Neuroscientist Michael Merzenich looks at one of the secrets of the brain's incredible power: its ability to actively re-wire itself. He's researching ways to harness the brain's plasticity to enhance our skills and recover lost function.
Subjects reading the narrow paragraphs had better retention than those reading the wide paragraphs. After reading the material, subjects were given a surprise multiple-choice test on the material. On average, subjects reading the wide paragraphs answered 43 percent of the questions correctly, while those reading the narrow paragraphs answered 58 percent correctly. Narrow-width paragraph readers spent less time reading but had greater retention, so the additional time required by the wide-width paragraph readers was devoted not to reading and processing the material, but rather to reorienting their eyes.
ID represent the essential core of what makes our work unique when compared, say, to the work of a graphic artist or a web designer or an LMS administrator or a content author, or a technical writer or a research analyst.
The procedural memory system is responsible for putting grammatical sentences together. The findings also shed light on our understanding of procedural memory itself, which was thought to be restricted to specific experiences and motor skills. This study shows it is also able to support abstract knowledge, making it more powerful than previously thought.
We have less of a handle on the 8-hour rhythms than the 12-hour rythm, but the fact that we can see them reliably means there is the possibility that there could be a biological basis to an 8-hour cycle.
Harold notes the 80-20 funding ratio between formal and informal learning and Will Thalheimer questions this funding differential in the comment section. That is, 20% of the learning in organizations is formal, while 80% is informal; however, organizations spend 80% on formal learning and only 20% on informal, thus it looks something like this:
Yet the numbers pertaining to spending were pulled out of thin air (Cross, 2007, p.17). What is perhaps even more interesting is that (Carnevale, Gainer, & Villet (1990, p. 23) reported the amount of employer investments in workplace training hovers around $210 billion annually. Of that, about $30 billion is spent on formal training, while the remainder, $180 billion is spent on informal or on-the-job training. Thus, informal learning gets 86% of all learning investments, while formal learning programs get 14% of the total investment:
But the trouble with their report is that they do not mention where they got their numbers. So which chart do we believe?
Well, if we go with Chart 1 then we don't have to worry about informal learning since its already a highly efficient learning machine. Our time is better spent with the formal part of learning. After all, we know that we have highly detailed processes that must be learned in order to ensure that our customers receive the correct product and service, compliance and safety issues, plus the development programs our leaders want to implement. Thus why waste our time with something so highly efficient?
However I tend to believe the learning to spending ratios look closer to second chart, but probably for a couple of different reasons than where the authors of the book got their numbers from.
First, Allen Tough (1999), a Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto and a thought leader on informal learning, wrote that within each informal learning episode (where the primary motivation is to gain and retain certain knowledge and skills on a task), the average learner interacts with an average of 10 people. Thus rather than informal learning being a solitary act, these learners are interrupting the daily activities of their coworkers as they seek advice and coaching.
Compare this with formal learning that gets its efficiency from a learning designer who works with the SME(s) to gather the needed knowledge and skills and then packages it in a platform to be used by a number of learners.
The second reason why informal learning is less efficient is that searches often end in failure. Outsell reports that searches fail 30% of the time, while IDC estimates that enterprises employing 1,000 knowledge workers may waste well over $6 million per year each in searching for information that does not exist, failing to find information that does, or recreating information that could have been found but was not (Sherman & Feldman, 2003).
Thus it is for these two reasons that I believe that informal learning is not the highly efficient method as shown in chart 1, but rather it looks more like chart 2, but perhaps not quite as bad, which means that the learning profession needs to be more involved with it. Again, if it was all that efficient then we should just stay out of its way.
How Do We Increase the Efficiency of Informal Learning?
The report that Tony and Harold discuss in their recent posts seem to confirm this: 1) sharing personal advice (interacting with others to learn informally) does not save time and 2) codified knowledge (searching for information) does not improve work quality.
This means we have two primary areas to concentrate on. The first is improving social networks (means for sharing personal advice) so that when learners need to find an "expert" on a particular subject they have both an easily searchable database and the means to have a discussion with them, either face-to-face or through an electronic means.
The second is improving the quality of captured information (codified knowledge). The problem nowadays is not so much as capturing knowledge but rather capturing the correct knowledge. That is, most of the knowledge capturing being performed now is what an expert already knows and has known for some time. Yet learners are not for the most part looking for this type of information because they already know it, thus they are wasting time researching data that is already known to them. People searching for information will generally have roughly the same knowledge levels of others in their field. What they are mostly searching for are lessons learned -- what have others in their field have recently learned. Perhaps the best example of this is the U.S. Army's After Action Review (AAR).
