Into The Age of the Smart Things

It’s almost a New Year – 2013 – and already the Next Big Thing is upon us. Actually that’s ironic since the Next Big Thing is all about things, Smart Things.

Refrigerators that scan bar codes and tell us what we have, which items we need, send shopping lists to our networked printers and suggest recipes from The Food Channel on our iPads.

Cars that use electricity and call our Smartphones to tell us  how they are doing and what they need.

Entertainment systems that scan the Network and record the programs we like, or instant message us to ask if we want to watch a movie we listed.  And before the movie starts, this Device2Device (D2D)  networked cyber universe sends a signal to the microwave to zap the popcorn.

There’s actually a lot more than I know about or can imagine right now. The question I always come back to is how will all these smart things impact upon our ability to learn what we need to know and know-how to do?

Neuroscientists and others who study how we learn are already discovering a long list of activities and approaches that enable and disable the learning process (e.g. Brain Rules by John Medina). Will they be embedded as rules into the Smarter Learning Things that will help us learn? Can we develop a Smart LMS?  And what about the innovative new methods and approaches that are being adopted by the people who develop the learning tools we already have? AI tutors and new formative assessment analytics?  Will these Smarter Learning Things help enable our learning process and help us to be smarter? Does the next step in our evolution involve linking our brains to these machines?

And has it already started …

Will we become embedded as part of these Smarter Learning Things?

I don’t have the answers. I’m simply asking the questions. I was born before computers started appearing everywhere and the Internet became the digital brain of the world. Things were dumb. Now thanks to embedded computers, things are “smart”. What does smart mean? If you are smart,  is a computer embedded in you? Is that the new meaning of being a “Smart Person”.

What do you think about the impact of smart technology on the future of learning? Can it enable the learning process and make learning easier, more enjoyable and more effective by using ‘smart’ technology? Or does it. as some early studies indicate, disable the learning process and dumb us down?

Let me know.  I’d like to hear what you think as we charge inexorably into this Brave New World of Learning and Smart Things …

The Future of Learning

Welcome to Learning in the Knowledge Economy

John Seely Brown is one of the best minds we have when it comes to how we learned in the 20th century, and more importantly, where we need to go in the 21st  … from a competitive strategy based on total command and control in a push-based economy that drove our educational model, to much more matrixed and collaborative organizations … from being organized around efficiency for mass production to being setup to focus on the “speed of learning … from push to pull where creativity is the key to this new economy ( read this for more ) .

Watch and learn …

Great Onboarding Idea for New Hires

Onboarding is a dilemma. Your new hire has spent an incredible amount of time and energy moving from nervous candidate to excited employee. Onboarding seems to reverse the process and move the employee from excited back to nervous.

New hires are naturally full of questions. What are the details of my compensation plan? What happens if I have a bad quarter? Who is the Top Gun salesperson and how to I get to know what they are doing? How much product knowledge do I need and how long before I really know it? What is the training like? Is there a ton of paperwork? What will my co-workers be like? Who is my manager’s manager? What is the cafeteria like?

The company should also have questions. How can I make the best use of the new hire’s talents? What does the new hire need to succeed? Who can mentor the new hire past those first few ‘honeymoon’ months? How do we develop a training strategy that uses Dr. Practice as the best teacher, and saves The Presenter for anytime and anyplace?

Onboarding today has not really changed from the way it was done yesterday. You go to a conference room. You hear horror stories about The Importance of Security. You fill out forms and more forms. You get to know the person in HR who may also be the last person you see if you are … .

Digital technology and Social eLearning can change the equation. It can enable the excitement that the new hire felt grow and increase. It can take the cognitive materials and make them interesting, and make the behavioral know-how real and compelling.

Using a program that I pioneered at IBM and several other large corporations, recent new hires, using Flipcams, record short webcasts of their experiences with everything from company policy for computer use to the choosing the best food in the cafeteria.

These are posted on the web, along with ALL the forms and other materials the new hires are usually required to sign during their first day onboarding meeting. Any additional lectures or important presentations can also be posted on the New Hire Site.

That first real meeting is an Onboarding Celebration for the new hires. The goal is to increase their excitement, having answered most of their questions online, and provide a moment in time to envision their future contributions, hear stories about other successful new hires, and learn more about stretch goals, rewards and compensation. The old sales expression “You only get one chance to make a great first impression” is true for your new hires.

You only get one big chance to get a new hire totally jazzed about making an important contribution to ‘their’ company or going out there and closing a big sale.  After you miss that chance, that it happens incrementally, slowly with every success and at every yearly performance or sales meeting.

With the new social learning model for onboarding, imagine sending those new hires out there totally pumped, ready to jump in and go where very few new employees have ever gone before …

A Pencil in the Cheek? Ouch!

John Medina from Brain Rules has a fascinating piece on how some children learn to behave  by creating an inner voice that guides them towards good behavior while others don;t acquire that voice and end up stabbing another kid in the cheek with a pencil. Got your attention did I? Well read on and learn something about how we learn to learn to interact with one another.
Explanations given to Aaron ranged from “How could Jimmy possibly complete his test without his pencil?” to “Our family doesn’t steal.”

Here’s what happens to Aaron’s behavior when explanations are supplied consistently over the years:

When Aaron thinks about committing that same forbidden act in the future, he will remember the punishment. He becomes more physiologically aroused, generating uncomfortable feelings.

Aaron will make an internal attribution for this uneasiness. Examples might include: “I’d feel awful if Jimmy failed his test,” “I wouldn’t like it if he did that to me,” “I am better than that,” and so on. Your child’s internal attribution originates from whatever rationale you supplied during the correction.

