Friday, April 30, 2004

More on augmented reality

On April 2nd I wrote about an augmented reality game at Boston's Museum of Science that engaged children to use technology and be out in the world, not tied to a desk. (Scroll down the April blog entries for the piece.)

This blog entry talks about another such game being developed, called NetAttack. Players can be indoors or outdoors. The outdoor players use global positioning systems (GPS), inertial trackers, and video cameras to plot their positions. They communicate with indoor players using headsets. Through their 3D video display, they see computer images projected onto the real world view.

The pictures show that this technology is still pretty primitive. But what potential this blending of inside and outside has for making simulations that are more realistic than indoor, computer-based ones.

Imagine a simulation for police officers that can make criminals jump out of corners in any type of building--it wouldn't have to be fitted with physical pop-up representations so the police department wouldn't have to own the building, just borrow it for a couple of hours. The officers could go through the building just as they would in real life, but would shoot with specially fitted electronic guns--kind of like laser tag.

Or think about being able to simulate all types of situations for firefighters or rescue workers. I know an actor who is often hired to role-play criminals or sick patients for police officer or rescue worker training. Augmented reality would make this unnecessary. Training that required other people to be caught, rescued, etc. would no longer require real people (saving on expenses) or would improve by becoming more realistic than cardboard mock-ups. The training wouldn't put anyone in danger or even make them uncomfortable (this actor said the police officers were pretty rough with him). And the types of situations you could simulate would be almost infinite.

Augmented reality also has great potential just for information flow. In my Intelligence column in May 2003, I wrote about how wearable computing will annotate the physical space around us, so that as we look at buildings we can get information about them, or get the bus schedule on our eyepiece by looking at the bus sign, or see arrows down the streets we need to walk to get to our destination.

This type of integration of the electronic and real would be a great new electronic performance support system (EPSS). With their augmented reality eyepieces, factory workers putting engines together could view diagrams of what the finished piece should look like, without having to look away from their work and slow the assembly line down. Doctors could review medical textbooks while in surgery. This article discusses such uses and others.

There's lots of potential, I think. What other uses do you see? Click the comment link and let me and your fellow readers know.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Have you dealt with a difficult participant? We need your stories and tips.

ASTD editor Tora Estep is writing an Infoline on dealing with difficult participants in training. She's looking for anecdotes and information on what has and hasn't worked.

She'd like people to email her with some do's and don'ts by Wednesday, May 12th. She may conduct phone interviews with some people for more information. She may not be able to use everyone's info, but if she uses your tips, she'll attribute them to you in the Infoline.

National Coalition for Technology in Education and Training

A item about this organization appeared in yesterday's Distance Educator Daily News. I had never heard of NCTET before, but it's been gaining visibility in this U.S. election year as it tries to mobilize voters and advocates for 21st-century learning technologies.

The organization is a non-partisan, non-profit coalition of education associations, nonprofits, and corporations. NCTET wants U.S. candidates to pledge support for the technologies that the organization feels are critical for the success of Americans. The Daily News states, "This pledge includes providing the necessary leadership and vision, investing in technology in our schools, offering educators the essential training and support, and ensuring that regulations and policies are modernized to support 21st century education."

The NCTET Website offers resources for people who want to get involved. The organization plans policy briefings, conducts seminars, writes background papers, recognizes leadership, provides networking opportunities, and hosts celebratory events.

Monday, April 26, 2004

More free online or teleseminars I don't make any guarantees about

Blended learning and leadership development. This event TOMORROW at 12 pm EST will discuss the results of a new study on blended learning by analysts Berin & Associates. The press release says, "The informative and interactive event will feature the results of new research...on how industry-leading companies are using blended learning to extend the reach of their leadership development programs."

Performance simulation and business results. TOMORROW, from 2 to 3 pm EST. The release says, "This discussion will focus on the business of learning in the context of performance simulations. [For example], what is a simulation and how are simulations being used to address critical business challenges." In specific, learn how Accenture Learning and CDW Sales Academy partnered to develop a simulation that drove business results.

Marketing consulting services. The Independent Consultant's Association (ICA) is offering access to this free teleseminar on Wednesday, May 12th to the first 100 people who email or call 727-363-7200. (You do need to pay your own long distance charges to participate.) An ICA spokesman says, "Our goal is to energize consultants into being proactive about marketing, with sure-fire directions to promoting success."