"The Army's After Action Review (AAR) is arguably one of the most successful organizational learning methods yet devised. Yet, most every corporate effort to graft this truly innovative practices into their culture has failed because, again and again, people reduce the living practice of AAR's to a sterile technique." -- Peter Senge
AARs are not a means to capture what you think others may want to learn, but what you have learned. It is normally accomplished by discussing four areas:
What was supposed to happen? (confirm baseline)
What actually happened? (confirm performance)
Why did it happen that way? (knowledge harvesting)
What did we learn? (learning shared)
Now while you will probably not use an AAR for every lesson learned, but rather the concept behind it of sharing newly learned knowledge and skills, rather it be through blogs, wikis, discussions groups, or other means.
Carnevale, A., Gainer, L., & Villet, J. (1990). Training in America: The Organization and Strategic Role of Training. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Cross, J. (2007). Informal Learning: Rediscovering the Natural Pathways That Inspire Innovation and Performance. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Sherman, C. and Feldman S. (2003). The High Cost of Not Finding Information. International Data Corporation Report #29127, 11 pp., April 2003.
Tough, A. (1999). Reflections on the Study of Adult Learning: A brief talk at the 3rd New Approaches to Lifelong Learning (NALL) Conference, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. NALL Working Paper #08-1999. Feb 19, 1999, NALL, Toronto.
A very good and detailed document on designing for activity learning.
Get ready to wear that creative hat while using Adobe Captivate - start with Rollover Slidelets!
Have you ever wondered while authoring your elearning content, "How do I get a context menu appear on mouse rollover over any object in Adobe Captivate?". Have you ever questioned yourself, "In Adobe Captivate, how do I get to view content on mouse rollover and simultaneously have an action performed on mouse click, both on single object?" Well, if you did have such "How do I...s" then you hit the right node by coming to this post. This post would guide you through to achieve them by using Rollover Slidelet and a little bit of creativity!
From Taylorism - crowding workers together in a completely open environment while bosses looked on from private offices, much like on a factory floor; to Networking - during the past decade, furniture designers have tried to part the sea of cubicles and encourage sociability.
The bell curve distribution for IQ scores tells us that two thirds of the world's population has an IQ somewhere between 85 and 115. This means that some four and a half billion people around the globe share just 31 numerical values ("he's a 94," "you're a 110," "I'm a 103"), equivalent to 150 million people worldwide sharing the same IQ score. This sounds a lot to me like astrology, which lumps everyone into one of 12 signs of the zodiac.
Why is it that when I get an email from Twitter informing me that someone is now following me and they have a lot of followers and they follow a lot of people (normally in the thousands) and I in turn follow them, that I soon receive another email from Twitter telling me that another person is now following me, and again they follow a lot of people and have a lot of followers?
It does not seem to matter if I immediately start to follow them of if I wait several days to follow them that I always receive another email from Twitter shortly after I agree to follow them telling me that another "large" follower is now following me.
Is this some sort of bot or scheme for these people to gain a large number of follows? Just curious. Has Twitter turned into a rat race -- whoever gets the most followers wins? How can someone pay attention to all those followers... I am now having trouble paying attention to the less than 100 people I now follow? Might be a good time to do some Twitter housekeeping...
All agreed that ID models are best served as heuristics, "rules of thumbs", that help a designer navigate his or her way through the process of designing learning solutions and experiences. All agreed that sometimes instruction is just the right solution to improve learning and performance, and that sometimes more informal performance support at the point of need is better.
Students benefit more from being taught the concepts behind math problems rather than the exact procedures to solve the problems. The findings offer teachers new insights on how best to shape math instruction to have the greatest impact on student learning.
With conceptual instruction, teachers explain a problem's underlying structure. That type of instruction enables kids to solve the problems without having been taught specific procedures and also to understand more about how problems work.
John Medina in his keynote address at the eLearning Guild November 2008 conference talked about how the fundamentals of how a person learns do not change decade on decade - in fact, it is an evolutionary process. Believing in John (and I am not suggesting that we should not) leads us to a scenario where the workplace learning environment will not be significantly different than what we see today. However, our knowledge of this learning process is very far from complete. As our understanding of our learning processes improves, expect to see changes taking place to take advantage of the same.
A recently released study by Cognisco titled "Knowledge- the New Commodity," paints a grim portrait of investment in training. Average training per employee in the United States declined 11 percent from 2007 to 2008. Inside medium and large organizations, the number of learners per 1,000 employees is dropping precipitously.
