Thursday, December 15, 2016

Engaging the Power of E-Learning: In Search of a New Mandate

As we come to the end of 2016, it is important that we step back from the routines and priorities that we have listed and re-listed, and reflect upon the progress of E-Learning through the year. One of the things that we need to be careful of in taking such a step back is that we not spend too much time focusing on the changes in technology that have advanced during the year.

In the final analysis it is not about technology but it is about learning, the adaptability of human beings to changing digital environments that they find themselves immersed in and the exploration on how we can move learning to higher levels that capitalize on the great human potential for creativity, innovation, and the enrichment of the quality of life for all people through the means of effective education. In order to truly address this goal of human endeavor, we can not hide from the significant complex real world problems that as societies we have created for ourselves to our detriment. In our struggle to deal with such problems, the first reality that we need to face is that our previous routines and methods of dealing with such problems are not working and in some cases are exasperating the problems.

Taking the First Step: The Need for a Globally Unifying Vision for E-Learning

In order to make sense of the changes in E-Learning and technology that impacts our lives, we need to have a vision that is global in nature because we are no longer isolated societies in time. With the rise of the Internet with all its positive and negative attributes, we are all connected to each others lives no matter where we live on the planet. In this connection, we have doors of opportunity to learn about each others lives and relate to such lives as well as the power to impact and bring about change. The vision not only involves the social connections that we form but also connections on a moral level. For example, if we learn of someone living in great poverty, in an altruistic fashion we seek ways that we can instigate positive change in the person's quality of life. The use of crowd sourcing is but one way. However, if the problem is systemic and can be addressed through bringing more effective education into their lives then the change is more long term and benefits the generations that follow as well.

Taking the Next Step: The Need to Ask the Right Questions in Regards to Technology

As much as we have become enthralled with all the new technology that has emerged this year from the use of drones to the development of Virtual Reality, some questions that we need to think about are:

  1. Are all the examples of technology that are emerging useful for enriching E-Learning and capable of enabling us to expand the human potential for creativity, innovation and collaboration so that real solutions may be found to the very complex real world problems we face? 
  2. In the choice to use and teach technology application to new learners, do we have a moral obligation to also emphasize moral accountability in how technology is used. A case in point would be the drive to teach very young children and teens how to code. Do we have a moral or ethical obligation  to make sure that the message that users of technology have a moral obligation to use coding to help our societies in a life affirming manner, is clearly and repetitively emphasized?
  3. Are we prepared to make sure that technology is harnessed to its master, pedagogy and not the other way around? Although technology may inspire changes in pedagogy it does not control pedagogy in E-Learning. Technology is but one means to a greater end.
  4. Are we prepared to entrench and model the teaching of systems thinking, critical thinking and innovative thinking into learning organizations both in the corporate world and higher education world to prepare learners to become global agents of change to the betterment of their societies?

 Taking Yet Another Step: Defending the Need to Create Conditions to Develop Agents of Change
In order to bring about and manage effective change in learning both in business organizations and within education systems proper, we need to recognize the need to overcome institutional inertia that is prevalent in so many institutions. Unlike the often repeated concern that change could be too disruptive to the organization, "treading water" in a globally connected world is more dangerous to the health of organizations. Organizations raise too many defense mechanisms when asked to consider making effective change guided by a new vision. A favourite in dealing with innovative ideas is termed "paralysis by analysis" . An idea is studied ad infinitum and gets to the point where subsequent leadership forget why they are studying the idea and it gets shelved.
The greatest travesty in such scenarios is that those who have the greatest stake in advancing the health of the business organization, the front line stakeholders, become disengaged and reduce themselves to "just doing the job but not contributing anything". With students, they simply disengage with their education all together, judging it to be irrelevant to the real world.
You can probably think of many more reflections you could add but the crucial factor that will decide where E-Learning goes is the quickly moving factor of time.
Consider what lies ahead for E-Learning in 2017 and make it your mandate as a professional to make a real difference in the quality of life for the people in our globally connected societies and most importantly, get off the "hamster wheel" and spend quality time with those who you love, who inspire you and who re-energize you to want to make a difference.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Drawing a Line In the Sand: Critical Thinking Vs. Post Truth Age-Part II

A point that needs to be re-emphasized is that accepting the "Post-Truth Age" as our new reality is dangerous on many levels and the key to whether this continues to take hold is education. It should also be pointed out that accepting this as our new reality will sow the seeds of disruption at many levels of our individual lives making us all vulnerable to manipulation by others who seek to impose their agenda on everybody.