Now, knowing why he is uneasy — and wanting to avoid the feeling — Aaron is free to generalize the lesson to other situations. “I probably shouldn’t steal erasers from Jimmy, either.” “Maybe I shouldn’t steal things, period.”

Cue the applause of a million juvenile correction and law-enforcement professionals. Inductive parenting provides a fully adaptable, internalizable moral sensibility — congruent with inborn instincts. (Aaron also was instructed to write a note of apology, which he did the next day.)

Kids who are punished without explanation do not go through these steps. Parke found that such children only externalize their perceptions, saying, “I will get spanked if I do this again.” They were constantly on the lookout for an authority figure; it was the presence of an external credible threat that guided their behavior, not a reasoned response to an internal moral compass. Children who can’t get to step two can’t get to step three, and they are one step closer to Daniel, the boy who stabbed a classmate in the cheek with a pencil.

The bottom line: Parents who provide clear, consistent boundaries whose reasons for existence are always explained generally produce moral kids.

Note that I said “generally.” Inductive discipline, powerful as it is, is not a one-size-fits-all strategy. The temperament of the child turns out to be a major factor. For toddlers possessed of a fearless and impulsive outlook on life, inductive discipline can be too weak. Kids with a more fearful temperament may react catastrophically to the sharp correctives their fearless siblings shrug off. They need to be handled much more gently.

All kids need rules, but every brain is wired differently, so you need to know your kid’s emotional landscapes inside and out — and adapt your discipline strategies accordingly.

Unemployed? Forget Training.

I’m posting this for two reasons.

I initially thought it was funny. So haha …

Then I heard today about a job posting that said “Please do not apply if you are currently unemployed for more than one year.”

Please do not apply if you are currently unemployed … I am, as the Brits and others say, gobsmacked.

Here’s a quote from one of the stories:

“While refusal to consider the unemployed is sometimes overtly noted in ads, at NELP we also hear regularly from unemployed workers — mostly older workers — who, despite years in the labor force and significant directly relevant experience, are nevertheless told they will not be referred or considered for employment once recruiters or potential employers learn they are not currently working,” she told the commission.”

So where does that leave all the talk about training and retraining and more training and new skills training and …

When a cartoon, that in better times made me laugh as someone who valued and promoted education and training, becomes a reality for millions of people, I start to wonder.

Should anyone raise their hand when asked if they need more training? Or just go the informal route, and learn what they need to know and know-how to do as quietly and safely as possible?

A Piece of Cake!

I’ve been a long-time advocate for moving education out of the analog past into the digital future. And I’ve reported a lot of great changes that are happening in this blog. Well it’s my pleasure to introduce another that is not only a brilliant use of the internet but incredibly timely.

There’s a tremendous need in this country for education for school children with special needs. One of those special needs is in the area of speaking and communicating. There are now – and have been for several years – more kids who need help than there are Speech Language Pathologists (SLPs).

Enter the internet and the brilliant program put together by Presence TeleCare.

Watch the video by Dr. Shari Robertson, Professor of Speech/Language Pathology at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and then take a look at the Presence TeleCare site. Make sure to let people you know who work as SLPs, teachers, administer school systems or parents with children that the site is up and ready. Think about all the kids who need the help the site can provide, but are not getting it because of cutbacks in school funding across the country.

Wait a Minute I’ll Google It!

Google has become a digital extension of my memory. The older I get the more I use it. If I forget how to do something, or cannot remember a fact or name or place, I Google around for a bit and find it.

For example, this morning I was on the phone talking with a client. We started talking about a film and neither one of us could remember the name, only that Al Pacino was in it. So I Googled “Al Pacino Filmography”, and two clicks later, I ‘knew’ the name of the movie. Earlier in the week, I had moved all the livingroom furniture and, in the process, unhooked the VCR, DVD, and TV. When I went to plug in this Medusa’s Head of wires, I could not for the life of me remember how the VCR fit back into the scheme of things.

Right. I Googled “Mitsubishi DVD VCR Connections” and three clicks later had the operating manual that was lost in the same place that socks go to in the washing machine.

What does this have to do with learning? Everything. It points to the fact that I do not need to know something, or know how to do something, and I can still know it and do it. My performance is acceptable. It’s my memory that sucks. Google is my brain plugged into the internet, the largest repository of information ever created since they set fire to the the Library of Alexandria. Wait a minute, who was it who set that fire … hold on a sec … okay it was either Julius Caesar or Caliph Omar .

Yep, Googled.

So why are we spending untold amounts of time and money on learning programs that are not necessary? They could be effectively replaced by a computer on a fast WIFI connection to a knowledge repository. Does anyone assess what needs ‘real learning’ versus what only needs to be searched for, used, and then forgotten?  What is real learning anyway?

This is one place where some technology, beyond the flipchart, can come to the rescue and save us from painful, expensive and needless “training”. And it would be just in time …

Tony Carlson tells us that “We process more information in a 24-hour period, than the average person 500 years ago would come in contact with in a lifetime…” Are we part of the problem, or the solution?

Maybe I’ll ask Google … .



Top Articles from Jane Hart


For those of you wrapping up the year, spending time thinking and reading about 2010 in preparation for 2011, I highly recommend Jane Hart’s annual 2010 Review : Jane Hart’s Top 100 articles from 2010 as a place for your mind to visit. As interesting as the list of Top 100 for 2010 is a quick review of the same Top 100 for 2009 and 2008. It’s a fabulous roadmap to show you the way learning is evolving.

Great Way to Learn

It may seem like I’m sidestepping the issue of learning, but I learned SO much from the way this was done that I had to include it as an example of “way to go”.