Any employee with a pulse could predict that much. What the survey indicates is the potential long term implications for the U.S. Severe cuts to training might save money now but will cost more in the future. The report makes the case that investment in training is tied to global competitiveness, not just annual survival.
While presenting at Web 2.0 Expo, I had several moments where I was keenly aware of my stance and gestures and I modified them immediately. Because of Jerry's critique of good and bad communications, I became more self aware of my own communication flaws. I have a bad habit of pacing, scanning the room instead of having "real" eye contact, and for some reason I hold my hands behind my back.
In order to determine if specific brain circuits and pathways might be responsible for wisdom, the researchers examined existing articles, publications and other documents for six attributes most commonly included in the definition of wisdom, and for the brain circuitry associated with those attributes.
Also see Scientific American: Jeste and Meeks concede that some might call their conclusions reductionistic because they based their "map" not on the idea that wisdom is a single trait, but a collection of attributes. But Jeste said that similarities between how wisdom was portrayed thousands of years ago in the Bhagavad Gita (a Hindu scripture) and in the West today - as well as the tale of Phineas Gage, a railway worker whose allegedly wise attributes such as amiability and good judgment were said to vanish after a spike penetrated his left frontal lobe - "makes you think it's not a cultural phenomenon but biologically consistent."
Organizational leaders realize that increased pressure from the economy can actually create a need for learning. The processes and focus of corporate learning may change as leaders navigate through difficult conditions, but if the specific goals for learning programs are in place and the drivers for reorganization or adjustment of content are clear, organizations can still rely heavily on learning.
"Emphasizing leadership development" ranked the highest, with 54 percent reporting an increased focus to a high or very high extent as a result of the economic downturn. Comparatively, just 37 percent anticipated seeing "greater focus on such soft skills as listening and ability to motivate." Roughly a third of respondents predicted a "greater learning emphasis on training technology in software and online use," and another third pointed to a "greater emphasis on customer service training."
New leaders are expected to diagnose correctly, land on a brilliant strategy, pull
together a powerful team, and inspire everyone to execute. Unfortunately, long lead
times are gone. The months that leaders used to get for pondering, debating, or
hiring outside consultants has shrunk to days."
Adobe released a new elearning development platform a short while back for instructional designers and developers aptly titled eLearning Suite. It is a complete and tightly integrated solution for authoring rich learning content. Its complete in that it contains just about all the applications you need for building an engaging elearning platform and the applications are integrated in that they work well together, for example, when you update an asset (external file) in Captivate's Library, it is automatically updated in the Library, which provides a seamless workflow.
Probably the two main applications that most designers (I use the term designer to mean instructional designers, developers, and other learning specialists) will use for developing learning platforms are the new versions of Captivate and Dreamweaver. The new Captivate CS4 contains several new features, notably customizable widgets, project templates, and text-to-speech. It allows you to quickly create complete software demos or PowerPoint presentations with quizzes and multi-branching paths with different input sources.
Importing PowerPoint files has been greatly improved so that most features are now retained. It also includes a Table of Contents creator in addition to an aggregator that makes it easy to break content into small, reusable chunks.
The upgraded Dreamweaver CS4 contains an elearning application called Course Builder for creating elearning modules.
The suite also contains Adobe Presenter for rapid development of PowerPoint to elearning conversions if needed; however, I believe the majority of designers will prefer to use Captivate.
To help with the creation of content Adobe ELearning Suite also contains:
Photoshop for working with graphic files such as JPG and GIF images.
Flash for creating interactive content.
Soundbooth for working with audio, such removing noise, adding a score to a narration and fixing the pitch and timings.
Acrobat for exchanging documents, such as adding a rich text file to Dreamweaver project.
Of course some elearning projects will call for a different mixing and matching solution, such as using an Acrobat document as the primary elearning package and then using the other applications to add rich media content to it.
Rounding out the suite are:
Adobe Bridge CS4, a media manager to organize, browse, locate, and view assets in a visual manner.
Adobe Device Central CS4 that provides emulators for designing and viewing your content on more than 600 mobile devices, thus it is also an mlearning suite.
A SCORM Package for creating LMS compliant content.
Using the eLearning Suite
The operating system I used is Windows Vista and runs on an Intel Pentium Dual CPU running at 2.0GHz and 6MB of memory. Even though I had several applications running at the same time, such as Captivate, Soundbooth, Photoshop, and MS Word, it ran the elearning suite with no problem. The only problem I encountered was when I first installed the suite and could not get the audio to work in Captivate CS4, but this was quickly solved.
