Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My wishes for you!

I received a Helen Exley Gift book for my birthday about 2 years ago and I am going through it again and I found some wishes that I would like to pass on as we approach the New Year.

“I wish you the joy of “I see! I understand!!…
I wish you the happiness of ideas, the excitement of reason, the triumph of understanding, the clearing of sight, the sharpening of hearing, the reaching out to new discovery, a pleasure in the past as well as in the present. I wish you the joy of creativity.

May there always, always be something you want to learn, something you want to do, somewhere you want to go, someone you want to meet. May life never grow stale."

Learning

I purchased Obama’s book The Audacity of Hope and I am attempting to read it. It has been a little challenging so far because I am not so connected with American History. However, as I reflect on how I react to his writings I question how I learn and what makes me recall certain things over others. For example, in the book he mentions several politicians who he had to go against as well as prominent men in the history of politics. If someone were to ask me to recall the names mentioned I would only be able to recall the ones I was familiar with before like Clinton and Reagan. What has stuck with me is the way he views politics; the fact that he went in search of a personal understanding of the evolution of American politics and has deviated from the traditional divide between Democrats and Republicans. His approach is to look at the problem of the nation and devise the most appropriate solution.Anyone who is familiar with the book can probably tell that I have just completed chapter one.

Well being the Instructional Designer that am, I immediately started drawing analogies between his approach to politics with how we approach teaching and learning. I realized the impact of Schema theory which asserts that we learn by building networks with previous knowledge and new knowledge; this explains why it was so easy for me to recall the names that I was acquainted with before.
The other issue is with theory and practice. It is the belief of some that only one approach is right and apply that approach in all situations. Many of us in the field know that this will not achieve the best results as each situation is unique and should be treated accordingly.

On page 49 Obama says “Unless political leaders are open to new ideas and not just new packaging, we wont’ change enough hearts and minds….” This just made me think of educational technology and the many debates. The fact that has educators we truly have to examine the problem and not just aim to repackage face to face learning but we need to be innovative and develop new techniques especially for the current generation.

I guess I assimilate ideas more than bits and pieces of facts. How do you learn, what do you recall when you read? Do you find yourself always finding links between what you read and your areas of interests?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I'm back!

It’s been quite awhile since I have made a post; several ideas came across my mind but just never got the chance to put hand to keyboard …..guess it’s no longer pen to paper. I have finished my internship and all’s well that ends well. I am now trying to find my niche as Instructional Design and Performance Improvement allows you to be flexible and can be applied to other areas such as Project Management and Human Resource Development. I got the opportunity to shadow one of the Organizational Development (OD) Specialist and it was great, one of his projects was succession planning. This peeked my interest in OD and this semester I am doing a course on work motivation and leadership. I tried to get in to a HR course too but unfortunately it was full.

So to wrap up this semester I need to present an electronic portfolio that provides evidence that I have met the goals of the program. I am now in search of an open source application that will allow me to do this.

Any recommendations? I am checking out Dr. Barrett’s online portfolio adventure.

Aside: I’m home in Jamaica enjoying the sun, friends and family; I am so not missing the cold!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Don't be too hard on yourself!

I have a tendency to focus on my weaknesses and not acknowledge my strengths. This makes me pressure myself more than the average person would. I am always thinking about what I need to do and were I am lacking and when people try to subtly or overtly make me feel inadequate I grant them permission by trying to see some right even when there is none in their misdoings.
  • A lot of times when people try to hurt you it's because they have been hurt.
  • When people try to bring you down they usually see potential and are often afraid of the fruit that it may bear.
Love your self, take pride in your strengths, acknowledge your weaknesses and balance where you can but don't dwell on them where it becomes paralyzing. Here is a quote from by Marianne Williamson from A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Sometimes life is full of so many negatives we need some encouragement, share some of your encouraging stories, quotes....

More on Instructional Design

I have posted on "What is Instructional Design?" already. However I found this video only 8 minutes long and I think it covers some salient points about the ADDIE model (The foundation of all Instructional Design models), how it is important for training and how to go about using it. Have a look!


How to Embed YouTube videos in PowerPoint 2003 and 2007

Forgive me if I am behind the times on this one, but I am quite sure I am not the only one. I am working on a presentation and I found some YouTube videos that would make the presentation interesting and cater for different learning styles :)...had to rub that in. I find it very inconvenient to link using a URL to YouTube and then play the video from there. I have seen presentations where the video plays from the slide, so I did my usual Google search and found some great instructions which I tried and it worked! So thought I might share for those of you who did not know like me!

Live Your You Tube Video in PowerPoint Presentation This is really good as it gives instructions for 2003 and 2007. It also gives instructions for two options embedding video and using the internet to play or downloading video and then inserting it if you won't have internet connection or just don't want to use the internet.

Video showing how to do live embed for 2003



Video showing how to do live embed for 2007: (The volume is a bit low...just turn up your sound... but it's good)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Learning How To Learn



I have been procrastinating in posting on this topic, and I have been directed back to it on several occasions. For starters my friend just started Law school and he has been making a concerted effort to put measures in place so that he can steer his own learning based on his preferred learning style and the nature of the subject matter. The big term in education /psychology for this is metacognition. The prefix meta means about self… person’s in technology may be familiar with the term meta data, which is data about data. I think this definition captures it well: Meta: A prefix meaning one level of description higher. If X is some concept then meta-X is data about, or processes operating on, X.

