Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Where Were You When - Obama's "A More Perfect Union"

Like most people I can recall several events from my life and remember exactly where I was, what I was doing, and that these events had a profound effect on me. Two of these events were speeches by John F. Kennedy - his "Ask Not" speech and his "Ich Bin Ein Berliner" speech (I will also never forget where I was the day he was assassinated either, even though I was only 7 years old.

Well I now have a third speech that I will remember - Barack Obama's "A More Perfect Union". Take the time to listen to what he has to say - it is most profound...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Notes From The Brier - Final Thoughts

I'm back home and back to work tomorrow. Had a great time sharing the Winnipeg Brier with Dad - curling fans are amazing people - I have never had so many conversations with strangers in all my life - about curling, the weather, politics, you name it - and all friendly and engaging as if we had known each other for years - as I've already said - there was a real sense of community in the MTS Centre - even in the lines for Tim Hortons (which had to have set some sort of Guinness record for most patient people in one spot).

I will take away a lot of good memories, of spending a great two weeks with Dad, of meeting some great people, seeing some great curling, and all in all getting relaxed and refreshed, ready to go back to work.

My only regret is that I brought the snow back with me from Ottawa. Sorry about that, but they have more than enough to go around - check out the picture with this post.

So good luck to the Brier finalists who meet each other later tonight - Alberta and Ontario (the defending Canadian and World Champion) - it'll be an amazing final, you should watch...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Notes From The Brier - Of Haves And Have-Nots

One of the things that I have noticed at the Winnipeg Brier this week (other than the incredibly long lines at Tim Hortons) is that despite there being 12 teams at the Brier (one from each province, Northern Ontario (a men's curling quirk - the women's championship invites back Team Canada, the defending champions), and the Yukon/Northwest Territories), there is in reality only 3 or 4 with even a reasonable shot at actually winning the title. Curling, like most sports is extremely expensive and time-consuming if you want to be the best, and this year the best include teams from Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, British Columbia, and Newfoundland & Labrador. Of these, the champion will probably be one of either Alberta or Ontario - and both of these rinks are effectively professional curlers who have dedicated the time, money and effort to become the best in the world.

With the top teams, curling becomes a game of inches - with the others a game of feet - there is no comparison. If curling is to maintain itself as a sport, it must find a way to level the playing field so that everyone who gets to the Brier has an opportunity to be successful, or after a while the have-nots will get tired of being cannon-fodder and the Brier will suffer...

Notes From The Brier - Of Men and Brooms, and Communities...

Lots to see at the Tim Hortons Brier here in Winnipeg - amazing curling, amazing people and crowds, and men with brooms. It took a sport like curling to even introduce men to brooms, because I don't know about you, but I for one applaud the rights of dust bunnies in their quest to become sentient beings. For all of those housework-challenged males out there (and you know who you are...) you may want to take up curling and ease into that whole wielding a broom at home thing...

The real cool thing at the Brier though is the sense of community or should I say communities - each province and territory has a team - there are communities supporting each of them, there are the pin traders, the curling fanatics, the curling novices, organizations like the Governor General's Curling Club, local clubs and associations, and many, many more - some who have been around for 50 years and longer. Then there is the organizing committee, and the hundreds of volunteers that make the whole show work. A whole series of individual communities that collectively comes together to be the Brier.

I have spent a week listening to perfect strangers talk to each other like life-long friends joined by the sense of community of their sport and the event. There are people who make the annual trek to the Brier - their annual community get together and many have been doing this for scores of years.

Being surrounded by all of this sense of community has gotten me thinking - if we are so good at making and being part of communities in our day to day lives, how can we successfully bring this into learning communities - which for me will be (and are) the future of education - learning has become too complex and there is just too much information out there for learning not to be done collaboratively in a community - the key is how do we do that? we need to take our ability to form and nurture communities and do the same for our faculty, staff, learners, and institutions of learning - learning is a team sport - it works best in a community that will encourage and foster it - I have lots to say about that - stay tuned...

But for now it's back to the Brier - "HURRY HARD!!"

Monday, March 10, 2008

Notes From The Brier - Coffee and Curling - I AM Canadian...

One of the joys of living in a culturally mosaic country like Canada is that you are exposed to so many different traditions, events, sights, senses, and sounds that you can lead a very rich life. The downside of living in this culture is when someone asks "what's Canadian?" it's sometimes hard to figure that out - at least until now...

I'm in Winnipeg (or as it is also affectionately know, Winterpeg - when we arrived last week it was -44 C with the wind chill - but it's a "dry cold". Yep - it sure is...cold) with my father attending the Brier - the men's national curling championships - officially know as the Tim Hortons Brier. There are probably no two things more quintessentially Canadian than curling and coffee, particularly in the winter and particularly Tim Hortons coffee. True, coffee did not originate in Canada, nor did curling (like many things it was invented by the Scots which just goes to show you what perpetual bad weather can do for creativity), but we were smart enough to combine the two and turn them into a cultural event of epic proportions.

The line ups this week at the MTS Centre have been longer for the Tim Hortons orders than for the box office and attendance has been great - and it's great for the event - a highly caffeinated audience watching some of the best curling in the world - it's a win win! I've heard as many requests for a "double-double" this week as I've heard "hurry hard" coming from the competitors.

We're having a great time here this week, so the next time someone asks you "what's Canadian?", tell them to get a large double-double at Tim's and head for the local curling club - the essence of Canada. Hmmm...

Monday, March 03, 2008

Obama and Clinton - "We" and "I"...

First off let me say that Henry Jenkins is amazing and a must read for all educators. His recent post "Obama and the "We" Generation" has really gotten me thinking about and looking at US politics, not that there is much choice what with all of the 24-hour multi-channel coverage and all.

