Friday, February 29, 2008

Response to Bill Gates's Question

Bill Gates posted the following question on yesterday, over 1000 people responded within 8 hours:

"How can we do more to encourage young people to pursue careers in science and technology?"

The following was my response (#25):

“This is an issue that has come up recently in our region (Ohio) and a number of initiatives have arisen in response - the state just approved a new STEM high school (Science Technology Engineering & Mathematics) school at a local university (Wright State). However, I've been discussing this with the folks pushing those initiatives and I believe that while the intentions are good the implementations are not living up to their potential. Most STEM programs are viewing science & technology curriculum the same way it was viewed back in the 1960's.

Those approaches are more or less cookie cutter frameworks that are designed for mass production of certain nominal capabilities - what we need to teach is the art of thinking, and the way we need to reach young people is through motivation. The best way to achieve both of these goals is through the use of problem/contextual based curriculum and (virtual) dialectic - together these represent dynamic ways to both learn and assimilate knowledge and do it using technology and concepts that today's young people already know and enjoy...”

Friday, February 22, 2008

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Me-Learning Manifesto

Last Fall, I took time to write a philosophical view of where I thought the E-learning industry ought to be headed. It has become the basis for a new solutions practice that I refer to as Dynamic Learning Orchestration (DLO).

Here's the article:

Semantic Integration

Yes, there is a technical side to e-learning. This presentation was developed to provide an overview on the next generation of solution practices for enterprise integration - it will be especially important in helping to realize Dynamic Learning Orchestration (DLO).

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Assimilation vs. Assessment

Why do people learn ? This may sound like a very basic question but we’re starting with some of the basics on the Learning Leaders blog so the question is fair game. There are two core reasons why people learn things:

Reason 1 – People learn because they want to…

Reason 2 – People learn because they have to…

In both cases, one factor is present in some degree – motivation. The character of the motivation involved in any learning experience though tends to influence the relative success of the endeavor. People who enjoy the learning process itself and are eager to understand and apply knowledge tend to have better assimilation rates.

So what is Knowledge Assimilation? Assimilation is the process of internalizing knowledge - this is different than short-term memorization techniques. When someone assimilates knowledge they are converting external information into internal understanding and this needs to occur with some level of relevance to the learner’s vantage point in life. Knowledge Assimilation is also an analytical process of interpretation; once a learner is able to place their ‘stamp’ of interpretation on information after reflection it then becomes uniquely theirs – they own it.

What type of motivation are we dealing with when folks are motivated by Reason 2? It depends on whether we can combine elements of Reason 1 into the process – in other words can we make learning something that we’re not interested in enjoyable? The one thing that tends to characterize much of the learning associated with Reason 2 is an emphasis on assessment. Assessment is a mechanism that recognizes perhaps above all else that the learner is not terribly motivated or interested in the subject and the only way to determine if information is being absorbed is through painful introspection.

So, then we end up with two types of learning strategies:

Strategy 1 – Learning to know.

Strategy 2 – Learning to pass.

These involve very different techniques and tend to exhibit different outcomes as well. Most people recognize that it is entirely possible to pass or even excel in a topic and not know the material when you’re finished. The IT industry ran into this over the past decade or so with various certification programs that seemed to demonstrate certain types of technical knowledge based on test results that in the real world in fact did not exist.

The truth is clear to most people – Assessment does not equal Assimilation and in many cases tends to discourage it in favor of other tactics designed to “survive the test.”

Copyright 2008, Semantech Inc.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

What Are Learning Objects ?

This is a question that has been posed since 1999, yet today there is still no proper consensus as to what these ought to be. SCORM, The Sharable Content Object Reference Model is the industry standard now most often associated with the concept of Learning Objects, yet it is fundamentally flawed.

Why is that the case? SCORM which is largely an outgrowth or expansion of a previous paradigm for CBT development called AICC, assumes that content ought to be tightly coupled with the both the learning delivery environment as well as assessment expectations.

So what's the impact of that?

1 - More expensive content.
2 - Less flexible content.
3 - Turning content production and delivery into enterprise integration.
4 - More difficulty in combining information or unstructured learning content.
5 - A continuation regarding assumptions of how learners learn - assumptions which were never validated by AICC or CBTs, much less with SCORM and LMSs.

For the record, a Learning Object represents any digital resource that can be combined in a useful manner with other content elements to produce a viable learning experience. The learners determine and validate viability and viability does not require assessment - only relevance.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The E-learning Paradigm Shift

“Never has an IT discipline held so much promise and failed so completely to fulfill its potential…”

I recall distinctly in 1999 when John Chambers, (Cisco’s CEO), proclaimed that e-Learning was the Internet’s Killer App and next big thing. I was working at Cisco at the time as part of their E-learning Architecture Team. I believed that message and was utterly convinced that nothing would stop us from proving it. I however, was wrong. Something did stop us and that something was the industry that sprang up and came to be known as e-Learning.

The e-Learning industry that arose differed from the vision that I had come to believe would allow learning to emerge as the Internet’s killer application. Much of that industry is still in place and is ever so slowly beginning to realize that the vision one adopts does make quite a difference in the resulting outcome.

The vision we need embrace is simple; e-Learning should be about a convergence of technology, philosophy and practice designed to liberate learners in the same manner that the Internet itself liberates users within a community of unlimited global discovery. E-learning is about trusting that people can in fact think for themselves and design their own learning strategies and learning paths.

Most importantly though, the true revelation behind e-Learning is this; learning does not end when school ends – in fact in many ways that’s when the real-world learning begins. Moreover, unlike at school, knowledge learned is relevant to your daily tasks, thus knowledge gained within your daily work paradigm can and should be integrated into the learning experience. Learning is the proactive mechanism by which all organizations add value to or receive value from knowledge – thus it should be at the heart of every enterprise IT solution, not as an afterthought but as the core driving process.

This represents a massive paradigm shift – one that will change the nature not only of the e-Learning industry but also for IT itself and the organizational cultures of any enterprise that adopts this paradigm. That is the vision that was missed – but we are fortunate, we can still achieve that vision. - Stephen Lahanas


Hello and welcome to the Learning Leaders Blog.

This publication is a rebirth of sorts, a sequel to the e-Learning Leaders Yahoo group I founded in 2000 and retired in 2003. I haven’t actively worked in the e-learning industry since 2001 but I’ve kept pace with what’s going on and have tried to find ways to infuse emerging learning technology into larger enterprise IT projects.

This blog will be dedicated to presenting a fundamentally divergent view of e-learning as a practice, a ‘pedagogical enabler’ and as a set of technology solutions. I certainly hope you will enjoy the discussions, topics and insights shared here – Stephen Lahanas