Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Since I actually have borrowing privileges at a local university library this year, I am trying to take advantage of it. I picked up a couple of books on elearning today. Here's a nugget that caught my attention:

"Learning community-centered courses are intentionally created environments that recognize and emphasize the social aspects of learning. Although learning is often pursued for individual reasons, this environment promotes social interaction as a process that is critical for learning. Through the intentional creation of a safe psychological climate, learners with diverse backgrounds are able to learn from each other intensively and cooperatively.

Learning community-centered courses can help you integrate students' experiences with newly presented content, link practice to theory, build students' social and team skills, reduce student boredom and attrition rates, and validate the worth of each participant as a person and learner." (147 practical tips fro teaching online groups: Essentials of Web-Based Education, by Donald E. Hanna, Michelle Glowacki-Dudka & Simone Conceiçào-Runlee)

That's it... that's exactly what I want to try to do more effectively in my own courses. I would still give the option of using a learner-centered approach, where individual participants can select to do special projects on their own to address their specific interests, but the overall design of the course would remain centered on the need to develop and nurture a community of learners.

This would seem most appropriate for adult learners and most appropriate for a multinational, multicultural audience.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Personal Knowledge Management
Knowledge Management starts with individuals. Here are some resources to start with:

1. Steve Barth's Personal Knowledge Management site : Self-Organization

See in particular the toolkit. Here tools do refer to technology, and more specifically software that can help individuals handle information and knowledge tasks.

2. Peter F. Drucker, "Managing Knowledge Means Managing Oneself"

"Knowledge gives choice. It also explains why we suddenly have women in the same jobs as men. Historically, men and women have always had equal participation in the labor force -- the idea of the idle housewife is a 19th-century delusion. Men and women simply did different jobs. There's no civilization in which the two genders did the same work. However, knowledge work knows no gender; men and women do the same jobs. This, too, is a major change in the human condition."

The quote above doesn't represent the entire article and I don't know that I totally agree that knowledge work knows no gender... I do know that it still doesn't mean that men and women get paid the same amount of money for the same work......

3. Jason Frend and Carol Hixon, "Personal Knowledge Management: Who, What, How, When, Where, How?"
This is written in the context of learning in an academic environment, or PKM for students.

4. Personal Knowledge Networking, by John Sidoli

A series of articles on leveraging your personal intellectual capital.
Learning for Change: Principles and practices of learning organizations, by Bruce Britton, May 2002. Commissioned and published by the Swedish Mission Council.
This is, in my view, an excellent document that provides a clear overview of what being a learning organization can entail for a development organization. I like the focus on learning and I particularly liked the absence of discussion of technology and focus on tools in the sense of techniques and methods rather than technological tools. Just excellent!

Tuesday, July 15, 2003


Research supported by the MASIE Center and the e-Learning CONSORTIUM. Of greatest interest to me is the research on "Virtual Communities as Learning Networks."

The key research questions are:
How do virtual communities add value to organizations?
How do virtual communities impact informal and formal learning in organizations?
What makes virtual communities successful/persist?

I also have a reverse questions... Can learning networks (people who came together specifically to learn in an online environment) persist and be successful as ongoing virtual communities (after the formal or semi-formal training has ended?

How can we blend virtual communities of practice with informal online learning activities?

I was just thinking yesterday of using an email game in my ICTs course online and then realized the added value of the virtual community that has been created through the course. While each session is limited to 30 participants, the discussion list associated with the course has more than 150 subscribers, most of whom are past participants in the course who have stayed subscribed to continue to enjoy the benefits of the discussions.
If I use an email game over a period of several weeks, in parallel with the normal email-based discussions, I could make the game something that all subscribed members can participate in, not just the participants in the ongoing session. This would perhaps 1) keep the past participants engaged and connected, not just lurking; 2) foster they direct participation in the discussions; 3) help connect ongoing and past participants.

Monday, July 14, 2003

Knowledge Management Glossary
Here is a very nice Knowledge Management glossary by the National Electronic Library for Health in the UK. The site also includes many very useful documents about Knowledge Management. I found them particularly useful because they were written not so much from a private sector/business perspective but in a way that can be useful to a broad range of organizations.

Friday, July 11, 2003

GameZone.com - PC News - GZ Interview: Professor James Paul Gee shows the world the importance of video games

I've always had a somewhat skeptical approach to video and computer games. I've seen my older daughter play some games in a totally meaningless way, skipping all the steps that would actually make her learn something or even practice a skill she has already acquired. Yet, this article switched a little light when I read it.

I was focused on what I was hoping my daughter would learn from a game, so I would buy an educational game focused on math skills. The key however, is not the "what" but the "how". How is my daughter learning (or not learning) when she is playing the game. Perhaps what she is really doing is learning to avoid what she considers boring and going directly to the parts of the game that really interest her. I know she skips whatever she finds too difficult...

In short, learning how people play games, what makes them interesting to play (motivational factor) and how to design them to maximize learning about learning is a very worthwhile endeavor.

Also, I now see a parallel between computer games and instructional design. After all, when you are designing some instructional materials, you need to figure out how to present materials so that the learner will interact with the materials in a meaningful way and you need to make it "interesting" to avoid boring the learner to death.... Games are the same way...

Finally, there is nothing particularly new about instructional games, games that are played in classrooms or in online training situations. Those are not computer games but the idea of mixing fun and learning isn't new....

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

ItrainOnline: Resources for Trainers: MMTK

The Multimedia Training Kit (MMTK) is one of many very useful training resources developed by itrainonline. Units and modules can be combined by trainers to address a broad range of learning needs. The materials are mainly developed for face-to-face training workshops. I've used the materials specifically related to digital audio production as self-learning tools to try to find better ways to integrate audio files in course CD-ROMs. I found an open source audio editing software in the process that is now helping me to clean up audio files and eliminate the "noise" I was getting.

These are very useful materials, but they still require a certain amount of preexisting knowledge and understanding of technical issues. The materials are a good model for "How to" develop training materials.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Another Look at Learning, by Jay Cross

Cross brings the two meanings of "networks" together. People are networks, connect through social networks and have their own firewalls that filter connections.

"To learn is to optimize one's networks", and "Learning is making good connections", Cross notes. I totally agree with that.

I was just responding to a course participant's paper on knowledge management yesterday and noted that one of the key challenges we are facing is the need to change the way we think and learn, the need to change our brain routines to focus on learning. No matter how much (or how little) technology helps us handle information overload, transferring information into knowledge requires a brain. How well this brain filters, analyzes and handles the transformation is the key.