 Again, by definition the Post-Truth Age refers to: "...relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief in the 21st century."  As was pointed out in the last post, the tenets of this "post-truth" mindset are in fact an attack on the idea of fostering effective critical thinking skills in the citizenry of our societies. This cynical mindset basically tells people that they really don't have to think because others will tell you what is true and what to think. The question that comes to mind is:

"Who are the enablers of this post-truth mindset and what are the underlying motives?

The truth about the answer to this might surprise you. We are the enablers because we have allowed rational thought to be eclipsed by emotional reasoning to the point that we are saying that we really don't have to have verifiable evidence to accept something as true as long as it stirs our emotions and we are told that it is quite acceptable to make serious decisions and take serious actions that affects many people based upon how we feel. The more violent the expression the more righteous is our cause.

Really?? Is this the message that we are passing on to school children; that temper tantrums are now socially acceptable? At first glance, you might say that this is an exaggeration and responsible adults in our society do not condone this. However, using the current events that we are all witness to, from the aftermath of the U.S. election to the trouble in the Ukraine where repeatedly, Russian governmental officials said that they had nothing to do with the conflict that erupted, I could easily rest my case.

I have already pointed out the errors in judgment education systems made when young people were taught that emotional reasoning dealing with social issues was more important than looking at the evidence on both sides of the issue; where the teaching of critical thinking skills looked good on paper but never made it into an essential mindset for dealing with all levels of curriculum.

What we didn't foresee was that the generations that were not effectively taught how to apply effective critical thinking skills are now people in office who wield a great deal of power over people's lives and they have become the enablers of a post-truth age.

The Tyranny of Opinion

It has been a well understood freedom in many societies that everyone is entitled to their opinion on any issue that affects human life. It has also been understood in many societies that the next person's opinion on an issue carries the same weight as the opinion of others. This form of equity has existed because we recognize that opinions by themselves are not required to be substantiated for them to be expressed. In contrast, in most societies of educated populations opinions that can be supported with verifiable, up to date and credible evidence are judged to carry more weight than those that are not supported. Based upon the evidence, a person may agree or disagree with the stated informed opinion. This has been the basis of civilized debate for centuries and it has been based upon societies placing a high value on critical thinking skills.


In the 21st century, we are experiencing a shift away from civilized and well reasoned debate and it comes about because of a generation that is either unable to defend their positions because they lack the necessary critical thinking skills sets or they have been indoctrinated into believing that emotions are far more important in deciding issues than the cognitive capacity they were born with. Therefore, when faced with reasoned and supported arguments against a position they hold, two strategies emerge:

  1. Use a new, contrived vocabulary whose sole purpose is to censor debate on issues based on how they are affected emotionally by having to deal with such an issue, or
  2. Use "ad hominem" argumentation to discredit the individual holding the contrary viewpoint to their own
This shift has been driven home more and more on university campuses where once they were touted as places where the constitutional right of freedom of expression was heralded as a great freedom, now have become institutions where the only free speech that is allowed is that of the group think of the social issue supporters of the day. These are groups who have re-interpreted freedom of speech as a freedom of forced conformity.

In a debate titled: Campus Gone Crazy: Is political correctness damaging our universities?”, held at the University of Toronto (Nov. 2016), Anthony Furey, a columnist from Sun media pointed out three important ways that such groups are hijacking true Freedom of Expression:
" Fringe activist groups demand money and power from the system and then use those resources to tell us how to think and speak ..."
" Often some of the key stories underlying social justice warriors’ grievances are exposed as bogus. Like the fake stories used to prop up the rape culture narrative."
Fuery points out that the three strategies that should be used to defend used by against this "group think" control are:
  1.  First, don’t let them make you think you don’t matter as an individual: The far left has used identity politics as a weapon for years. They reduce human beings into nothing more than their gender, colour of their skin, sexual orientation and so on.
  2. Second, don’t let them tell you you’re a bad person. One of the key tactics of PC bullies is to question the motives of people who don’t hold their views. Notice how on many issues they don’t even bother to debate the actual topic? Instead, all they do is rush to label you all of these bad names to seed the idea there’s something deficient with your character.
  3. Lastly, absolutely do not let them frame the debate.
 With respect to education, the word "integrity" should become the most vaunted ideal to engage students with and it is also a value that should be modeled by all educators. In today's education, it needs to be defended and people who model this value should be heralded as examples for becoming a citizen who contributes well to the quality of life of all people.
We need to disengage from baseless opinion mandates and empower reasoned evidential debate on all issues of human life.
Next--Seeking a Better E-Learning Mandate

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Drawing A Line In the Sand: Critical Thinking vs. the Post Truth Age: Part I

In this 21st century, we all have been mystified by the current events of our age from the expansionist adventurism of Russia into the Ukraine to the recent presidential elections in the United States. These and other events have had serious impacts on the daily lives of many ordinary people. It has resulted in a variety of very common human responses. It should be noted that a majority of the responses have been of an emotional nature.
However, it is the intellectual responses that have been the most intriguing. One phrase that comes out of these intellectual responses and one declared to be the 2016 word or phrase of the year is the: "Post Truth Age".