So what is metacognition?

Metacognition emerges from the school of cognitive psychology. It consists of two basic processes occurring simultaneously: monitoring your progress as you learn, and making changes and adapting your strategies if you perceive you are not doing so well.

Experiences

My first formal exposure to the term metacognition was at The University of the West Indies in Jamaica, where for my Managing Learning Difficulties class we were told that when learners are encouraged to reflect on the learning process it makes learning easier and they take control. So we used strategies like modeling and think aloud, thus making learners aware of the thinking/cognitive process. A lot of processes that seem natural to us are very difficult for learners in difficulty and they have to explicitly learn them. I used metacognitive strategies during teaching practice and they worked great.
Personally I don't soak up information very well unless I can relate to it. So whenever I am learning something new I try to find some area where it can be applied so it can be relevant to me. Because I am conscious of the way I learn and think I have been able to manipulate my formal learning experiences to work in my favour.

Strategies
Metacognition is for everyone even though the strategies have proved helpful to learners in difficulty. Eric Digest outlines 3 basic metacognition steps in their article Developing Metacognition:
1. Connecting new information to former knowledge.
2. Selecting thinking strategies deliberately.
3. Planning, monitoring, and evaluating thinking processes.


Metacognition is very important and is best cultivated from early. Once students realize that they can control and determine their own learning they are no longer solely dependent on the teacher. For example: If a teacher mostly talks in class and a student realizes that listening is not effective but when they make notes or do diagrams it helps them; even though the teacher doesn’t give diagrams that student will still learn as he/she has discovered what works and can regulate their own learning.

Parents and teachers should make a concerted effort to develop these skills in children/students this will create a thinking and adaptable workforce which is what the 21st century demands. As adults it’s not to late to start practicing some of these strategies you will find learning becomes easier and in some cases fun.

For more metacognition strategies see
Julie Halter's article:
“KNOWING HOW TO LEARN, and knowing which strategies work best, are valuable skills that differentiate expert learners from novice learner

Aside: Last week I did a strengths assessment from Gallup through the book Strengths Finder 2.0. And one of my top five themes was Learner; I guess I got this metacognition thing going.

Learner Theme Description: People who are especially talented in the Learner theme have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites them.

  • What strategies have you used to help you learn?
  • Do you find that some strategies are good in some learning situations and not in others?
  • Share some of your strategies and learning experiences!



Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Useful Tools




A friend of mine wanted help in making a decision, so he made a request using a blog post and asked for comments. In addition to that he set up a poll using PollDaddy.com. By using these two free tools a blog and a poll he was able to collect quantitative and qualitative data. I thought this was remarkable and I see how these tools could add value in an educational setting. Doing a Research study with a small group, this can be used to capture information and just making decisions on a whole.
Another tool that I have come across is huddle. This is a project management space, for my online class we are using it to work on a real project and it has been going well:
  • The teacher uses it to set up tasks and deadlines.
  • Email alerts are sent to the person delegated whenever a task is due.
  • Discussion topics are created for each phase and we make decisions using the discussion forum. Email alerts are sent each time a post is made.
  • Documents can be uploaded and edited online and it captures version history.
  • The client is also included in the group so when we are finish with a document we request her approval through huddle and we get email alerts when she responds
The only problem that I have had is that the discussion forum allows a limited number of texts, but we’ve worked around it by making our post shorter or dividing one post into two.

What other useful tools are out there and how can they be used to improve and make processes easier?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Cracking the code!!

It’s been a while since I have made a post, so many things have been happening with me at work and me trying to regroup and re-brand myself.

The corporate world has its own culture and the quicker you learn the better your chances of success. So far I have picked up a few things here and there, so I guess you can call this my lessons learned:
  • Network, Network, Network: In Jamaica it was always emphasized that it’s not who you know but who knows you. In the corporate world this sure rings true. I have made a conscious effort to find people within the organization that work in the teams where I could possibly fit. So far so good, I am encouraged and they have told me I am doing the right thing. So you have to sell yourself, initiate intentional interactions.
  • Some people who have been through the transition process have volunteered themselves as informal coaches. I am very grateful for this and they have been a source of strength and direction for me.

Make sure you know the expectations and assert yourself: In a situation where your boss gives you a bad evaluation, do not just take it. If you don’t agree with it question it! Find out what expectations they had that you did not meet. The truth is some leads you will never be able to please. Focus on your work as it will eventually speak for itself. Volunteer for other projects outside of the team so that others can see your value…oh yeah it’s a tough fight. Never let anybody make you feel inferior, if you find that it’s making you too depress maybe it’s time to move on….the company you are working with is not the only company in the world.

