June 30, 2002

Shikshantar is an Indian project

Shikshantar is an Indian project to rethink education and development. Their thinking parallels mine precisely:

While education has been framed as the cure to this crisis, in reality, the factory model of schooling is part of the problem. Around the world, education systems have become commercialized 'businesses' which serve to stratify society, glorify militarism, devalue local knowledge systems and languages, manufacture unsustainable wants, breed discontent and frustration, stifle creativity, motivation and expression, and dehumanize communities. The 19th-century model of factory-schooling today stands in the way of building organic learning societies for the 21st century.

There is an urgent need to start thinking differently if we wish to do things differently. This starts with facing the reality that the problems that threaten to overwhelm and destroy India arise from the 'schooled', not from the so-called illiterates. Thus, expanding or reforming the existing system of factory-schooling (whether through schools, distance education, literacy classes or non-formal centers) will not solve the crisis.

Rather, communities must engage in new modes of lifelong societal learning which grow from a larger understanding of and respect for human potential and human dignity, dynamic learning processes and relationships, pluralistic identities and cultural contexts, the human spirit and its connection to the web of life. The challenge before us then is to engage in processes of transdisciplinary reflection, dialogue, vision-building and experimentation in order to:

  • provoke, challenge and dismantle factory-schooling and
  • construct and connect new open learning communities
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    June 24, 2002

    Steven Wright on timely subjects:


    Steven Wright on timely subjects:

    Ever notice how irons have a setting for PERMANENT press? I don't get it...

    Four years ago..............no, it was yesterday.

    I just bought a microwave fireplace... You can spend an evening in front of it in only eight minutes...

    I went to a restaurant that serves "breakfast at any time". So I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance.

    Today I met with a subliminal advertising executive for just a second.

    My girlfriend asked me how long I was going to be gone on this tour. I said "the whole time".

    "I put instant coffee in my microwave oven and almost went back in time."

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    Nifty visual summaries of "lessons"

    Nifty visual summaries of "lessons" from the ASTD Conference.

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    June 20, 2002

    I forget what I was

    I forget what I was taught. I only remember what I have learnt Patrick White
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    June 19, 2002

    Maish interviews Thiagi: Thiagi: My

    Maish interviews Thiagi:

    Thiagi: My specialty is to avoid all specialties and become a rigid eclectic. I specialize in reconciling paradoxes. I take light things (such as play and laughter) seriously and serious things (such as e-learning dropout rates) lightly. I specialize in being a global nomad and a cultural marginal. This helps me think like an Asian and like a non-Asian with equal fluency. Some days, I am Gunga Din and other days I am the Pukkah Sahib. This split personality also helps me interact with people from different cultures with equal incompetence.

    I specialize in performance-based learning in both senses of the word performance: I focus on improving participants’ measurable performance. I also focus on applying principles and procedures from performance arts. I have been a street-corner magician, stand-up comedian, and an improv actor. I learned more about motivation, instruction, and performance improvement from these experiences than from my doctoral work on instructional systems and cognitive science.

    Generally I shy away from long quotes in this blog, but I think Thiagi is on target with regards to design.

    Maish: Lately you've been advocating an alternative ID process: the 4Cs (Continuous, Concurrent, Creative, and Co-design) instead of the usual 4Ds (Define, Design, Develop, and Deliver), Can you expand on this?


    Thiagi: Actually, I advocate a wide variety of alternative ID processes, including the traditional ISD model—which I use every 29th of February.

    One of the alternative approaches that appears to have high face validity (because I see light bulbs going on tops of people’s heads) is the 4C model. It’s not a procedural model, but rather a series of beliefs and principles. And the four C’s are not mutually exclusive; they overlap with each other.