By definition this phrase "the Post-Truth Age" means "relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief in the 21st century." So, the question that comes to mind is:

"What does this have to do with education and E-Learning?"

The Threat to the Integrity of Education

The main goal of education in a digital world is to teach learners how to think and even more importantly, how to analyze the vast amount of information on the web for its truth value. The reason that this is an important skill is the fact that access to the World Wide Web and the power of social media in the form of Twitter, Facebook, IM and other platforms means that anyone, both the ethical and the non-ethical groups who wish to present opinions have easy access. In education, the most important question is "what do you think about something?" instead of " what do you feel about something?". In order to teach learners to be able to answer and defend their answer to the former question, they need to develop good critical thinking skills.

In attempting to answer the second question without examining objective evidence means that everyone who feels something about some event is entitled to express their feeling and have it accepted as being "the truth" concerning that event. This also means that when that feeling is expressed, even when the factual evidence does not support the expressed emotional feeling about the event, the feeling about the event is to be accepted as the truth and attempts by others to challenge it on the basis of the factual evidence are to be silenced and censored. The use of badly defined labels with the intent of making the other side feel that they are "bad people" is a useful tool. It also confuses how the term should be used when verifiable, objective evidence supports it and it is legitimate.

This trend is dangerous on many levels. For one it allows the researcher in what ever field that he or she is in, to simply bypass peer review of their work and data and publish the results as accurate. If we have an Immunologist who follows this slipshod path, decisions that are made do not just impact the lives of university administration  and the individual researcher but can have far reaching consequences on the lives of many populations who are trusting in the authenticity of the results.

When "truth" is relative, it is no longer the truth. Critical thinking provides learners with the necessary tools to either accept or dismiss what is being said on the grounds of verifiable evidence.

With respect to education, the symptoms of this problem have become more and more prevalent in how educators deal with social issues. Too many educators involve students in taking stands on social issues without first having them examining the evidence from all sides; too many have their own confirmed point of view which skews how they present "available evidence" on both sides of an issue.

When we speak of the political level of life, although many politicians give "lip service" to the desire that all students be taught effective critical thinking skills, would they be willing to live with the consequences of having an electorate that is able to assess presented arguments by examining evidence and being able to separate fact from fiction in an objective manner. The comedian, George Carlin thinks that would be a nightmare for the political establishment because it might mean that they would have to meet a level of ethical standards that they have never seen before or even knew existed.

Before anyone comes up with a creative label suggesting that I am against emotional expression, I assure that I am not because it is an important part of who we are but it must be used in balance. An opinion is a valid one to examine if it is an informed opinion based on supporting and verifiable evidence.

If the teaching of critical thinking is important to properly equip learners, it is important so that they can be effective agents of change in societies beset with complex real world problems that need creative and innovative solutions and not just outbursts of emotional outrage. The importance of teaching critical thinking skills is heightened when it is conducted in an online environment where dealing with the exponential level of information is not just a nice frill but an absolute necessity.

As a society, we need to draw a line in the sand and not accept this purported "post truth age" as our new reality. We need to educate effectively and entrench the teaching of critical thinking across areas of curriculum. As Nelson Mandela states:

If you think that this type of conversation is worth sharing then do so. You know where I stand on the issue, I think!

Next----Drawing A Line In the Sand: Part II-Identifying the Enablers of the Post Truth Age

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Power of Engagement--Part IV---Leading Business Organizations into the Future

If the goal of a business organization is to seize the opportunity to grow through engaging their employees in innovative and creative thinking, then the future lies in developing a learning culture that syncs the personal lives that employees live outside the business organization with the life within the business organization. Bridging the gap needs to be done with caution because the gap is not static but is changing as the experiences that employees have with technology and new ways of approaching things increases outside the business, business organizations need to know how to engage what they are learning in the mission of the business to shorten the gap.


