Tuesday, September 20, 2016

My Top 10 Learning Tools (2016)

It has been 10 years since Jane Hart (http://c4lpt.co.uk/has been publishing the annual Top 100 Tools for Learning as nominated by more than 1,500 learning professionals around the world! 

For the 10th Anniversary, we will be able to see not just the Top 100 but the Top 200! Also, the tools will be categorized based on their context of use including Education, Workplace Learning and Personal and Professional Learning. Jane defines a Learning Tool as any software or online tool or service that can be used for your own personal learning or for teaching or training. The results will be out on 03 Oct. (Voting closes on 23 September.)

I submitted my vote via the form available on Jane's website. But I also wanted to use this blog post to share my submission with my peers and friends in the L and D community and reflect some more about this activity. 

Here are my Top 10 Learning Tools for 2016 (in no particular order):
  1. Google - My window to the world. I ask and it provides
  2. Tweetdeck - My access to my PLN; groups, lists and chats and a community who offers me fuel for thought 
  3. Blogger - My stage for reflection and continuous learning
  4. WhatsApp - My lifeline to stay connected with my friends and family around the world. I live, I learn
  5. Ted Talks - The tool that triggers out-of-the-box thinking and gives me access to diverse views, thoughts and ideas from people around the world
  6. Instagram - My tool of choice when I have no words but can use photographs to build connections
  7. Podcast App (Apple) - I listen when when I want to read less and imagine more. It is my walking partner and helps me connect dots where I didn't think was possible
  8. Skype - My tool of choice for conversations and collaborations
  9. LinkedIn - My tool for discovering people who share common interests and a platform for me to highlight my skills and expertise
  10. Facebook - My go to tool to catch news, views and fun stuff on a daily basis  

This annual exercise becomes a lot more interesting when I get a chance to read more about how my peers are using these and other tools for learning. It is also a way for me to reflect back on whether my list has changed from last year and what tools I am using more and why. 

There are other new tools that I try each year and some old ones that I continue to use but didn't make it to my Top 10. Some of the new tools that I have tried this year include Degreed, Pocket and Coursera App on my iPhone (as opposed to Coursera website). I am still exploring how best to leverage them for personal and professional learning. Some of the old tools that I continue to use are MS Office, Dropbox, Wikipedia, Mail App and Slideshare.

Of course, the Top 10 is only one way of looking at tools and technologies and it is always more in the 'how' rather than the 'what'. So, this activity also helps me reflect some more about the hows and whys of using one tool over the other and why some tools are more useful and valuable for me. 

Taking a step back and looking at this list, I realize now that it leans more towards the social aspect of learning - tools to connect, collaborate, share, learn and reflect. I think it is very indicative and telling of how I'd like to shape my personal and professional development in 2016. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Can Advanced Training Kill You?

Several months ago, I read an article about a new study that revealed that advanced driving schools that teach emergency manoeuvres only increase the risk of teen driving collisions. It seemed counter-intuitive that something that is designed to keep drivers safe - aka advanced training - can actually increase the likelihood of accidents.

"According to the International Road Federation (IRF), driver skills training — especially those emergency skill-based curriculums such as skid control, etc. actually increases the likelihood your offspring will be involved in an automobile accident. Counterproductive, says the International Road Federation (IRF), is what skills training does, namely imbuing “overconfidence [that] eliminates normally cautious behaviour.”

The overconfidence bias
Overconfidence is what prevents us from acting more cautiously when driving. But not just driving, we seem to be overconfident about many things. For example, our assessment of ourselves, our ability to meet tight timelines and stay within budgets, invest and make financial choices, forecast weather, predict the future of relationships, etc. This overconfidence bias creeps into all aspects of our daily lives.

As per Wikipedia, "The most common way in which overconfidence has been studied is by asking people how confident they are of specific beliefs they hold or answers they provide. The data show that confidence systematically exceeds accuracy, implying people are more sure that they are correct than they deserve to be." 

Werner DeBondt and Richard H. Thaler (1995) go on to say: 
Perhaps the most robust finding in the psychology of judgment is that people are overconfident.

Designing learning to manage the overconfidence bias
As learning designers, how can we avoid designing training that is counter productive? ARCS, Gagne and many other learning theories and models tell us that confidence is good. But when does this confidence turn into overconfidence? To answer this question, it is important to highlight that confidence comes from a deep understanding of the subject and validated expertise. In a state of confidence, beliefs match  abilities. Overconfidence is surrounded by speculation and is a result of beliefs exceeding abilities. 

