May 30, 2002

Yesterday I finished my portion

Yesterday I finished my portion of the manuscript for the book I'm writing with Lance Dublin. It's about implementing eLearning. The real skinny, not the vendor hype. Comes out this October. The complexity of making eLearning work is probably one reason idiotic stuff like this really gets my goat.

Not only is this chart misleading, it is out and out wrong. "The new training...untouched by human hands." You betcha.

The chart doesn't even list the amortization of a Docent license, so I guess the example doesn't include an LMS. No mentors. No equipment. No security. No help desk. No publicity. No assessment. No reinforcement. No follow-up. No peer interaction. I'm sure it will be a great course.

If you've been considering Docent, why not ask them if these cost-free implementations really work? And whether this is the sort of implementation they recommend to their customers.

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Corporate Learning Strategies Daniel R.

Corporate Learning Strategies
Daniel R. Tobin, Ph.D

The Fallacy of ROI Calculations
If Not ROI, Then What?

This article is based on a presentation I have made to conference audiences on three continents. At the conclusion of each presentation, I am typically asked: "If you don't use ROI to measure the value of your programs, then what do you use?" Throughout my 25+ years in the training field, I have always used the same indicator of my success - when company management/leadership gets up and says: "We had a really good quarter or year, meeting (or exceeding) our business goals - and, by the way, we couldn't have done it without the efforts of the training group" - then I know that the training group has been successful.

Tobin's Law
This entire article can be summarized by what I immodestly call "Tobin's Law" -- If you start and end all of your learning efforts by focusing on your organization's goals, you will never be asked to do an ROI analysis to justify your budget.

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There's no cookbook approach to

There's no cookbook approach to measuring the ROI of training. Fred Nichols is so right about this.

Because the definition and perception of value varies from person to person, so do the purposes of evaluation. Moreover, the various audiences for evaluation frequently act as their own evaluators. If you look carefully about you, or if you reflect upon your own experiences as a "trainee," you will quickly discover that training is being evaluated every day, but by trainees, managers, and executives -- and in accordance with their criteria and purposes.
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May 28, 2002

Raven maps are beautiful National

Raven maps are beautiful

National Geographic Map Machine Tornado Touchdowns

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Learning in Action by David

Learning in Action by David Garvin

"The most effective learning strategy depends on the situation," writes David A. Garvin. "There is no stock answer, nor is there a single best approach." In Learning in Action, he illustrated the diversity of learning organization strategies with examples from several organizations, including L.L. Bean, the U.S. Army's Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL), AT&T's Bell Laboratories, the Timken Companies and General Electric's Change Acceleration Process (CAP).

The article in HBS Working Knowledge contains stunning examples of success from the companies mentioned above.

Process is god.

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May 27, 2002

Metacognition is a theory, which

Metacognition is a theory, which states that learners benefit by thoughtfully and reflectively considering the things they are learning and the ways in which they are learning them. A common phrase used by its advocates is "thinking about thinking." In classroom situations, metacognition could well involve "thinking aloud" with a partner, so that each participant gains insight to the processes that lead to intellectual conclusions. Carried to further levels, metacognition might involve reflective thinking by students about the value and/or the applicability of the things they are learning.

Learning to Learn. An intriguing site at the University of Toronto. I plan to get in touch with these people.

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"I think we agree, the

"I think we agree, the past is over."
Geroge W. Bush, on his meeting with John McCain,
Dallas Morning News, May 10, 2000

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Obliscence, Theories of Forgetting and

Obliscence, Theories of Forgetting and the Problem of Matter
by Geoffrey Sonnabend

In his three volume work Obliscence, Theories of Forgetting and the Problem of Matter, Geoffrey Sonnabend departed from all previous memory research with the premise that memory is an illusion. Forgetting, he believed, not remembering is the inevitable outcome of all experience. From this perspective,

"We, amnesiacs all, condemned to live in an eternally fleeting present, have created the most elaborate of human constructions, memory, to buffer ourselves against the intolerable knowledge of the irreversible passage of time and the irretrieveability of its moments and events."

