July 24, 2011
Image by shuuki
I like to think of myself as an Early Adopter most of the time. I like to find out about new technologies, and be among the first to try them out. I know I’m not alone in this need. With the rapid rate of new technologies available, and the increased features and functionalities being added to existing tools, there is broad opportunity to fall into what I’ll call Early Adopter Syndrome – that state of need to be among the first to explore…and judge new technologies.
But I’m definitely an Early Adopter Introvert. Aside from technology, I like to think things through individually first. As those who know me well will tell you, my best thinking happens while walking my dog…or in the middle of the night. I guess it’s probably a good thing I’m not an Extrovert with that time schedule.
My approach to learning technology follows the same logic. I am someone who will push every button, explore every menu, and try every option. I just prefer to do that individually. So when new social technologies, like Google+, arrive on the scene, I do like to get in early, but you won’t see early posts from me. I’m more of an “explore behind the scenes, gain some mastery of the tool, and then post” kind of adopter.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this notion of Early Adoption, and some of the benefits and downsides it might have in other areas. None of these are based on research. In fact, none of them are based on thorough observation…just scattered thoughts mostly based on my own experiences and those of people around me.
Benefits of Early Adopter Syndrome
- Tolerance for change: One of the biggest benefits I have experienced is a sort of expectation that things will change that can transcend technology. So, for example, when changes happen to processes or structures at work, the time to react-deny-accept is much quicker.
- Tolerance for “bugs”: Back in the day, technology was released when it was thoroughly tested, and all user documentation was in place. Not so today. With the release, evaluate, fix, update cycle, I see a growing acceptance that things may not work perfectly. Again, I think this transcends beyond technology, adding tolerance to life’s imperfections.
- Opportunity and ability to provide feedback: With the bugs comes the opportunity to provide feedback. Not only is this an opportunity, it creates I think an ability to identify, specifically, what’s not working, and perhaps suggest solutions. “It doesn’t work” doesn’t seem to be heard very frequently.
- Rapid learning: With rapid change in technology comes the ability to hone our skills in learning quickly. In addition, we also need to find the sources of information, which may not be a thorough user guide – it may be fellow Early Adopters.
- Contribution to a community of Early Adopters: The follow up to the previous bullet is that, if you are so inclined, you can share your learning with fellow Early Adopters and the larger user community. That feels good.
Downsides of Early Adopter Syndrome
- Intolerance for change: Tolerance for change is a benefit, but I think its evil sibling – intolerance for change can also appear. I see this when people rage against feature changes that affect their favorite functionality. Or, when people mistake updates for imperfections in previous versions, and signs that the developers must not be competent.
- Expectation that others are as competent as you: Sometimes I think we forget that we are Early Adopters, and expect other users of the technology to know as much as we do. The need to remember to allow others to adopt at their own rate is important. I recently witnessed one Early Adopter responding rather harshly to another Early Adopter over something that the second person had yet to learn. She felt quite chastised for what was an honest “mistake” – it was something she had not learned in a technology that was new to everyone.
- Early judgment of a tool based on limited experience: With the rapid release of technology, and the abundance of tools with which to adopt – early or not – I think it’s easy to make judgments of tools on what may be limited experience with them. Remember that many tools are in a “beta” stage, and so their full feature set may not be released – or even known.
- Need to find the next big thing: Because there is this community of those with Early Adoption Syndrome, the competitive among us may be driven by a need to find the next big thing – to be the first of the first to discover something new. A little competition is healthy. Too much is not.
- Leaving behind those less adventurous: There will always be those people who fall outside of the Early Adopters. In fact, if Rogers is right, most people will fall outside of it. The ability to communicate, interact and teach those who will fall in those later stages is an important task of Early Adopters. However, if we’ve already moved on, we all lose.
What do you think? What have you observed as an Early Adopter, or as someone who waits until technologies are more stable?
July 16, 2011
Image by simminch
The other day we were enjoying our time outside, and my son exclaimed “I learned something new!”. He had discovered that, by varying pressure on the nozzle of the garden hose, he can impact the length and width of the stream of water. And, enjoying this new learning, he proceeded to water our lawn. Bonus for us!
As I was thinking about his discovery, and how proud he was that he figured it out himself, I thought about my own experiences of learning something new. Like him, I love to learn, but the most memorable things I’ve learned ten to come after I’ve struggled with something and finally, through trial and many errors, figure it out.