Face reality and plan: I have realized that even though I am Jamaican, by virtue of being black I have joined the struggles of black Americans. The issues of race have improved significantly but remnants still remain. I must commend my organization that I work with as they have made a conscious effort to emphasize diversity and it’s not limited to ethnicity. I have not become paranoid but I have come to terms that some people though few ( I think) will make judgments about me and treat me differently because I am black! I am now reading a very good book titled Cracking The Corporate Code.
Know the competency Model: The evaluation that Co-Ops are rated against is based on a global competency model for the company. Therefore, it is very important to be graded highly effective for each. Competency models are good, they help organizations to attract the right people and they help employees know what skills are valued and make a concerted effort to develop in the areas. So when you join an organization you may want to find out if they have a competency model and read it carefully! If they have one the fact that you got the job means that they think you have them, just make sure you continuously show evidence as getting the job is half the work, the next half is staying hired.
Get some project management skills: For my wiki project I have learned from my colleagues and the lead of the project specifically that in a project you have to bug people constantly and stick by deadlines unless extremely unavoidable. If people see they can miss a deadline they will and it will make your project fail. By the way that is going good we are trying to overcome the struggles of SharePoint that I mentioned in a previous post.

Well I must say I have grown in the past 4 months, I have had my challenges…this sounds a bit cliché but they have indeed made me stronger Sizzla Kalonji songs Be Strong and Solid as a Rock have been my anthem. I humble myself as always and look forward to learn from the gurus in the field :)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Personal Branding: Leveraging our Strenghts


Today I was privileged to attend the annual business meeting of the African American group in the company that I am doing my internship program. The theme was "Partnering for success: Unleashing the Leader inside you." The guest speaker was Lethia Owens and her presentation was dynamic, engaging and filled with food for thought. As part of her presentation she had us watch a video presentation by Mark (I’m sorry I don’t remember is last name) but he comes from the Gallup school of thought. His video presentation was about three (3) myths that we have that hinder us from achieving success, I will discuss my paraphrased version of the myths.
  1. As you grow you change: Before you start deciding whether you agree with this or not, let me clarify a few things. This is base on the philosophy that we have some core things that make us who we are. When we grow we refine these core things. Even if we adjust to fit situations the core things never really change. One of the participants compared it with an oak tree; even though the tree grows gets more branches, larger roots etc it still has the characteristics that make it an oak tree.
  2. You learn/grow the most in the areas that you are weakest: Mark did a survey and asked parents if their child came home with grade 'A' in English and a 'F' in Biology which subject would they pay the most attention to…and most parents said biology. However, he posits that we will grow the most in the areas that we are strongest. He is not saying that we should not try to work around our weaknesses but we should focus on our strengths.
  3. What the team needs is for us to put aside our strengths to make the team successful. You may not find a job that utilizes all your strengths but we should aim to utilize 80% of our strengths. We should find avenues where our strengths can be utilized and volunteer our strengths.
Lethia made a very important point she said sometimes what we think of ourselves is not necessarily the perception that people have of us. Therefore, we need to be aware of our personal branding. We need to make sure that our motto and our delivery are congruent.


  • What are your views about the myths?
  • What are some of the ways to manage personal branding and still be your true self?
  • How do you leverage your strengths?
  • How about re-branding?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Dealing with the learner continuum in a computer based or web based environment




Today at work one of my co-workers had to vet a computer based module designed to teach people how to use Microsoft Outlook. He is very tech savvy, and after less than five minutes of exposure to the content he was like “Are these courses designed for fifth graders, I am sure if I gave my 5th grade son this he would understand.” This brings out a very important issue especially in the non-traditional learning environments........

Who should you tailor your course for?

Well for one thing every course should have a target audience and this should also be made clear some where in the course description/introduction and learners should have access to this. This will ensure that the content is tailored to this group and potential participants can determine if the course is for them or not.
Another method of filtering learners is to divide courses in to levels and explicitly state the prerequisite knowledge that learners need to have in order to benefit from the course.

Learners! Learners! Learners!
In customer service, the customer is always right. In instructional design the learner is always right. By this I mean everything that we do should be geared towards the learners and their needs and interests. It’s like clothes, your friend may buy an outfit and it complements her/him well, but you would never in a wild dream buy that. The same is for a course one learner from the target group may find the course engaging and interesting and another who is not apart of the target group may think it’s pathetic. The important thing is that it meets the needs of the target learners!

What happens when the target group is diversified?
Well we all know sometimes it’s not that simple as sometimes, instructional material has to be designed for a wide audience. In a face-to-face environment there is much flexibility where that is concerned. However, what to do in a web-based or computer based environment? Well this is where choices come in , give learners choices in their navigation, thus if they are familiar with some of the content they can move on. Have quick explanations and more detail ones depending on the learner. Have a look at these post from The Rapid eLearning Blog


How do you tailor your instructional materials to meet the needs of diverse learners?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Cup of Inspiration: Making the Lights Come On!