Effective synergy depends upon harmonizing these two areas that employees truly care about. Not to do so, creates the old disconnect between the life lived outside the organization and the life within. A simply analogy to what this means is to think back to days in school when it was often heard from a student that when he or she gets out into the "real world", then life begins. The suggestion here is that life in school was not connected to the way life was lived outside of school. An important point to remember is that with the great advancement of technology and the exponential growth of information across disciplines, greater and great percentages of students are disconnecting from their education because education as an institution is still holding to a model of education that is seriously out of sync with the realities of the 21st century world.


The same can be said of business organizations who fail to lay a foundation and move forward to create the needed synergy for their business organization. Organizational inertia is something that needs to be recognized and overcome.

Business Organizations Growing Into the Future 

 If business organizations desire to make innovative thinking a natural mindset among employees they need to focus on how they can use learning to engage employees to not only interact with each other for a powerful and meaningful purpose but also to interact with decision makers as collaborative teams all using complementary skills for effective complex real world problem solving germane to the future health of the business.

A second step is to look at organizations that are successful in engaging employees in developing innovative thinking mindsets. I know that people are tired of being referred to the ways that Google and Apple operate. These two organizations, despite their level of success, are not without their share of "warts". However, in regards to generating innovative thinking, they are successful. For example consider the principles by which Google operates. 

"It is the principles that may be applied within your own learning culture of your business organization! "


Google's Principles of Innovation
  1. Have a Mission That Matters: When was the last time your business organization asked the question about whether your mission matters. A mission has the potential to touch many lives. Do your employees feel connected to it and empowered to help achieve it? Notice that the means of empowerment of employees is a crucial tipping point.
  2. Think Big But Start Small: Why is it that in many businesses talk about "thinking outside the box" as something that is unusual? Instead, why isn't it inherent in everything they say or do? The fact that they identify that they work in a box does not bode well to becoming innovative. Google suggests that no matter how ambitious the plan is, you have to roll up your sleeves and start somewhere. Sadly, too many ambitious ideas become mired in by the fear of taking a risk and as a result sit on a shelf covered in dust.
  3. Strive For Continual Innovation; Not Instant Perfections: The best way to create a climate of continual innovation is to watch users of your products and services in the wild, get feedback and then act on that feedback. Google has been able to make dramatic progress by working quickly, learning faster and then taking the next steps based on data. You will notice the bolding of "learning faster". It is there because it relates back to the condition of the learning culture of your business organization.
  4. Look For Ideas Everywhere: Coming back to your learning culture, if it is working great ideas will come from employees when they gather together while at lunch or breaks. Enthusiasm is a hard thing to break once it is working with engaged employees.
  5. Share Everything: The great call in the 21st century is for the fostering of collaboration not only within an organization but also within the greater globally connected economic world. One of the barriers to overcome is what I would term as "intellectual protectionism" which takes up back to the silo of knowledge idea which doesn't work in a digital age. By sharing everything within your organization, you encourage the discussion exchange and enable the re-interpreting of ideas which can lead to unexpected, innovative outcomes. We need to get away from the "tell" mindset which is part of the command and control culture. In an innovative and creative culture it is about sharing of talent and ideas.
  6. Use Imagination to Spark Ideas But Fuel With Data: Google creates a foundation for great ideas by setting aside 20 % of employee's time for pursuing and testing out ideas they have. One suggestion that I made earlier is for an organization to create a "technology sandbox" metaphorically speaking, where employees can go to try out new technologies and ideas. This means that part of the role of trainer gets re-written to include mentorship in this technology sandbox.
  7. Be A Platform: There is a great deal of innovative ideas happening around the globe. The power of open innovation and technology follows along the same line as open source software where someone puts forth an app and others have opportunities to improve on it and transform it. It does create a headache for those involved in international patents of intellectual property but even they have to adapt to a changing digital landscape.
  8. Never Fail to Fail: Simply put this means that it is o.k. to fail as long as you learn from your mistakes and correct them fast. Google works on the principle to say "yes" and resist a culture of "no"; accept the inevitability of failure but continue to move forward until you get things right.
  9. Create Shared Value Between Business and Society: This represents the idea that was mentioned at the start of the post which is creating synergy between the world the employees live in and the business world they are a part of. Bridging the gap is the first priority for future health and success.

The last word belongs to Steve Jobs:

"Where does your business organization stand with respect to creating engagement of employees into an innovative and creative mindsets? Are you bridging the gap or is it getting wider for your organization?"