And then I think about training. Whether it’s instructor-led or elearning, our courses are often designed to make things easy to learn. It’s a topic that has been on my mind, especially after reading Julie Dierksen’s post, “Why ‘Clear and Easy to Understand’ can be bad.” In it, she cites the research and studies that explain why challenge aids retention of learning.
I do think there are times for the “clear and easy to understand” type of design. When we “train” to meet a regulatory requirement, I could not appreciate more an easy course that I can breeze through with minimal effort. But when we really want someone to learn, they’ve got to struggle a bit.
I think there is a balance, though. Too much struggle and it seems like all that is all that is remembered. I clearly remember a time when, as a second grader wanting to do well in school, I was challenged to find the right order to a number of statements. After multiple attempts, and after exhausting the patience of my teacher, I remember tears in my eyes as I randomly ordered the items, hoping that magically they’d land in the right order. I still don’t like those types of exercises. In that situation, there was clearly too much struggle.
I see ties into the conversations happening around gaming and gamification, and the desire to allow self-directed learning. All of these will succeed when we allow learners to struggle, to figure things out for themselves, and simply get out of the way. I’m not suggesting that support is not needed — of course it is — but I can say that personally, I feel a greater sense of accomplishment, and I am more likely to remember what I’ve learned, when I’ve had to figure something out on my own.
July 1, 2011
It is summer vacation for the 3 school-age children in my household. Though we’re all adapting to the newfound freedom they have from a daily schedule, it’s not without challenges. I’ve stopped counting the number of times I’ve heard “I’m bored!”
I’ve been thinking about this lately. For my kids, it’s not really a lack of potential activities that is causing their “boredom.” In fact, there are many activity choices that they like to do. I think what’s really underlying their complaints is indecision of what to do, because no one is directing their time.
In school, days are controlled by class schedules, teachers, and assignments. They move from one to the next to the next. And surely during each day, there are points when they get “bored” and their minds drift to other things. But the day moves on.
Now think about the way learning has shifted. In the past, training courses looked a lot like our school days: the curriculum was prescribed, and the instructor helped direct learners from one activity to the next. And just like school kids, our learners would drift in and out of rapt attention to the subject matter. Every trained instructor knows of the “deer in the headlights” look, and every good instructor has an abundance of techniques and activities to help remove that look from the learners’ faces.
And then came elearning. And then self-directed learning. And gone were the days of prescriptive scheduling with an instructor to lead us through it. And we’ve started to hear “I’m bored!” In elearning, there is no one to see the look that accompanies boredom, so no quick and easy remedy. After all, if there is a lesson that must be completed, and the learner would like to take a brain break, the “Next” button does still need to be clicked in order to make progress. And if the learner doesn’t do that, who will?
I’m not here to launch an argument on whether elearning is boring. However, I did enjoy this recent blog post from Allen Interactions titled “Declare Your Independence from Boring e-Learning.”
Regardless of whether the content is boring, I think learners, just like my kids, are reacting to the need to direct their own learning, which seems to be a new experience. I think there are a couple of solutions. Certainly, the more we can prevent boring elearning, the better it will be for everyone. I think another solution is to teach people to self-direct their attention. When they are feeling the deer in the headlights look come over them, they *should* get up and take a break, or find some way to divert attention. When they have a question, they *should* have access to a resource who can provide an answer.
Like with my kids, the answer is not hard. And, like with my kids, intervention from someone else is not always necessary to solve the boredom issue. We can provide opportunities to build the skills necessary to learn in an environment where not only is learning not prescribed, but we have many sources of distraction while we are learning. The ability to determine what, when, and in what order we learn is a skill that should start early, but if not, is one we should continue to reinforce in order to create lifelong, excited learners.
June 15, 2011
Like David Kelly, I often look for learning connections in everyday life. This week it happened during baseball.
Both of my sons are in baseball. My oldest, the 13 year old, is playing for his fourth year. We started him late, so he’s spent much of the last 3 years catching up on the fundamentals. This year we’re starting to see him really put it all together to become a real player. My youngest, the 6 year old, is in his second year, though he graduated from tee ball last year, to coach pitch this year. He is full of competitive spirit, and when many of the others on his team are digging in the dirt, he is paying attention to all of the critical details in play.
There are lots of stories and connections, and I’m sure we’ll explore some of them together in future posts. What struck me this week though is the coaching. Both of my sons, with their personalities, skills, and experience with baseball, probably could use some extra coaching. All of the coaches in the program are volunteers, and this year we are fortunate to have 3-4 coaches on each team. We are also fortunate that on each team, one of the coaches really wears the title well.
