Browse Tag by learning science
Learning design, Reviews

Who ya gonna call? Mythbusters (or Clark Quinn’s book Millennials, goldfish & other training misconceptions)

Ghost buster logo on car door

When we visit the doctor, we put our trust in their expertise and rely on them to keep at the top of their game. Imagine if, when you complained of suffering from migraines, your doctor recommended a series of bloodletting to relieve the pressure!  Bloodletting was practised by the medical profession using a device (sometimes, using leeches) as recently as 1923! Fortunately, doctors no longer recommend this course of treatment because (unsurprisingly), they realised it didn’t work.

As a learning and development professional, our delegates put their development and skills in our hands; they trust that we have the current skills to help them learn and develop new skills. As with the medical profession, we have a duty to keep up to date, critique, analyse and act on evidence.

The stuff of myths and legend

It’s healthy to question, to never take things at face-value, especially when people rely on our advice and support. I like to do a fair amount of research. Does that make me a Theorist? Hmm, I thought I was more of a Reflector …but I also like to get stuck in and try things out; surely that means I’m an Activist… but… I need some real examples how this might work. Now I’m confused…that would make me a Pragmatist. Help! I have a split personality!

If you value your professional credibility, you will already be keeping up with current debates, thinking and theories. You may have even debated these yourself. Wouldn’t it be great if you could find some evidence one way or the other? But where do you start?

In his book, ‘Millennials, goldfish & other training misconceptions’, Clark Quinn gives you that start you might be looking for.

Clark Quinn looks at three categories:

  1. Learning myths (e.g. tailoring to learning styles etc)
  2. Learning superstitions (e.g. smile-sheets equals evaluation)
  3. Learning misconceptions (e.g. 70-20-10)

It’s a lovely, easy read and is meant as a starting point; it is packed full of citations and references should you wish to delve deeper into the evidence behind the counter arguments. I love that (there’s that ‘Theorist’ in me again ).

The myths

For each myth, Clark Quinn gives a brief description and its appeal. Then he sets out the pros, cons and suggestions on evaluating its validity. Finally, we are given a summary of what the evidence actually says followed by advice on what we should do.

The superstitions

Similarly, we read a brief description of each. Clark Quinn then sets out the rationale, why it doesn’t work and what do to instead.

The misconceptions

We can easily misunderstand the purposes of certain practices. Here Clark Quinn gives us a counter argument against the brief description of a commonly held belief. He then helps us reconcile, before making suggestions on what we can do.

What I really love about this easy read is that he gives us a handy little summary section where the key points are set out in easy to read tables.

This is a must on your bookshelf. It’s a handy reference and is small enough to carry around with you without taking up too much space or add to the weight in your L&D kit-bag. Ideal for those moments when a debate is about start or you need a quick memory jogger.

This book has re-affirmed some of my own counter arguments for some learning theories and practices that just didn’t sit right with me; I’ve also had some myths and beliefs busted. I’m OK with that. What about you?

Learning design, Online learning

Wonderful eLearning

Happy Day by Peter IsmagilovLast week I attended yet another excellent event run by the eLearning Network. I always enjoy spending time in the company of like minded people all with one goal in mind – better quality eLearning. If you weren’t able to make it, then there was an active back channel in Twitter so check out #elnevent to catch up.

First up was Bill Miller of Wonderful Learning. Well, it was certainly a wonderful session and a great way to kick the whole day off which was all about attaining ‘truly effective eLearning’.

Why? Because Bill took us back to considering what is THE most important element of successful eLearning – how our learners feel!

If we consider for just a moment, how many of us are unable to think straight whenever we feel anxiety or stress; how we go blank when taking exams. Bill’s session took us through a highly engaging and entertaining trip through the thinking of Carl Rogers and his setting of the emotional climate; introduced us to the neurobiologist Antonio Damasio and his thoughts on the effect emotions have on our decision-making; and a little insight into recent brain research.

With the introduction of MRI scanning, we’ve been able to find out amazing things about how our brains react to different stimuli. Connie Malamed in her blog The eLearning Coach shared a great piece about Emotions and Learning

Without going into the science bit… you can look that up for yourselves… let’s consider the following-

For some years now, as classroom facilitators we’ve begun to realise how important it is to ‘settle’ our learners so their learning environment is comfortable. We understand about removing barriers that may ‘get in the way’ of their openness to learn. We are what some may call ‘people’ people. We know it’s important to build a trusting relationship between us and our learners and to foster the same among them. Becoming increasingly aware of how our own actions will help or hinder has transformed the physical classroom environment into a positive and enjoyable experience.

Why, then, do we often forget this when introducing learning in an ‘e’ environment?