On Friday, September 5th, I attended The 21st Annual St. Louis American Foundation's Salute to Excellence in Education Banquet. It was a very well coordinated event and it was very inspiring. Each of the awardees did a video presentation/interview on what motivate them as teachers and this was shown at the banquet. Interesting but not surprising almost all the teachers said that what keeps them going is when the lights turn on for students…when you can get a student who was oblivious to the content area to respond and say…”I get it now…I understand”. For the kindergarten teacher it was the fact that most of them leave her class literate.
This should be the aim of every instruction to turn the lights on despite the age group. Here are some things to bear in mind when preparing for instruction to ensure that the light’s get turned on. These are especially relevant for adult learners:

Know your learners
-What are their interests?
- What attitudes and skills do they bring to the course?
-How do they prefer to learn?

Identify what you want them to learn
-Decide on the general outcome skills/knowledge that learners must have.
Example, should they be able to use software, carry out a process?
- Ask your self if learners are to achieve this general outcome what do they need to know and do?
Example, for software do they need to know parts and functions?
- It may help to start off broad and then further subdivide.
For example I may have: Interface of the software as 1 thing that they need to know and under that section have: Command tabs Command sets.
-Get the content for each area in details bearing in mind the level that your learners are at. Ensure that you provide enough information for them to understand; for procedures include cues where necessary……the things that they should look out for, avoid, as well as indicators that the process has been completed successfully.

Decide how learners will show understanding
From the content that you have developed decide for each section how learners will show you they understand, using what is called instructional objectives. These should be measurable, and student centered…the image below is an example of one and the components.














Decide how you will impart the information
Based on the nature of the content and your learners learning style come up with strategies, will use demonstration, role play, video presentations.
What delivery media will you use: Face-to-face, Self paced, virtual learning environment, hybrid etc.
How will you sequence it?

Develop your materials

What ever format you have chosen develop your materials so that it is appealing to the audience and conveys the message. This can be achieved by using the right images, font faces, highlighting important points etc.

Evaluate constantly
For each decision that you make get some feedback and use the information to revise what you have done.

Remember it’s all about the learner!!

How do you make the lights come on?

Sunday, August 31, 2008

40 Hours Work Week


One day last week at about 4:30pm, I was at work and I felt a little lethargic. However, in the morning I was up and perky and was in optimal performance gear. I came in at 10:00am (late, my usual time is about 8:30) and by 4:30 I was feeling like I needed my day to be done. Is something wrong with me? Do I need vitamins? Or Is something wrong with the 40 hours work week?…According to this model even though I don’t feel optimal I should force my self to work 2 more hours to ensure that I fulfill the 8 hours per day; which for some is minimum, as they often work longer hours.

Where did it all start?


I went to Google … I Google everything. I wanted to find out what was the significance of the number 40. Was it that psychology research proved that within this time frame we perform best?

Let’s deviate for a moment…don’t worry the detour is not too far off our topic route: Have you ever wondered why phone numbers have 7 digits after the area code or why social security numbers, phone numbers etc are grouped..Well in my Psychology class I learnt that studies proved that our short term memory can store between 5 and 9 items (Chunks or individual) at a given time. This was then used to come up with what is called the Miller’s Magic number 7 using a range of -2 or +2.
So back to our 40 hours per week…I am wondering if the 40 hours came about the same way.


I found a great article “Does the 40 hour work week need Overhauling” that explains it all for the American culture. In summary:

  • It started with the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938
  • This act cut the work week from 60 hours to a maximum 44 per hours week. (Wow can you believe this?)
  • Seven years later it was changed to 40 hours per week.

The reality


Well quite startling, studies have shown that people are working more than 40 hours per week in America. Employers are hiring fewer people to do more work. The explanation was that they are trying to save on providing health care benefits and pension….oh well trying to save at the risk of employees health….does that make sense?…When people get overworked they are more prone to be ill.

Despite this there are others who are plain workaholics and don’t feel good unless they work more. Others have no family obligations or social life so instead of going home to the walls of their home they consume themselves with work.

The Slacker Phenomenon


What is interesting is that in some working environment putting in quality time for 8 hours and leaving when the time is up is considered slack. Geeky mom’s blog post titled “The-40 hour work week” highlights this phenomenon. She mentions that some people even though they are done with work stay back and put in ‘face’ time to prevent being seen as a slacker.

Balance


Balance is important but hard to create. However, my ideal working environment is one that is output based. Give me a project, give me a deadline and I work at my own pace. Geeky Mom’s post asserts the same preference. Click here to read how one IT worker cuts his time from 80-100 hours per week to 40 hours.

Future

Gartner has an article that predicts by 2015 there will be 20 hour work week job descriptions to accommodate skilled high quality workers who need to balance work and social/family life.

  • How many hours do you typically work per week?
  • What are some ways to balance work and family/social life?
  • What do you think about the 2015 prediction?

Please Share!!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Information Processing

As I have said in previous post, I have been assigned to lead a wiki project. However, I am part of a bigger team that involves creating a website as well. With SharePoint in the picture the concepts that we have of each has to be slightly adjusted to fit the mold that this platform provides. We have an even bigger challenge as even though the two projects are separate they are not exclusive. The website will contain links to pages on the wiki and vice versa. Below is an outline of the process so far and some internal challenges that we have encountered.

The Decision Making process

In order to decide what should go on the wiki the following steps were taken:

  1. The executive team went through a period of brain storming of categories.
  2. The results of the brain storming process were put in a diagram
  3. Each team lead (Members of the executive body) discussed the categories with their individual teams and solicited feedback, whether the categories made sense, additions etc.
  4. Each team member was asked to show the categories to their managers and get feed back as well.
  5. The executive team discussed all the feedback and decided what was feasible and what made sense.
  6. The initial categories diagram was updated to reflect feedback and decisions.
  7. The executive team met again and finally discussed and approved the categories

NB: During this process decisions were made about what content would be best for the website and what would be best for the wiki as well.

Conflict

So it’s data collection time and confusion has started. The same people who were in the executive team meetings when decisions were made and questions were asked start asking questions that should have been asked during the decision making process. However, during the meetings they nodded their heads in agreement and never voiced their opinions. Some of the questions that they are now asking are questions like “why was this category included?” and make comments like “this category don’t make any sense” , “This is unnecessary”, “We need to pick what goes on the site, we cant accommodate everyone”. So my question is, were these people sleeping in the executive meetings when we were asked to examine the categories and pick what is feasible and what made sense?

Application to teaching and learning

This really brought home to me, how important it is to clarify and confirm learners’ understanding. The truth is being exposed to knowledge does not mean it is processed. Thus we have to make sure that we assess students learning and assess it in a way that will give valid results. For example, if I wanted learners to use MS Excel to build a gantt chart, asking them to tell how it’s done or do a multiple choice quiz may not be a good assessment. Giving them an opportunity to demonstrate the skill is what is necessary.

So we are in the meeting and we assume that everybody understand why the decisions were made and they agree. Who knows maybe they too thought it made sense. Notice when the issues came up, when they had to pay close attention to the information, when they were required to use it. The same is for our learners we have to draw their attention and give them opportunities to use the information in order for learning to be effective.

Project Management Lessons Learned

I once read a book that said when in brain storming or decision making meetings everybody should speak and I now agree. As the persons who are raising the questions now are persons who spoke very few words in the meetings. Thus meaningful comments should be solicited from all.

I was rather upset when all the email threads started coming, but now I think it’s just obvious that the goals and decisions of the project were not understood by all and all were not in agreement. The good thing is that it has been brought in the open before the project advanced. Therefore as project managers or anybody in leadership we have to ensure that the people involved understand and getting a “I understand” is not good enough. We have to come up with creative ways of effectively passing on the vision and soliciting feedback.

What are some of the ways you use to assess learning?

How do you know that your students understand?

In project management how do you confirm if participants understand the goals and task?

Please Share!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

More on SharePoint


SharePoint Complaints Community
Thanks to web 2.0: I love it!! Collaboration and useful information at your finger tips…….
After I made my post yesterday, I went in search of some answers to our SharePoint problems. I found Lawrence Liu’s blog that had people complaining from 2007 till now. He acknowledges that SharePoint wiki is not the best breed of wiki, and I guess we should look at the bigger functionality and value that SharePoint offers…..just in case you are not familiar with SharePoint watch this SharePoint Demo.


Poor excuses
I hope that Microsoft (MS) looks in to the complaints and make the necessary changes to the new version. Even though it has been acknowledged that it’s not the best breed of wiki, I am still very disappointed and it is hard to believe that MS would release a product that leaves out the core characteristics/functionality that defines the technology….I’m sorry it is just crazy. I guess the wiki functionality was not a priority in their package.

Solutions
Towards the end of the complaints solutions were proposed on Lawrence Liu’s blog. In addition KM space blog offers a free plug in solution called Office connector in the post What to Do with SharePoint wikis
Tia also posted about Central Desktop check out the review of that.

Reflection
Well we just need to examine our options and see which tool best meets our goals and budget. The answer may be a combination, what makes it even better is that a lot of vendors are allowing third party integrations...yippee...no monopoly around here!

What other solutions are out there?

Please Share




Monday, August 18, 2008

Wiki fever














For some of us a wiki is a term and technology that has been in existence for a while now and for others the term is new. However, most have heard of the popular Wikipedia, well wiki is the technology behind this dynamic encyclopedia.

So what is a wiki?

In a nutshell it’s an internet based tool that enables easy content collaboration. For a super nice and easy to understand video explanation please view Wikis in Plain English from the Common Craft.

Why the fever?
Now that we understand what a wiki is, I can continue to spread my fever. For my internship, one of the projects that we are undertaking is a wiki and I am leading the project. Several of the interns were not familiar with the term wiki before or the value that it can provide so I am trying to be wiki champion.....let's see how that goes.

Where I Caught it!
I was introduced to the concept of a wiki about two years ago, when the university I worked with started using it as a documentation tool for the learning management system (LMS)...I saw how it was very useful as a collaboration tool.Then I used PBwiki for a class last semester and I found it very user friendly and effective, in fact it does not require any syntax for linking pages, you can just select existing page names from a drop down menu. It has been listed among the top tools for 2008.

SharePoint: Unfamiliar Territory

For my internship project we are using another platform, SharePoint, which I have no clue about......makes this project even more interesting. We are in the process of experimenting with it, but it seems like some of the basic wiki navigations that we are use to are not present.
  • What has your wiki experience been?
  • What are some of the best practices?
  • Have you used SharePoint wiki?
Please Share!!



Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Conquering the dumb feeling!!

I am presently doing a Co-operative education program and I have been assigned to work with the team that provides training and eLearning development. Great opportunity to learn what occurs in the real world….not only skill set but culture. I have working experience but in academia, not corporate.

When I came another Co-op was here already, he is a Computer Science major and has done a wonderful job of designing and developing the team’s website…..which I am expected to maintain. I only had a basic understanding of HTML, so training was provided by this awesome Co-op and he did a very good job.

So what’s up with the title of this post……? So he’s leaving (his term has ended…back to school time) and everyone is emphasizing make sure you know what to do when he leaves…..so being the Instructional Designer that I am….I arranged a meeting with him about 2 weeks ago and brainstormed with him all the possible types of things on the website that may need editing and how to go about doing them….he provided me with this information….this approach was good as things came up during the process where he had to provide me with links and references, and also get access to files etc.

Based on the emphasis on the fact that I need to know what to do…..I am scared that something may come up and I don’t know how to fix it. Attending a class on HTML does not really make you identify and trouble shoot problems easily, this comes with experience…..which I don’t have. So I am feeling dumb and afraid of what will happen when he leaves.

The same fear and anxiety that I am experiencing happens to a lot of learners, fear that after learning the material they may not be able to apply effectively; fear of not being able to learn……how do we deal with this? So I was discouraged and I went into my shell and crawled back out with the following:

  • I will continue to read up on HTML and actually try to create my own site (I actually did one at school, but using Dreamweaver’s Design view…..I see where coding can help improve it)
  • I will not be afraid of not knowing as it is human and I have made a concerted effort to acquire as much as I can.
  • I will not attempt to be as great as this awesome Co-op in the capacity that he has performed as our skill sets are different. What I can do is use my skill set to make a valuable contribution in the capacity that I can.
  • I will not be afraid to venture in a situation where learning new knowledge/skills is integral and in the process I may feel dumb……who cares everybody had to learn at some point.

( Ok …..I am working on the last part…..it’s hard…..I hate feeling dumb).

  • Am I the only one who has felt like this?
  • Am I being too sensitive?
  • What else can I add to my “Crawl out of shell insight” list?

Please share!!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What is Instructional Design?



I have had a lot of ‘what?’ reactions when people ask me what’s my major and I respond Instructional Design & Learning Technologies. Well it’s becoming more popular but the name I guess has not formed its way among the popular/familiar career fields. Nevertheless, the response usually gives me an opportunity to explain what the field is all about; however they still ask the follow up, “So what can you do with that after you are finished…teach?” Well Tom has come to the rescue with a very simple but effective blog entry “What Everybody Ought to Know about Instructional Design”

  • What responses do you get when you tell people Instructional Design is your major or profession?
  • What are the views of the masses about the value of instructional design?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Wearing more than one hats

I have just completed a self paced course on managing instructional development. This course combined the concepts and principles of Instructional Design with Project Management. The course was self paced, not my preferred style of learning, but it was convenient and enough resources were provided for us to cope. The structure of the course captured Cathy Moore’s idea of allowing learners to ‘wing it.’

The course assessment was based on case scenarios of real projects. While doing the readings I felt lost and sometimes a bit overwhelmed, however after the course was completed I felt confident that if given the tasks to do in a real working environment I would not be as clueless as I was before.

The course brought home to me that Instructional Designers need to have project management skills as well. It is reflective of how the working world has evolved, it is unacceptable to be one dimensional and job descriptions are less defined. One has to be able to wear more than 1 hats….that’s just the fact.

What are the essential competencies of a good instructional designer?

Are there competency models out there for instructional designers?

What do they look like?

Please share some!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Not a 'techie' : An Instructional Designer's Dilemma

Seeing that I have made, my new resolution today to record my knowledge findings and revive my blog.....yeah!, I am excited.....guess why? Because I am doing this because I want to.

I am doing my internship in a corporate environment, IT department and more and more I see the advantage of an instructional designer who has a technical background as well.

Once I thought it was ok to just have an awareness of the technology trends in education and maybe even learn how to use some of the tools, but now I feel the need to be technical.

I guess you are wondering, what exactly do I mean by technical? Having a computer/technology related background. I guess I am feeling pressured because I am in an IT department. Well if you sense that I am confused, that's because I am. On second thought I think I am fine as some people here did not know what a wiki is and I would consider them to be more technical than me. So even though I don't have a clue about setting up databases, programming languages, I am knowledgeable about the tools that are available for teaching and learning and the value they can add.

I have concluded now, my mind is clear!The instructional designer just needs to be aware of the various technologies available, how they may be used to enhance learning and possibly how to use the tools....leave the rest to the programmers etc.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Web 2.0 in action: Informal Learning



Web 2.0, very interesting. Well I just viewed this very interesting blog that pointed me to some very interesting links. Now you can either view that person's blog or read my blog. Who cares as long as the information gets across.


So along with web 2.0 is the concept of informal learning: learning without a curriculum, learning that is achieved by a natural desire to get information to solve a problem, learning that is acquired unintentionally through conversation. In the blog David Delgado makes mention of Jay Cross who presents a very good video on informal learning.



Jay cross states that the most powerful technology or learning tool is human conversation....splendid!! :). So these social networking tools available are allowing humans to have conversation uninhibited by space and time. He further distinguished between training and learning. Training is something some one does for you, while learning is more internal and it's done by the self. So "People can train you, but they can't learn you."


This includes pooling expertise, even from people who are retired....wow retirement does not mean solely sitting at home or having nice vacations but knowledge can still be passed on.


The concept of informal learning is very important, if a business wants to be a learning organization...which is another buzz word these days :). The point is learning is ongoing and in order to be successful organizations have to motivate their staff to collaborate and keep current with what's happening even without formal training structures in place.

View David's blog for a lot more information.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Web 2.0


What is Web 2.0 ?

It is amazing how technology has evolved. I think the relationship with technology and humans could be referred to as symbiotic, by this I mean they both shape each other. Technology changes the way we do things but also human behaviors/needs dictate the types of technologies that are developed.


http://www.digital-web.com/articles/web_2_for_designers/
in this article Richard MacManus and Joshua Porter explains 6 trends that characterize Web 2.0. They do a very good job.

1. Writing Semantic Mark up: Transition to XML

To illustrate this point they made mention of RSS (Real Simple Syndication) which is an XML format for syndicating content. Moving away from static HTML. I have personally enjoyed the benefits of RSS feeds. It certainly saves time when one can receive updates when new content is added to a site rather than having to search the site all the time.

2. Providing Web Services: Moving Away from place.

Under this section they discussed that XML makes content sharable and transformable between different systems. Therefore, content is not tied to the place (the website). They also made mention of programmatic interfaces, where anyone can build an interface to content on any domain if the developers provide a web service API (Application Program interface).

3. Remixing Content: About when and what, not who or why

Content is no longer contained in one place. They mention that Web 2.0 is about building event-driven experiences rather than sites. "Because content flows across the web in RSS feeds and can be remixed along the way, web designers must now think beyond sites and figure out how to brand content itself."

4. Emergent Navigation and Relevance: Users are in control

Web 2.0 allows content from several places to be aggregated based on the users needs. Therefore, built in navigation schemes on specific websites will soon be used less as users are able to read content without ever visiting a domain. Therefore, navigation paths will be determined by users' behaviors not by inbuilt design.

5. Adding Meta-data Overtime: Communities building social information

Sites are now available that allow the average person who is not competent in building a website to add meta-tags. Search engines search meta-tags so the results will bring up not only designers results but now everybody has a say. Content is more extensive. example del.icio.us allows people to store their bookmarks online and also create meta-tags.

6. Shift to programming: separation or structure and style

Seeing that Web 2.0 is all about networking they argue that words and semantics are more important than presentation and layout. Therefore designers will have to think about branding site content not just the site; think beyond presentation of the site to API's and syndication.


Well it sounds hard, but is either you get with the program or get left behind. So now it's not only about being tech-savvy it's about being text-savvy (I coined this, I mean one has to know how to creatively use words to bring users together.)

Good reading visiting the link and take peek.



Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Delphi Method

One of the methods that was mentioned in the email that was sent was the Delphi Method. What is this Delphi Method?

From the readings this method is primarily used for forecasting and decision making. Like a lot of other research and technological innovations it began in the military. In 1946 a Project called RAND (short for Research and Development)

Definition: The Delphi Method is based on a structured process for collecting and distilling knowledge from a group of experts by means of a series of questionnaires interspersed with controlled opinion feedback.

Premise: Human judgment (Expert Knowledge) is acceptable in fields that have no yet developed scientific laws to make decisions.

A little Extra Information

The word Delphi is associated with Greek Mythology. Delphi was an Oracle, where the intermediaries would give forecast and advice to the gods. However, Helmer and Dalkey the founders of the method, would rather than the method not be associated with the Greek Oracle. But I guess that’s life names stick J


Advantages

- Experts make decisions

- Anonymity allows free formation of opinions that the social interaction of usual group discussion may inhibited

- Experts who geographically dispersed can deal systematically in complex task and problem solving.

- useful in answering one, specific, single-dimension question

How is it done?

In a Nutshell: a series of questionnaires are sent either by mail or via computerized systems, to a pre-selected group of experts. These questionnaires are designed to elicit and develop individual responses to the problems posed and to enable the experts to refine their views as the group’s work progresses in accordance with the assigned task. The group interaction is anonymous.

  1. Formation of a team to undertake and monitor a Delphi on a given subject.
  2. Selection of one or more panels to participate in the exercise. Customarily, the panelists are experts in the area to be investigated.
  3. Development of the first round Delphi questionnaire
  4. Testing the questionnaire for proper wording (e.g., ambiguities, vagueness)
  5. Transmission of the first questionnaires to the panelists
  6. Analysis of the first round responses
  7. Preparation of the second round questionnaires (and possible testing)
  8. Transmission of the second round questionnaires to the panelists
  9. Analysis of the second round responses (Steps 7 to 9 are reiterated as long as desired or necessary to achieve stability in the results.)
  10. Preparation of a report by the analysis team to present the conclusions of the exercise

Questions to ask before considering using the Delphi Method.

  • What kind of group communication process is desirable in order to explore the problem at hand?
  • Who are the people with expertise on the problem and where are they located?
  • What are the alternative techniques available and what results can reasonably be expected from their application?

Disadvantages/critiques

- Unscientific

- Illusory expertise: some of the experts may be poor forecasters. The expert tends to be a specialist and thus views the forecast in a setting which is not the most appropriate one.

- The simplification urge: Experts tend to judge the future of events in isolation from other developments. A holistic view of future events where change has had a pervasive influence cannot be visualized easily. At this point cross-impact analysis is of some help.

- Format bias: it should be recognized that the format of the questionnaire may be unsuitable to some potential societal participants.

My Opinion: I am reading a book called Renaissance E-learning for another course and it has a section of quotes that were made against the realization of certain inventions that exist today. Most of the quotes were made by experts in the field. Example, “I have travelled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won’t last out the year.” Editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall. 1957

This goes to show that sometimes experts are not necessarily good forecasters. However, I like the fact that it’s anonymous and it brings together the opinions’ of experts from several geographical locations. It has merits but, as with most Data collection methods should not be used alone and should be used with caution.

I think even though it's used primarily for forecasting it can also be used to develop solutions to complex organizational problems.


http://www.iit.edu/~it/delphi.html

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Questionnaire redesigned


http://www.freepatentsonline.com/7121830.html

This article describes an intervention to redesign questionnaires that measure human performance, primarily of those in leadership positions. The article offers some salient limitations to the current use of evaluation and frequency scales. The intervention/invention seems feasible to me but the last part is a bit statistical or more quantitative (so those among us who use this aspect of the left brain a bit more than me can review and tell me what you think :) .

Proposed arguments

  • The author distinguishes between evaluation scales and frequency magnitude. The former judge how well the individual performs and the latter tell how often the individual displays or engages in a behavior.
  • These scales often report two extreme findings the underdone and the overdone. He asserts that it easily identifies the underdone but assumes that high scores are good and people often make invalid inferences. For example, a high rating of 4 (“Frequently, if not always”) in response to the item “Speaks up in a group” using the frequency/magnitude scale could mean one of two things: either the individual speaks up appropriately often or that the individual dominates group discussions. Therefore, a high score does not mean that the individual is an effective communicator and group leader, etc. Again, there is no provision for the overdo extreme.”
  • These scales often do not provide the reasons why the individuals were given the ratings they received.
  • They are lopsided as they do not assess complimentary attitudes and characteristics.

Solution

  • Have a questionnaire that requires participants to rate along a continuum. Where the middle indicates balance, represented by a zero (0). The deficient end will be represented by increasingly negative (-) figures and the overdone end is represented by increasingly positive (+) figures.

← Too little (-1 or more)-The right amount (0)-Too much (+1 or mote) →

  • Second the questionnaire will assess complimentary characteristics and attitudes but will do so implicitly and the questions for matching characteristics will not be placed beside each other. (This is where the statistics comes in)

Human? Google?

It's amazing the search results that come up when one types in human performance in a search engine. Well for me I was looking for methods/guidelines/heuristics that were used to collect data on human performance. Most of the search results were not directly related to human beings but were related to technologies that were designed to function as human beings.

Another set were about Psychology or scientifically related which, I did not mind as it's good to learn from other fields but then they started using some statistical data to explain findings and I just went to another source. Among the scientific topics were human enhancements.


Second, am I the only one that's late? Did you know that Google had a program called Analytics.

http://www.google.com/analytics/index.html


http://64.233.179.110/analytics/tour/index_en-US.html

The New Google Analytics

Google Analytics has been re-designed to help you learn even more about where your visitors come from and how they interact with your site.

Discover. Share. Act.

The new Google Analytics makes it easy to improve your results online. Write better ads, strengthen your marketing initiatives, and create higher-converting websites. Google Analytics is free to all advertisers, publishers, and site owners.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Skill Measurement Systems: Technology to the rescue


Everything boils down to what’s your goal or objective, even developing a competency model.

“As a consultant, one of my main roles is to help program decision-makers establish a strategic linkage between the competency modeling program and key business objectives,” says Maul.

http://www.brainbench.com/pdf/STG_CompModeling.pdf, Article Title: Skills Measurement for Effective Competency Modeling—Lessons from the Field.

The article discusses June Maul’s experience with competency model and highlights the benefits of using skill measurement systems to help in the process of creating competency models. To do it manually can be long and cumbersome. Technology to the rescue :)

She recommends the following in order to successfully implement a competency model:


  • Planning—Link Program Implementation to Measurable Business Goals
  • Establish Communications—Convey Clear Goals to Create Champions and Motivate Participants
  • Create Incentives—Link Program Participation to Career Development