All of the coaches do what is necessary: they show up to the games and practices, they show the kids the fundamentals of hitting and catching and base running, and they keep track of who’s played which positions and how many hits they’ve made.
The exceptional coaches, though, go beyond that. They take the time to coach, in the moment, when there is maximum relevance. For the 6 year olds, the exceptional coach will see a coachable moment, and will gather the 5 or 6 boys closest to the scenario, and talk them through what happened, what should happen, and what they can do next time. Not all of those moments are when things go wrong – sometimes he gathers them in to congratulate a teammate on a nice play. For the older kids, it’s not much different, though there are generally fewer kids around since they occupy a larger portion of the field. This exceptional coach typically plays the role of 3rd base coach, an ideal role for him to take some individual time with each player, tell them what they did well, and give them a tip or two for next time. It seems so easy, but I often see the person filling that spot just standing by the player, not talking at all. It’s really an unfortunate missed opportunity.
Beyond the obvious connections to coachable moments, maximizing relevance, and giving targeted feedback, I think there is more here. I think about our learners, who, like the rest of our coaches this year, do what is necessary, but no more. How many of us do the same? And then I think about the learners who, like the exceptional coaches, look for opportunities to improve, even if it’s in just a couple brief moments, and take full advantage of them to up their game.
How do we find those brief moments of intense and relevant learning? How do we encourage those who are just getting by to see the value in them? How do we get people to share what they’ve learned in those moments with others?
I would love to hear your stories of moments, or people, like those I’ve described above. Let’s capture what people are doing, and in the process encourage others to find ways to do the same.
February 5, 2011
With apologies to those of you following for CCK updates, I have a new learning experience to mull over: I’m a volunteer facilitator for Junior Achievement. For those unfamiliar, JA is a non-profit organization that provides financial literacy and workforce readiness curriculum to K-12 schools. Volunteer facilitators from the business and parent communities teach the prepared, grade-level appropriate curriculum to the kids over a period of a day or one day a week for several weeks. Last year, I facilitated JA-in-a-Day to my daughter’s 4th grade class. The curriculum, Our Region, taught about resources and what it takes to start/run a business.
This year, I’ve signed up for 5 weeks of 30-minute lessons from the Ourselves curriculum for kindergarteners – my son’s class. So, over the next 5 weeks, I’ll be sharing my thoughts and reactions in this space.
I have to say that I’m really impressed with the curriculum. Each volunteer gets a kit with all (almost all) materials needed for the full course, which includes a facilitator guide. So, even though I am biased as a former facilitator (trainer), I think they are easy enough for anyone to follow.
I will say, though, that timing seems a bit off. This year my lessons are to last 30 minutes, and while we did get interrupted – A LOT – for discipline issues (it’s kindergarten after all) and a few announcements, we made it only halfway through the material. I will say that it’s very similar to what I see in other training: we plan to fill every moment, and don’t account for questions, extra discussion, or interruptions.
The class I’m teaching has 22 students — not unmanageable. And, I’ve been in the classroom a few other times, and they are really good kids. But, they are kindergarteners, and it is Friday afternoon (my choice), so disruptions are expected. It amazed me last year, and I’ll say it again, that when I ask a question, almost all the hands are in the air to answer. That’s so different from my experience with training adults — I have counted to 5, to 10, many times before the first brave person shares a response.
I’m excited for next week. I know that I’ll need to adjust the curriculum a bit. This week, the kids took the activity home (color a picture of your favorite animal). Next week we scratch off to reveal pictures of coins on bookmarks. I think we may need to do that one in class, which probably means less time for discussion. That’s too bad, because hearing their minds absorb and question is my favorite part.
February 4, 2011
I’m finding that it’s helping me to make sense out of this course if I publish my notes here. Not only does it allow me to reflect on them and their sources again, but I greatly appreciate the comments that help to clarify them.
So, below are my notes from Friday’s Elluminate session. I will admit to a bit of…ahem…”filtering” during some of the more esoteric conversations. So, like all of my past and future posts, this is not an all-inclusive list of points.
- Our experience with an object is based on our perceptions.
- Those perceptions are not of the object itself, but of its properties.
- Of all the properties, we select those that are salient perceptions.
- We combine the salient perceptions to describe the object.
- Connection implies more than relationship. Next to, same color, from the same parents are all relational statements, but do not necessarily equate to a connection.
- In order for a connection to exist, a change in state in one of the things has to have the potential to result in a change of state in the other.
- If someone talks and no one listens, there is no connection.
