Showing posts with label mobile learning. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mobile learning. Show all posts

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Have chance, will learn

EdSurge reported this great story from Ethiopia that demonstrates further the power of the motivated learner:

HAVE CHANCE, WILL LEARN: Amazing preliminary results reported by One Laptop Per Child around a bold experiment happening in rural Ethiopia. Several months after dropping off solar-powered Motorola Xoom tablets, 20 first grade-age children have managed their way from finding the on/off switch to hacking the preventative software installed by OLPC. No instructions. No guidelines. No teachers. Just a single technician to retrieve data from the devices each week. "Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, found the on-off switch … powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child, per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs in the village, and within five months, they had hacked Android," reported OLPC’s founder, Nicholas Negroponte at the recent EmTech Conference. Results are hardly conclusive, but the development raises interesting questions around how and why we plan learning objectives (teacher control group anyone?). The story reminds us, too, of Sugata Mitra's experiment of giving village children in India access to a computer via a hole in the wall. For now we'll simply smile about the new learning opportunities enabled by technology.

I'm sure Negroponte will be referring to this again when he keynotes at Learning Technologies Conference, London in January 2013.

Monday, 12 March 2012

#SLCONF 2012–Social Learning in action

Last Thursday I attended the #SLCONF Social Learning Conference in London. It largely practiced what it preached – in that it proved to be a highly social discussion and effective forum for sharing ideas and experiences with an experienced group of professionals and practitioners.


Good use was made of alternative formats and seeding conversation between groups. I think the fact that this was a relatively small group of people (80 odd?) helped ensure that everyone had a voice and an opportunity to contribute.

You can find Martin Couzins review of the event here which covers the key presentations made by Nick Shackleton-Jones (BBC and BP experiences), Tim Drewitt (Eversheds) and Priya Banati and Clare Norman (Accenture). Also Jon Ingham’s audio review of the event.

Ben Betts facilitated a session on Mobile Learning which managed to yield a list of 96 Mobile Learning App Ideas. Not all unique by any stretch, many already covered by existing apps out there, but it demonstrated that there is a real appetite for mobile learning support. There was a subsequent discussion around the difficulties of developing for mobile given the fragmented platforms and software environments, as well as the typical corporate security challenges currently raised by most IT departments. This led to the question of tools that can simplify this process, and Epic’s GoMo Learning platform struck a particular chord, given it’s ability to enable non-technical people to build learning apps – both web and native apps – to all major platforms (Apple iOS, Android, Blackberry) and form factors (smartphone, tablet, whatever next comes along).

Twitter adds value

I was an active user of Twitter to capture key points and contribute my own ideas as they arose from the discussions which I will summarise here. In conferences where this type of immediate social sharing and reflection is welcomed and integrated within the format, then it can add value for all participants and the wider virtual audience. By breaking down the traditional “lecture” format of most conferences, a much more interactive experience is provided for the those present, while offering virtual observers the opportunity to contribute further references and comment that can be fed back into the live event. Indeed, I benefitted immediately as a late train meant I physically missed the first 15 minutes but could contribute straight away with those tweeting and could enter the debate in sync with the room.

So what were my main contributions? Italics indicate some additional explanatory notes:

@shackletonjones talking about #sociallearning and his struggle with understanding what really underpins effective #learning

Emotion is key element #learning RT @bbetts: @shackletonjones I'm a fan of the affective context, check it out #slconf (Nick is right to focus on the emotional connection to lasting learning impact and memory formation)

70:20:10 model misused and misunderstood. Agree with this.

#informal #learning driven by culture. However technology beginning to influence culture. (Just see the effect of social media on the Arab Spring, marketing/advertising, entertainment and increasingly as the primary medium of social interaction especially amongst young demographics).

@shackletonjones another video you can't live without!… (How to peel Garlic in less than 10 seconds) Nick shared a video related to breakfast cereal.