    The first C stands for continuous. Among other things, this principle recognizes that the development of an instructional package does not have a clear beginning or ending. Things constantly keep changing-- participants, content, technology, and workplace—and you keep revising and improving the training package. By the same token, you never begin any instructional design from scratch: You build upon existing content and activities from your previous work and other people’s work. You may call this creative plagiarism, benchmarking, or not re-inventing the wheel.

    Here’s a brief example: Recently, we "completed" designing an online training course for a high-tech client. In this training package, we used several games that require learners to become fluent in recalling and applying different facts, principles, and procedures. We saved the shells from these games for future use. Right now, I am designing a course on conflict management. Although the technical content of the original course and the "touchy-feely" content of this course appear to be very different, I use the game shells to rapidly design highly interactive training episodes.

    The second C stands for concurrent. The concept is the same as "blending," but I have promised not to use this buzzword. Concurrency refers to the act of conducting instructional analysis, design, evaluation, and revision activities—all at the same time.

    An important application of this principle is to combine participants’ job performance with their learning. We try to design all our instruction as OJT. If that is not possible (as in the case of training recruits to fly a plane), we try to simulate the on-the-job environment as closely as possible.

    Here’s an aspect of concurrent instructional design that combines delivery and design: If I am the subject-matter expert, I teach a small group of people in a face-to-face situation. We videotape this session. I teach another group, trying to make the second session as different from the first one as possible. Then we analyze the videotapes, figure out which parts can be self-instructional, which parts require collaborative learning, and which parts require a facilitator. If I am not a SME, we use a version of extreme programming. The SME and I sit at the same computer, sharing the same keyboard. I ask the SME to type a question that will require a demonstration of the mastery of a key principle or procedure. I continue with questions based on a template that suits the type of learning. The SME types the answers. I grab the keyboard and edit it. We continue with this dialogue until I am able to respond correctly to the original mastery question. We then bring in a representative learner and have her go through this learning segment, as a test to see if the training segment works. While the learner is going through the segment, we keep our mouth shut unless the learner is absolutely lost and starts screaming in total frustration. Even then we communicate only by changing the text on the screen. This is our approach to combining analysis, design, delivery, evaluation, and revision.

    Any training package that is deadly dull and boring is almost invariably produced by the application of the traditional ISD.

    The third C in the 4C model, creative, is my reaction to the fact. I want my training package to be surprising and I want participants to show off their mastery through creative responses. For example, in my change-management workshop, the facilitator is missing and participants see a message on the screen, asking someone to turn the TV on exactly at 8:30 AM. A robot appears on the screen and walks participants through a collaborative exercise to explore the essence of change. After 30 minutes of this activity, the facilitator enters the room and debriefs participants about their reaction to the unexpected icebreaker activity. As another example of creativity, later in the session, participants are required to respond by drawing pictures and composing pieces of music.

    The fourth C, Co-design, refers to empowering the inmates to run the asylum or the learners to teach themselves. Just to practice what I preach, why don’t you tell me what Co-design means?

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    June 15, 2002

    Used books Every year at

    Used books

    Every year at this time, the Albany (California) Public LIbrary holds a user book sale. This year's event, at least the first of two days, was no where near a rich as years past. Nonetheless, I picked up the following tomes for a grand total of $4:

      The Haiku Anthology
      On Not Being Able to Paint
      Time to Teach/Time to Learn
      Measuring the Impact of Training
      Art as Experience (John Dewey, 1934)

    Ideas on paper have to be one of the best bargains on earth.

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    MAP.NET -- a geographic plot


    MAP.NET -- a geographic plot of realms of knowledge. Pretty, but sparsely populated.

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    KMOL, a very cool knowledge

    KMOL, a very cool knowledge management portal from Portugal

    SynapShots: Citings for Knowledge Workers pointed me to KMOL. Now I'm lost in dozens of other great sites listed there.

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    Books, books, books. Today I

    Books, books, books.

    Today I wandered through Black Oak Books while waiting for a prescription to be filled at the pharmacy at the other end of the block. (Black Oak actually inhabits the space vacated by the pharmacy when they moved into the former quarters of a Lucky Supermarket that could no longer hack it in the Gourmet Ghetto.)