If you imagine that you have been taken out of this familiar, comfortable, setting surrounded by others in the same situation who you can confide in, draw on for support, and where there is someone who can give guidance and advice… then you are plunged into this strange and isolating world of technology, where the only voice seems to be your own, where the tools you have been given are unfamiliar and it seems you are cut off from humanity? How do you feel?

It seems when our learners are thrown into the unknown, the unfamiliar, we remove from them that which helps overcome their feelings of anxiety. If anything, as instructional designers and facilitators of eLearning, we should work even harder to incorporate the research of Carl Rogers, Antonio Damasio and what we are increasingly learning about that little almond shaped part of our limbic system, the amygdala and its influence on our decision-making.

Becoming more self-aware in our design of learning (‘e’ or otherwise, or rather, more aware of our learners’ needs, experiences and emotions, we can design for THEM.

Taking you back to Bill’s session here are some of his thoughts to leave you with:

  • There are more neural pathways to the pre-frontal cortex (the thinking part of our brain) than going back
  • The rational thought processes have been emotionally tagged because they pass through the limbic system (our emotional part of the brain)
  • Emotions need to be at the forefront of learning

The session that followed Bill’s linked superbly by looking at the importance of user interface design from Richard Hyde of Mind Click but more of that another day.

Miscellaneous

Dexter-fests, 24 and lost weekends

Photo by Phillip Goldsberry on Unsplash

Why do we get so hooked on binge watching?

Recently I curled up on the sofa with my other half, settled down with a mellow glass of red to enjoy an episode or two of Dexter. Now Dexter is one of my favourite US series. For those of you who don’t know anything about this series, you may think I need therapy for being so compelled to watch it. It’s about a serial killer who works for the police as a blood-spatter analyst. Yes… he’s the lead character and despite his unhealthy hobby, he’s the hero (or should it be anti-hero?).

Those fans of the programme actually like him and hope he never gets caught. From watching the previous series and having to wait for a whole week to go by before catching up with the next episode, we decided to record them to watch in bulk. After some mishap with the recordings, I just had to buy the boxed set (Stay with me here…. )

The up-shot is that the two episode evening lasted all weekend. It’s a good job there was nothing more pressing to get done (the ironing could wait!).

We’ve recently started to watch 24. Well, you can imagine what happened although this time we had to be very strict with ourselves.

So what’s the point of all this? Well I started to wonder why we found it so compelling – to sit there and watch episode after episode until our eyes became square (or rather 42 inch wide-screen).

 

For the love of story

From an early age we love stories. I’ve spoken to many a parent who can almost recite Thomas the Tank Engine word for word from memory or that video of The Little Mermaid is almost unrecognisable after the trillionth time of watching. My brother and his wife are expecting their first child in November and I suspect they’ll be no different. Her Auntie Laura will likely also be caught up in the magical world of story-telling too.

It doesn’t stop though does it? The love of stories? We may grow out of the wide-eyed excitement of being read bed-time stories but the magic doesn’t stop when we grow up. It just grows with us. From Disney films to Dr. Who. From romantic comedies to dark Gothic vampire tales. From the trashy, steamy novel to the complicated thrillers or classical period tales of yester-year. What keeps us so enthralled?

Telling stories began thousands of year in the past. We can see evidence of it from ancient drawings on cave walls. We can imagine travellers recounting tales of their journeys round campfires and then progress meant those words could then be recorded for generations.

I have my own theories by analysing my own love of a good story and would like to share what I like them here.

  • immediate connection with characters
  • emotional connection – empathising with the characters feelings and situations
  • a compelling story line
  • suspense
  • mystery that keeps you guessing what might happen next
  • challenges that put you in the character’s shoes
  • sparking imagination through written words
  • visually stimulating through clever direction and cinematography

In short – I need to believe I could be there. I need to live it and be totally immersed even if it might be the most fantastic tale of hobgoblins and superheroes.

 

What is it about stories?

In order to satisfy my own curiosity, I set about doing a little (and I mean a little) research into why storytelling has such an impact on us. What I found was fascinating – and it’s only the tip of the storytelling iceberg.

In a New Scientist article by Richard Fisher, entitled ‘the evolving art of storytelling’ he explored the effect an immersive experience of a good book or movie has on our brains. He found that according to neuroscientists and psychologists, areas of our brains react to the emotions the characters are feeling as if we were ‘in their shoes’.

Our brains behave in such a way as if we were experiencing the fiction as if it were our real-world experiences. The reason stories have such a powerful effect is the release of chemicals serotonin, oxytocin and dopamine such compelling stories trigger in our brains. Fisher goes on to review ‘The Art of Immersion’ (available on Kindle) by Frank Rose, which investigates storytelling and how it’s evolved with technology and something those of us who are looking to design experiences in our e-learning and engage our learners might find worth a look (note to self – order this book).

