Posts tagged ‘learning’

What Do “New York on $5 a Day” and “Mathematics Made Easy” Have in Common?

The Boston Globe reports that 2 adults sharing a hotel room and eating 3 meals spend, on average, $606 a day in New York City. I go there often for business and have no trouble believing this. There was a book, published in 1964, called New York on $5 a Day. My interest is not inflation or travel costs, but book titles: what a compelling title! And much better than New York on $606 a Day. A search for “New York” books brings up Not for Tourists 2008 Guide to New York City and The Best Things to Do in New York City: 1001 Ideas. Not for tourists – but I am a tourist! – and if this is an insider’s guide then do natives read it? 2008 in the title reminds me that I need the new edition, and, if anything like car models, 2009 will be available well before 2008 ends. 1001 ideas makes me hyperventilate – a few good ones are all I need.

When I was in high school, a friend gave me Mathematics Made Easy, which was one of the most inspirational books I ever read. I saw this book recently in a church bazaar, and thought about the title, which refers to the topic, not the reader. Now the For Dummies series offers numerous math books, as does The Complete Idiot’s Guide. I ended up a math major in college: could Math for Dummies have similarly inspired me? The titles of these new books refer to the reader, not to the topic.

In this age of Oprah’s Book Club determining what sells, I wish we could return to book titles that neither insult nor overwhelm the reader. But then what about course titles? I teach a course, “Online Consumer Health”, previously “Online Health Communities”. My primary motivation for changing the name was that one of my students last fall told me he signed up for the course not knowing what an online health community was.

What if course titles tried to grab you, like book titles, but still remained descriptive? I could rename mine “Online Consumer Health: How to Design and Evaluate Health Web Sites” or “How People without Medical Training Use the Internet for Health Education and Support”. One of my favorite courses in graduate school, “Software Engineering”, could be renamed “Software Engineering: How to be a Systems Architect and Play Office Politics to your Advantage”. Maybe these are a little wordy, but they are certainly descriptive and attention-grabbing.

Online courses, of course, have the same problem but more so, since there may be less context when a student isn’t on campus. A perusal of online course titles showed that titles like “Business Writing 101” are still in vogue. How about renaming it “Business Writing for Clarity and Managerial Praise”? I will say that I have seen a few online courses with intriguing names: Trump University has courses called “The Trump Way to Wealth” and “How to Start a Business on a Shoestring Budget”. These are certainly compelling and descriptive names and also briefer than my examples above.

May 21, 2008 at 1:22 am 7 comments

“The Name’s Bond. James Bond.”

James BondI love James Bond movies. I have never read Ian Fleming’s novels or even thought much about him. I was therefore interested to read that the Imperial War Museum London recently launched an online exhibition exploring “the early life of Ian Fleming, his wartime career and work as a journalist and travel writer and how, as an author, he drew upon his own experiences to create the iconic character of James Bond that continues to have global appeal.” I am often hesitant to click on links, partially due to time constraints and partially due to some disappointing experiences with must-see websites, must-watch videos, and must-listen podcasts.

The virtual “sneak peek” exhibit used a gallery metaphor to depict some objects from the exhibit with audio explanations – complete with dozing guards. I didn’t find it particularly interesting or informative or even a good teaser for the actual exhibit. However, as an educational experience, it was successful in two ways. One was that, before giving up completely, I found some fascinating materials about Ian Fleming on the museum’s exhibition site. The other is that I read about Ian Fleming and about “For Your Eyes Only,” the exhibit name. Since I liked Casino Royale or any 007 movie with Sean Connery better, I read about other movies as well, including trivia, goofs, quotes, and the gadgets Q invented.

Suppose you were teaching a class and one of your students tactfully told you that your lecture was boring but that he or she spent hours researching the topic out of class. Would you ask for constructive criticism, be happy since you spurred self-directed learning, or say, as Bond did, “Well you can’t win them all”?

April 29, 2008 at 1:58 am 2 comments

Seven Habits of Highly Connected People by Stephen Downes, Guest Contributor

Stephen Downes was kind enough to allow me to publish this here. I was especially interested in it because FranklinCovey was one of my clients when I worked at EDS. Watch for a version of this to appear in eLearn Magazine later this month!

With apologies – and all due credit – to Stephen Covey.

1. Be Reactive

There’s a lot of talk about user-generated content on the web. That’s great. But if publishing your own stuff comes at the expense of reading, and commenting on, other people’s stuff, that’s not so great.

The first thing any connected person should be is receptive. Whether on a discussion forum, mailing list, or in a blogging community or gaming site, it is important to spend some time listening and getting the lay of the land.

Then, your forays into creating content should be as reactions to other people’s points of view. This will ensure, first of all, that they read your comment, and second, that your post is relevant to the discussion at hand.