    I love browsing bookstores. The titles spark associations in my mind. Just running my eyes over the spines of book shifts the cerebral machinery into high gear. Among the books at Black Oak I'd read if time permitted:

      Future Evolution
      The Forgetting (David Schenk, on Alzheimer's)
      A Brain for All Seasons (Wm. Calvin)
      The Future of Spacetime (Hawking et alia)
      Making Sense of Life
      The Dawn of Human Culture
      The Moment of Complexity
      The Living Clock, The Origins of Biological Rhythms
      What Evolution Is
      Links
      Synaptic Self
      What Just Happened (James Gleick)
      Oaxaca Journal (Oliver Sachs)
      The Future of Life (Wilson)
      Things a Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About (Donald Knuth)
      Trail poems of Gary Snyder

    I could go on.

    I'm about halfway thourgh Wanderlust: A History of Walking, by Rebecca Solnit. Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Soren Kierkegaard did almost all of their thinking on foot. Pilgrimages, whose walkers make it hard, and Wordsworth, who lived for this then-peasant activity. I'm currently reading of moutaineers, the founding of the Sierra Club, hiking, and long-distance walks. This is a fun read.


    I'm also at the midpoint of Small Pieces Loosely Joined: A Unified Theory of the Web by David Weinberger. If you're not a web person, this is an important book. I've been reading Weinberger's stuff for several years so this is old ground. He's a very entertaining writer, nonetheless, so I'll make it through this one.

    I found Linda and Richard Eyre's Teach Your Children Values for fifty cents. Since I'm such a fan of Richard's Spiritual Serendipity, I had to give it a shot. I've just started.

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    June 14, 2002

    Standards becoming standard Wayne Hodgins

    Standards becoming standard

    Wayne Hodgins writes,

      One of the "what's going on in eLearning" bits could be "it's getting real" and to wit that as of today we have our first accredited standard for eLearning, with the approval today of the Learning Object Metadata standard at IEEE. Believe I sent you the notification earlier today and I see this as a significant milestone for our industry in that it is now "getting real". With the completion of this first accredited standard we have now run the full model through once, so we have delivered on that promise, proven that the system works, that it can be done, etc. I think this will be significant in the minds of the decision and policy makers as well as the eLearning community in general and that we will see even more of a complete transition into implementation mode. This s MUCH needed so that we both get on with it and start the real work and learning process.

    Want a quick catch-up on standards? Check out:

    Making Sense of Learning Specifications & Standards:
    A Decision Maker's Guide to their Adoption

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    In Chicago last month, I

    In Chicago last month, I dropped my Olympus D510 digital camera on the sidewalk bordering Michigan Avenue. No dents, but the shutter button would not move. Olympus wants $143 to repair it. I paid $400 for the D510 last year. Now it sells for $225 - $250. Alas, the D510 will become landfill.

    Today I pawed the Canon S30, Olympus 720UZ, and Nikon 885 at Sarber's Cameras on Solano. They're each $500. They're each 3 megapixels. The Canon is unattractive. The Nikon feels nice in the hand. The Olympus has an 8x zoom. I poured over specs and reviews at Digital Photo Review, an excellent resource, by the way. Tomorrow I plan to give myself the 720UZ for my birthday. I'm turned on.


    Follow-up a day later.
    The electronic viewfinder on this camera drives me nuts. I intend to return it tomorrow.

    And two days thereafter.
    My new Olympus D40 just arrived from J&R.

    Posted by Jay Cross at 11:18 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Content free? Not us. Two

    Content free? Not us.

    Two things are slowing our usual pace here at Internet Time Group.

    1. We're also hosting a conversation on the Learning Circuits blog.
    2. The industry, me along with it, is in the summer doldrums. Corporate decision-makers are headed for the beaches. After 9-11, what we once called procrastination is now revered as remaining flexible and keeping our options open.

