ADDIE Must Die!

NOTE (October, 2012): I first posted this piece in 2004. At the time I was looking at educational theories and methods that had been developed in the early 1970’s and that rather mysteriously became the de facto standard for developing educational programs.

I saw two major problems with ADDIE.

The first is obvious. The way we learned back then was simple and singular. Classroom, teacher, facing front in rows, be quiet, raise hands, take tests and more tests then PASS or FAIL. The ADDIE model worked and perhaps that is why is was adopted as THE standard even though there was no standards body that developed and accepted ADDIE. Thanks to Don Clark‘s research into ADDIE (which I recommend), it was developed by the US Army in 1975, and then copied by corporations, presumably by people who heard about it and experienced it in that environment. The problem is that today – and into the future if the past is any guide – we learn and will learn in dramatically different ways. Ways that ADDIE cannot support as a developmental model.

Second, either explicitly or implicitly ADDIE still is the default for defining, designing, developing, delivering, managing and measuring education. That means – and I still experience this – whenever educational programs are being created, the underlying thinking is A – D – D- I -E. This not only limits the way new educational programs are developed, it hamstrings the creative use of new learning technologies. Technologies that were not even dreamed of when ADDIE became the accepted guideline for development. It precludes many, if not all, of the powerful capabilities technology promises . Learning that is blended, mobile, flipped, social and more. So my conclusion then and now is that ADDIE must die. 

The Premise

ADDIE is the illegitimate child of the Industrial Age, and using it is an addiction that almost always leads to formal training programs that are, in these digital days of rapidly advancing Blended,Mobile, Flipped and Social Learning, close to worthless if not actually counterproductive.

The good news? There is a better alternative …

Note: This is Part One of a two part series.

The future is a foreign country where

they do things differently than we do today…


I never minded school that much. It was the place where my friends hung-out and occasionally suffered through a class with me. I’m not sure what I learned or if it was of any use, but it was at least social. Learning in the workplace was the same until the computer started to pop-up everywhere. Then learning became lonely, it became anti-social.

Those of us who are trying t put the social back into the learning too often focus on the forest. The Big Enterprise 2.0 picture. This is a look at one of the trees – ADDIE – and it’s contribution to ongoing tradition of cranking out ineffective Enterprise 1.0 formal learning programs.

Change is Hard

Change is the most difficult yet desired state to which people want to move. Yet we live in the past in which habits rule and rules become habits. They don’t even need to be good habits or intelligent rules. Just habits and rules.

You’ve probably heard that expressions “If every problem is a nail, then every solution is a hammer”?

With ADDIE, if every problem is a lack of knowledge or know-how, then every solution is a formal training program …

Now I already know that you are falling into one of several categories of readers.

  • You are so hooked on ADDIE that anyone who tries to show you that ADDIE has no clothes is an instant turnoff, and you are in the process of clicking away as fast as your finger can find your  mouse
  • You think ADDIE is okay, agnostic and can be used ‘back then’ as well as ‘moving forward’ and might consider reading what I have to say
  • You develop really compelling and exciting social learning experiences and have no idea what ADDIE means … you can go.

Hopefully those of you in the first two groups will read on …

The ADDIE Habit

ADDIE.  As you may (or may not) know, it stands for the five linear phases or guidelines for building effective training:

  • Analysis
  • Design
  • Development
  • Implementation,
  • Evaluation.

ADDIE evolved into a more circular model in the late 1990’s and looked like this:

Evaluation became embedded in every part of the model. The variation was often called “Rapid Prototyping” which simply meant you ‘evaluated’ how well it was working at each A-D-D-I step.

There’s only one problem.

It no longer works.

Background Check

Here’s some ADDIE history. After doing an extensive search for the origin of ADDIE¹, I came to the conclusion that no one created the model. It was not the outcome of years of research, or a brilliant point of insight at the intersection of the disciplines that explore how we learn.