Storytelling, narrative, and games in learning

Innovator John Seely Brown, former director of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) and co-author of The Social Life of Information, has some interesting things to say about storytelling, narrative, and games in learning. The blog from MIT Technology Review published excerpts, along with additional comments on games and learning by blogger Henry Jenkins. The complete interview of Seely Brown, "Storytelling: Passport to Success in the 21st Century," is available on his Website.

Learning Circuits has published a few articles on online games and learning over the past few years. (Search the Learning Circuits archives with the keyword "games" to get all the links.) A new article, by James J. Kirk and Robert Belovics of Western Carolina University, was just added to the site. It mentions Mark Prensky's games2train company, which has been one of the leaders in the online gaming arena.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Bad Bossology

Books editor Josie Rossi sent me the link for this Website, the slogan of which is "Protecting people and companies from bad bosses." The site is actually more serious than it might sound. Workers will find articles from a myriad of publications, book reviews, discussion boards, tip sheets, a survey, a newsletter, and more--all chock full of advice on how to handle various types of bad bosses. Resources are also available for managers and executives who want to minimize the impact of bad bosses--for example, turnover, absenteeism, and lost productivity.

Bad Bossology, the site says, is not a place for whining or complaining. It's for understanding and analyzing your boss to develop a plan of action, protect yourself, reduce your boss's power over you, and even achieve career success despite your bad boss. It's also a place that leaders can go to find out how to avoid the dreaded designation as a bad boss.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Monday morning reading list

Here are a few fascinating or highly useful articles I came across in the last few days.

"Educhaos: Disruptive technologies." Are you disruptive? This article from the Australian Flexible Learning Community discusses what author Marie Jasinski calls "educhaos" and disruptive technology in education. Also see this page on the Introducing Disruptive Technology to Learners Symposium. (Thanks to SmartMobs for these items.)

"Productivity in the Service Economy." Usability guru Jakob Nielsen discusses how improving usability, both online and in workflow, can improve U.S. worker productivity and perhaps save jobs from being outsourced to other countries.

"PowerPoint to Flash conversion tools." Robin Good offers this article on making your content more "easily accessible, ubiquitous and easily distributable." He provides reasons for conversion and then profiles 20 tools.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

ETPSS (electronic tax performance support system)

Today is the day. Not the day of your root canal. Not the day you have to clean the gutters. But another day you might look forward to about as much. You know what it is. It's tax day.

What does this have to do with training or learning? A lot. This year, I decided to do my taxes online for the first time. There's a site that's free to anyone if you go through the IRS Website. I like free and I don't like paperwork. Seemed like a no-brainer to me.

As I signed into the program and began the process, I realized that this free online tax program was actually a sophisticated EPSS (electronic performance support system). Rather than just providing the forms to you online and letting you complete them electronically, the system actually offered a complex, branching structure and questions in plain English to guide you through that structure.

Before I'd realized the software was free and decided to use it, I had done some of my calculations on paper. That let me use the EPSS to check my work (and for me to trust that the software was accurate). The EPSS ensured that I couldn't mess up. Not just because it did the mathematical calculations for me but because it walked me through the process step-by-step. It supported me with its strong but flexible scaffolding.

For example, I didn't have to figure out what forms I needed and worry that I was missing a crucial one. As I answered the simple questions in plain English ("Did you have a major life change this year, like a marriage, house sale, or birth/adoption? If so, which one?"), the system figured out which forms I would need to fill out and then provided me with the questions to complete those (also in plain English). It also told me how to arrive at the numbers it was asking for (for example, for a business expense, saying, "this figure is the purchase price including tax and freight charges"). Like with other effective EPSSs, I didn't have to skim through the manual, trying to find out how to come up with the number, and puzzle out technical writing once I found the right section.

When I was doing my calculations by hand, I hadn't realized I would need to fill out a certain form and pay for a certain set of taxes (and I'm not sure I remembered that form or those taxes when I did my federal return by hand last year). So, the system caught a significant error I would've made. The IRS might not have caught it, but they might've, and resolving that error after the fact would have been a real pain.