    Free? Not the good stuff.

    Shameless, self-serving plug: If you want to legitimize your organizational agility in vacation season, buy and read a copy of Beyond eLearning, our scenario on the convergence of learning, competency, and eKnowledge. You can buy the early-adopter edition, 200+ pages and chock full of graphics, for a mere $350 a copy. Keep your decision-makers and planner busy -- buy a dozen!

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    June 13, 2002

    Just in time strategy for


    Just in time strategy for a turbulent world

    Lowell L. Bryan
    The McKinsey Quarterly, 2002 Number 2 Risk and resilience

    "Kenneth, what is the frequency?"

    The classic approach to corporate strategy starts with a presumption: that with sufficient analytical rigor and an adequate assessment of the probabilities, strategists can pave a predictable path to the future from the matter of the past. In this world, they make reasonable assumptions about the evolution of product markets, capital markets, technology, and government regulation and, in effect, "assume away" most risk. Chief executive officers articulate strategy every few years, often in the context of a change in top management.

    Such traditional strategy formulation often pays lip service to the perspectives of the capital markets, to changing industry structures, and to the forces at work in the environment. But in reality, a "visionary" corporate strategy is often an internally driven reflection of what the company wants the world to look like.

    But suppose we no longer believe that the future is foreseeable. What if defining and achieving an enduring competitive advantage is really just a conceit that must be abandoned? What if the outstanding fact of business, as John Maynard Keynes once described it, is the "extreme precariousness of the basis of knowledge"? What if it is no longer possible to block out the "noise" of the world’s messy reality in order to rationalize a plan to achieve predetermined outcomes?



    As we've been wondering here at Internet Time Group, what if we can't count on the future?

    Consider another analogy. Of two runners, one is faster than the other and can be expected to win on a level track no matter how many times the race is run. But what if the race were held at night on a path strewn with rocks and fallen trees? Suppose that the slower runner practiced both in daylight and at night, while the faster one didn’t bother to see the course in advance. The runner with the superior knowledge—the greater familiarity—would probably win even if the other were intrinsically faster. If the prize money were to rise, the value of familiarity would rise as well.

    Although the world is increasingly complex, confusing, and uncertain, serendipity doesn’t have to be more important than skill in the crafting and implementing of corporate strategy. Traditional deterministic approaches to strategy aren’t likely to be up to the task of helping companies negotiate these dangerous waters, but executives need not put the fate of their businesses entirely in the hands of chance. As the global environment continually changes and risk levels rise, a portfolio-of-initiatives approach holds out the opportunity for corporations to be as flexible and adaptive as the markets themselves.


    That's the way I've been conceptualizing my business efforts for several years. For an individual, it means increasing the amount one learns in order to keep more options open.

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    DaveNet today describes spontaneous community-building

    DaveNet today describes spontaneous community-building through blogging. (Dave's brand is "Radio Userland," so that's what he calls a blog tool.) Imagine this scenario inside an organization instead of in a newspaper's circulation area:

    I was interviewed on Monday by a Japanese wire service. The reporter asked if weblogs spelled the end of newspapers. I said they didn't have to, if the professional news organizations adopted the technology. He asked how. It's worth posting.

    First, I would offer a copy of Radio UserLand to every person on the editorial staff (okay, I'm biased) and say "Start a weblog now if you want." Then I'd make the same offer to the readers. Then I'd watch to see what happens.

    I'd say to the staff "Read the new weblogs, and for those of you who have your own, point to the articles you find interesting or useful." Let this run for a few months. My bet is that the community starts generating good news reports, on things like school boards, and city council meetings, the stuff that the organizations no longer cover. (Or medical care, or city workers who dump paint in the sewers.) Just what people see and what they think. Democrat weblogs that beget Republican weblogs.