This idea is not new. It was, for example, originally published in an article by Michael Molenda of Indiana University, In Search of the Elusive ADDIE Model(Performance Improvement, May/June 2003).

During my halcyon ISD days, I didn’t really care who built the model, or that it was merely “… a colloquial term used to describe a systematic approach to instructional development, virtually synonymous with instructional systems development (ISD).”

Happy New Year 2005 (2013).  Now I do.

When Learning Was a Noun

It was around the late 1970’s when ADDIE suddenly became the de facto standard for developing training programs for the US government and everyone else. ADDIE seems to have been adopted as an acronym in all the RFP’s that were issued by TWLA (Those Who Love Acronyms).

That meant that ADDIE had its roots in the Industrial Economy.  A time when we managed hands and produced things. ADDIE was useful for helping people develop formal education programs in which knowledge was transferred and tests proved that it was ‘learned’.

ADDIE became the cutout you traced, the “paint by numbers” approach to developing and delivering programs that were the formal start – and too often the end – of your education. ADDIE was popular when organizations were bricks and mortar, development of programs was top down, and performance with regard to training was about getting a passing grade not adopting and adapting what you learned and transferring it back into the workplace.

When it came to really learning how to do anything, ADDIE led to the place where, if you were lucky, your informal education began. That was when you really started to learn how to do something².

Learning is Now a Verb

Times change. Take a look at the following chart to see how different the world of work is today:

Shift Happens

Performance, Performance and Performance

Today it’s all about performance. What can you do for me?  How can you do it faster and better? We’re well into the Knowledge Economy (aka Idea Economy), in which we manage minds and produce ideas. We no longer need to focus primarily on knowledge. We need to refocus on know-how and develop a model that supports learning how-to do something. Fix a thing. Make a thing. Come up with a solution. Steps to meet a challenge.

We need to focus on a developmental model that is more than just a “colloquial term”, one that helps incorporate new technologies and new ways of learning. One that enables rather than disables what we now understand as the learning process. A new model that provides knowledge AND  is the launching pad for know-how and real learning in the future.

A model that drives a Social Leaning program.

From this perspective, let’s take a closer look at ADDIE and judge how relevant it is today. In Part Two of this blog, we’ll look at replacement model that enables Social Learning.

WARNING: Boring details and research up next!

Read More

The New Metric: Compound Learning Rate

A few weeks ago, my nephew asked me what the word “expert” means. I told him it was a person who knew a lot about something and learned more everyday. When I answered, he nodded and asked “so am I an expert about superheroes yet?” It made me think about how that question would translate into the companies with which I consult.

Joi Ito, Director of the MIT Media Lab, wrote recently about “neotony”, the retention of childlike attributes in adulthood. This ability to learn is like the compounding interest on an investment; after two or three years, a relentless learner stands head and shoulders above his peers.

“Relentless Learning” is a quality that is an essential element of success. It is the hallmark of leaders of successful companies. I realized that it needs to become one of the new metrics against which an individual leader, a team and even a company is measured. I’ve heard it referred to as the compound learning rate.

Here’s an example. Try asking your team this question at your next end-of-week wrap-up meeting: How did you get 1% better this week? What did you learn from our customers that is valuable? What change did you make to any of our products or services that drove better results? What specifically did you learn this week?

You can start by putting in your own 1%, and telling the team what you learned.

As your team gets into a learning rhythm, you can review this as a group each week. It definitely makes for a more valuable use of people’s time in meetings. It replaces the boring and usually repetitious serenade about their numbers which they already reported.

Plus it’s not inconsequential – 1% per week per team member adds up. Like compound interest in a mental savings bank. And on the weekly call it’s the sum total of that learning shared with the entire team.

If you wanted to take the compounding even further, you could start capturing the learning on the web as part of a shared learning collaboration portal. Everyone on the team and other similar teams would be responsible for sharing at least one thing they learned every week.

