Archive for November 17th, 2009


Following is a largely unedited version of conference notes that I have just distributed internally where I work. There’s a lot. As a blog post it’s probably pretty crap – too long, too much scrolling, but as a record of the event, and a method for me to retain my learning, it is just dandy, thank you. Hopefully you, my brave reader, can get similar value from my scribblings, but I make no apology for the size or the content of this blog post. It is what it is, and is for me and my fellow DevLearners first and foremost.

You will note there is no mention of all the extr-curricular learning, from the bar, the lunch table, the karaoke etc. *that* would take an entire book!!!

During the week of November 9th, 2009 I attended two conferences in San Jose. The first was the Adobe Learning Summit, hosted by Adobe. The second was DevLearn, run by the eLearning Guild. Usually when I attend conferences I make some scribbled notes on various pieces of paper, usually the notepad provided by the conference, and then promptly misplace them when I return home.

This year, I decided to actively take notes using Twitter. When I looked over the notes that I had taken, I realised a couple of things
• There’s a lot of great stuff here that helps me remember more from the presentations I attended than I might otherwise recall
• Being forced into 140-character messages, I had to constrain each ‘tweet’ to a complete thought whenever possible. Sometimes this was a bad thing – I would miss some good info because I was busy re-crafting a message. Other times it was great, as it concentrated my thoughts into being a lot more specific than I typically might be.
• Hundreds of other people were doing the same thing, at the same time. All of their notes are online and searchable. Someone is compiling a ‘tweet book’ of all the tweets posted about DevLearn that week.

I also realised that if I wanted to write ‘proper’ notes from the tweet-scribbling I took, I’d be working on them for days. So instead I decided to compile all of my notes into individual blog posts. I also made the choice to not rewrite the notes as proper sentences and paragraphs. People used to reading Twitter will be comfortable reading these notes, and even if you are not used to Twitter, you should have no difficulty following along. Ideally the slides from each presentation should accompany these notes, but there’s already enough here for now!
I also realised that if I didn’t attack this task all in one go, I probably would never finish it. As you can see from this post, there’s a lot of notes.

Lastly, it would still be a lot of work to compile this as separate blog posts, so in the interest of saving my typing fingers, not your eyeballs, I decided to put the notes out ‘as is’ .

If you have the time to read, or just skim through these notes you should find a lot of useful information – there’s also lots of web links to additional information. If you do manage to look through these, I welcome your comments. I want to know if this format is useful to you, or if you would prefer more traditional, legible notes published in proper paragraphs etc.


I personally think this is stunning! Don’t underestimate the potential of this and any other tool that enables a backchannel to your training!

Adobe demoed a widget for Captivate that allows Twitter to be embedded inside Captivate lessons. Some benefits:-
• Twitter widget can associate comments with specific slides
• Can hook up to Yammer too – Yammer is an internal Twitter-like client that allows 2.0 interaction behind the company firewall – safe, secure conversations not visible to the public.
• Lets user report issues to moderator, or ask questions.
• Posts made about the lesson are always available – so users can see the history of the comments made, including questions/answers/resolutions/links to more information etc.
• Quick and easy to set up
• Light – only a small (less than 100k) addition to the overall Captivate movie size.
• No cost

This session described CITI’s experience in creating a learning solution that was orchestrated through SharePoint. Basically it was about how they customise standard SharePoint features and functionality to provide a more interactive ‘online school’ feel to their learning, including the use of discussion, calendar reminders and more. I didn’t find it particularly enlightening, but they did share a CD that contained all the code for their customisations. Perhaps that will be useful for me down the line.
• “not everybody at CITI has access to email. They don’t need it.” Say what now????
• Apparently some people find video hard to present in SharePoint. I use flash video all the time in SharePoint. easy Peasy. AVI etc also easy, but usually much bigger file size.
• We got all of the info we need to go back and create this in our own SharePoints! Thank you Citi for free resource CD!