What else did I like about the ETPSS? It asked me for information just once, and then used that information automatically when it was needed again. That saved me work re-entering it, as I would've had to do on paper, and valuable time. I felt like the software and I were a team, working together, each doing our part. It prompted me for the information, making sure I entered everything it needed. I provided the raw data and the knowledge of my life circumstances. Then, the program did the heavy work of figuring out the right forms to enter the info into and calculating, taking the burden of those steps off of me.

Maybe someday soon the information will feed directly from a digital W-2 provided by my company into the tax software. Maybe soon the U.S. government will already know all my life circumstances and figure my taxes for me (I'm not sure if that would be a good thing or not). Until then, I'm very happy with this equal partnership of woman and machine, this great example of how an EPSS can take the burden of remembering how to complete a process off of a person and let her or him focus on ensuring the accuracy of information and, in many cases, implementing the process's steps.

For more on EPSS in the workplace, go to the ASTD Reading List.

NOTE: The program I chose, which is free to anyone for the federal return, contains a good number of ads. But you can click through them quickly, so it was worth it for me.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

First full "mirror" of university courses online

The Edupage email newsletter carried a blurb about the plan by the University of Illinois at Springfield to create a full "mirror" on the Internet of all 39 degree programs it offers. This appears to be the first time a university has done this. MIT garnered a lot of press about its OpenCourseWare project, which provides materials from many of the school's courses online, but that program does not grant degrees.

By the time the full project is launched, the University of Illinois at Springfield will be giving students the option of taking any course the institution offers either on campus or online. The school will institute the project in phases, with eight degree programs coming online by fall 2004 and another eight online by 2007. The remainder of the programs will be online by 2014. The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is providing funding for this endeavor and has said that it has money available to grant to other institutions who want to do this. The goal, the school says, is to keep online education in the mainstream.

It will be interesting to see if this takes off. This type of far-ranging program could truly bring e-learning to the masses. And giving students the opportunity to choose online versus classroom for every course they take will be a true test for online learning. If schools see students constantly choosing classroom courses over online, they'll get a clear message that they need to improve their online course development.
More free Web seminars

Is this a sign of the economy improving? All of a sudden, I'm getting lots of information on free Web seminars. Here are a couple more.

Organizational change. The new SumTotal Systems (formed from the merger of Click2learn and Docent) is offering a free seminar on "Accelerating Organizational Change" TODAY (April 13) at 12-1 pm EST. Speakers come from SumTotal, Cendant Corporation, Vodafone, and Fidelity. If you miss the seminar (sorry for the late notice), it looks like you may be able to access an archived version.

LCMS selection. E-learning supplier GeoLearning is holding a free Web seminar on "How to Select an LCMS" on May 5th at 1 pm EST. You'll learn how to identify and define your business requirements and how to separate "nice to have" from "must have" features.

Again, I'm not making any guarantees about the quality or helpfulness of these seminars, just passing along the information.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Free! Webcasts and online class

Notices about several free online events have landed in my inbox. This blog lets me share them with you (the events would be long over by the time I got them into T+D), but I make no guarantees as to their quality. I just wanted to point the opportunities out.

1) Emergent learning. E-learning guru Jay Cross will be holding an free online seminar on April 13th at 3 pm EST. He will be talking about what's on the horizon for learning and how to prepare for that future. Topics may include adaptive systems, social networking, contextual collaboration, business process modeling, and more. He says his content is still under development, though, and asks for suggestions on the specific topics participants want to hear about.

2) Copyright law. Customized content developer XanEdu is sponsoring a free Webcast, "Using Copyrighted Materials in Teaching and Learning," on April 14th from 1 to 2 pm EST. Copyright and intellectual property issues are hot topics right now, so this Webcast comes at a good time. It will be given by Laura "Lolly" Gasaway, an expert in copyright law, copyright and technology, and legal issues in cyberspace.

3) Mentoring. Presentation Excellence, a resource center for executives, offers a free seminar on "Mentoring and You: Master the Process and Create a Performance Culture," on April 21st at 1 pm EST. The Webseminar will cover a definition of mentoring, roles and expectations for mentors and mentees, how both parties can communicate effectively, and how to get support for the process. The event will be conducted by Jerry Cahn, a communiations expert, organizational consultant, and executive coach.

4) Collaboration and conferencing software. Robin Good's Kolabora site is sponsoring a free Buyer's Review Webseminar on these real-time tools. The April 22nd seminar will showcase various products and then allow 30 minutes for potential buyer questions and answers. A recording of the event and Good's analysis of the tools will be available for a fee.