Sonnabend did not attempt to deny that the experience of memory existed. However, his entire body of work was predicated on the idea that what we experience as memories are in fact confabulations artificial constructions of our own design built around sterile particles of retained experience which we attempt to make live again by infusions of imagination - much as the blacks and whites of old photographs are enhanced by the addition of colors or tints in attempt to add life to a frozen moment.

Sonnabend believed that long term or "distant" memory was illusion, but similarly he questioned short term or "immediate" memory. On a number of occasions Sonnabend wrote, "there is only experience and its decay" by which he meant to suggest that what we typically call short term memory is, in fact, our experiencing the decay of an experience. Interestingly, however, Sonnabend employed the term true memory, to describe this process of decay which, he held, was, in actuality, not memory at all.

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by Jay Cross and

by Jay Cross and Lance Dublin

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May 26, 2002

Someone posted a pointer at

Someone posted a pointer at to The School of Thinking. Most of the material on the SoT's website struck me as claptrap and nonsense. (Their claim to be the Largest School in the World is based on the fact that they're on the net. By the same logic, this is the Largest Blog Posting in the world. Many of us are tied for the Largest Whatever honor.)

Nonetheless, I agree with the six career advancement principles ("CAP") used in training SoT trainers:

    1. Learning by Teaching: If you have to explain something to someone else, then you have already learned to explain it to yourself. So people are encouraged to teach their skills to each other, to their families, to friends, and so on.

    2. Knowledge into Skill: Developing a thorough understanding and conviction of the difference between merely having knowledge on a matter and owning a skill of performance in it. Understanding the strategy of practice and repetition.

    3. Measurement: Unless one was deliberately willing to trade off the necessary time and energy needed to acquire a new skill - that is, logging the hours of practice and repetition - the trainee could never expect to go beyond the knowing stage and reach a level of operating skill. This means focusing on the process and measuring it in hours of practice.

    4. Commitment to Action: The skills must be useful in daily life. To assist the transfer of skills acquired in training to real life situations, trainees designed specific "action commitments" on special planners including times, dates, places, etc.

    5. Effective Follow-up: The monitoring of feedback and measuring results were an important part of CAP. Checking to see if what happened was what the trainee really wanted. This became a continuous part of the process.

    6. Reinforcement: Noticing increments of progress in acquiring new skills and then recognising them in an appropriate way, were fundamental principles of CAP., 10 minutes a day on the web, appears to have been built on the older School of Thinking workshops. This is cute:

What is brain software?

Brain software is the basic program we use to do our thinking. Think of your brain as your 'necktop computer'. Now, ask yourself: What software do I use in my necktop and where did I get it from?

Many people are slow thinkers, not because they are short on brainpower, but because they're using very slow, outdated brain software. The software they were programmed at school to think with actually slows them down. It's just critical thinking. This software is the 2500-year-old Greek software - logic - which was spread around the world during the second millennium and is so, so sluggish. Many people are still stuck with logic as their main thinking software, and that's about as fast as they can go. (Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.)

Why should I be interested in increasing my own speed of thought?

If you don't upgrade your brain software then you'll be stuck with what you've got. Although this sounds a bit like a TV advertorial (But wait there's more!) I've listed some of the many real benefits that come from increasing your own speed of thought:

    be more open-minded
    be better able to escape from your point-of-view
    be able to see more opportunities
    be faster at solving problems
    enjoy making decisions
    increase your survival skills
    be fitter in the marketplace
    be more effective at planning
    get much better results
    find it easier to be creative
    be faster to take advantage of changes in circumstances
    get things done quicker
    think more and worry less
    lower your stress levels
    increase your family's peace and happiness
    own a basis for a higher communication with others
    see information in new and more useful ways
    learn the skill of quantum leaping
    generate better and better alternatives
    raise the level of every other thought-based skill you possess
    apply these advanced skills to your personal and family life
    be more productive with business and career problems and opportunities
    be a speed thinker!

Interestingly, there's great overlap with the processes I've been touting for meta-learning.

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May 24, 2002

Interface Hall of Shame

Interface Hall of Shame

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May 21, 2002

Gonzo Marketing by Christopher Locke

Gonzo Marketing by Christopher Locke

It took me a while to dig through Gonzo Marketing. It's fun. It's easy. It's highly entertaining. But if you know Chris Locke from Cluetrain, from Entropy Gradient Reversals, and from outrageous email from Rage Boy, it's not new.

Don''t get me wrong. I love this stuff. Hunter Thompson and Tom Peters rolled into one. Marketing needed a wake-up call, and Chris is an ear-shattering alarm clock.

The fact that Locke got Harvard Business Review to run an article entitled Gonzo Marketing, Winning Through Worst Practices, is simply staggering.

In the midst of writing my book on Implementing eLearning, I find myself quoting Chris a lot more than Philip Kotler.

At an architecture bookstore on Michigan Avenue, I found myself drawn to a slender tome by Kimberly Elam entitled Geometry of Design.

When I was in grammar school I must have been absent on the days they covered the Golden Section and Fibonnaci numbers.

The Golden Section is a rectangle with sides in a ratio of 1:.61803. Offer people a line-up of various rectangles and this one always wins the popularity contest. Take the Fibonnaci series, divide a number by the prior number in the series...and the results converge to the Golden Section!

The Golden Section also defines the proportions of the human body, the face, the body of fish, the facade of the Parthenon, and the posters of A.M Cassandre.

I find it utterly amazing that things like this lie beneath the surface of our everyday lives yet can go unnoticed. A fascinating read.

I've read big chunks of various Chicago guidebooks and part of a volume on Frank Lloyd Wright.

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May 19, 2002

Human Capital Live! seminar attendance

Human Capital Live! seminar attendance is limited to maintain interactivity. Sign up to reserve your spot now at

Jay Cross and Clark Quinn
Seminar: Wednesday, May 22
Time: 9:00-10:15am Pacific Standard Time
Applied Meta Learning - Improving Individual and Organizational Capability
Consultants and Founders, The Meta-Learning Lab

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May 13, 2002

Heidi Fisk and I were

Heidi Fisk and I were talking on the phone and I warned "Don't get me going about how awful schools are." She sent me a link to John Taylor Gatto, a guy who makes me look like a pussycat. His Underground History of American Education lambastes public schools.. You have to read it.

In the first year of the last decade of the twentieth century during my thirtieth year as a school teacher in Community School District 3, Manhattan, after teaching in all five secondary schools in the district, crossing swords with one professional administration after another as they strove to rid themselves of me, after having my license suspended twice for insubordination and terminated covertly once while I was on medical leave of absence, after the City University of New York borrowed me for a five-year stint as a lecturer in the Education Department (and the faculty rating handbook published by the Student Council gave me the highest ratings in the department my last three years), after planning and bringing about the most successful permanent school fund-raiser in New York City history, after placing a single eighth-grade class into 30,000 hours of volunteer community service, after organizing and financing a student-run food cooperative, after securing over a thousand apprenticeships, directing the collection of tens of thousands of books for the construction of private student libraries, after producing four talking job dictionaries for the blind, writing two original student musicals, and launching an armada of other initiatives to reintegrate students within a larger human reality, I quit.

I was New York State Teacher of the Year when it happened.

Government schooling is the most radical adventure in history. It kills the family by monopolizing the best times of childhood and by teaching disrespect for home and parents. The whole blueprint of school procedure is Egyptian, not Greek or Roman. It grows from the theological idea that human value is a scarce thing, represented symbolically by the narrow peak of a pyramid.

We don?t need a national curriculum or national testing either. Both initiatives arise from ignorance of how people learn or deliberate indifference to it. I can?t teach this way any longer. If you hear of a job where I don?t have to hurt kids to make a living, let me know. Come fall I?ll be looking for work.

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'Screen Language': The New Currency

'Screen Language': The New Currency for Learning
John Seely Brown

"I was a dinosaur," says Brown.

According to Seely Brown, there is a new kind of digital divide now and it is the divide between faculty and students. Faculty, stuck in yesterday's analog world, are confronted with students who arrive nicely fluent in digital technology and the virtues of hyperspeed. Students already have a handle on how to convey their emotional states electronically. It's up to adults to learn that vernacular, he said. Educators who create programs for adult learning and distance learning need to apply the vernacular and deepen and strengthen these new means of communication.

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May 12, 2002

Seriousness is an accident of

Seriousness is an accident of time. It consists in putting too high a value on time. In eternity there is no time. Eternity is a mere moment, just long enough for a joke. Herman Hesse (1877 - 1962)

Anywhere is walking distance, if you've got the time. Steven Wright

Google on Dali's Birthday

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Use the Blog, Luke by

Use the Blog, Luke
by Steven Johnson in Salon

But both Blogdex and Bookwatch share a conceptual limitation with most individual blogs, a limitation that is hard-wired into the software used by the great majority of webloggers: They are organized around time.

Time is central to the philosophical DNA the blogs share with journalism: Both compulsively feature today's link, today's controversy, today's top books. This might seem like an obvious organizational principle, but it comes with great restrictions. Google, for instance, is largely oblivious to time: When you use Google, you're usually not looking for up-to-the-minute info, you're looking for authority and depth. (Try getting a useful stock quote directly from Google and you'll understand immediately.) Many of the bloggers that I follow comment on links that are time-sensitive on the scale of a year or two: Someone's rant on the latest XML spec revisions is just as relevant next week, though probably not nearly so relevant a decade from now. But because those links fall off the front door every few days, they effectively enter a de facto oblivion, where I have to hunt them down actively three weeks later when I'm looking around for useful assessments of XML. The beautiful thing about most information captured by the bloggers is that it has an extensive shelf life. The problem is that it's being featured on a rotating shelf.

But the bloggers needn't be anchored to the headline-news mentality. Think of them as less like a newspaper substitute and more a kind of guardian angel, hovering over your shoulder as you surf. (The Alexa software created by Brewster Kahle relied on a similar approach: He called it a "surf engine.") Punch up a URL and if Jason, or Andrew Sullivan, or Sopsy has an opinion about that page, you see their comments in a floating window alongside your main browser window. It's a simple enough trick: Sites like Blogdex are already tracking blog-borne references to different URLs. All your browser would have to do is send an additional request to a database of blogged URLs anytime you pulled up a page: If there's a match -- if one of the bloggers you're following has referenced the URL -- their comments get sent back to your machine and appear in the floating palette.

[interesting riff on collaborative filtering via blogs]

There are almost as many potential ways to manage that new flow of information as there are bloggers providing it. But to open up these new avenues, the bloggers are going to have to shed their dependence on the traditional journalistic models: Instead of going to today's blog the way you pick up today's paper, the bloggers should follow us around, providing context and commentary, supplementing our libraries and our memory. Many blogs out there possess the standards and intelligence of conventional journalism, but there are already too many of them to keep track of the way we subscribe to old-style magazines or habitually tune in to favorite TV networks. If the blogging population expands at the current rate, soon enough you'll be able to spend an entire day just reading the front doors of all your bookmarked blogs. Better to do away with the dependence on front doors, and let your favorite bloggers come to you.

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Zeitgeist Explained... zeit·geist | Pronunciation:

Zeitgeist Explained...
zeit·geist | Pronunciation: 'tsIt-"gIst, 'zIt | Function: noun | Etymology: German, from Zeit (time) + Geist (spirit) | Date: 1884 | Meaning: the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era

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May 11, 2002

TextArc, an alternative way to

TextArc, an alternative way to view text.

You must experience TextArc to appreciate its beauty and potential. Just do it.

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from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica,

from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, which recently became available online.