This session described the importance of usability in learning. Main outcomes/information:-
• remembertheuser.com – blog with useful usability tips
• Nielsen’s work on usability and web design is a useful start-point, but be prepared to disagree and justify your own choice – in reference to Homepage Usability book
• a good number of people for usability testing of new content – 5 to 10 representative users.
• when creating something new, take design out of the prototype process so you can concentrate on usability, not colours etc
• Online test your colors for usability “colorblind filter” http://colorfilter.wickline.org/
• Photoshop has tools built-in that you can use to test your designs for colour-blind viewers – see my previous blog post
• for pallets – learn to love Adobe Kuler http://kuler.adobe.com
• Many Lessons exhibit poor use of fonts and colours – don’t go crazy with fancy fonts, moving fonts. Use sparingly for effect
• @rebecka7: I keep hearing over & over again…get your course/training RIGHT ENOUGH for your deadline and then improve.
http://bit.ly/aYr99 Articulate showcases. Beware, 1st one is great, but suffers from cognitive overload
• If it is slow and unpleasant, people are likely to go away and not use it.
• Usability – “Is it *EASY to use for the *purpose it was intended”
See also this fantastic presentation on usability from AdobeMax last month http://max.adobe.com/online/session.213 by Anthony Franco http://anthonyfranco.wordpress.com/

Leo presented generally on his thoughts about mass media and how ‘social’ media is a great benefit to us all. He talked a lot about how he got his start in radio and television etc. Following notes are just bullet-point snippets from his presentation.

• Looks like Leo has no slides – unusual. Refreshing. [later he explained that he finds the visuals a distraction. Guess, being a radio man at heart, he doesn’t enjoy the huge value that quality slides can bring.]
• He says mass media is a 20th century invention that is breaking down
• and that’s great because now we are replacing it with ‘new media’ with new technologies and attitudes
• prior to Mass Media, companies advertised through things like Sears Catalogue
• “the more people you can subvert with your” underhand marketing the more money you can make
• RT @GuildMeister: “If you want to know about water… Don’t ask the fish” Laporte [I think this was in reference to asking mass media about the state of mass media, I think]
• “brand is the refuge of the ignorant” every advertiser knows this. Smart people don’t care about brand, not swayed by advertising. So advertisers don’t typically target the ‘smart’ audience. Stress – typically
• … the only way to get people to buy stuff is to trick them 🙂
• which means advertisers were not keen to advertise to smart people on a niche tech tv show like This Week in Tech. Only smart people are watching – says Leo. Hence his show didn’t last too long – too expensive to run, not enough viewers, too few advertisers. Fix one or two of those three and it may have made it.
• so Leo started his own show online http://techguylabs.com/radio/pmwiki.php
• re: YouTube – there’s too much crap there. How can you watch it all? Well, you can’t. But there’s lots of great stuff to find
• but the thing is “80% of everything is crap” 😉 but that leaves plenty room for ‘good’, ‘great’, ‘excellent’, ‘interesting’ etc The next Spielberg might just be found on YouTube. Or Britney Spears or Colbert etc.
• Leo claims are our kids more cynical about adverts than we are/were? “4 out of 5 Doctors agree .. give me a break!” I don’t agree. I say *some* kids are more cynical, and surely *Leo’s* kids are…
• Re. social networking, social media: it’s got to be a conversation – passive consumption is no longer enough. (Maybe because the ‘2.0 we’ are cynical about mass media honesty)
• some people get scared by the internet because they see opinions they don’t like or understand …
• … but that’s a good thing because more eyes are being opened to new ideas.
• Corporate America wants to change the Internet to meet their needs, to fit in with their “we rule” model. This does not meet the needs of the consumers of Web
• Leo then spoke about the ACTA treaty http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Counterfeiting_Trade_Agreement and how it is gaining traction, in legal terms, due to the weight of Mass Media being thrown after it. e.g. if you are *accused* 3 times of piracy, you get internet service cut off, and your name circulated to prevent access elsewhere
• this is the ACTA treaty, adopted in a few places like maybe Korea, France. Not in the best interests of consumers! It is much more wide-reaching than just anti-piracy (so says Leo)
• go to SaveTheInternet.com for more info. Michael Geist blog too http://www.michaelgeist.ca/
• Question to Leo – what do you think of Rupert Murdoch’s plan to close all News International web sites to Google etc. Answer: Murdoch is a dinosaur – representing the old way. Big media corps can’t hack the openness of the internet and want to subvert
• Murdoch needs a new business model. Hard to do. Kodak did it … went to Digital. May never be so big as they were but changed anyway