He starts by noticing that adult leaders were using "I" and "what I can do for you" a lot to describe what they did while younger leaders used "we" and "what are our goals...". Obama is the "We" and Clinton is the "I". As Henry Jenkins puts it - Obama is more of a movement than a campaign. He talks of community and organizes bottom up instead of the traditional top-down campaign model. Hillary Clinton is running very much an "what can I do for you" traditional campaign and now that I am aware of this have I ever noticed a difference,

An article in today's New York Times really brings this difference in the two approaches of the Democratic candidates home - "In Texas, Clinton’s Veterans Test Obama’s Rookies". The article describes the difference between the two campaigns as they set up in Texarkana - the Clinton campaign set up in a big building and handed out phone numbers to campaign workers to start calling. Down the street in a small office, two Obama supporters without any official campaign sanction set up their computers and self-generated activity to get the word out on their candidate.

This describes exactly what Jenkins is saying - Clinton is the controlling "I" candidate and Obama is the open, bottom-up "We" candidate - He is a movement, not a campaign,

My very good friend Randommind described to me an even better analogy from Henry Jenkins (and must blog about it :-)) that brings this diagrammatic difference between the two candidates home - Obama is a Wikipedia stub, and Clinton is the Encyclopedia Britannica - such an amazing analogy I had an AHA! moment when I first heard it. It so accurately describes the fundamental differences between the two campaigns - and for me explains why Obama has been so successful - he is letting the voters participate in the campaign to become a part of his "movement", to build the Wikipedia entry, while Clinton is simply telling everyone that she knows what is best and is ready to do the job Day One - the bound and printed Britannica entry.

There are implications here for educators - we can learn a lot from the differences in these two campaigns. Obama's success to me shows that engagement and participation, the creation of community is something that people understand and want - this leads directly to the creation of learning communities. Clinton is the old "sage on the stage" telling us what we want to hear. Obama is creating a "learning community" (a political community?) where participants engage in the election process - they feel a connection and a sense of belonging, of being part of what Henry Jenkins calls a movement. If this works for a presidential candidate (and it sure seems that it is), then it should work in our classrooms too, don't you think?

I wonder who will win...?

(Photo from "The State Of...")

Multi-Generational Learning And Development of Learning Communities...

One of the issues addressing adult educators is how to develop educational opportunities for learners from multiple generations and create learning communities that support the success of learners regardless of what generation they belong to. This is particularly true when looking at e-learning and other non face-to-face learning opportunities as we are less likely to identify the generations of our learners based on their appearance. It also adds the complexity of dealing with digital natives and digital immigrants.

The Aetna insurance company has done some interesting stuff in this area. They identified the following groups to whom they were providing training:
  • Silent Generation, ages 62-77
  • Baby Boomers, ages 52-61
  • Late Baby Boomers, ages 43-51
  • Generation X, ages 31-42
  • Generation Y, ages 18-30
Aetna found each of these groups had unique cultural and learning preferences that came from their individual experiences acquired during their formative learning periods. Aetna began developing training more closely aligned to the learning styles of each group.

Here are some of the more interesting things that Aetna discovered while developing their age-group specific training (taken from the article):
  • Baby Boomers and Late Baby Boomers like linear courses in which information is covered in a very logical, progressive manner. They struggle with simulations. They also accept objectives. If you tell them upfront what the course objectives are and what the training will cover, they are apt to accept what you say.
  • Generation X learners appreciate new technology and expect a certain amount of interactivity. Like Boomers, they prefer linear content, but they also want to be able to "test out" of courses when they reach a point where their level of knowledge is sufficient. Those in this generation also want choices, such as being able to turn audio and closed-captioned text in a course on or off. They want you to teach them what they need to know and apply all the time. If there is something that they won’t likely apply for another six months, they prefer not to receive training on it. They'd rather receive a performance support tool or job aid to which they can refer later.
  • Those in Generation Y like to freeform it. The first thing they like to do in a course is take a test and figure out what they don't know. Then, they want to be able to go back in and learn what they don't. They also want to navigate through parts of a presentation in the order they prefer. Then, they want to have the option of researching references at their discretion.
This information has implications for us as adult educators - we have to get to know our learners, particularly in a blended or distance learning opportunity in order to develop educational resources that will assist learners regardless of their generation.

Here is what Aetna did:
  • For Generations X and Y, more of their e-learning now incorporates games and simulations. Content search and research capabilities were also added to a number of courses.
  • To meet Generation X's preference for learning takeaways, Aetna began building more performance support tools for those tasks that learners don't perform often. Because this group likes choice, Aetna also added an audio on/off and closed-captioning option to many of their courses.
  • For Generation X and Y learners, Aetna changed the way in which they write course objectives. If you put objectives at the beginning of an e-learning program, Baby Boomers will read and accept them. Generation Xers and Yers won't. So Aetna began telling a story instead. The story usually explains why the training is necessary (e.g., Here's a situation and here is the outcome that will occur if the situation is not handled properly.)
  • For Generation Y learners, Aetna adopted The Thiagi Group's Four-Door approach to e-learning, in which learners choose their best learning style and can shift from one to another to meet their needs. This approach, which consists of the Library (performance support and reference materials for self-study), the Playground (learning through gaming), the CafĂ© (learning through social interaction) and the Torture Chamber (the opportunity to test one's skills or knowledge through simulation) is having a tremendous impact on our Generation Y learners. (Taken from the article)
There is much to be gleaned from Aetna's experiences and applied to adult learning opportunities and the development of multi-generational learning communities, particularly as we move towards more and more mobile learning...

Another really good post on this subject is Natalie Laderas-Kilkenny's blog "Design For Learning"and her post on Generational Learning Styles and Methods. The continuum that she includes in her post clearly identifies various learning generations and what learning styles and methods work with each of them...