My main project was reworking a PowerPoint presentation.
Captivate CS4 allows you to easily manage assets through the Library in the right side panel (ensure you are in Edit mode). To locate an audio file in the library I clicked on it in the Filmstrip located in the left panel, which then highlights it in the Library. I right clicked it to bring up the context menu to select various options. I choose to edit it with Soundbooth, which quickly loaded with the correct file.
I cleaned up the audio by boosting the sound a bit and speeding it slightly up. When saved, it was automatically updated in the Captivate library. However, when I added a second track to an audio file in order to have some background music (score) play behind the narration, it changed the file's extension to a Soundbooth Score template (*.SBST), thus did not update in Captivate.
I tried saving it to an MP3 file to get a compact file but it only retained the narration and lost the music score (I'm not sure if I did something wrong or if this is just a limitation of the files. So I saved it to a WAV file, which was quite large, and then saved that as an MP3 file which worked quite well -- a small compact file plus it kept both tracks.
Then I tried the text to speech converter, but it reported that I did not have the files installed (I should have been given this option during the install process). So I pulled out the install discs and found it on disc 2/2 in the folder "English/Goodies/Adobe Captivate 4/Neospeech Text to Speech Voices/Captivate4-NeoSpeech.exe"
After running the Captivate4-Neospeech.exe to install, it worked fine -- enter some text into the slide notes panel, click "Text to Speech" on the slide note's bar, and then click the "Convert to speech" button. It brings up a dialog box asking if I want Kate or Paul's voice. I created two samples to preview (note that I did not use short, easy words but rather tried to put it to a real test):
I believe the text-to-speech feature would work fine on shorter passages in order to add different voices and effects, but I'm not so sure how they would play out in an entire elearning package. Also, I think they did a slightly better job on Paul's voice in that it sounds slightly more natural, how about you?
When I tried to do some branching with the slides I ran into some trouble, but a quick search led me to this post with video: Creating Branching Menus, which quickly answered my questions:
All-in-all the Adobe eLearning suite is a great product for designers, being that it is the first elearning suite, but what should Adobe do for the next version?
First, while it does include Flash and Media Encoder CS4, it needs a much richer video editor, such as Adobe Premiere, since videos are now becoming a de facto standard for rich elearning platforms.
Secondly, while Photoshop is a great tool, the majority of designers will probably only use a few features of it, such as touching up photos and resizing them to fit the platform. So drop it and add Adobe Elements in its place that will fulfill most needs. Then add in Adobe Fireworks CS4 for prototyping and vector images as I see most designers getting a lot more use out of Fireworks plus Elements than the full version of Photoshop alone. For designers who really need Photoshop rather than Elements offer it in an extended version of the suite.
And finally, to keep the price about the same, drop Presenter as most designers will use Captivate. I see Presenter much more as a rapid development tool for SMEs. And since Presenter is wrapped up in the suite you cannot just give the SME that one tool out of the suite and let the designers have the rest. Rather, it should be offered as an add-on seat that can be purchased at a reduced cost after the eLearning Suite is purchased. This will allow organizations to purchase the correct quantity of eLearning suits for the designers and the correct quantity of Presenters for their SMEs, in addition to purchasing more as needed as the SMEs are not going to want to give it up once they have it :-) -- and of course hopefully they will continuing producing for informing and nonformal learning needs.
This will allow the SMEs to rapidly produce an elearning package and quickly get it out to those who need it in a just-in-time manner. If the elearning package is going to be in use for some time after that, the designers can then flesh it out into a better elearning platform using the full elearning suite. After all, this is what rapid development prototyping is all about -- get a bare minimum learning package out to learners as rapidly as possible so that they can become performers and then upgrade it as needed.
I'm trying the Course Builder in Dreamer. I will do a posting on it in the near future.
More on Adobe eLearning Suite
Kushs' review of the Adobe eLearning Suite:
The eLearning Suite is priced at $1,799, with an upgrade price of $599. Captivate 4 is available alone for $799, or an educational price of $249. To learn more go to Adobe's web site, http://www.adobe.com/products/elearningsuite/.
What of the impact on investors and the financial community? Columnist David Brooks has suggested that new technologies actually fostered lightning-fast investment decisions in the recent economic meltdown, but contributed to a herd-like mentality that exaggerated swings in attitudes and markets.
How are new technologies affecting organizations? Are "tech cliques" forming around such media as Facebook, YouTube, and now Twitter? How does that affect the transfer of information that used to take place around the water cooler?