• Twitter is a symptom of a larger trend: the Internet Nervous System. Millions of resources that we filter with the help of our friends
• Q to Leo “what are your thoughts on short attention span of the audience? ” No problem, because Leo’s shows are engaging so audience wants more
• Observation (heard phrased in many different was during DevLearn) reading ‘everything’ on Twitter is a waste of time. Just read what’s going on now – treat it like a river where you go down to drink or to bathe a few times a day or once or twice a week.
• Still in reference to attention span: ideal podcast length is the duration of your commute. and the good news is commutes are getting longer

This session was supposed to talk about Wave and eLearning, but the original presenter could not make the conference. Instead, the presenter was one of the developers of Wave, and he was more interested in telling us about Wave in general. Useful intro, but not much about eLearning applications. Notes below are unedited.
• if you want a WAVE invite, you just might possibly get one if you come to this session. Maybe
• if you don’t like the web interface for Wave, you can create your own.
• Q What is Gears? Browser Plug-in that helps browser store stuff offline. Built into Chrome
• everyone who is in the room at this very moment is going to get Wave invite
• wonder if its coincidental that a flush of people just came in …
http://www.getwaveboard.com to get an iPhone app sometime soon … ? But you can use Wave on the iPhone anyway by going to wave.google.com … just kinda s l o w
• ultimately companies will be able to run their own wave server – behind firewall if they want
• current issue – notification system not officially designed yet – so no notifications, You must manually check for updates
• cannot currently remove a participant from a wave
• Advanced permissions (ACLs) not yet included so no tiered security features
http://www.completewaveguide.com for full wave info
• private blip shows up in different colour, and is hidden from everyone … it’s a note to self. You can invite others…..
• … for back channel or private consult.
• private invitee cannot see the rest of the Wave, unless already invited. Will see only private part until invited to main
• Q “Will you be able to remove someone that you didn’t personally invite to the Wave?”
• answer: well removing someone opens a can of worms… do you delete participant? His contributions? His edits?
• … hence remove not enabled yet. Someone needs to figure a way to knit the worms into neat order.
• Q “am I able to decline a Wave invite?” A. “new feature today, you can click ‘unfollow’ button to unsub from unwanted wave”
• parallel feature is new explicitly “follow” button. Unfollow does not remove your contributions.
• Q “what’s the business model for final delivery?” maybe market place for gadgets and robots. No ads yet no plans to add them
• Q “how does Wave integrate with Android?” no special integration yet. Runs fine, but a little slow. No concrete plans

Michael Allen, the man who created/invented Authorware, has started developing a new tool. This presentation was his opportunity to introduce the tool to the eLearning developer community, explain his reasons for creating it, and to get feedback on his direction. Following are my notes, with some small expansion.
• discussing a new authoring tool.
• Driver – “it doesn’t seem like it’s less expensive to do learning activities than it was when Authorware came out.”
• Driver – “for us and our clients, current tools are inadequate” – output of great stuff is still too expensive
• Driver – “e.g. Flash takes too long to learn, and Flash-based apps are inflexible”
• Driver – “majority of courses are glorified (or not) PowerPoint slides because of tool limitations (in part)
• Aside – Courselab free learning development tool http://bit.ly/heTOx
• “if your goal is page turners, current tools are adequate. Sometimes page turners are fine. Just can’t think of when”
• Buzzword – motivation meaningful memorable
• Allen spoke a lot about using sketch outlines to define your early design, so that features and functionality can be concentrated on, with final design being plugged in later. Separating design and functionality. Based on book by: Bill Buxton “Sketching User Experiences” the power of sketching your design
• if you try to make the design look too pretty (complete) too early in the process it stifles innovative design
• tool – codenamed Zebra
• Zebra metaphor is wiring/linking properties/actions like building a circuit. Looks like it could quickly get messy –
• all file properties save as xml. So you could tweak xml too if that floats your boat
• @visualrinse I really like this. But I want to see the newer version to see how pasteboard works etc. Scalability hasn’t been covered …
• messy authored app diagram view can be cleaned up/organised by grouping, like using Authorware maps
• we can sign up to get access to early builds at Allen’s booth in the expo.
• to be added – coverflow-like paging interface during authoring
• you can add multiple flags to ‘run from flag’
• you can create your own template/widget library to drop in … millions of icons? 😀