Next----A Call to Arms---Critical Thinking vs. the Post Truth Age--Time to Stand Up and Be Counted!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Power of Engagement--Leading By Example--Part III--Plotting Paths of Least Resistance

The sobering statistic stated in the previous post that only 31% of business organizations identify having an effective learning culture as an integral part of their business is a "wake call" that 21st century businesses ignore at their peril. Change in an business organization only becomes "disruptive change" if an organization has made no credible effort to start to lay a foundation for dealing with the waves of change that are building. Therefore, the most important question that businesses that are in that 69 percentile who have identified themselves as not having an effective learning culture, is:

"How do we start in such a way that our present stable goods and services to our clients is not threatened? What is the path of least resistance?"

The very first step is to recognize that there has been shift in what is of value in the global economy. Information is the new currency and how it is shared through collaborative global networking is the new and most desirable mindset. The very first consideration when laying a foundation for innovative and creative thinking is to recognize that no business organization is an "island onto itself". In order to get increasing ROI and growth, means that you have to reach out to online networked communities on a global scale. This means that employees need to be engaged in online learning in order to feel competent to network and collaborate with networked learning communities that are germane to the mission of the business.


Online Learning and the Learning Cultures of Business Organizations

There are very few more prevalent phrases in today's world than the phrase "Online Learning". Before considering the different types of "online learning" approaches, it is important to look at what advantages and disadvantages online learning has in comparison with the traditional approaches that businesses have had in the past when it came to training employees.

Credit: Ashwin Kumar (2011)
Some of the characteristics that stand out as reflective of our times are:

  • E-Learning allows for learning anytime and anywhere. This gives a great deal of flexibility to a business organization because it takes account of the reality that most employees live in. Outside of the business, employees can go online anywhere there is a WiFi connection using any type of technology using Smart Phones, Tablets, Laptops and even watches. This describes the mobile online learning environment that engages employees when they are not at the business. As was mentioned previously, people spend more hours dedicated to learning outside L&D training than they do in the mandated learning of the business organization. "Imagine what it would mean for a business organization if employees chose in their free time to further their learning in order to contribute to realizing the mission of the business".

  • The ability to personalize learning is another important advantage that E-Learning has over the traditional approach. Unfortunately, too often the traditional training sessions treated employees as a passive audience who were forced to learn and comply as a result of the influence of the external motivators, more negative than positive because the motivation to learn came from outside the learner instead of from within him or her. It was one of the reasons that employees very often did not develop as deep a level of learning as could have been. The bottom line is that employees need to be engaged personally by being able to interact, test and collaborate with others when it comes to learning. This needs to be driven by intrinsic motivation of the employee and less on external motivators.
  • One important disadvantage deals with synchronous and asynchronous learning where the availability of a global team member will depend upon what time zone they occupy. Traditional learning is largely synchronous and so does not present the same problems. This problem is temporary as new technological means are used to make the time problem irrelevant.

The question that needs to be asked is:

"What type of E-Learning would be appropriate for business organizations just starting out in the quest of re-shaping the learning culture of their business?"

E-Learning and Business Organizations
If the goal is to create an innovative and creative solutions culture, then engagement of employees with each other within the business organization and with networked learning communities globally is the key. As you are aware, technology is advancing at an exponential rate with many different types of technological marvels but the technology is not what is the most important to the health of a business organization. What is important are the employees and their need to be able to learn and collaborate with each other in a globally networked world. The atmosphere of the culture of the business organization will either encourage these new ways to be innovative and creative or discourage them as a Gallup Poll dealing with the daily negative experiences of employees according to employment and status points to.
 In order to create engagement of employees in business goals, you need to identify the causes of disengagement and most importantly points of stress within.

So, coming back to what form of E-Learning would be appropriate for business organizations, I would suggest the use of "blended learning" which is a balance of collaborative and meaningful work online along with interactive discussions in the classroom. What is important to note about the role of the trainer is that he or she is no longer the "sage on the stage" but is instead the "mentor on the side". "Power-Pointing" employees to death during a training session is really a discouragement to collaborative learning and again treats the employees as a passive and controlled audience. What is preferable is to get employees use to collaborative teams which might be made up of 3 people from the business organization itself and 3 from a networked learning community somewhere else in the world who bring their skillsets to solving complex real world problems that are germane to the business organization.

Leading by example when it comes to innovative and creative thinking also means learning from those business organizations that have already changed their learning cultures and have risen to the heights of being very successful businesses in the global economic community.