Complex design techniques are often time-consuming and, well, complex. Some of these advanced effects can add plenty of depth to designs, but when used in the wrong place, they do little more than distract viewers from the project's intended focus. These effects may be precisely what a design needs to have the impact it requires, but even in these cases, they should be complemented by simpler effects.
From the operating room to the executive board room, the benefits of working in teams have long been touted. But a new analysis of 22 years of applied psychological research shows that teams tend to discuss information they already know and that "talkier" teams are less effective.
"We're seeing a widespread trend toward a more virtual and globalized world and this is transforming the way people in the workplace communicate," said the article's lead author, Jessica Mesmer-Magnus, PhD, of the University of North Carolina Wilmington. "We need to better understand how teams will perform in this new setting and, to do that, we need to look at how they've worked in the past." -- ViaMarica Conner on Twitter
Matthews observes that the most common obstacles stem from a lack of planning, preparedness and skill in managing the change process. "With careful planning and the support from top leaders, organizations can help their workforces adapt to change, maintain employee engagement and productivity, and accelerate performance to new heights."
Paradoxically, in the push economy, the edge, at least in the sense of a performance edge, was firmly entrenched in the core. No need to worry about smaller competitors out on the fringe - fringes were largely destined to become increasingly marginalized as operational scale trumped all else. Fringe players seeking to challenge core players faced a nearly insurmountable obstacle in their efforts to compete with the core - their best hope was to carve out a sustainable, but much smaller niche, where they could harness their own experience curve advantage. The experience curve was the ultimate vindication of push institutions in a push economy.
The push economy is giving way to a pull economy as the big shift makes everything less predictable. Is the big shift creating opportunities to redefine performance curves and move from diminishing returns curves to increasing returns curves? Could the experience curve become less and less relevant in describing how business leaders create value?
Van Merriënboer and Kirschner claim, maybe a bit simplistically, that "traditional" instructional design starts with the subject matter and adds practice items. The Ten Steps, in contrast, start with "whole-task practice tasks" which become the backbone for everything else.
So the French were right: en forgeant, on devient forgeron. By working at smithing, you become a blacksmith. You sometimes see this translated as "practice makes perfect," but that's not the case. Practice can reinforce what you're doing, but on its own doesn't guarantee you're doing the right things, let alone doing them right.
vM&K give an example task: controlling air traffic. Worked examples might include radar and voice information about a particular problem situation (the "given"), similar information showing a safe resolution of the problem (the goal), and actions necessary to reach or maintain safety (the acceptable solutions).
Most of us have had no training in visual literacy. We think and communicate with words rather than visuals. So it will take some time and effort to begin to think visually as you plan your training materials.
In this exploratory study we uncovered a range of social and intellectual skills that our sample of working instructional designers deployed in their daily efforts to collaborate with their clients to create effective instruction. None of these skills are explicitly prescribed in any of the extant 'instructional design models'. In fact, some of these activities are the sorts of things the designer must do to fill one of those boxes ('Analyse', for example in the ADDIE model), and some are things that fill the "white spaces" (Rummler & Brache, 1995) that the designer crosses in moving on to the next box ('Design'). In short, while the models may list milestones or deliverables in the design of instruction, the skills we have uncovered are the means of reaching these milestones and producing these deliverables.
Our interviews appear to confirm the findings of Kenny, Zhang, Schwier, and Campbell (2004) that instructional designers do not do their work by following established models, nor by basing actions on theory. Instead, our designers' tactics suggest they view design as an "ill-structured problem" (Jonassen, 2002; Schön, 1987) or "wicked problem" (Becker, 2007) with many possible solutions, which they pursue with a large repertoire of social and cognitive skills.
My issue is that despite there being a role for formal instruction (when you've new folks, or are moving to a new suite of skills), I don't want formal instruction to continue in the mode it currently exists. Face it, most of formal instruction is broken in many ways (as I've said in a recent blog series), and I'm being polite. The formal instruction he's supporting isn't worth championing in it's current form.
One of the best things about the web and social media is how much great information is written and produced every single day. If you're a regular reader of blogs, you probably come across great articles that you just want everyone to know about. But what's the best way to share these posts?
Growing up poor isn't merely hard on kids. It might also be bad for their brains. A long-term study of cognitive development in lower- and middle-class students found strong links between childhood poverty, physiological stress and adult memory.
"The USA likes to be #1 in everything, and when it comes to the percent of children in poverty among the richest nations in the world, we continue to hold our remarkable status." - David Berliner