Title should be self-explanatory. Representatives from Brandon Hall and other respected research institutes discussed how they see eLearning being affected by emerging technologies. This was an interesting, but dry discussion. A few gems emerged, as can be seen below.
• primary barrier to web 2.0 adoption in enterprise is inability to link back to business objectives. Contrast standard perception that resistance is about security/control!
• to successfully implement internal wikis: start small, have solid goals. Document goals as business case for executive level
• the attendees are not seeing a drop-off of ‘traditional’ elearning attendance as social learning grows = social is additive to current list of learning tools
• huge growth in the use of 2.0 technologies in recruiting and on-boarding.
• panel sees succession management – knowledge transfer – as huge growth area for social learning
• Wagner – anyone who thinks they can be successful at 2.0 in corporate without a business case is wrong.
• Wagner: think of our digital learning efforts as products (as opposed to tools, I guess?)
• “are you training your users in the use of 2.0 tools?” yes to this is key indicator of best in class 2.0 util/implementation
• good alumni networking is huge indicator on successful 2.0 learning success [extends and maintains traditional networking, like Facebook for grownups]
• Wagner “how do you like to learn?” questions are a red herring – preference and performance not correlated
• Q “what’s the bottom-line most effective way to utilise 2.0 techs for learning?” panel says “it depends”
• McDonalds has great free webinar and research showing how successful informal learning can be
• bestbuy 401k video on YouTube: great example of informal, user-created learning http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VqpKgTmkHIk .
• Q “if you were a venture capitalist, what emerging tech would you invest in?”
• A Wagner “rich internet applications with annotation attached”
• A “anything that allows annotations to be attached” – user-tagged/enhanced training
• A the application of perfectly-working semantic search”
• A “augmented reality”
• A “competency-driven learning” “workforce planning”
• closing thought – call it talent management instead of eLearning – it’s easier to sell.

I’ve blogged about Ruth’s research and presentations before. The reader is probably also familiar with her work. Ruth’s presentation was very fast-paced, and packed full of facts and figures. I wasn’t able to capture all of the numbers or even a fraction of the great content, but, frankly, that is available in many places already. The notes below are what I did get, and typically represent what I felt might be useful for us to apply in our learning.

• Know what to do and why. Participate in communities of practice – in other words, don’t work in isolation, learn from your peers, especially outside of your organisation.
• “content covered is not guaranteed to be content learned” – just because it’s in the manual, or in the training, that is no guarantee that your learners know the stuff.
• how much did we spend on eLearning last year? about $134 Billion. Huge, important industry, but somehow not glamorous. Don’t underestimate the power of the industry, or the amount of growth ahead of it. Expect slow steady growth, not the explosion that has been predicted for over a decade.
• what is the reality about learning styles? Ruth says there is no significant correlation between self-reporting of style vs. learning performance by style
• college students are typical white mice of learning style studies – research professors get easy access to them
• … which is interesting, How does that research compare to how older learners perform? Can we even find out?
• learning can be better when we have words and visuals compared to words alone.
• but for whom are the visuals more important? Typically for those who don’t already have firm understanding of subject matter
• Are all visuals equal? No – visuals that are irrelevant to the subject are not helpful, and can be harmful to learning.
• beware of adding too much anecdotal or supportive info, as it can disrupt learning goals. Stick to the point.
• or, in Ruth’s words “learning is better when extraneous details are omitted”
• is there a correlation between liking (high ratings) and learning? Yes, but it’s minimal. Too small to rely on student ratings… to evaluate the quality and effectiveness of the training.
• Text plus narration that reads the text is the least effective method for achieving learning
• Combinations of text/audio/images all better. Audio plus supportive text (i.e. associated bullets, but not parroted words) is most successful
• Text plus matching audio – redundancy principle. Also a form of cognitive overload. Audio plus supportive text = better
• more on learning styles. We are *all* visual learners, and we can all benefit from accompanying audio
• There are exceptions – novice users, for instance, respond better to text+audio that match
• when using visuals, place the image as close to the supportive text as possible – contiguity principle. Think newspaper image with description underneath, vs. textbook, where picture is on one page, but the explanatory text is only seen when you turn the page. Disassociation of content deflects learning.
• are animations better? Depends: simple diagram often be more effective – animation may be too much info, moving pic hard to study line drawings vs. 3D drawings …
• … especially true if you have a series of stills vs. animation
• what is more effective learning? Less is more. Sketch graphics very effective.
• or animations if you have to learn a procedure – like origami or knot tying? animations are better when complex motion involved
• This is because we have a [postulated] ‘mirror neuron”; we are adapted to learn by copying, so if we have animated instruction our natural learning stimulated
• … and this overrides possible cognitive overload. May not even have to see hands manipulating, just animation process
• How to learn/apply guidelines, which is better? Text, video, animation . Animation and video best.
• stills vs. animation: Stills for how things work, animation for motor skills (mirror), Dynamic visuals for social skills (video animation)
• Closing thought – don’t waste time on learning styles. Meaning, concentrate on quality learning methods instead.