Next--Leading By Example---Part IV--The Google and Apple Engagement Strategies

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Power of Engagement - Leading By Example: Part II-- Business Organizations

As pointed out in the previous post, business organizations face a challenging dilemma and that dilemma is all about how to handle rapid change. To even mention the term "innovation" or "innovative thinking" in some business organizations meets with a hostile response or a defense that says you don't know the restrictions that our business faces. What many businesses fail to realize is that the greatest restrictions that they face have more to do with fear and a vision that is myopic in nature.

In order to deal with these challenges it is important to look at these challenges in ways that businesses can appreciate. It is important to be aware of the human capital trends that are unfolding in the present and will continue to form a pattern into the future.

 The first challenge is to look at the learning culture of the business organization in the context of the 21st century environment. For some businesses, walking in the front door is like stepping back in time because the business is doing what it has always done and hasn't really considered the possibility that they might have to revisit their company vision to see if it is in sync with the evolving, collaborative global economy where being a global learner is important to a healthy business that wants to operate on a global stage.

Credit: E-learning Industry
When we examine the facts about the importance of an organization having a healthy learning culture to engage their employees in a type of learning that promotes innovative and creative thinking, we are faced with a troubling statistic:

Credit: David Blake (Sept. 12, 2016)
The obvious question that needs to be asked is: WHY?? The answer suggests the very reason that the vision of the organization needs to be revisited.

Historically, L&D has focused on meeting organizations' requirements, not employees. While L&D may have previously provided most employee learning, other sources now provide employees with more learning opportunities. This is why that today in 2016, 79% of learning comes from non-L&D sources. In effect, business organizations are wasting their learning investment in an age which is defined as an age of knowledge and learning.

Credit: Stop Wasting Your Learning Investment
Engagement of employees means to create an environment or learning culture in which they are called upon to use their creative and innovative abilities in meaningful ways, tasked to helping the organization grow into the 21st century global marketplace. This also means that you are encouraging employees to think like entrepreneurs in that they are being encouraged to consider risk taking in the same manner as entrepreneurs in the world do every day. The problem is how will the organization deal with this in flow of creative and innovative thinking? Those not committed will give "knee-jerk" reactions.

Credit: Scott Adams
 The bitter irony for some business organizations without a credible learning culture is the realization that their employees want to learn but are more engaged to contribute their time and talent to outside learning opportunities rather than within the company structure.

Credit: MindTools

Given what we know to be true, what is the way forward  so that business organizations can remain healthy and grow in a global economy?

More importantly, how does a business organization re-shape their learning culture to ignite employee engagement or establish a learning culture in the first place? To suggest that the business organization does not need to consider this re-shaping or transformation of their learning culture is to be incredibly naive in a global business environment where the naive don't survive.

Next--The Power of Engagement--Part III: Transforming Business Learning Cultures

The Power of Engagement: Leading By Example:Part I

In the 21st century, any business organization or educational organization that wishes to instill mindsets that nurture creative and innovative thinking needs to understand that this is an impossible task unless you first create a real sense of engagement in the mission of the organization by those who are part of that organization. The advance of technology and increased use of the world wide web in many facets of our lives has created a dilemma for both business and educational organizations. They know that in order to solve the complex real world problems that buffet their organizations, they need learners and employees that will make use of their creative and innovative talents but the truth is that both learners and employees are using these talents but mostly in activities outside the mission of the organization.

Credit: Hari Babu (2014)

The questions that need to be asked from the point of view of both business organizations and educational institutions are:

" What is this phenomenon trying to tell us and what do we have to do as organizations to harness this level of employee or learner engagement to the organizational challenges that are impacting us?

If, as an organization, you want your employees to be innovative and creative in their thinking then you need to create an environment which will nurture those skillsets. The first step is to create an environment that encourages effective and powerful conversations that give rise to true collaboration.

Leading By Example--- Reflections on the Use of LinkedIn and Effective Conversations

The LinkedIn platform has one of the greatest potentials for engaging people in many professions in important conversations that reinforce creative and innovative thinking. The real question is whether or not LinkedIn is realizing that potential.

Credit: Trinity Adam
 At first glance, one immediately notices the number of the LinkedIn groups which speaks very well to its diversity. However, even with this immense number of groups, we still have to ask the question:

"Are the members of these groups engaged in effective and thoughtful conversations or is the main focus simply 1.5 million tip lines?"

It is interesting to survey postings in many groups because what jumps out at you is the number of times that "likes" are registered but the conversations don't happen. I am sure for many group moderators they feel like pulling their hair out when they see this happening in their own group. So, what is the perception that people have about how LinkedIn is being used?

Credit: www.Talent Manager 

Also revealing are the features that people find most helpful.