    Elevate one of the staff weblogs to the main site (by then its flow would probably be almost as big as the rest of the publication). Go back to all the editorial people who haven't started weblogs, and invite them again. Wait a few more months.

    Now here's the New Economy bad news (sorry) -- cut the people who aren't participating in the new network. My bet is that the community gets energized by the new participatory journalism and the former reporters, who now are editors, talent scouts and teachers, are also energized, doing what they wanted to do [1] when they got into journalism. Now ask the community what they're willing to pay to keep the system working and growing. I know I'm naive and unrealistic, but this is how I think it will work.

    Another source of revenue. Charge local businesses to place their weblogs on your network. This is advertising turned around. No more interstitials and ads that interfere. If people aren't interested in your business, maybe it's time to find a new business. News drives interest. Minds, not eyeballs. Real issues not puffery. New products that meet people's needs and wants. No limits on where we go.

    Editorial note: This is a revisit of an idea I wrote about in 2000 [2] and 2001 [3], now there's new interest, as a handful of newspapers are starting weblogs. And a disclosure, my company is actually working on this stuff now, and expect to have an announcement in a few weeks; it's not so theoretical.


    The Meta-Learning Lab page now has a link to Clark Quinn's and my Human Captial Live! presentation on Applied Meta-Learning. Take a look if you've got an hour to kill. Actually, you can hop from slide to slide if you get bored and the audio will catch up with you.


    On the meta-learning front, I realized that my rambling blog entries are but a means for me to listen in on the internal conversations which are my learning process at work.


    Finally, I have cleared my desk and my mind of the detritus that piles up when one's on the road for a couple of weeks. Today I'm devoting my time to Beyond eLearning, Ian Hamilton's and my blueprint of the future of learning, eLearning, competency management, and eKnowledge., At long last, my ecommerce "shopping cart" runs on its own. Next up: figuring out how to enrich the white paper with contributions from readers. And maybe renaming the "white paper" a book -- it's 200+ pages long!

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    June 12, 2002

    'A New Kind of Science':

    'A New Kind of Science': You Know That Space-Time Thing? Never Mind
    Sunday NY Times Book Review
    By GEORGE JOHNSON

    For more than a decade, Wolfram, a theoretical physicist turned millionaire software entrepreneur, has been laboring in solitude on a work that, he has promised, will change the way we see the world.

    From the very beginning of this meticulously constructed
    manifesto, the reader is presented with a stunning proposal: all
    the science we know will be demolished and reassembled. An
    ancient error will be corrected, one so profoundly misguided
    that it has led science down the wrong avenue, until it is
    approaching a cul-de-sac. The mistake (as everyone who hated
    calculus will be happy to hear) is trying to capture the
    richness of the universe with mathematical equations --
    Newton's, Maxwell's, Einstein's. All are based on an abstract,
    perhaps dubious idea -- that time and space form a seamless
    continuum. Whether dealing with an inch or a second, you can
    chop it in half and the half in half, ad infinitum. Thus things
    can be described with unlimited, infinitesimal precision.

    Wolfram contends that this, the common wisdom, gets things
    upside down: the algorithm is the pure, elemental expression of
    nature; the equation is an artifice. That is because the
    continuum is a fiction. Time doesn't flow, it ticks. Space is
    not a surface but a grid. A world like this is best described
    not by equations but by simple step-by-step procedures. By
    computer programs.

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    June 10, 2002

    I've been on the road,

    I've been on the road, speaking at ASTD and Training Directors Forum, with a sojourn in the Ozarks inbetween. See the blog at www.learningcircuits.org for a mini-report on ASTD.

    Unless you've been off the grid like me, you're probably already aware that Dave Ellett is no longer with Docent, Docent has gutted its marketing department, Jeanne Meister has left Corporate University Exchange, and SkillSoft & SmartForce have joined forces to becone a content behemoth.

    Posted by Jay Cross at 11:28 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack