Thursday, January 29, 2009

CES products that might impact learning

The Consumer Electronics Show took place in Las Vegas January 8-11. The show is a yearly pilgrimage for those involved with the design, development, manufacturing, distribution and integration of consumer electronics products – or anyone who just likes to check out some pretty cool gadgets.

Consumer Electronics Show

I like to read the CES reviews on CNet each year to scope out products that could potentially impact the learning space. When’s the last time a technology used for learning was intended to do so? Podcasts, blogs, wikis, Flash and video games all started as communication and entertainment efforts that eventually impacted the learning industry. Authorware, LMSs, testing software and Captivate are a few exceptions, but mainly I look to entertainment and communication technologies to find the next “thing” that might impact the learning industry. Here are a few to keep an eye on.

3D TV and LCD
3D TVs and monitors can take learning immersion to another level. 3D TVs will be available at a consumer price and offered by LG in late 2009 or early 2010. Simple 3D technology has been around in monitors for a few years, but the market hasn’t penetrated beyond gamers. As the technology becomes less expensive and more immersive and consumers ask for the experience on the computer monitor after watching 3D TV in the home, maybe we’ll begin to see learning games and simulations in 3D – after someone creates a 3D authoring tool. If that happens, I’m sure we’ll see a few tutorials in 3D as well – yippee!

There was also new generation 3D LCD monitors at CES.;title;title

It’s basically a media object aggregator / repository. Can this technology be used to aggregate and manage learning objects, like it does media elements?

Minoru 3D Web Cam
This web cam has two cameras that deliver pictures to the view in 3D. It brings 3D video recording to the desktop and directly to the consumer. It does require 3D glasses to view the 3D video, but that’s a small price to pay. OK – everyone make sure they have their 3D glasses ready for the next web conference.

I’ve known about the Chumby for over a year now, but at CES Chumby and Samsung have partnered to create a digital photo frame that enables wireless updates from a photo sharing site like Flickr. Chumby’s wireless information transfer and open widget development community might provide opportunities for quick learning vignettes delivered to you right at your desk. Better yet, someone could synch the Chumby display with an email and calendaring program and display job aides and quick references based on the contents of email and activities scheduled in the calendaring program for some just-in-time learning.

Video Eyewear
Watch a private video display or experience augmented or mixed reality on mobile devices through video eyewear, all while seeing the world around you. And, the Vuzix glasses look cool too. Imagine sales people, medical technicians, machine operators, etc. being able to view training videos on demand, as needed . . . by putting on a pair of sunglasses.

TruMotion Remote
This technology comes from Sixense Entertainment, which first developed it to track the head positioning of F-16 and F-18 jet pilots. Imagine Nintendo's Wiimote, but with unlimited motion to mouse control. While the Wiimote is awesome, range of movement is basically limited to forward/back, up/down. The precise motion sensing of the TruMotion remote has implications for better mimicking “real world” experiences in learning games and simulations where precise motions are important. This one, along with desktop 3D is getting us closer to virtual reality.

Check out this demo of the remote in action -

Thought Control
You got it – “Thought Control.” This is way cool . . .and potentially creepy at the same time. Mattel’s Mindflex game let’s you control the height of a floating ball with your thoughts as you move it around a course. A headset measures your level of concentration. The more you concentrate, the more control you have over the floating ball.

As the CNet reviewer indicates, the novelty of this game will most likely fade quickly. But, this product could certainly impact learning as the technology evolves. Mattel indicates that future versions might respond to fear, anxiety, happiness or frustration. Imagine the technology as part of simulations or assessments to gauge where learners struggled (fear, anxiety, frustration) or felt confident (happiness). If nothing else, imagine the new version of the “happy sheet” (Level 1 course evaluation) with this technology applied.

There were hundreds of products at CES. I’ve only noted a few that I think might impact the learning industry. Check out the CES site on CNN - Which products listed here do you think will impact learning the most in the years to come? What other consumer electronic products are there that will impact learning?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Check out a post I wrote about Xcelsius over at the Gadget Cube Blog.

Xcelsius is a great program for visually representing data for cause and effect analysis. It was created for accountants and business analysts, but it has great promise for interactive analysis in learning solutions.

We introduce Xcelsius as a tool for visually representing data in the Visual Representation for Learning and Communication course in the Learning Technologies Master of Science program at Harrisburg University.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I'm not Nostradamus, but . . .

OK. I’m a little late, but better late than never. Most make their yearly predictions at the end of the previous year or at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. As a sad indicator of aging and my recent work habits (too much) and sleep habits (not enough) I was sleeping by 10 PM on New Year’s Eve. So, even though it’s already mid-January I’d like to note a few thoughts about the learning industry in 2009. Most of the perspective is from a corporate learning view, but as learning technologies become a bigger part of learning solutions in K-12 and higher education, these thoughts may be appropriate for those arenas as well.

Economic Down Turn = eLearning Boom?
As the New Year begins, I’ve seen a trend in touting eLearning as a solution for aching corporate budgets.

Economic Crisis Boosts eLearning
US Economy and eLearning in 2008 (and 2009)
Elearning helping SMEs through the economic downturn

That’s great . . . and maybe not so great! eLearning can be more cost efficient than traditional learning methods. It is one benefit that should be considered when making training delivery decisions and determining a learning strategy for an organization. However, it’s only one component. The main target is improved performance with efficient and effective learning solutions. If eLearning is the best way to deliver learning to improve performance and it will reduce the overall cost of training and development, then the increased use of eLearning is positive – regardless of the state of the economy.

