Monday, February 26, 2007

What were the Top 5 Global Brands last year?

What were the Top 5 Global Brands last year?

1. Google
2. Apple
3. YouTube
4. Wikipedia
5. Starbucks
Jan 2007 Brandchannel user poll
Google, the much loved brand, deserves its pole position and continues to innovate with search and web 2.0 tools that benefit learning. Apple has fuelled podcasting, another web 2.0 learning feature. YouTube could to do more for web 2.0 ‘learning objects’ than all of the previous dull repositories put together. Wikipedia – as the web 2.0 phenomenon par excellence, it has transformed the very idea of how knowledge is created, updated and distributed on the web.
Could it be that powerful, everyday ‘e-learning’ has crept up on the world, separate from all the academic and institutional noise, and in a consumerist fashion?
I don’t think we’d see Saba, Skillsoft, Blackboard or any other official learning or e-learning brand ever get into the top ten.
As for Starbucks – OK it has wireless (sometimes) and comfy chairs but I still don’t get it.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Video games save lives

Surgeons - curing and killing machines
A few years ago I met Sir Alfred Cuschieri, the pioneer of keyhole surgery. He explained how surgeons were both curing and killing machines. In the past the brightest medical students became surgeons, despite the fact that they were less likely to have the requisite manual dexterity for the job. He had designed a training simulator and found that the trainer could actually predict how good a keyhole surgeon would be on the job. This led to the training simulator being used as an assessor.

Video gaming makes better surgeons
A new study from the Beth Israel Medical Centre in New York has shown that surgeons who play video games at least 3 hours a week made 37% less errors, were 27% faster and scored 42% higher than those who had never played these games. In fact there was a direct correlation between assessed skills in gaming and laparoscopic surgery. The very best game players made 47% less errors, were 39% faster and scored 41% better overall than those in the bottom third. Impressive improvements.

Stephen Johnson’s book Everything Bad is Good for You, pointed the way for further research on video games and human activities. We are now seeing some fledgling research that shows positive results.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Libraries - in terminal decline

Are public libraries doomed?
After struggling to find anyone I knew who had used one, I went to the statistical source (LISU Annual Library Statistics - thanks Seb Schmoller) and had a look. It wasn't pleasant reading.

Expenditure up
Real expenditure on libraries has increased for the seventh consecutive year to over a billion (£1097m). One could expect that money to be spent on books and resources. In fact, over half is spent on salaries (55%) with a mere 8.7% spent on books.

Lending, stock and visits down
Despite the population having grown by 2.5% over the last ten years, over the same period we’ve seen borrowing fall by 38%, active lending stock down by 18%, and visits have fallen by 13%.

Libraries as downmarket Blockbusters
One could claim that the collapse of book borrowing is being replaced by electronic media, and this is true. The worrying thing is that audio (music) is also in sharp decline, with DVD hires showing the sharpest increase (160%).

But is this serving any useful educational purpose? Are libraries becoming downmarket Blockbusters? What will happen when this market changes and, as is already happening, movies are readily available on demand. As expenditure increases are libraries driving themselves into the rump-end of a crowded and doomed market?

Dying breed?
It strikes me that public libraries are indeed a dying breed. The website’s own comment bravely predicts, and I quote from the sites own statistical report, if the present rate of decline continues, the adult lending library may become a thing of the past in 15-20 years.”

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


TheirSpace, a DEMOS ThinkTank document, lies beyond the leaden prose of government department reports on schools, technology and learning.

They see the Digital generation, born in the 90s, falls into four types:

1. Digital pioneers: early adopters of anything new
2. Creative Producers: build sites, share photos, video, music
3. Everyday communicators: texters and MSN users
4. Information gatherers: google and wikipedia

School's out
‘Boxes and corridors’ schools simply batten down the hatches as kids connect, exchange and create in new ways, largely outside of schools. Schools need to recognise this learning outside of the classroom, as it’s the knowledge economy that matters in terms of future employment.

The findings from surveyed parents are particularly interesting with six myths identified:
Internet too dangerous for children
Junk culture taking over kids’ minds
No learning through digital technology
Epidemic of plagiarism
Kids disengaged and disconnected
Kids becoming passive consumers

Learners need to be not lust literate but multiliterate across a range of technologies. ‘Looking in a book just takes ages’ says a 13 year old. Look how self-motivated they are with technology. They feel ownership, purpose and learn from each other in ways schools can’t imagine, yet alone deliver.