As I read some more about confidence and overconfidence, I stumbled upon this very interesting article on the FBI page titled, Good Decisions - Tips and Strategies for Avoiding Psychological Traps. 
Brian Fitch, Ph.D, the author, talks about how law enforcement professionals can avoid psychological traps and make better decisions. It is a great read and some of the tips and traps apply rather well to the design of learning. For every tip by the author, I tried to reinterpret it from a learning design perspective and how we can help our learners avoid or better manage the overconfidence bias. (All items within quotes are from the article. My interpretations of the application to learning design are highlighted in blue):

  • "Examine assumptions carefully, especially those beliefs most strongly or confidently held. All people take certain beliefs and assumptions for granted—rather than checking periodically on accuracy, they simply assume these are true. Assumptions are dangerous, especially in police work." 

>> As learning designers, we can create lesson plans, self-check questions and assessments that challenge underlying beliefs and assumptions. It is important that we maximize the opportunities to check learners' assumptions within the safety of the course and the learning experience. In real-life, any mistakes based on poor or inaccurate assumptions might prove very costly.

  • "Try imagining all of the possible ways that something can turn out, especially all of the ways that something can go wrong." 

>> As learning designers, this speaks to me from a scenario-design perspective. We can create real-life scenarios where learners have choices and opportunities to make decisions. Scenarios can include different options or paths that learners can take and choosing a specific path can result in a specific consequence.

  • "Appreciate the limits of knowledge and abilities. Good decision makers not only make a conscious effort to investigate and verify information but also recognize what they do not know. In many cases, what officers do not know can be more important than what they know." 

>> As learning designers, we can create opportunities for learners to implement and apply what they know. During the practice and application phase of learning, we can provide feedback mechanisms that inform  learners about what they don't know and how they can acquire the missing piece of knowledge.

  • "Actively solicit input and ideas from others, especially those with different experiences and opinions. Being open to ideas and criticism is critical at every stage of the decision-making process and, in many cases, may save lives."

>> As learning designers, we can create opportunities for learners to be exposed to other learners in the community. Different views, new ideas and insights from others can help learners become more realistic about their own understanding of the subject and stay open to learning new things as they progress in their learning journey.

Perhaps we need to design learning experiences that encourage a degree of doubt rather than overconfidence. I leave you with this thought:

PS: This paper on 'A Survey on Overconfidence, Insurance and Self-Assessment Training Programs' is quite insightful! Also, in this discussion, it is important to distinguish between optimism and over confidence. Here's one way to see the difference, "Optimism is an attitude. Overconfidence is an error in calculating statistical probabilities." 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Diversity, Curiosity and Creativity in Learning

If you haven't seen Sir Ken Robinson's Ted Talks, you must see them now! In his talk titled, "How to escape education's death valley", he talks about three principles on which human life flourishes:
1. The first is that human beings are naturally different and diverse.
2. The second principle that drives human life flourishing is curiosity.
3. And the third principle is that human life is inherently creative.

Inspired by his talk, I reflected about some of the key instructional strategies that can help apply these three principles to improve the effectiveness of learning.

  • Provide different ways and methods to engage with learners. Use Universal Design for Learning principles to allow for and to support individuality.
  • Provide individual and tailored feedback and guidance whenever possible.
  • Provide multiple ways or options to complete assignments, projects or in-class activities.
  • Provide basic information and then encourage learners to ask questions. Focus on helping learners ask the right questions about the subject matter and not so much on giving all the information about the subject. 
  • Provide time and space for learners to explore, think and reflect about what they are learning. Interweave learning with reflection.
  • Provide opportunities for social learning, group collaboration and activities. Engaging with other learners can peak our curiosity about things that we didn’t think about.
  • Use case-studies, role-plays and stories that allow learners to engage with the content and imagine alternatives and possibilities.
  • Use real-life problems and keep the focus on tasks learners need to perform. Build opportunities for learners to practice and apply what they have learnt.
  • Provide diverse content and views that help break filter bubbles and allow for contradictions.

What are some of the strategies that you use to support diversity, curiosity and creativity in learning?

“Nobody else can make anybody else learn anything. You cannot make them. Anymore than if you are a gardener you can make flowers grow, you don’t make the flowers grow. You don’t sit there and stick the petals on and put the leaves on and paint it. You don’t so that. The flower grows itself. Your job if you are any good at it is to provide the optimum conditions for it to do that, to allow it to grow itself.” - Ken Robinson (Keynote Speech to the Music Manifesto State of Play conference)