On the Horizon Report: Training-Teaching-Learning Innovations (Part 1 of 2)

February 7, 2010

Because training-teaching-learning never ends, we’re continually inundated by a flood of information and innovations which threaten to overwhelm us. When something as stimulating as The Horizon Report: 2010 Edition comes our way, I’m completely willing to dive in without thinking about whether I’ll ever come back up for air.

This annual collaborative report produced by the New Media Consortium and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative uses conversations with “hundreds of technology professionals, campus technologists, faculty leaders from colleges and universities, and representatives of leading corporations” and the work of an advisory board to identify those technology tools and trends most likely to have an impact on education over a five-year horizon. The results are as much a road map as they are an e-learning experience in and of themselves.

For those who work diligently to follow tech trends, some of what appears in the report—mobile computing, open content, and electronic books–may seem already to be old news, while other concepts—simple augmented reality, gesture-based computing, and visual data analysis—may be somewhat or entirely new. But exploring the report offers new twists even to the most familiar of information as the writers document what they call “the particular relevance of [each] topic to education, creativity, or research.” The results are worth whatever time it takes us to absorb them.

One of the many impressive elements of the annual reports is the way the authors (Laurence Johnson, Alan Levine, Rachel Smith, and Sonja Stone) use what they describe. The 2010 report, for example, describes the growth of visual data analysis as an educational tool; the New Media Consortium then, on its own website and with little fanfare, provides an example of visual data analysis using Wordle: “a word cloud, which gives a visual representation” of the themes which have been most prominently featured in all seven of the annual [Horizon] reports. Those of us who are immersed in reading and producing blogs are obviously familiar with tag clouds, but what our New Media Consortium colleagues have produced here as a supplement to a free online “boxed set” of all seven Horizon reports adds a stunningly beautiful and inspirational twist to what has become commonplace for us.

Another impressive element is the often overlooked e-learning potential of the hyperlinks—provided within the report—to other learning resources. Having called attention recently to the potential for online learning provided via innovative websites such Smarthistory and even through well organized archives on blogs such as one created and maintained by Lori Reed, I was particularly ready to pursue the opportunities provided by the “in practice” and “for further reading” sections following each description of the six horizon technologies explored in the 2010 report. Like any good online bibliography, these sections serve as rudimentary knowledge management systems that lead us to additional information when we are ready to pursue it—just-in-time learning at its best.

What better way to control that flood so that we as trainer-teacher-learners have a chance to swim rather than to sink?

Next: Horizon 2010 Technologies

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E-Learning Innovations, Lori Reed, and Destination Learning

January 28, 2010

We seem, in many ways, to be in a training-teaching-learning renaissance. The stunning burst of creativity among workplace learning and performance practitioners—what we colloquially and inadequately call “trainers”—is virtually nonstop, exhilarating, and just plain fun to watch.

Experimentation with ways to deliver effective online learning is abundant, and Lori Reed, a close colleague and cherished co-writer who serves as Learning & Development Coordinator for Charlotte Mecklenburg Library (among other things), has just provided another wonderful example of where we might and should be going.

Like Beth Harris and Steven Zucker at Smarthistory.org, Reed has started with a blog and innovatively manipulated it to create a visually attractive and dynamic website (“Destination Learning”) offering numerous learning opportunities which are available to us at the moment we need them and in a format which makes them incredibly easy to navigate.

If you’re looking for well reasoned and heartfelt writing—the centerpiece of any great blog–she consistently meets your expectations by delivering pieces like her introductory posting on the new site, where she considers her transition from thinking and working on training to “focusing more on the end result—performance and answering the question of how…we improve the services and quality of service we provide to our customers.”

Those in search of other training-teaching-learning resources will find plenty on her Curriculum Vitae page, where links to published articles, educational presentations, and webinars are included among the standard background information about her own skills and expertise.

But what is most innovative here is something rarely seen on blogs, which often become dumping grounds rather than useable repositories of retrievable resource because of inconsistent or non-existent tagging or other clues as to what resides within the site. Reed’s archives begin with the sort of admirably simple and user-centric set of explanations great trainers provide:

“Categories are sorted alphabetically.

“Hierarchical categories are grouped and indented under their parent category.

“Reports are listed once only, under the category they are first shown.

“A count (in brackets) is given of comments received against individual reports.

“The number of reports under each category is given (in brackets) after each category name. “Reports may be filed under more than one category and are included in the total for all categories under which they are filed, but are not included in a parent category’s total.”

We then find ourselves on familiar ground via an alphabetized index, by category, to every piece posted on the blog. If we are looking for articles about customer service, we easily find them grouped under that heading. The same is true for “instructional design,” “learning,” “learning 2.0,” “online learning,” and a variety of other topics. Simply clicking on any of those headings leads you to the titles of various articles she has written on those topics, and each title provides a direct link to the individual piece.

What we have here, therefore, is the same sort of creative hybrid available on the Smart History website: a living, constantly evolving, and free-ranging combination of a traditional printed work on a broad topic; a wiki (via readers’ comments); a blog; and a knowledge management system providing learning opportunities at the moment of need. In other words, a masterful lesson by a master trainer on how to master the organization of information in a compelling and assessable fashion for all trainer-teacher-learners.

Let’s see how long it takes the rest of us to catch up.


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