Credit: Plus.Google.Com
The most eloquent and detailed discussions that I have noticed have to do with the complaints people have for the way that many postings in LinkedIn are too much like Facebook. Notice that in the above chart that "posting and/or participating in group discussions is at a 41.7% priority. I really have to ask:

"Are these the limits of our creative and innovative thinking? Is this the best that we can hope for in terms of thoughtfully engaging conversations?"

Do not get the idea that I am picking on LinkedIn or really criticizing its potential but I think it represents a microcosm of a far greater pervasive problem that we seem to be displaying in our societies and it can best be expressed in a couple of questions:

"Are we being defined by the routines and minutiae of living our daily lives to the point where we are saying we no longer are willing to give time to become involved in thoughtful, engaging discussions in a platform that has such great potential as LinkedIn?"

"Are we allowing the frustrations, narcissism and a cynical view of the future to block creative and innovative collaborative thinking which could lead to a better quality of life for many people?"

If we want to capitalize on the power of engagement and nurture it in our business and educational organizations, we need to lead by example. LinkedIn is but one platform that we can lead by example if we can put aside our time consuming engagement in superficial things and devote more of our time to powerful conversations that will go further to improving our present state. In doing so, we don't have to put aside our humanity but we do need to show and demonstrate its greatest assets.

Next---Leading By Example II---A Surprising Look at Business and the Power of Engagement

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Pursuing the Future in E-Learning--Part II---Putting the Pieces Together

Although the use of technology is important in collaborative thinking, we should remember that it starts with the human being and his or her skillsets. It was pointed out that the necessary skillsets that learners need to nurture and develop have changed because of the paradigm shift brought on by the triumvirate of three driving forces:
  1. Pedagogy
  2. Technology
  3. Change Management

When we now look at "collaborative thinking" in this new context, we are not talking about the group work or "break out sessions" of the past. The characteristics that learners must have in order to work collaboratively in an online environment is largely defined by the nature of the online resources available. The purpose for such activity now takes on the need to solve complex real world problems that will in fact have consequences that will benefit people and their quality of life on a global scale. Consideration must once again be given to the "cause and effect" construct.The groups that will come together in an online environment with the mandate to research and produce solutions to very real and complex societal problems, will be made up of people who believe that the modern world problems of today can only be solved through a cross disciplinary approach. Unlike the protected silos of knowledge and skillsets of the past, the new collaborative thinking recognizes the need to bring together individuals who have the necessary skillsets to solve a complex problem. A simple example might be the following:

Tasked Problem: " Dateline: August 25, 2017:A plane carrying diplomats from three countries has crash landed on a small plateau of ice in the Himalayas at a peak called Nanga Parbat. Transponders on the bodies of the diplomats are sending back physiological data  including heart, respiration, and internal body temperature readings. Readings indicate that all diplomats are alive although there is a discrepancy in body temperatures. The transponder of the plane, although weak, indicates that the plane crashed at 6700 m. above sea level."


  1. In order to mount a rescue, what disciplines and skillsets will be needed in order to not only get a complete picture of the problem and then come up with an effective solution?
  2. Checking with online AI, give us a list of people who have the necessary complementary skillsets that we will need to address the tasked problem.
  3. What global databases will we need to have free and open access to in order to establish an effective VPN?
  4. What are the potential routes that may be used for the intended rescue? Who can provide us with accurate pro's and con's of each route?
  5. What technologies can we harness in order to get a full picture of the problem and come up with solutions? How do we maintain contact with body transponders if power starts to fail?

Collaborative thinking goes beyond simple discussion and instead incorporates each team member's ability to access credible data, assess data from a number of sources and use the individual specific talent whether it is meteorology, mathematics, or medical skills and contribute to the analysis of the problem and ultimately to an innovative but effective solution.
An important skillset that all team members must have is the practiced ability to ask the right questions about the problem tasked. This is where access to an AI machine is invaluable because of its ability to do needed calculations, offer probability factors and also link with important global discipline databases on the web. The problem suggested above is relatively simple compared to the many complex rel world problems that the world currently faces. In these types of problems, the "wild card" is the unpredictable behaviour of human beings.

This type of scenario based learning is the type that should be utilized more and more in E-Learning because it nurtures the type of collaborative thinking needed in order for agents of change to become effective problem solvers of the very real problems that our world faces. The skillset of being able to interface with an AI and its abilities will enable us to go along way to the goal of stopping global problems that are destabilizing our civilizations. The path taken is exciting, purposeful and meaningful.