50%+ millennials are contributors not just passive consumers - key difference to productivity generated by #some #sociallearning (what this  means is that we are on the cusp of a big surge in creative productivity that if harnessed appropriately will lead to a huge acceleration in innovation itself but more importantly its real world application and sharing of what works and what doesn’t).

Focus on content generation strategy - need to foster contributors. Go to where the activity already is. Integrate. Seed & excite. (a pithy shorthand for acknowledging the need for some quality content and contribution that will stimulate a wider audience to participate in an authentic and sustained manner).

BP theHub being demo'd - seeded with 800 video clips from across the organisation globally. Works on iPad as well. Good reach. (good example of the Seed & Excite principle).

Unisys found that 3 min leadership videos generated more behaviour change than a 5 day exec training programme. Properly evaluated. (Will now follow this up with Nick for the full case study).

Learning styles brought up and @shackletonjones rightly doesn't believe in it. (that old chestnut came up again…so I promptly clarified…)

Learning PREFERENCES exist but the way we learn most effectively is broadly the same for everyone. The rest is about individual habits, skills, motivation (emotional engagement). (asked the wider HR community for comment)

Thx for retweet see my blog for more RT @CaribThompson: #slconf Lars mantra @larshyland "Less learning more often" (A long standing truism which is only getting more and more relevant)

For those interested I mentioned Lynda Gratton book The Shift - how the world of work is changing. (This book demonstrates the forces in the world that are changing the way in which we work, collaborate, communicate – namely the shift to the East, the disintermediation and connectivity of technology which circumvents traditional hierarchical models.)

@mikecollins WARNING social netWORK AHEAD > quite apt this is published today given the great stuff coming out of #slconf (good contribution from Mike Collins at RBS Insurance injected into the discussion even though he wasn’t physically there.)

Discussed permission and context key to successful mobile learning support - Just in Time, context sensitive and valued content. #mlearning seen as supplementary to other learning support. (There is always a need for a variety of methods delivering interaction over an extended period of time – another of my mantras – Campaign not Course  comes to mind. People liked this at the event.)

Content, Connection, Collaboration, Community - Accenture model for building sharing culture #some #sociallearning (as Ben Betts pointed out “a lot of Cs”)

Accenture case study and book here #slconf


In Summary

A good conference which had the courage to allow a less structured conversation to emerge, collectively generating a lot of practical value amongst the participants.

If you also attended, I’d welcome your comments on this post.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Augmenting reality - technology is going invisible

Here's my article, just published on Trainingzone as the headline story, exploring how augmented reality and mobile technology promise to radically improve learning effectiveness. Would value your comments and feedback.

The pace of technological innovation continues to surprise. This week reports suggest that, in theory at least, it will be possible to create new materials that divert light around themselves to render objects invisible. The magical cloaks of Harry Potter (also in the news this week), no longer seem so far-fetched.

The technology of today, however, is also striving for invisibility. It's getting smaller, more integrated and embedded into the world around us. As a result the way in which we interact with it is changing in fundamental ways. This Christmas, one of those must-have gifts is Kinect, the add-on for Microsoft's X-Box game console. Kinect drops the need for a physical controller meaning the user can play a game simply by waving their arms, hands, legs or any other body part for that matter. The reported levels of engagement this generates are profound as the suspension of disbelief, so core to game-play, is deeper and more sustained.

This gesture-based control is all around us, on our smartphones, tablets, touchscreen laptops, TVs and as things develop, on any appliance or surface that needs a communications interface of some sort. But that's not all, technology is becoming wearable in the form of heads-up display glasses that let you watch movies on what feels like a virtual 52" TV screen, cameras that record everything you say and do, storing it in your 'life-cache' or streaming it straight to Facebook for all to enjoy. All this breaks down the barriers between real and virtual worlds.

