Saturday, May 27, 2006

Bonking is fun

Dinner with the Bonk was fun. He explained how it was impossible for him to access the internet from his Brighton Hotel - this amazes vistors from the US. Like Jay Cross he loves to get his camera out every five minutes, and then sends the photos back to you from wherever he is a few days later.

We had a walk along the seafront then through the Pavilion into the lanes. I explained how Brighton had always been a town premised on 'fun', from Regency excesses to Victorian bathing, seaside hols, dirty weekends and now a base for Bohemians. Good to see an academic get out and tell people what he's researched and the practical implications of those findings. This simply doesn't happen here. Our e-learning research lies fallow and unread. In my 23 years at Epic we never had a single request from academia to use our work in research, despite the huge number of projects we deigned and implemented. These were lost opportunities. Almost everything of use has come from the US. The exception is Seb Schmoller who genuinely crosses all sorts of boundaries - and I highly recommend his fortnightly newsletter.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Wikibooks - Blended learning

Wikipedia has spawned Wikibooks and there's already a Blended learning book on the go and lots of other books on education and learning. Wikis are an interesting compoenent in blended solutions - they provide rich knowledge bases, either general, such as Wikipedia, or specific to your oraganisation.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Bonk goes Bonkers

Same day, different talk - I have to say that Curtis has unbounded energy. He did over 100 talks last year as well as editing a book and teaching. This time it was called "Podcasts and Wikis and Blogs, Oh My: Online Learning is Not in Kansas Anymore". We had some great comedy with Bush jokes, air guitar, wigs and audience participation. Once again we were off in a whirlwind tour of some of the newer trends in technology and learning. Some interesting examples of how free technology gadgets are being used to woo students into courses in the US, then some dual-coding theory and research from one of my favourite researchers in learning - Richard Mayer. An analysis of generational learning (Silent, baby Boomer, Gen X, Gen Y, Millenial and Neomillenial then his 10 technology trends:

1. Wireless
2. Mobile
3. Reusable Content Objects
4. Blogging
5. Electronic books and wikis
6. Podcasting
7. Virtual Worlds
8. Collaborative tools
9. Open Courseware
10. Social networking (Web 2.))

Nice list and Curtis had a wonderful line-up of examples. I came away having confirmed what I had suspected for some time, that learning-specific technology (LMS, LCMS, authoring languages, virtual classrooms etc) are being superseded by cheap, often free, software and tools on the web that were never designed for learning, but do the job just as well, if not better. Blogs, wikis, podcasting, virtual worlds and many collaborative and web 2.0 tools come from non-learning backgrounds. This was confirmed at a talk I heard at the Web 2.0 in learning symposium last week at Reuters, where Kristian Folkman saw the LMS market as being in terminal decline.

Curtis is a good speaker but I learnt just as much when I had dinner with him the night before these talks. The amount of effort he put into The Blended Learning Handbook was, to use the US term, 'awesome'. Nice guy doing us all a big service by publishing and getting out there.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Bonk's Blends

Attended a fantastic talk on Blended Learning today at the University of Brighton by Curtis Bonk. He can hold an audience for 1.5 hours as he's entertaining and his slides are data rich. The topic was his new book (see previous post).

Although I take issue with his definition of blended learning, "Blended learning is a combination of face-to-face and online instruction", I do like the book as it contains 39 very diverse papaers. The definition is flawed, I think on two counts, first it is easy to come up with a counter example e.g. reading books. Secondly, it's really a definition of blended INSTRUCTION, not blended learning.

His talks always make me think and it seemed to me, after reading the book and listening to the talk, that Blended learning (for the moment) is really just the learning world coping with the onslaught of new ways of teaching and learning. It's an adaptive response to what's happening to the learning world as the real world changes around them. By real world I mean, changes in attitudes, learner expectations, demographics, politics, but above all massive and rapid change in technology. Blended learning as a concept allows the system to absorb all of this at a sensible pace, as it's a useful bridge between the new and the old.

On the other hand we will have to move beyond blended 'instruction' to true blended 'learning' by recognising the massive role that informal learning does and will increasingly play in learning. The technology is allowing us to do what was simply not possible before.

The talk was an excellent race through many definitions, models, advantages, disadvanteages, theories, examples and practices of blended learning. It was almost overwhelming. Dissapointingly small audience, as Brighton is supposed to be one of the epicentres of e-learning but nice to see some of my colleagues from Epic out in force. Off to see him give another talk at 5 pm. If you can't get to see him try his huge resource base at:

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Beyond Blended Learning

Dozens of definitions of blended learning are floating around, most of them muddle-headed. Here's a collection from the excellent Handbook of Blended Learning , a collection of 39 papers edited by Curtis Bonk.

Blend of classroom and e-learning
Blend of face-to-face and e-learning
Blend of online and offline
Blend of synchronous and asynchronous

The problem with these definition is that the first two prescribe components that may not be needed in an optimal blend. The second two are too general, in that they simply divide the universe into two sets. However, the real issues with all of these definitions is that they are really definitions of blended INSTRUCTION not blended learning.

We need to look at the concept from a broader learning perspeective with definitions tat include:

Blend of formal and informal
Blend of work and learning

With these two, we move beyond blended instruction to true blended learning.

The Mess is the Message

Gave a keynote at the National Trainers Conference around new tools on the web for training (Beyond Blended Learning). The web is giving us e-learning tools and content formats that we never dreamt of just a few years ago. Here’s a few off the top of my head:

Blogs – senior exec blogs, expert blogs, trainer blogs, learner blogs – takes minutes and reinforces learning.

Vlogs – track your team training exercise with a video log – will crystallise and reinforce learning.

Wikis – twiki’s a good start for a company knowedge-base or for a project or team.

Blikis – combine a blog and wiki for projects that need both knowledge gathering and dynamic reporting.

Podcasts – audio learning gets round literacy and dyslexia – everyone can listen, many don’t like to read – MP3 palyers are cheaper than lunch.

Videocasts – don’t worry too much about quality – interviews, talks, discussions - make them short and get them distributed.

Syndication – syndicate gets the right stuff to the right people at the right time – efficient distribution.

Messenger – step above email and, with a webcam, gives you most of the functionality of a virtual classroom.

Webcams – want to see the instructor/learner – cheap and works a treat.

MMOGs – get a life in Second Life and do some avatar-based learning – there’s lots of classes online – weird and wonderful.

Digital photography - so easy to take photographs and get them into training materials, get every new employee to take a picture of themselves and various locations and people as part of their induction.

Google Sketch – build 3D images – easy as pie.

Google Earth – will blow your mind – try it then use it to find international locations of your company – or mash-up some training applications.

Amazon – give everyone a budget and a booklist – follow up with book club meetings.

Wikipedia – fantastic knowledge base with discussions, links and lots of other wiki sources such as Wikiquotes, Wikispecies, Wiktionary and so on. Use it, link to it, do print outs.

Youtube – search for education and training video clips – growing like topsy.

Basecamp – free community project management software that can be used for team-based project management training.

Moodle – free open source LMS, very popular and now adopted by some serious organisations.

This is real learning, knowledge management, creation and distribution and it’s mostly free!


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

E-learning jobs galore

Massive one-page ad in The Guardian today offering lots of mullah for e-learning producers, designers etc. Capita seem to have some massive public contract from the DfES. It's a shame that those companies who have worked hard to eastablish themsleves as credible producers are so ignored by the DfES. Capita's last foray into e-learning was the disastrous ICT training for teachers. On the other hand this may show that the market is growing.