5) Computer technology. The University of Washington is offering a free course, Fluency with Information Technology, available online to anyone anytime. The course is targeted at people without experience or training in computers and is offered asynchronously through Webpages, streaming video, and online assignments. The course is based on a taskforce that determined skills needed in the Information Age.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Spending on training doesn't matter anymore?

This article in CLO magazine says the amount of money spent on training doesn't matter anymore. Nick van Dam, global chief learning officer at Deloitte, divides e-learning adopters into four stages: clappers, experimenters, developers, and leaders. He says that clappers use spending as the only metric, experimenters and developers use it as one of several metrics, and leaders don't use spending as a metric at all to measure the value proposition of learning. Van Dam offers a helpful chart showing characteristics of each stage, including proportions of classroom training to e-learning, which might be a useful tool for benchmarking.
Good versus evil (technology)

I came across a great article, "Nine Rules for Good Technology," on Robin Good's Weblog. Written by Stephen Downes several years ago, the article's criteria for good technology are still just as astute today. This would be a great primer for anyone thinking about investing in learning technology or upgrading.

The article is available as part of a free, downloadable book by Downes, The Learning Marketplace: Meaning, Metadata and Content Syndication in the Learning Object Economy.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Friday hodgepodge: augmented reality, its applications for learning, and mystery

This article from MIT's Technology Review talks about how to use technology to engage people more with the world, not less.

Augmented reality gets people away from computers and back into the world, using technology to make learning (among other things) more interesting. At Boston's Museum of Science, kids used handheld computers and a Wi-Fi network to participate in a high-tech whodunnit. With the technology, they interviewed suspects, downloaded objects, examined the objects, and shared what they learned with others.

The game was a phenomenal success and got the kids interested in a museum that had seemed boring to some before. What could this type of activity do for your learners? Face-to-face training doesn't have to mean classroom training. Could your F2F training leave the classroom and turn into a high-tech murder mystery, scavenger hunt, and so forth?

Game-based learning has been talked about a lot recently, but it's always been in the context of software and at a desk. Stories and narrative in learning is also a hot topic. What about mystery in learning? I was sure hooked to this simple game that my friend sent me. It's another example of game-cum-ad (for a Japanese multimedia development company, I believe).

I kept at the game and stayed engaged, not because it was all that fun to click around a room and find stuff, but because I was so curious about what would turn up and what it would all mean.

This type of activity might not work for a crucial training message you need to get across, but what about for an announcement of training, or some kind of information you're going to repeat eventually? There will certainly be some people who will give up, so you won't want them to miss the information entirely. But mystery can pique someone's interest and make them more receptive to the message when it comes.

You need to be careful not to frustrate people, though. I needed a couple of hints from my friend for Crimson Room (see below). A creative mystery learning designer could probably work a system of hints for learners into the software.

Hints for Crimson Room: Click on the text messages at the opening to cycle through them. Then click around the room to explore and figure out how to escape. If you get stuck in the room after trying everything you can think of (I did), email me (ekaplan at and I'll give you a few more tips.

Off for a couple days next week--back on the blog Wed./Thurs.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Continuous partial attention can amplify performance

Out: multitasking. In: continuous partial attention (CPA).

CPA is a term coined by Microsoft VP of corporate and industry initiatives Linda Stone. As explained in Inc. and blogger Stowe Boyd's in-depth analysis, continuous partial attention is a way of scanning the barrage of information that comes in to you while not getting buried too deeply in any one source.

You're not trying to do several things at once, as in multitasking, but paying some attention to various arenas looking for something that might require a fuller attention. (Hmm, that's kind of what I do when I read through the emails, newsletters, and press releases in my inbox, keeping an eye out for something of interest to blog about.)

Boyd talks about CPA as a coping strategy that can save you time and energy. (If you're buried in working on a project and an email comes in that completely changes the project's focus, not paying attention to that email can waste days of work for you and your team members.) He says it can even amplify performance. But Stone cautions that it's important to break away from CPA and pay full attention when it's warrented.

Whether you agree with the idea of CPA or not, the articles are worth reading and thinking about.

(Sidenote: Boyd read about the CPA idea in other blogs, which he links to before he offers his analysis. This is a neat example of how blogs can work as collective intelligence as bloggers work off of each other.)