It reminds me of the idea I’ve always had that a company or corporation is equal to the sum total of the brains that walk around, sit in offices or cubicles, talk on the phone, attend meetings, and more. If you took away the bodies you can envision the brains floating around the office. Now add the bodies as the instruments that these brains need to communicate with one another.

Above all remember that a higher corporate IQ equals a smarter company. And in today’s Idea Economy, only the smartest companies win.

The Best 100 of 2011

Jane Hart is one of my great “go-to” resources for all things learning. Every year she posts a great review of the Top 100 Tools. Here it is and Thanks, Jane!

“Yesterday, I finalised the Top 100 Tools for Learning 2011 list.  In the last few days of voting  there was a surge of contributions (both online and by email) that brought the number of contributions to 531.  Many thanks to everyone who took the time to share their Top 10 Tools and help me compile this, the 5th annual survey of learning tools.” Jane Hart

It’s Already Really Happening! The Interactive Bio-Book

Found this article on Fast Company. Since Education has completely intersected with Technology, it’s not a surprise anymore to find education-related material in technology-oriented magazines. This is SO amazing that when you start to read back in these posts and look at the inevitable way forward you will be blown away by the possibilities.

I’m focused on developing Continuous Leaning Theory and working on a book called Continuous Learning and this was one of the more fantastic ideas that are already happening to bring continuous learning experiences to everyone everywhere every time.

BY Gregory FerensteinSun Oct 30, 2011

The BioBook is an interactive iPad biology college textbook that allows students and professors to create their own customized learning experience.

Since the launch of the iPad, colledge educators have been seeking an inexpensive alternative to paper textbooks that could leverage the collective knowledge of teachers and students. With a $249,000 grant from the Gates Foundation’s Next Generation Learning Challenge, Dr. Daniel Johnson of Wake Forest University and education technology firm Odigia might have found it. Their BioBook, an iPad and web-enabled interactive biology textbook, creates a fully customizable experience for both students and educators.

For educators, the BioBook allows professors to track individual student progress and develop their own textbooks from a national database of professor-generated, mix-and-match chapters. On the student side, linear chapters are remixed into “branches and leaves,” where students explore concepts as interlinked ideas, moving from fundamental facts to an array of detailed chapters, which students can explore in their own way.

Threaded Learning

“Every learner brings unique prior knowledge, misconceptions, and pre-existing mental models to the process of learning a new concept,” Dr. Johnson tells Fast Company. “These pre-existing elements mean that two learners may need to follow very different pathways to achieve deep, functional understanding of a concept.”

Instead of reading like storybook, chapters are reformed into a branch/leaf relationship; all students start with the same fundamentals and explore details as their curiosity guides them.

“Each newly acquired piece of knowledge in turn raises additional questions that encourage exploration of other previously unknown concepts, theories, or facts.” writes Dr. Johnson. Put another way, expert learners construct their understanding by following what seems to be a logical path to them, not a pre-defined path.” In other words, traditional textbooks assume that students all the learn the same way, but the BioBook allows students to seek different learning paths as they encounter questions and points of curiosity.

Along the way, students are given self-assessment quizzes and pose questions to the class, with comment boxes and annotations appearing next to the text for a more social experience.

A National Database

Eventually, BioBook plans to allow university partners throughout the world to create their own chapters and upload them into a national database that can be mixed and matched into a customized textbook, built on top of the widely used open-source education platform, Moodle.

Dr. Johnson and his team will curate and produce an official BioBook, using contributions from the academic community to revise and update chapters. “We expect parallel review and analytics data will drive most of the routine correction, revision, and page adoption decisions,” he says. Since the BioBook collects data from students on the fly, knowing what students like–and don’t like–should automatically inform the decision-making process on which chapters ultimately end up in the official book.

“Data analytics will be collected on standard and alternative versions that let us determine if students (or specific subgroups) learn better from a particular version,” Dr. Johnson continues. “If an alternative version proves more effective over time, we will ask the originating author for permission to make their page our new “standard” version; the prior version will be retained as an alternative as long as other instructors continue using it.” Professors are then free to swap out official chapters for alternative versions, or create their own.