Andrew MacAfee talked around the content of his book, Enterprise 2.0. The book discusses how corporates can harness all that social stuff that is out there and turn it into a powerful corporate resource. When many companies are resisting the (apparent) anarchy of the Web, it is interesting to see this take on how it can be best utilised to the benefit of corporates.
The following notes are sparse – Andrew had a lot of great things to say, and I failed to capture most of them as I only had my phone with me during his session. Actually some of the comments came from other people – part of the open conversation that went on live during the presentation.
I bought the book, so maybe I’ll have a useful summary at a later date.

MacAfee started out talking about how Twitter and other 2.0 apps have sparked a new altruism at work and at play. This sparked off a brief side conversation between me, “KoreenOlbrish” and “carmean” on Twitter.
Web/Ent 2: Creates phenomenon of altruism. People want to help each other. In real time. ([corporates should] Stop obsessing about risks. Altruism trumps)
Yeah but web-based altruism has been around for decades with bulletin boards etc. Now it’s ‘mainstream’
Lots of altruism has been around, I think @amcafee claims new tools make it …not just easy…but integral. No?
2.0 reduces the cost of altruism to near zero 10 seconds to read and respond, instead of longer newsgroup/email process
For a guy who talks so much about web 2.0, most of what McAfee is talking about is people. Love it!
Isn’t 2.0 *all about* people??

• According to MacAfee we are an uber-geeky crowd because we’ve heard of Nupedia (wikipedia predecessor)
• Nupedia devolved into Wikipedia, removed all barriers to posting (Nupedia had 7 layers of bureaucracy, which choked it http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nupedia) and then it took off
http://www.innocentive.com great place for outsourcing crowdsourcing http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crowdsourcing
• RT @mrch0mp3rs: People are motivated by a weird mix of different things. Stop questioning it – use it. [Me: yeah they are smarter than I]
• MacAfee explains how groups of people can solve problems better and faster that individuals or small teams. Web-based ‘groups’ can be massive crowds. Don’t be fooled into thinking that ‘groupthink’ is always perfect, though. Just be aware that it can be very very good, like Wikipedia.
• RT @davemerwin: #dl09 a lot of what MacAfee is saying is in a book called Wisdom Of Crowds. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wisdom_of_Crowds
• Prediction Markets more accurate than smart guy with heaps-O-statistics and Big Computer http://bit.ly/Yi42D
• RT @roninchef: @mrch0mp3rs Reputation Currency it’s called Whuffie – http://bit.ly/15GtEF #dl09
• Personal observation: this is the most active back channel I’ve seen at any function. Geek crowds rock! [there was a lot more twitter chat than shown here!]
• Great question from Tridib Chowdhry: Isn’t it useful in enterprises to open up to alternative viewpoints and allow them to bubble up?
• @TerrenceWing I’d say “potential wisdom and strength of the crowd”

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