In fact we can 'augment reality' with applications on our phones that can automatically annotate the world around you (as seem through your camera lens) with useful, contextualised information that helps make better sense of your surroundings and so inform the choices you make. While many of these applications (Layar and Google Goggles are two such examples) are entertainment-oriented and aimed at promoting social sharing or marketing, the additional potential for learning and performance support cannot be ignored. For example, a neat barcoding technology called QR codes, can be used to tag a physical space and with the simple process of pointing your camera phone at the code can automatically call up information stored online that is relevant to that physical place. This is a great way to help new staff navigate around their new workplace, to provide specific health and safety advice for instance or explain how shared equipment works (removing paper jams from the printer perhaps?). Direct links to short 'show me' videos or photos can quickly answer problems or questions and save time for all concerned.
As technology becomes transparent – invisible even – we can seamlessly integrate it into our everyday actions, providing valid access to supporting information and guidance. For example, BMW created an intriguing proof of concept video demonstrating how a car mechanic can use heads-up display glasses to guide them through maintenance procedures on a car. The benefits are tremendous as it means a mechanic can service a wider variety of models and handle what are increasingly complex engine systems. It reduces the pressure for "just-in-case" training and emphasises "just-in-time" support. Much of this is not conceptually new. For example I was involved in a similar project in 1992 for Iveco to design a very similar performance support system for truck mechanics which used video to show how to dismantle, fix and reassemble engine systems. What is different is that the technology now is faster, connected, cost-effective, mobile, even wearable.
The smartphones and games consoles of today set new precedents for those of us working within learning and development. We can start to break out of the relatively static classroom and design learning support that is location-aware, tapping into shared expertise at the time it has most context and give immediate support on actions taken. This immersive experience is more memorable, actionable and potentially removes the issue of training transfer back into the workplace – there is no need to transfer as you are essentially already there.
The design implications are significant and challenge the more structured approach to instruction. Indeed game design offers a powerful motivational model that encourages repeated practice and mastery. Levelling up and achievement systems successfully compel us to try and better ourselves each time. Some of these game environments are becoming incredibly rich and sophisticated, and are hugely effective learning environments, accurately simulating specific real world scenarios.

It is no coincidence that the military, medical and aviation fields are leading in this area given the life and death nature of their respective fields. But as the technology becomes more accessible, this is spilling into other areas such as construction, health and safety, customer service, performance management, contract negotiation and other real-world, complex interactions that many more of us engage in. These simulations don't necessarily have to involve high end 3D graphics and complex artificial intelligence. By using technology to augment the real world around us, we can even more realistically recreate specific situations to test and train responses, working together with the support of other peers and experts, even if they are not physically present alongside us.
This is not to say this is entirely for the better. There is always a need for balance and blend. But being able to economically extend our support beyond the natural constraints of the scheduled training event in a classroom can deliver far more effective learning experiences and deliver significant performance improvements to the individual and organisation as a whole.

Monday, 5 October 2009

A mobile future for communications and learning

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that the Handheld Learning conference is a far more vibrant community of Twitter users than the recent WOLCE attendees. You can get a great sense of the presentations, even get to review them and discover new things in ways which seem almost better than actually attending yourself.

One great find was this recent video put together to support the MOCOM 2020 vision that describes the impact that mobile communication will have over the next ten years. Feels persuasive - what do you think?:

Thanks to Louise Duncan for pointing me to this. She's a real pioneer in the use of mobile learning in the classroom and has valuable experience using the iPod Touch as an effective learning device.

In the next few years, these pilots will begin to move much further into the mainstream. Perhaps then we'll cling less tightly to the classroom's four walls as being the gold standard of an effective learning environment.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Black Swans - Barriers to Effective Learning

Here's an article I wrote a few weeks back for Learning Technologies magazine which has just been published. It's a fairly long post but if you make it to the end I would welcome your comments.


When unpredictable change becomes the only constant, learning on your own terms is an essential survival skill in these turbulent times, says Lars Hyland.

The unthinkable is happening. In just a matter of months, the financial upheaval in the US, UK and the rest of the world has shaken us to the core. What we once believed to be immovable - rock solid even - reveals itself in all its brittle fragility. It could be described as a financial "black swan" (a term coined by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his book of the same name), a large impact, hard-to-predict and rare event beyond the realm of normal expectations. A black swan being a metaphor for something that could not exist or happen since all swans are believed to be white.