My fear is that eLearning will be implemented strictly as a cost saving measure during this economic downturn as it was in the economic downturn early in the decade. What resulted were online manuals, not effective learning solutions. As companies sought to reduce training costs through eLearning, the emphasis was on the “e” and not the learning. Accountants were happy, but learners and managers weren’t. The online manuals were painfully linear, not engaging and often lengthy. Learners may have completed the embedded questions to test for understanding and passed the final quiz with 80% or better, but little improved performance occurred as a result of the eLearning.

It’s taken the industry a number of years to recover and regain the trust of learners and managers. Granted, the industry has advanced both in technique and technology since the early parts of the decade, but I fear that an emphasis on “saving money” through eLearning will result in a lack of focus on improved performance. I hope that advancements that have resulted in more engaging learning solutions through blended learning, games for learning, simulations and scenario-based learning solutions don’t give way to a trend back to online manuals as eLearning in an effort to “save money.” Instead I hope that in 2009 companies continue to realize they can “save money” with eLearning by engaging learners in learning solutions that are built to improve performance, not strictly to reduce costs.

Instructional Design
As the use of learning technologies proliferate in corporate learning and education, the role of instructional design and the importance of the instructional designer will continue to evolve. Skilled instructional designers will be especially important if organizations begin looking at eLearning as mainly a cost savings solution (as described above). The instructional designer can be the key to driving a learning solution that not only “saves money”, but also delivers learning and performance improvement results. As rapid development, games for learning, simulations, virtual worlds, social learning and various other new techniques and tools become options for all sizes of companies and learning solutions, the analysis and instructional strategy skills of the instructional designer will be important for selecting the best solution and applying it efficiently and effectively. Just because you have a hammer, doesn’t mean everything is a nail! (I hate myself for that one, but you get the point.)

Visual representation is a vital tool for communicating in today’s information-abundant world. Visuals are used to make the message relevant and easily understood when competing with a multitude of information from a wide variety of channels? Professionals in the learning industry (K-12 and corporate) must become better at using visuals to increase comprehension, motivation and memory. 2009 is the year of banning the bullet points! Check out these resources for more information about best practices for visual representation.

Visualization in Learning: 14 Case Studies that Emphasize Visual Thinking
Global community of visual thinkers
Slide:ology the blog and the book – resources for enhancing presentation with visuals
The Back of the Napkin – a process for visual representation

Products and services will continue to integrate in 2009. The past year resulted in a number of Learning Management Systems (LMS) adding social learning (wikis and blogs) components.

A few LMS’s with social learning components:

Meridian Global LMS

In the year and year’s to come virtual worlds, web conferencing, social learning and learning management may be composed all in one product. I for one would rather experience an LMS as learning objects in a virtual world than a list of text-based courses and course descriptions. Increased computing power, paradigm shifts in learning presentation, interoperable avatars and virtual objects, SCORM advancement, and faster Internet speed will all play a part in the evolution and integration of learning products into one complete learning system.

Matt Croslin’s Sloodle presentation on authorSTREAM

Virtual Conferences are the closest example I’ve seen of what I envision. Check out these virtual conference resources and examples.

Business Week article on virtual conferences
Ziff Davis Virtual Tradeshows
iCongo Live
Tips for Virtual Tradeshows

Marketing as a Component of the Learning Organization
Learning is a product. And, the competition for customers (yes, learners are customers) is becoming more competitive. Even in K-12, traditional public schools are beginning to compete with cyber schools and charter schools. In corporate learning, the competition is time, attention, motivation and accountability. In this competitive environment, learning organizations must aggressively market the product (learning solutions) to be successful. For K-12 this means showcasing student and teacher successes to the faculty, students, school board, and community on a regular basis through media-based solutions. In higher ed, course descriptions should describe and “sell” the course to prospective students. Otherwise, student testimonials, video highlights and project showcases can be marketing tools to increase enrollment in elective courses. In corporate learning, some courses warrant a marketing campaign (including a video commercial – gasp!) highlighting the features and benefits of the course to increase participation.

As you regard marketing as a component of learning implementation in 2009, consider that learners may want to know what features (bookmarking, social connections, note taking, simulations, games, etc.) are part of an online course, how the course will benefit them, what previous learners think about the course, and how previous learners performed in the course.

Well, those are some of my thoughts anyway. Regardless, the economy, new leadership in Washington, limited resources, increased competition and continued advances in learning technologies should make 2009 an interesting year in the learning evolution.

Evolution vs. Revolution?

Are we in the middle of a revolution in learning, as many would describe it, or an evolution? Revolutions happen fairly quickly and often have a great, immediate impact on all. Evolution happens slowly and often without impact to surroundings or in isolation of other related entities. Yeah, it’s definitely a learning evolution.

Fundamentally changing the American education system and learning and development in corporate culture has been an effort in the making for over 50 years. There have been changes, but education and learning and development are fundamentally the same as they were decades ago. The winds of change have begun to blow harder in recent years however. These changes are mainly fueled by technological advances, but advances in brain/human behavior research and environmental variables have also impacted the evolution.

Even though I feel I've driven the evolution more often than not in my first decade as an instructional technologist, I'm living proof that it's an evolution not a revolution. This is my first blog post. Even as someone who's been pushing for social learning as a component of corporate learning programs, I never found the relevance or the time for blogging myself. I've been an active participant in discussion forums and commented on other people's blogs, but have never taken the dive head first into social learning/networking.

I start the better part of my second decade in instructional technology as Director of Learning Technologies and Assistant Professor of Learning Technologies at Harrisburg University. In this new role I hope to drive the evolution, more often than not, through curriculum development, teaching, speaking, writing, research and product development. I’ll write in this blog to share and reflect on my thoughts, experiences, findings and design and development efforts in the hope that what I learn and share can advance the evolution – an evolution whose apex is efficiently and effectively designed learning, learning that is optimized through technology and media, and learning that engages and inspires learners to improve their skills, change their attitudes and share their knowledge.