ASTD TechKnowledge

ASTD TechKnowledge
Orlando, Florida

ASTD president Tina Sung opened TechKnowledge this morning with an analogy to taking her daughter to the Buzz Lightyear ride in DisneyWorld and advancing from novice to commando (360,000 points!) in only four rides. Our challenge at this conference is to become eLearning commandos in three days.

Tina noted that the results of eLearning are mixed. Columbia just pulled the plug on Fathom.com after investing three years and $25 million.

The theme of TechKnowledge is "Truth in eLearning," although I don't think anyone can lay claim to absolute truth in this mega-hyped market slice. eLearning was invented as a marketing term, not a discipline.

Roger Schank

Roger Schank followed with a well-received keynote. Following the "Truth in eLearning" theme, he set out to reveal 15 eLearning fairytales. Roger is a guy people either love or hate. He's a brilliant, iconoclastic, devilish, gourmet professor-provocateur with a distinguished background at Yale, Northwestern, and Carnegie Mellon. Very full of himself. The issue is whether you feel he deserves to be or not. I love the guy.

Myth #1 is that good training (and thus good eLearning) copies school. School is boring and largely irrelevant, teaching a curriculum devised at Harvard in 1898 for training future professors.

Myth #2 is that schooling (and also eLearning) is preparation for work. Maybe if you're a professor. For the rest of us, who needs algebra?

Myth #3 is that people can learn by being told. When I'm talking, you're internally reacting to what I'm saying; you keep thinking while I keep talking. You can't actually hear a lecture. You can be inspired by itů Don't tell anybody anything. Does anyone get to argue in your eLearning?

Myth #4 is that learning can take place without real driving goals. Roger gave us the 757 exam. Six questions. How many exits on a 757? What do the red & orange lights mean? What do you do if the slide doesn't inflate? You've heard it hundreds of times but you don't remember it. No associated goal. The whole art of teaching is the art of awaking the natural curiosity.

Myth #5 is that useable knowledge can be explicitly stated. Actually the stuff you can state is not what you need to know. How hard do you have to stomp the brake pedal to stop a car going 60? The answer's in your eyes, your legs, etc. How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice. If your eLearning system is about anything other than practice, people aren't learning. Replicating existing courses on a computer doesn't work. Why? Courses suck. Learning requires emotion (how come?), exploration (what happened?), frustration (got to fix this), explanation (maybe that's why), and realization (aha). And, above all inspiring curiosity.

Myth #6 is that eLearning is a way to save money on training. (You figure it out.)

Myth #7 is that you need an LMS. "Never give a sucker an even break." VCs took over the eLearning business. Let's make a shell. You're going to figure out how to do eLearning. Don't buy the tools first.

Myth #8 is that blended solutions are best. "Blended" is an excuse word. (Don't throw anything away.) Were there things you could do in the classroom you couldn't do in eLearning? Not many. What are the primary modes of education? Story telling, story living, software sim, live sim. Prelimary processes: real projects, Socratic mentoring, goal-based scenarios, apprenticeships.

The remaining myths:

9. Schooling will always be the same. Learning by doing is how we learn. Carnegie Mellon West is Roger's proof by example. Real learning requires an apprenticeship model. Always has, always will. Simulated job.

10. Curricula have been handed down by God (or Charles Eliot). What do they need to practice? What will they do after the course? What are their typical mistakes? Where are the experts?

Socraticarts.com for projects from CMU
www.west.cmu.edu for online master's degreees

11. Training is different from education. What stories do you want your employees to live?

12. You can learn something in an hour.

13. Sims/online are expensive.

14. You can't build it yourself.

15. eLearning does not involve instructors.


eLearning works, so long as you don't believe in fairy tales.

Great stuff!


Sam Adkins

Sam Adkins, a business analyst with extensive nontraditional learning experience, addressed the convergence of enterprise systems and eLearning. (Disclosure: Internet Time Group is publishing Sam's reports on this.)

The real-time enterprise is at hand. Imagine ERP+CRM+SCM+ eLearning, all glued together and functioning seamlessly. We're about to see a battle between best-of-breed (the eLearning providers' refuge) and broadest reach (PeopleSoft, Oracle, SAP, Sun, Siebel). Until now, automation has been the key business driver. Now, "integration" is replacing it.

This has tremendous implications for eLearning, performance support, KM, and related areas. Turbulence in eLearning? You ain't seen nothing yet.

Download Sam's free overview.


The Expo

I was a little burned out by the time I hit the reception in the Expo. Then I balked at a cheesy buffet and a cash bar. Kevin Oakes was manning the Click2Learn booth -- one of the few CEOs of a major player with the humility to talk with the prospects. Enspire's Bjorn Brillhart and Seth Kaplan were wowing the crowd with their simulations. Nothing in the Expo knocked my socks off, but perhaps I simply wasn't in the mood.

The Event

A couple of years ago, I was down on TechKnowledge. I didn't attend because it felt like an arranged marriage between two conferences that couldn't stand on their own, the name seemed to rip off Elliott's TechLearn, and it took place in Chicago in the winter.

Last year I attended because Las Vegas is an easy flight from my home outside San Francisco, and I was participating in a virtual press conference. Spoiled as I was from working with big vendors, I thought TechKnowledge was dinky. As I talked with attendees, however, I found that it was serving a valuable purpose. The attendees were looking for basic lessons and they were getting them. Most of these people would have gotten lost at a larger show. ASTD is a membership organization and this was serving the members.

This year in Orlando is much the same. There are people here who have never assembled a PowerPoint presentation nor clicked the right button of a mouse. (I am NOT making this up.) They are getting their arms around a subject they're dedicated to figuring out. If I were in ASTD's shoes, I'd be tempted to offer TechKnowledge every quarter -- each time in a different region of the country. Host shows for the disenfranchised trainers who can't afford to go to the big shows.

Hurricane damage


Posted by Jay Cross at January 28, 2003 08:07 PM | TrackBack
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