While this has a certain air of Douglas Adams' infamous "Infinite Improbability Drive" there is a growing sense that the seeming randomness of change around us is just the beginning of a fundamental reappraisal of the way we do things in many areas of modern life. That includes the way we learn, both in the workplace and within our education systems.

The rate of change really does feel like it is accelerating, which means just keeping up takes new levels of determination. Crucially, if efforts are not to become all consuming, we need new strategies and tools that help us to cope and prosper. Learning using traditional methods in this increasingly turbulent climate is rapidly losing its effectiveness and for that matter its audience. Embracing and harnessing new technology is simply essential. The good news is that while old institutional structures are crumbling around us, so too are the barriers to new ways of learning, sharing, interacting with our peers, colleagues, family and friends.

So what and where are these barriers? How are they changing? And what is its impact on learning in the workplace?

E-learning benefits finally understood

So with recession ringing in our ears, the traditional cut back in budgets does not appear to be brutally focused on training cost centres in contrast to days gone by. There is an emerging trend towards more effective, longer lasting investments in e-learning and performance support where the core benefits of a consistent and persistent learning experience can be offered to a large, dispersed group of people. Multimodal learning (or blended learning if you prefer) is much more common, where different mixes of media are used to create a more varied, engaging and impactful learning experience. E-learning is a core component now rather than a novel add-on.

Attention and persuasion critical to engagement

In an "always-on" environment there is a growing risk that we are becoming increasingly "time-poor" and beginning to suffer from an ever more fragmented attention span. This has its benefits and its distractions. Increasing numbers of people are happy to manage a continuous stream of SMS, emails and voice calls that challenge the effectiveness of the traditional "course" format. So rather than persevere with models that are at odds with the way we actually cognitively assimilate and consolidate new knowledge and skills, we can now provide instant and contextualised access to learning support at the point of need, wherever that may be. Where individuals take more responsibility for their learning and development, they will vote with their feet - and rightly so - if they feel their time is being wasted. Communications are critical in persuading learners to spend their valuable time and attention on a learning experience.

The Invisible LMS

While bespoke e-learning development is on the ascent, there are still many organisations offering employees libraries of blandly designed content on systems that make it difficult to find and use. The eLearningGuild in the US commented in its LMS 360 Report 2008 that learning management systems score some of the lowest satisfaction scores they've seen in any research report. As the emphasis rightly moves towards the learning experience, the supporting platforms must become transparent - if not invisible - and present no unnecessary steps or hindrance to engaging with content, tools or people.
For more than a year, Brightwave has helped stimulate the trend amongst its clients for the provision of a learning platform that puts usability and accessibility at the forefront. This signals a move towards targeted learning portals in the workplace that can present learning content in a focused, context-sensitive manner.

Universal broadband access

Everyone in the European Union could have, by right, broadband access by 2010. The European Commission's Universal Service Obligations (USO) demand that all citizens who want them should be able to get access to basic telephone services including a fixed line of sufficient quality to "permit functional internet access". "High-speed internet is the passport to the Information Society and an essential condition for economic growth," says Viviane Reding, EU Telecoms Commissioner. But what about the other 3 billion people who have no viable access to the internet? Google, together with John Malone, the cable television magnate, and HSBC, have set up O3b Networks to put up 16 low orbit satellites connecting mobile masts to fast broadband networks, and in the process bring the cost down by 95 per cent. If these are operational in 2010 as planned, then it marks a huge step forward in ubiquitous access and for driving the use of the internet for learning and knowledge in the parts of the world with the most to gain.

In the workplace, we are already seeing the liberating effects of broadband access encouraging rapidly increasing levels of teleworking (admittedly after a slow start). According to the CBI, 46 per cent of UK businesses now offer teleworking to help with working-hours flexibility, reducing carbon footprint, downsizing pressure on corporate workspaces while at the same time increasing productivity. With more distance working comes distance learning. E-learning support and online collaboration tools are essential for workers to engage with colleagues and teams often distributed globally.