Schools need to learn
Schools need to embrace and build on informal learning with technology. They need to fully understand the relationships with parents, families and wider social networks outside of school and ‘bridge’, not subsume, this enthusiasm into their structures. This starts with people

The world has changed so why haven't we?
Here the report strikes gold. The flow of knowledge is both ways to and from school. It requires capacity building with parents. Far too little contact is made through parents so that they can help build bridges. Bringing homework and coursework into the 21st century is an obvious example. Reverse IT training is another excellent idea – use the skills of the kids to teach others, including teachers, as is peer-to-peer technology tuition and a cool tools monitor.

Some quibbles
Constant references to BBC Jam as an exemplar are odd – it's not. Words such as creativity and creative portfolios are also used without real grounding. The old ‘digital divide’ debate is also misleading. At one point the report says that 82% of kids had access to a computer at home in 2002. This is much higher than with access to books but we don’t hear the phrase ‘book barrier’ being bandied about. The suggestion that schools should take responsibility for getting the hardware to kids is also plain wrong. This is a parent thing.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Videogames improve eyesight

Games improve eyesight
I have what used to be called a 'lazy' eye, and had to wear a patch as a child, which didn’t work. Research summarised in Scientific American and published in the journal Psychological Science shows that playing fast-paced video games improves vision generally and improves vision for this condition. Subjects see more of those tiny letters way down the eye chart.

University of Rochester
Daphne Bavelier, of the University of Rochester claims that, "This is showing us a new path forward for rehabilitation. By combining more traditional methods for doing rehabilitation with these games, we should be in a better position to reopen the visual cortex to learning."

The study used comparative groups to see whether games would have any effect on visual improvement and the results after only 30 hours of play were surprising. "What is surprising here," she adds, "is that we see the effect of training extending beyond what the subjects were trained to do, which contradicts the current school of thought. ... These games push the human visual system to the limits and the brain adapts to it. That learning carries over into other activities and, possibly, everyday life."

If games had been around when I was a boy I may not have had a lifetime of wearing glasses.


Why some ideas live and others die
Malcolm Gladwell gave us the idea of ‘stickiness’ in The Tipping Point. Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath applies this to ideas and identifies Six Steps to Sticky Messages:

1. Simplicity: Strip ideas to their essentials
2. Unexpectedness: surpise, use counterintuitive examples
3. Concreteness: avoid buzzwords, include sensory information
4. Credibility: trusted authorities, testable by the user, believeable
5, Emotions: disgust, sympathy, resentment—they all work
6. Stories: tell a story

This is a good book and is far more useful in the design of learning experiences than Bloom, Gagne and the mechanics of instructional design. It’s also grounded in serious research. I've been watching a lot of videocasts from TED conferences and other sources and it's remarkable how closely these principels fit the presentation styles of the world's top speakers.

Once we realise we're in the 'learning experiences' game and not the 'instructional objectives' game, e-learning will be something to behold. If cognitive improvment is to happen, then ideas and skills must stick. Stickiness is, in a sense, merely retention.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


Scary looking guy - right?
Well he's one of the most important marketing people on the planet. Read on.

Why does videocasting matter in learning? Education and training, by and large, delivers second-rate content using second-rate techniques at top-dollar rates. But why settle for second best when you can have the best content using great teachers for free?

I’ve spent some time recently on YouTube, Google Video, Revver etc. and boy, even though it’s in its infancy, it’s getting good. I’ve seen the best speakers in the world deliver fantastic talks on the subjects I love. I can pause, fast forward, repeat and take notes. It’s been a series of intense learning experiences.

(They also made me reflect on why Gagne and his crew are so wrong on the creation of educational content. These short talks are very powerful yet don’t conform to any over-engineered idea of ‘9 steps of instruction’. The internet, thankfully, is killing Gagne, and outmoded instructional design, stone dead.)

The TED talks are among the best. Every year some of the best brains in the world get together in Monterey in the US. These are fantastic.

Here’s a couple of my favourites:

Marketing at Google by Soth Godin (an insider talk at Google – fascinating)

Education doesn’t work by Ken Robinson

It cost $4000 to go to a TED conference – these are free.