- In a crowded room, lots of relations, lots of connections (as you listen to bits of all of the conversations); as someone calls your name, that conversation becomes salient.
- Knowledge is a set of connections in the mind.
- If you have perceptions about things, you are connected to them.
- Because you are always perceiving, you are always learning.
- Meaning of words is not located in a single place.
- Rather, it’s a cluster of connections.
- We talked about Paris, and its many connections (the city in France, plaster of Paris, Paris Hilton, more).
- Each of us has a set of connections associated with the word Paris.
- Those connection clusters will overlap.
- Wittgenstein talks of social sense of words, which is the sum total of people’s perceptions.
- We create a network of uses of words.
- In order to make sense (to learn), you insert yourself into the network and start interacting with the entities. In doing so, your knowledge is impacted by signals from others, and by reacting, you impact others in turn.
And the point that I will continue to ponder for a while: The question is not how we get people to learn, but how we shape their perceptions so they learn a set of information and not others.
February 2, 2011
This week I find myself with more questions than answers, more confusion than understanding. I’ll start with a full admission that I did not make it through the readings this week, and likely won’t return to them. Instead, I’ve been reading A New Culture of Learning by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown, who also discuss networks, knowledge, and new ways of learning.
In Chapter 2, the authors describe the old way of learning as mechanistic toward an end of efficiency. Their new way of learning is described as an environment that contains and is shaped by context, boundaries, information, students and teachers. Later, they talk about explicit and tacit knowledge, and how tacit knowledge is learned via a collective.
I think there are connections to CCK11. I think the environment that Thomas and Seely Brown describe is similar to the network we’ve been discussing. Their descriptions throughout the book of knowledge and learning seem very similar to networks, connections, entities, and transfer. At least at this stage.
I’m almost finished with the book, so as I finish reading and reflecting, there may be more to share. In the meantime, I do have a few notes from CCK11.
In “An Introduction to Connective Knowledge”, Stephen shares the following with us:
- In the past, 2 types of knowledge have existed: qualitative and quantitative
- Distributed knowledge has been added
- Entities must be connected because a property of one leads to or becomes the other; the knowledge that results from these connections is connective knowledge
- “Connective knowledge requires an interaction.”
- He goes on to talk about salience, interpretation, emergence, meaning, and other very relevant, very philosophical, and, to me at this stage of learning, very confusing concepts. I’m looking forward to learning from the network on this one.
He described 3 categories of connective tissue: hyperlinks, workflow, and metadata, complete with some great examples of tools that support information’s ability to connect, his real-life workflows, and a great discussion of folksonomy and its comparison to taxonomy. Here are some key points:
- Links are what powers the Internet, but also make desktop computing much easier.
- Social software applications and common social tools (e.g., blogs, wikis, activity streams) allow for information sharing among people.
- He then described an InfoCloud ecosystem that includes a Personal InfoCloud, a Local InfoCloud, Global InfoCloud, and External InfoCloud, with the goal being information flowing easily throughout the ecosystem.
- Our workflows describe how we seek, evaluate, and use information, both personally, and within our networks. The examples of Thomas’s personal and professional workflows were helpful. I’ve (loosely) captured them below.
- Personal Workflow:
- Follow activity streams (RSS, daily sites, etc.)
- Open items of interest in a browser
- Drop interesting items into Instapaper for later reading
- Things that are valuable are added to DevonThink
- Things that are valuable to others are shared via Delicious
- Search is enabled across DevonThink and Delicious for later retrieval
- Professional Workflow:
- Most work with others is done in a wiki
- Ideas shared broadly in a blog
- Documents shared in DropBox or Box.net
- All conversations done in Skype
- Project and status shared in microblogging
- All pieces connected, tagged, searchable
- Metadata helps us classify and aggregate things, so that we can make sense of them in relation to other things. It also enables search.
- Folksonomy describes a personal tagging/retrieval system, different from a taxonomy, which is imposed upon us
I look forward to your contributions, comments, and especially clarifications.
January 30, 2011
After all the best intentions for participation, it was a busy week last week, and CCK11 took a necessary back seat. Over the 12 weeks of the course, I’m sure this will happen again, so maybe that is motivation for deeper participation during the rest of the weeks.