Mobile internet access gets usable

The advent of Apple's iPhone and now Google's Android mobile platform is transforming the experience of using communications devices on the move. Innovations such as an intuitive touch-based interface, large, clear screens and powerful support for a wide range of applications is bringing mobile internet use to life. Soon after its launch, O2 revealed over 60 per cent of their iPhone customers were sending and receiving more than 25 MB of data per month compared to just 1.8 per cent of their other contract customers. While mobile internet access used to be the preserve of those with a natural interest in technology, this has now changed. Most of us are pretty ambivalent about the technology we use - we just want it to work. The iPhone is a great example of technology that removes most of the former barriers through careful attention to ease of use. Google's new Android platform, while perhaps lacking the glamour of Apple, could further open up the potential of mobile services that are intuitive, fast and productive.

There have been many of us in the e-learning industry - myself included - who have been tolling the bell for mobile learning over the past five years but it appears that we are at last trudging out of what Gartner's Hype Cycle terms the Trough of Disillusionment (remember WAP?) and sliding onto the Slope of Enlightenment. With a more powerful, easy to use, standardised and open platform, the opportunities for learning on the move will grow rapidly.

Games become learning simulations

Games are firmly out of the teenagers' bedroom and are a natural part of developing experience in areas of personal and professional interest. Whether it is rearing virtual pets, performing virtual surgery or playing in a virtual rock band, whatever your interest there is almost certainly going to be an increasingly accurate simulation available for you to develop and practice your skills. Aviation led the way with flight simulators that once were £millions. Now they can be bought for little more than three thousand pounds (including cockpit controls and multiple monitors for a full 180 degree view).

More and more professions and job roles can and should be simulated. You wouldn't want to board a plane without knowing that the pilot has been through thousands of hours of practice, even though much of it on a simulator. This will dramatically accelerate the induction training period, which can often take several months before trainees become fully productive.

Mitra's self organising theories state that when learners feel empowered and self motivated, the difference in learning outcomes can be dramatic. What does this mean for the workplace? Well, similar young people are already entering the workforce and are demanding a more interactive learning experience. What works for them is an immersive, simulative solution that provides a safe, yet meaningful place to practice - and share their experiences with others.

Social Networking means we can all be reached

The move towards simpler, integrated interfaces is one facet of the wider move to Web 2.0. Social networking (whether Facebook, Bebo, MySpace, Linkedin etc...) continues to explode in its popularity and develop in its application. Recent statistics from the European Commission state that just in the past year, the use of social networks has grown 35 per cent in Europe. Over half of the European online population visited social networking sites last year and the number of regular users is forecast to rise from today's 41.7 million to 107.4 million in the next four years. That's a significant growth pattern given that we barely understood the concept three years ago.

Sharing is at the heart of the learning process and being able to reach people with the answers, advice, knowledge, stories that you need, greatly accelerates the underlying learning curve of any individual. Social networking is now an accepted part of the landscape - and that includes organisations. According to the 2008 Cone Business in Social Media Study, 93% of Americans believe that a company should have a presence on social media sites and 85 percent believe that these companies should use these services to interact with consumers. Through sheer bottom up demand companies have to embrace these communities or face being sidelined in terms of their ability to successfully recruit and retain staff as well as their relationship with their customer base.

A new scientific base for learning

While all these technologies evolve and develop around us, our understanding of how our brains acquire, process, hold and use knowledge and skills is striding forward. The unravelling of the deeper mechanisms of the mind will inform new, more robust instructional practices and support methodologies than we have at present. The fields of neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and anthropology are yielding fascinating insights into how we make decisions, how we remember (and forget), how our brain chemistry alters the effectiveness of the learning process. Who would have thought that blueberries have a positive effect on memory recall? Or that a six minute nap can boost your learning skills? (See my blog for more on this theme).
Indeed, "smart drugs" are becoming more prevalent which clearly provide users with a cognitive edge. There are growing reports from the US that students are making full use of these drugs to gain an advantage at examination time. It is a trend also known as "cosmetic neurology," a term coined by Dr. Anjan Chatterjee, a neurologist at the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Cognitive Neuroscience.