All professors retain some intellectual property rights under a Creative Commons License but are encouraged to contribute their ideas to the community–a community that could give standard textbooks a run for their money.

Follow Greg Ferenstein on TwitterGoogle+, or Facebook. Also, follow Fast Company on Twitter.

Me-pod, You-pod, Everybody iPod

It used to take years and now it seems that as soon as I write a blog post about what might happen I read an article or hear a story a few weeks  later and it IS happening. The pace of change has surely changed! Here’s another example:

ipad-release(Original Import)

Are iPads on their way to replacing computers in K-12 schools? It sure looks that way. A recent survey of district tech directors found that all were testing or deploying tablet devices—and they expect them to outnumber computers by 2016.

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster questioned 25 educational IT directors at a conference on the integration of technology in the classroom, and his small survey, “Tablets in the Classroom,” reveals that all were using Apple’s iPad in schools, while none were testing or deploying Android-based tablets.

Munster explained that the trend in education may be due to a familiarity with Apple devices among students and school employees.

The IT directors polled indicated that within the next five years, they expect to have more tablets per student than they currently have computers. Since iPads represent most of the tablets seen in schools, Munster said the word “tablet” is basically synonymous with “iPad.”

“Within the next five years, our respondents expect to have more tablets per student than they currently have computers” Munster said. The school districts represented in the poll have about 10 students per computer, but in the next five years, IT directors for school districts say they expect it to drop to about six students per iPad. Devices like the iPad are preferred over computers in the classroom because they provide more individualized learning than a traditional computer.

Earlier this year, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook indicated that demand for the iPad is strong among education customers. In February, Georgia Senate President pro tem Tommie Williams (R-Lyons) proposed a plan to replace conventional textbooks in middle schools with the iPad. Williams met with Apple to discuss a plan to make the iPad a central component in the state’s education system.

“[Apple] has a really promising program where they come in and their recommending to middle schools—for $500 per child per year, they will furnish every child with an iPad, wifi the system, provide all the books on the system, all the upgrades, all the teacher training—and the results they’re getting from these kids is phenomenal,” Williams said at the time. “We’re currently spending about $40 million a year on books. And they last about seven years. We have books that don’t even have 9/11. This is the way kids are learning, and we need to be willing to move in that direction.”

piper(Original Import)

This article originally appeared in the newsletter Extra Helping. Go here to subscribe.

Apply the “WHY” to Learning

If you want someone to remember and forget keep on doing what you’ve always done as an teacher or professor or instructor. Talk about the WHAT and HOW of whatever you’re trying to get your students to learn. If you really want them to give you some of their  precious brainspace to really know about or know-how to something then please pay attention because I’m about to tell you why you need to know this and practice it every time you transfer knowledge from your brain into another…

It all about starting with the “WHY”.

Feed My Fish Please

Place and click your mouse anywhere in the pond to leave food … Watch the fish learn.

Bye-Bye Trainers!

How Mint Exec’s New Company Will Teach All Employees To Teach Others

Training has traditionally been part of centralized departments—and the bane of everyone else. MindFlash is about to change that.

Whether you’re a seasoned executive or new to the workforce, the idea of spending an hour in a training class is enough to make you long for a dental appointment. Online training, which emerged about a decade ago, hasn’t improved the experience much, even if it has allowed companies to save money on travel costs.

We can’t promise that MindFlash, a new cloud-based service led by former Mint CMO Donna Wells, is going to make the average employee jump for joy. But we do think it will have a profound impact on how organizations share knowledge–including eventually making trainers out of all of us.

Traditional online training tools consist of software systems that organizations have to install and manage on local computers or servers. That’s expensive. MindFlash, like just about every other work productivity tool released in the last few years, is based in the cloud. That makes it a lot cheaper. Which means more organizations can afford it.