Posting, after all, isn’t about airing your own views. It’s about connecting, and the best way to connect is to clearly draw the link between their content, and yours.

2. Go With The Flow

We all know those people in our online community who are out to Prove Something, to Get Things Done, or to Market Themselves.

These are people we tend to avoid. Because no matter what the topic of discussion, they’ll weigh in with their pet project, peeve or talking point.

When connecting online, it is more important to find the places you can add value rather than to pursue a particular goal or objective. The web is a fast-changing medium, and you need to adapt to fit the needs of the moment, rather than to be driving it forward along a specific agenda.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have any goals or principles for yourself. You should; that’s what will inform your participation. It’s just a reminder that your goals are not the same as other people’s goals, and therefore that your online participation needs to respect that fact.

3. Connection Comes First

People talk about not having time for email, of not having time for blogs. Sometimes they even talk about working without an internet connection.

It’s good to take a break and go out camping, or to the club, or whatever. But the idea of replacing your online connecting with busy-work is mistaken.

In almost all fields, connecting with others online is the work. The papers you write, the memos your read and toss – all these have to do with connecting with people. Even if you work with your hands, making cabinets or rebuilding engines, all your contacts with customers and suppliers are about connecting with people.

If you don’t have enough time for reading email, writing blog posts, or posting discussion lists, ask yourself what other activities you are doing that are cutting in to your time. These are the things that are often less efficient uses of your time.

If you are spending time in meetings, spending time traveling or commuting to work, spending time reading books and magazines, spending time telephoning people (or worse, on hold, or playing phone tag) then you are wasting time that you could be spending connecting to people online.

If you make connecting a priority, you can take that walk in the forest of vacation in Cadiz without feeling you are not caught up.

4. Share

We’re all heard the advice to “think win-win”. Forget that advice. If you follow that advice, you will always be looking at things and saying, “what’s in it for me?” That’s exactly the wrong attitude to have in a connected world.

The way to function in a connected world is to share without thinking about what you will get in return. It is to share without worrying about so-called “free-riders” or people taking advantage of your work.

In a connected world, you want to be needed and wanted. This will, over time, cause resources to be sent to you, not as a reward for some piece of work, but because people will want to send you stuff to help you to be even more valuable to them.

When you share, people are more willing to share with you. In a networked world, this gives you access to more than you could ever produce or buy by yourself. By sharing, you increase your own capacity, which increases your marketability.

5. RTFM

RTFM stands for ‘Read The Fine Manual’ (or some variant thereof) and is one of the primary rules of conduct on the internet.

What it means, basically, is that people should make the effort to learn for themselves before seeking instruction from others.

Almost everything a person could need to know has been recorded somewhere online (by people who are sharing their knowledge freely). Taking the time and effort to look at this work is not merely respectful, it demonstrates a certain degree of competence and self-reliance.

For example, if your software fails to install, instead of calling customer service or posting a note on a bulletin board, copy the error message into the Google search field and look for answers. Almost every software error has been encountered (and documented) by someone before you.

Finally, when you do ask for help, you can state what you’ve read and tried, and why it didn’t work. This saves people from giving you advice you don’t need, and helps them focus on what’s unique about your problem.

6. Cooperate

Offline people collaborate. They join teams, share goals, and work together. Everybody works in the same place, thy use the same tools, and have the same underlying vision of the project or organization.

Online, people cooperate. They network. Each has his or her own goals and objectives, but what joins the whole is a web of protocols and communications. People contribute their own parts, created (as they say in open source programming) to ‘satisfy their own itch’.

This is probably the consequence of distance. Online, it is not possible to enforce your will or (beyond a limited extend) to get your way by shouting and intimidation. This means that online communications are much more voluntary than offline communications. And successful online connectors recognize this.

To cooperate, it is necessary to know the protocols. These are not rules – anybody can break them. But they establish the basis for communication. Protocols exist in all facets of online communications, from the technologies that connect software (like TCP/IP and HTML) to the ways people talk with each other (like netiquette and emoticons).

7. Be Yourself

What makes online communication work is the realization that, at the other end of that lifeless terminal, is a living and breathing human being.

The only way to enable people to understand you is to allow them to sympathize with you, to get to know you, to feel empathy for you. Comprehension has as much to do with feeling as it does with cognition.

People who use online communications ‘only for business’ – or worse, feel that other people shouldn’t be posting cat photos or playing Scrabble on Facebook – are employing only a small part of the communications capacity of the internet.

Learning and communicating are not merely acts of sending content over a wire. They are about engaging in (what Wittgenstein called) a ‘Way of Life’. Having a cat is as important for a physicist as having an advanced research lab. These common everyday things form the mental structure on which we hang the highly theoretical structure.

The idea behind ‘being yourself’ is not that you have some sort of offline life (though you may). Rather, it’s a recognition that your online life encompasses the many different facets of your life, and that it is important that these facets all be represented and work together.

