer undivided. Multitasking rules. Kindle readers tweet commentary about the ebooks and magazines they’re reading; folks chatting on their iPhones use their tablets to turn real-time conversations into live streamed blogs. The mix of device mobility and multiplicity makes the use of multiple screens at the same time the norm rather than the exception.

  • Participants in an online course are encouraged to visit a website while remaining in the course.
  • During conference presentations, presenters can encourage audience members to visit web resources more resources even while talk is going on.
  • A learning professional may have an instructional video running on iPad while she experiments with the lesson on her desktop.

Haptic technology is tactile feedback technology which takes advantage of the sense of touch by applying forces, vibrations, or motions to the user. This mechanical stimulation can be used to assist in the creation of virtual objects in a computer simulation or to control such objects. It has been described as doing for the sense of touch what computer graphics has done for vision.

  • The Smart Board is an interactive whiteboard that uses touch detection for user input, e.g. scrolling, right mouse-click
  • Information desks include touchscreen interactivity
  • The application of Nintendo Wii to learning

“Back Channel”
This trend is about leveraging organic communication channels that users create to supplement the formal channels.  Within the sphere of social networking tools, this is about using Twitter, Yammer, or other messaging services within the context of learning environment without attempting to alter it or force it into traditional modes.

  • A conference may offer back channel twitter hashtags or Google hangouts
  • Employees share problems and solutions through internal Yammer accounts

SOURCES: ASTD, Bersin& Associates, Brandon Hall, ADL, eLearning Guild, I/ITSEC, Masie Center, USDLA, NMC Horizon Report, SALT, CLO Magazine, Benchmark Learning.