In another article ‘Mind Reading: the science of storytelling’ which referenced the same research reports further that our brains will react the same way regardless whether we are reading the story or watching an action video but the most potent of all is that of the ’emotionally charged story’.

What I found reassuring was the chemical triggers in the brain “explains why we can be lured into watching back-to-back episodes of series” and that “we are empathetically engaged. We are treating this as if it is our real family. We can’t help but care for these people”. So, there you have it. Proof that I’m not really that sad. I may have an addictive personality but the only drugs I may be addicted to are serotonin, oxytocin and dopamine! Although I’m not sure whether I’d like to think a serial killer blood-spatter analyst as family.

Blended Learning, Reviews

The New Learning Architect – A review

On 7th January, Clive Shepherd announced the advent of his new book The New Learning Architect. I waited impatiently for it’s arrival later that month and promised a review. I wasn’t disappointed – not that I thought I would be – and dipped in and out of it when time allowed. This didn’t do it justice and before writing the review, needed to give myself dedicated time to read it all through in a shorter time. Even now, I know I’ll enjoy reading it all over again and still take more away.

Clive Shepherd, author of The Blended Learning Cookbook, is a consultant in learning technologies and their application in the workplace.

I reviewed his Blended Learning Cookbook 2nd edition where I predicted that his new work would likely take blended learning to a new dimension. Boy did it ever!

Clive starts explaining why a ‘learning architect’. “An architect is someone who creates the plans from which others build” and likens a learning architect to that of a building architect. Building Architects designs “environments for living” whereas the learning architect designs “environments for learning”. Although they wouldn’t necessarily become involved in building the environment they would have to have detailed knowledge of current research to design suitable and safe environments. Not only will they have to meet the brief but consider the needs of the inhabitants.

Clive affirms what it really means to be a learning architect. We hear of the responsibility they have to advise and consult with the client on what would be most appropriate, drawing on their expertise in adult learning theories, brain science and learning technologies. Learning architects, he says, are not order takers – order takers are builders not architects.

The New Learning Architect reflects on how there has been a battle between delivery options in the past where you either had to choose between one or the other e.g. classroom v eLearning; formal v informal and people were firmly footed in one or other of those camps. What this book clarifies is that there is no need to choose sides. Each would work with not against the other where appropriate and towards one goal. It is the learning architect’s role to establish, based on the situation, how these options would work together.

Clive investigates when formal learning interventions are more or less appropriate and under what circumstances the learners can take more responsibility for their own continued professional development. We also see how we can provide opportunities for them to become more self-directed and independent. He goes on to explore the various contexts in which learning will occur:

  1. experiential
  2. on demand
  3. non-formal
  4. formal

The book also explores why it’s important to look at these contexts from two perspectives – top down (directed from the organisation) and bottom up (directed from the individuals) and why there is a place for both perspectives in learning at work. This book will guide you to establish what types of learning contexts will be suitable for your particular requirements, what types of top down or bottom up approaches to consider.

Whole chapters are dedicated to each of the four learning contexts in which Clive provides examples of various learning activities and media tools, when they are best used and when to avoid them. He also explores them from each perspective.

Clive discusses how important it is for people to be motivated to learn and that when breaking down the barriers to access resources, people will learn when the need arises. We also hear that it’s down to the good design of the instructional methods rather than the delivery medium that will ensure success.

In a recent article in the eLearning Age about the 702010 framework, John Helmer calls for a template or a model to help L&D professional implement informal learning and until there is one, informal learning will be more style than substance. Well, The New Learning Architect does just that. Here L&D professionals can take Clive’s four contexts for learning together with his explanation of top down and bottom up approaches as that model.

So who is this book for? Well, I would recommend this book to anyone who is remotely interested in improving results and investing in the development of a workforce whether a large multi-national or small business.

I recommend this book to all those senior managers and CEOs who call for courses (eLearning or otherwise) as panaceas. This book will help you establish whether there really is a formal training need and help you seek advice from your learning and development professionals so that the most effective and efficient solution to a business need is put in place.

If you are a more experienced learning and development professional; if you have benefited from the Blended Learning Cookbook and already implemented some successful blended courses, this book will guide you beyond training and help you take learning into the workplace. It will help you explore and employ informal and social learning methods. It might also encourage you become more architect than builder by advising rather than taking orders from those who don’t know any better.

And if you are new to learning and development then this book will be a welcome guide taking you through the different learning contexts and providing your with lots of examples and case studies.

The New Learning Architect is available on Kindle and from Lulu. Oh and Onlignment will be reviewing individual chapters inviting open discussion too. It’s probably the cost of a couple of drinks or a cinema ticket but could be worth £1000s in improved results.