April 3, 2008 at 9:55 pm 23 comments

Serious Games for Serious Topics

Learning to detect counterfeit currency or diagnose and treat a disease in time to save a patient’s life hardly sound frivolous. Yet “serious games” are increasingly being used for training for bank employees, medical students, and others as a way of making learning more compelling and simulating reality. Clark Quinn and I wrote a column in eLearn Magazine addressing if the design of a game, or even the fact that a game is being used, induces a sense of frivolity that lessens the impact of the learning for serious topics.

March 29, 2008 at 5:23 am 3 comments

Ten Things You Can Do in Ten Minutes To Be a More Successful e-learning Professional

You need a break and, instead of heading to the coffee pot, what can you do in 10 minutes that will refresh and energize you and increase your job satisfaction and career success?

  1. Find an e-learning conference to go to and send an email to your manager giving 10 reasons why this will help you perform better. If travel is a problem, find a local seminar to go to.
  2. Find an e-learning conference to submit to. It is much better to go to a conference as a speaker and the process of figuring out what you want to talk about and writing an abstract will be a valuable reflection process.
  3. Write a short description of what you learned at the last conference or seminar you went to or the last article or book you read and circulate it to your colleagues. They will appreciate it and it will reinforce what you learned. It might also help your chances of getting funding for your next conference (see 1).
  4. Do a search on “e-learning”, “instructional design”, “online degrees”, or another topic related to your job and see what people find. Refine your search and try again. Maybe you’ll find something you want to look at, maybe not. If not, use the rest of your ten minutes and search on something totally different, like “swing dancing”, and see if you like the results better.
  5. Write a note your manager with 10 reasons why you deserve a 10% salary increase. Don’t send it unless you came up with the reasons quickly. If you struggled with the list, rewrite it as the 10 things you need to do to deserve a 10% salary increase. Then act upon it.
  6. Take an online course – or at least part of one- and think about how it is designed rather than the content. What are 10 things you would do to improve it? (What would colleagues say if it was your class they were going through?)
  7. Read 10 current e-learning job descriptions and see how many you are qualified for. Write down 10 ideas for your own professional development just in case you ever want to go job hunting.
  8. Email the e-learning expert you most admire and ask him or her to schedule a 10 minute phone call with you to discuss your three most important questions about e-learning. Write up what you learn (when you have the call) and circulate it to your colleagues (see 3). Also, make sure you introduce yourself to that person at your next conference (see 1).
  9. Do a search on “learning technology trends” or “Web 2.0” and identify at least one new technology you know little about that has the potential to improve what you do. Read one or two articles about it.
  10. Ask a colleague the most exciting e-learning idea he or she has had or read about recently and discuss it why it is exciting. You can do this by phone or email, but over coffee is best. See, you get to go to the coffee pot after all!

Finally, think of your own idea for a 10 minute activity that can renew and improve your e-learning practice and post it as a comment to this article so others can benefit.

Thanks to Mark Notess for suggestions 7-9 and to CIO Magazine for inspiring the idea.

March 10, 2008 at 8:37 pm 27 comments

Tech Populism and Learning: Integrating Everyday Tools

CIO Magazine lists tech populism as a trend for 2008, a term that refers to the use of consumer technologies in the workplace. Teachers, students, and subject-matter experts are all bringing everyday tools to learning. Teachers want to use the same tools to teach that they are using in the rest of their lives, and may feel constrained by the tools a school has in place although it may be easier for students to have consistency between their courses. Students similarly may have many tools they use for personal communication that can’t be used with their teachers. And despite the greater understanding of the value of informal learning, subject-mater experts may not want to learn complex tools to capture their expertise.

My own recent experience with tech populism is that, after starting to use WordPress last month, I immediately saw how to reformulate the final project in my Online Health Communities course. Since only some of my students know Photoshop, html, etc., WordPress will make it easy for all of them to do their projects online, which will in turn give them a better learning experience since it will be easier to get feedback from each other as well as from me. The biggest danger I see with tech populism is if chaos ensues, for instance, if I offer a default tool but my students can choose any tool they know, for those who prefer to use Facebook or ning. There will always be a trade-off with tech populism, since what is easiest for one group, say my students, may create more work for another, in this case me.

February 10, 2008 at 9:33 pm 1 comment


Lisa Gualtieri, PhD, ScM

Lisa GualtieriLisa Gualtieri is Assistant Professor at Tufts University School of Medicine in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine. She is Director of the Certificate Program in Digital Health Communication. Lisa teaches Designing Health Campaigns using Social Media, Social Media and Health, Mobile Health Design, and Digital Strategies for Health Communication. Contact Lisa: lisa.gualtieri@tufts.edu

@lisagualtieri


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