Add to that the service’s killer ease of use. Mint, which earned itself a $170 million exit in 2009, did the impossible: Get 20-somethings hooked on personal finance, in large part by making the service drop-dead easy to use. MindFlash, which launched last September, has to be just as simple, Wells tells Fast Company. Though the service has a slew of features–the ability to add quizes, embed video, and track who’s taken a course–the standard they’re aiming for is to enable to new user to sign up, configure a course, and invite their first student in 15 minutes or less.

It seems reasonable to predict, then, that if you’ve got more organizations using online training tools, and more people capable of using the tool, training is quickly going to seep out of centralized training departments and become the responsibility of all employees.

And that’s what MindFlash is already seeing among customers, Wells says. As organizations need to move more quickly, it’s often faster to have the person with the expertise to prepare the presentation than waiting on a training department to get up-to-speed on the subject matter. Just as more and more employees are expected to have basic multi-media skills–the ability to blog, for example, or to shoot images or videos on their smartphones–so will they be expected to have the basic ability to share knowledge with their peers.

Perfection, says Wells, won’t matter as much as speed. “The most forward thinking are recognizing that the traditional approach to centralized content development results in content that takes so long to develop that it’s obsolete by the time it’s ready.”

As it becomes easier for workers to toss together presentations for their colleagues, “training” will probably come just as often in the form of 10-minute “classes”–to transmit bits and pieces of knowledge that need to be shared quickly–as the lumbering hour-long courses we’re more familiar with.

“Training just becomes a seamless part of the employee’s day,” Wells says. “It allows you to get better information into the hands of the people who need it, at the right time, increasing the speed and nimbleness of the organization.”

[Image: Flickr user Michael 1952]

E.B. Boyd is’s Silicon Valley writer. Twitter. Email.

The Future of the Book

“We find when writing moves online, the connections between ideas and people are much more apparent than they are in the context of a printed book.”

Bob Stein, Institute for the Future of the Book

This post comes, in part, from Spotlight on Digital Media

Bob Stein is founder and co-director of the MacArthur-funded Institute for the Future of the Book, an organization premised on the idea that “the written page is giving way to the networked screen.”

Stein agrees with many others that our definition of writing must change to include audio, visual and graphical components. Take a moment to digest that, because it’s actually the easy part. What Stein is working on at the Institute is something deeper than just the idea of books and other kinds of writing becoming multimedia. He’s encouraging a complete transformation of the notion of ownership of writing altogether.

“The age of the know-it-all author who went into her room for three months and figured something out that no one figured out, and had a whole idea that was hers alone – it’s over.”

The keys to understanding this new perspective on writing and reading lie in notions of collaboration and being social. More specifically, it’s believing that collaboration and increased socialization around activities like reading and writing is a good idea.

“You and I grew up with the notion of the little girl curled up in her chair reading, or the writer in her garret, right?” Stein said. “But what we’ve discovered is that when you move the function of reading and writing online, the social aspect comes forward.”

According to Stein, the idea of the author as someone who works alone to produce something that is hers comes from the Enlightenment—and from then until now is only a “blip in time.” This notion, he adds, is “only part of the picture.” The other part is facilitated by our increasingly networked world—reading other books, collaborating, sharing ideas, chatting with colleagues.

“We find when writing moves online, the connections between ideas and people are much more apparent than they are in the context of a printed book,” Stein said.

Essentially, the writer is a synthesizer of the information and ideas.

One of the Institute’s projects is CommentPress, an open-source plug-in for WordPress that aims to turn a document into a conversation (view examples here). Readers can comment on, say, an academic paper before it has gone to press and add insights and questions in the margins of the text.

It’s an idea very much in the air. The MIT Media Lab tagged collaboration as one of the key literacies of the 21st century, and it’s now so much a part of the digital learning conversation as to be nearly rote. In his new book, “Where Good Ideas Come From,” Stephen Johnson argues that ideas get better the more they’re exposed to outside influences.