A special use of the verb "to train," in the sense of to educate, to instruct, to bring into fit and proper condition, mental, moral or physical, is developed, as in "educate" (Lat. educare, literally, to draw out), from the sense of drawing or bringing out the good qualities aimed at in a course of instruction; a specific use is that of training for a race or other form of athletics, i.e. getting into fit physical condition.

The self is not something ready-made, but something in continuous formation through choice of action.
John Dewey, from The Quotations Page.

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May 07, 2002

From now until the end

From now until the end of the month, I'll be posting scraps from the editing room floor as I pare the book I'm writing down to size.

The Professor's Song
By Tom Lehrer

If you give me your attention, I will tell you what I am.
I'm a brilliant math'matician -- also something of a ham.
I have tried for numerous degrees, in fact I've one of each;
Of course that makes me eminently qualified to teach.
I understand the subject matter thoroughly, it's true,
And I can't see why it isn't all as obvious to _you_.
Each lecture is a masterpiece, meticulously planned,
Yet everybody tells me that I'm hard to understand,
And I can't think why.

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Learning objects are like luggage.

Learning objects are like luggage. Dumb as dirt.

In the April 2002 issue of the Learning Place, Stephen Downes says,

A recent article [1] about airline luggage prompted me to think about learning objects in a new way. The premise of the article was that that airlines would lose luggage less frequently if the luggage were equipped with more intelligence. In other words, 'what if we managed bags like we managed people?' After all, 'passengers are smart entities traversing a stupid network, whereas pieces of luggage are very stupid entities traversing a marginally smarter network.' Wouldn't it be better if 'a suitcase could check itself into airplanes, order transportation, track news about delays or cancellations, and make sure, in case of unforeseen changes, that it will be booked on the next flight or sent back home again?'


...the main point of this article is to show that, if we made learning objects a little smarter, they could perform many of the tasks we now envision the hiring of minions of baggage handlers to accomplish. There is no in principle reason why we could not develop smart learning objects: if we can write self-extracting executables, self-pacing audio streams, or applications that report back to Microsoft when you use bad words, then we can write learning object wrappers that perform basic self-analytical tasks, scan the web for web services, and learn about their new environment.

What's more, once we develop an architecture of smart learning objects, we are no longer constrained by the bounds of 'supported' data formats. Should a developer want to deploy a previously unused 3-D multimedia file format, the developer need not wait until the learning management system has built in support or until the user has downloaded a plug-in: everything that's needed ships with the learning object. Should developers become dissatisfied with Adobe's or Microsoft's file formats (or pricing structures), they can simply write their own presentation application.

Smart learning objects. So much more than learning luggage.

Ah, but of course.

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May 06, 2002

Clark Aldrich sent me this

Clark Aldrich sent me this link to "the biggest criticism of eLearning ever." You owe it to yourself to try this simulation.

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May 05, 2002

More nails in the coffin

More nails in the coffin for courses

Pounding the drum we started here six weeks ago, more voices are coming out against courses.

Confessions of an e-learner
Why the course paradigm is all wrong

Eve Drinis and Amy Corrigan in Online Learning

Where the Course Paradigm Falls Down

    Confession No. 1: I don't want to be tortured with useless information. I want my learning in small, meaningful chunks that help me get my job done.

    Confession No. 2: I can't always know when I'll need to know something.

    Confession No. 3: Learning is great, but I need to know how it fits into my job.

    Confession No. 4: Sometimes learning objectives are just plain dumb. What I need is good reference material.

    Confession No. 5: I'd like to show my boss that the training improved my performance.

The end of the course as we know it

The days may well be numbered for the course as the essential ?unit of learning?. The typical course is a shrink-wrapped offering where every learner receives the same training, regardless of the job that they do or the skills they already possess. As Clive Shepherd demonstrates is this article, what?s needed is a more targeted approach in which training is precisely tailored to job and individual needs. To make this possible we require a new paradigm for training delivery, one that is based on the intelligent deployment of learning objects.

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May 03, 2002



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