Despite the busy-ness, I read the readings, scanned many of the blogs and discussions, and tried to make some sense of all of it. First, my notes from the readings:
Krebs’ “Social Network Analysis, A Brief Introduction” provided a great primer on SNA. I appreciate the diagram that served to illustrate the concepts of:
- Degree Centrality – number of direct connections
- Betweenness Centrality – ability to connect to hubs
- Closeness Centrality – shortest distance to other nodes
- Network Centrality – degree of stability
From Downes’ “Learning Networks: Theory and Practice”, I appreciate the Design Principles, cleverly alliterated for ease of memory:
- Decentralize – similar to Krebs’ Network Centrality
- Distribute – makes networks more efficient because they do not require concentrated effort to run
- Disintermediate – remove barriers between nodes
- Disaggregate – remove bundles (e.g. create learning objects vs. courses)
- Dis-integrate – example of applications being able to run on multiple platforms
- Democratize – each node decides for itself
- Dynamize – network is fluid
- Desegregate – learning integrated into life and work
In addition, the story of building a jet aircraft resonated with me, as Waldo did last week. The notion that even if one person knows his/her job extremely well, it’s only a piece of the structure, and must be part of that structure in order to be valuable or make sense.
Lakoff’s “Idea Framing, Metaphors, and Your Brain” made the point about frames being very ordinary, and learned very early on. He also spoke of how every word is defined in terms of a frame.
So…I think what I’m beginning to understand is this:
- Knowledge is distributed
- Networks facilitate the sharing of knowledge…they facilitate learning
- Decentralized networks are more stable. Distance to connections (shorter distance) is personally rewarding (the quicker I can get to knowledge, the better for me)
- Patterns exist in networks, whether human, digital, biological
- Our brains begin functioning in networks, connections, distribution, frames, etc at a very young age
Next week, I will continue to follow the readings and contributions, and plan to begin making a concept map. The examples shared so far are both motivating and intimidating, but I’ll focus on the motivation and will look forward to your contributions for improvement.
Downes, S. (2005, March 8). Learning Networks: Theory and Practice. Retrieved January 24, 2011, from Stephen’s Web: http://www.downes.ca/presentation/32
Krebs, V. (n.d.). Social Network Analysis, A Brief Introduction. Retrieved January 24, 2011, from orgnet.com: http://www.orgnet.com/sna.html
Lakoff, G. (n.d.). Idea Framing, Metaphors, and Your Brain. Retrieved January 24, 2011, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_CWBjyIERY&feature=player_embedded
January 21, 2011
The first week of CCK11 was a foundational week, to understand how the course will work, set some targets, and build a foundation for Connectivism. In this post, I’ve selected some key points from various resources in an attempt to make sense for myself. I welcome any feedback or corrections.
- One of the distinguishing characteristics of Connectivism is the focus on technology. In “Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age,” George Siemens describes how previous learning theories were developed prior to the technology advancement, and that today, technology can care for processes that were previously assigned to learning theories.
- In the same article, he makes the point “Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known.” I think that has tremendous relevance and implications for us as educators.
- In “What Connectivism Is,” Stephen Downes says that “knowledge is distributed across a network of connections, and therefore that learning consists of the ability to construct and traverse those networks.” I think about how we teach children to memorize facts and formulas, but not necessarily how to navigate among sources, networks and connections.
- In “Connectivism and its Critics: What Connectivism Is Not,” Downes says “learners do not ‘acquire’ or ‘receive’ knowledge; learning is not a process of ‘transfer’ at all, much less a transfer than can be caused or created by a single identifiable donor.” This makes me think again about K12 education, and the series of standardized tests that kids take, and all of the structure that is in place for 12 years to impart knowledge on students. As an aside, a colleague sent me this video this week, which is Sir Ken Robinson talking about “Changing Education Paradigms.” Though not directly related to this course, I think the suggestions are valid for other ways in which our current educational structure is failing, and what we can do about it.
- The Elluminate sessions were interesting as always. I already mentioned the “Where’s Waldo” analogy for knowledge; in addition, the level of questions and discussion on Friday’s session both surprised me and intrigued me. It truly made the point that the network of participants in CCK11 has an abundance of experience. I look forward to building the connections and learning throughout the course.
Downes, S. (2008, September 10). Connectivism and its Critics: What Connectivism Is Not. Retrieved January 21, 2011, from Stephen’s Web: http://www.downes.ca/post/53657
Downes, S. (2007, February 3). What Connectivism Is. Retrieved January 21, 2011, from Half an Hour: http://halfanhour.blogspot.com/2007/02/what-connectivism-is.html
Siemens, G. (2005, January). Connectivism: A Learny Theory for the Digital Age. Retrieved January 21, 2011, from IDTL: http://www.itdl.org/journal/jan_05/article01.htm