It is not only the act of writing that is changing. It’s reading, too. Stein points to a 10-year-old he met in London recently. The boy reads for a bit, goes to Google when he wants to learn more about a particular topic, chats online with his friend who are reading the same book, and then goes back to reading.

“What I’m arguing is that we should say reading equals all of these behaviors,” Stein said. “Not just when you’re looking at the book, but also when you’re talking to people about the book or when you’re Googling things that occur to you as you read the book.”

The implications for learning are huge. In a recent experiment by the Institute, professors at the University of North Carolina used CommentPress when assigning the story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce in a first year seminar course. The story was posted online along with clips from the 1962 film adaptation. Students engaged with the text not only in the classroom, but also while they were at the library after class and at home after the library. (Learn more about the project in this video.)

“They come back to class the next day still talking to each other,” Stein said, “because the conversation continued in the margins.”

Laura Flemming is an elementary school library media specialist in River Edge, N.J. About three years ago, she came across a hybrid book—half digital, half traditional—called “Skeleton Creek” by Patrick Carmen.

“The 6th graders were running down to library class, banging down the door to get in, which you don’t often see,” Flemming said.

Indeed, she was so struck not only by her students’ enthusiasm, but also by the way they were picking up themes of character, setting and mood that she started researching the subject in her spare time. Now she writes the blog, where she discusses digital reading and writing.

Flemming’s favorite transmedia work is “Inanimate Alice,” a remarkably evocative and compelling multimedia book from the BradField Company. Alice is an 8-year-old girl in China searching for her missing father in episode one. Music plays; images float by; text rolls across the screen.

“We tell our kids we want them to know what it’s like to walk in the shoes of the main character,” Flemming said. “I’ve had more than one child tell me that before they read ‘Inanimate Alice,’ they didn’t know what that felt like.”

Flemming believes that digital storytelling, done right, can increase children’s ability to empathize. It is also about teaching kids interactive communication skills, because, says Flemming, “this is the world they’re growing up in.”

That is an answer you’ll hear a lot in the world of digital media and learning. But Stein says that’s not good enough. We must be sure we’re driving the horse, he argues.

Stein says it’s better to take advantage of new technologies to push the culture in the direction you want it to go. Stein is fully aware of the political and cultural implications of his vision of the future of reading and writing, which shifts the emphasis away from the individual and onto the community. It’s asking people to understand that authored works are part of a larger flow of ideas and information.

“We’ve grown up in a world where all great ideas are pretty much ascribed to a single individual,” Stein said. “What we’re not particularly good at is understanding what the origins of that idea were or seeing the continuous flow of ideas.”

Such a redrawing of the boundaries of authorship, of course, undermines our system of intellectual property and copyright laws. If the creation of a book is a collaborative process, who owns it in the end?

“The writer gets the marquee billing,” Stein said, but is this really appropriate? Consider a party, he says. A guy named Bob may have hosted, but if there weren’t any guests, the party wouldn’t exist. We call it Bob’s party, but is it really his?

“As for what a new “progressive system” of copyright law might look like, Stein doesn’t have a prescription. He just knows that what we do have isn’t working.

Stein was recently in San Paulo giving a talk. While there he found himself deep in discussion with a filmmaker, a colleague of Jean-Luc Godard.

“He was arguing the auteur version of filmmaking,” Stein said, still going over the conversation in his mind. “And I understand why that worked for the first hundred years. But it’s not the future. The future is the collaborative effort.””

Industrial Age Education is DEAD

Industrial Age education is dead … but not buried … that was the full title of this blog.

and I have nothing to add except watch and listen to Sir Ken Robinsons spot on understanding of the current AND future problems with education around the world. If enough people listened to him then The Future might have a chance …

It’s hopeful, and at the same time frightening, since we seem to cling to the old model of education like a life raft in bloody shark infested waters. And we drag that same stupid raft into the workplace even though it never worked in the schoolplace.

(… and thanks as always to RSA Animate for the amazing and brilliant job the UK team did on Sir Ken’s presentation.)