In Summary

In times of rapid and radical change it is more important than ever that we find and adopt learning strategies and technologies that will allow us to adapt. The barriers to effective learning that I have listed can just as easily be thought of as frontiers. There is much work to be done but attitudes are altering at a brisk pace now that we have all embraced technology so fundamentally into our lives. In many ways it is the corporate and governmental institutions which are proving to have the slowest response to adapting to a new learning landscape. In short, be prepared, our very own "black swan" is just around the corner.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Tagging Reality - Enkin has huge learning potential

Great submission for the upcoming Google Android mobile platform. The rather dense description is:

"Enkin" introduces a new handheld navigation concept. It displays location-based content in a unique way that bridges the gap between reality and classic map-like representations. It combines GPS, orientation sensors, 3D graphics, live video, several web services, and a novel user interface into an intuitive and light navigation system for mobile devices.

But watch this video summary to get a real feel for the possibilities of tagging the reality around you with a mobile device:

Enkin from Enkin on Vimeo.

Imagine being able to provide real-time embedded support that is contextual to what a learner sees in the world around them. Any mobile worker who moves into a physical space that is initially unfamiliar could now access real-time commentary from a valued peer group or expert panel. The potential for the utility, telecoms and construction industries who have large numbers of staff working on our streets is enormous.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Location based learning

Jotyou is a location based messaging service for your phone. It basically allows you to send messages to friends which are received when they enter a specified geographical area. Check out the video for a feel for the service - it's especially well integrated with Google maps and a whole range of mobile phones.

Now the main focus of the service at present is on getting messages to people to come visit you in the coffee shop if they happen to be passing close by, or to remind yourself to pick up some milk when you are close to the grocery store, or better still for organised location based games. But the more I think about it the most exciting application of this sort of technology is to support learners in taking action on newly acquired knowledge/skills.

We know that context plays a key role in learning. Location is one such context. Anchoring new knowledge to relevant locations is an intriguing way to help push people into active application.

Perhaps on a wider performance level we can imagine messaging travelling sales reps or support engineers to automatically notify them of customers in the local vicinity who might value a quick update call/visit - linked to that message could be a prompt that reminds them to practice a particular rapport building skill, or offer a particular cross/upsell opportunity that would be relevant to that customer given their sales history.

Jotyou and other similar services could open up a whole new dimension of learning and performance support.

Monday, 24 December 2007

Mobile Learning goes large in 2008

Here's another sign that the barriers to anytime, anywhere learning are falling indicated in this report in the Financial Times:

"After years of false dawns for operators, the use of mobile phones for web surfing is on the verge of becoming widespread in Europe and the US, and iPhone research by O2 shows the device is acting as an important catalyst for such activity."

"Matthew Key, who becomes chief executive of O2 Europe next month, told the Financial Times that 60 per cent of the company’s iPhone customers in the UK were sending or receiving more than 25 megabytes of data a month, the equivalent of 7,500 e-mails without attachments or 25 YouTube videos. By comparison, less than 2 per cent of O2’s other UK customers on monthly payment contracts use more than 25MB a month.

Here’s absolute proof that if you get the proposition right, customers will use data,” said Mr Key, who reached a deal with Apple for O2 to be the exclusive UK network operator for the iPhone."

I couldn't agree more Mr Key. As other mobile device manufacturers play catch up with Apple, we'll see much more easy (and cost effective) access to mobile data. Having bought an iPod Touch it's proven to me further that the directness of the touch interface and removal of delay allows you to engage with the content in hand (literally in this case) and becomes a more powerful experience for it.

This is exciting for e-learning designers like myself as this has got to translate into more real opportunities to design learning experiences around my "Less Learning More Often" principle. More on that in another post.

Seasonal Best Wishes to all!