Next...Pursuing the future in E-Learning---Creativity and Innovation Thinking
[It is worth taking note that conversations only can take place when people are willing to share their views on topics. Surprisingly enough it is under such conditions that deeper learning takes place rather than the shallow temporary learning that takes place in information jolts. Pass this message along.]

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Pursuing the Future in E-Learning: Connecting Evolving Practices to a New Vision:Part I

As most world history teachers will tell you, all history is defined by "cause and effect". A simple analogy would be to consider a billiard table with a full set of billiard balls on the table. Striking the cue ball or introducing an event causes the cue ball to impact other billiard balls on the table. These billiard balls would represent current events on a world scale. The action of using that cue ball causes a chain reaction of effects on many events. It is worth noting that very rarely does one cause only result in one effect. We see this type of reality in historical events. For example, the cause of World War I was not just the product of one causative event. It was in fact caused by multiple events but the singular event of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and his wife brought multiple causes that were already there to the tipping point.



Another popular analogy used to describe cause and effect in relation to the spread of Communism in Southeast Asia in the late 1960's and the decades of the 1970's and 1980's was the
"Domino Effect". However, this analogy was a based on movement in a linear, one direction paradigm and usually one cause.


So, you might ask why the history lesson and what does this have to do with E-Learning practices?

Perhaps, part of the answer is that when the Internet came into the mainstream as a credible means for people to pursue learning at the start of the millennium, the singular dimension of cause and effect in learning became a multi-dimensional entity because on a global scale and in a dimension of immediate communication and response, multiple causes of change in learning now impacted on how the art of education and learning should proceed. Instructional designers who in the past had followed a regimen of stable "best practices", now found that rather than having time graduated change in best practices they were forced to deal with an exponential growth in knowledge across disciplines and a new learning environment that was global and immediate in nature and took them into new pedagogical practices that allowed learners to capitalize on the assets made available by the World Wide Web. They were faced by and still are confronted by the question:

" Is a design model such as ADDIE still a viable best practice model or is this still single dimension thinking? Do we need to advance a design model that is more adaptive to the flux of change and agile?"


It would seem that there is movement in the instructional design community to try to address the challenges of the advance of a relatively new learning environment. There are many ISD models that are spin off variations of ADDIE. There are also ISD models from Dick and Carey and also Kemp. One important response to the changes has been the introduction of rapid prototyping which is a reaction to the immediacy of the web environment which has stepped up global competition to deliver new services and products to a whole new level. However, we are still faced with the sobering question:

"Is this enough or are we still mired in single dimensional thinking?"

Pursuing the Future: New Levels of Thinking

Collaborative Thinking: Making the best use of the intellectual assets of business organizations, the scientific community and the academic community in an online world is the goal to strive for in a age that by its own definition is an age of learning and information. Problems faced by societies of the past, due to geographical distance and time seemed to be isolated and largely insular in the relationships among nations. Outside collaboration was only sought when a crisis arose that would affect more than one nation. Examples of this would be the world wars. Resources were contributed and pooled to address the common threat to the nations involved.


However, the advance of technology and mediums of communication have changed the nature of the new problems that we face as societies. Problems are no longer just regional concerns but have taken on global dimensions. For example, in the past, a terror attack on a country half way around the world from you would be brought to your attention through the media but didn't directly affect you unless the leader of your country sought to include your country in the event. In terms of the billiard ball analogy, the causative events lost most of their impact before reaching your billiard ball. Now as a result of the Internet and its reach around the world, terror can be exported and recruitment in far away places can bring terror into your country. You can name many other complex real world problems that will exhibit the same reach and influence on a global level as a result of the ever increasing access of the human race to global internet resources.

This essentially means that in order to address these new complex real world problems effectively, requires a collaborative form of thinking that is global in nature. Simply put, in order to effectively address complex real world problems that are integrated into the world wide web, we need to utilize collaborative thinking on a global scale. This means the creation of global collaborative groups whose members may be from a plethora of countries around the world.

The Billiard Ball of New Technology: Collaboration of AI With Humans

The advance of new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence is a rapidly moving billiard ball that will have a substantial impact on our new way of doing collaboration in order to solve complex real world problems.
We can choose from two main approaches:

  1. We can deem that in order to free up time for humans to be creative and innovative, we can relegate the intelligent machine to the often repetitive, time consuming tasks that take us away from using our creativity and innovative thinking. In an industrial setting, this is being done in ways in which the robotic device is involved in assembly line tasks. The motive of business organization leaders is not necessarily to free up the creative and innovative talents of their human workers but may come down to producing effective capital streams.
  2. We can make greater use of the capacity of artificially intelligent machines to use their talents to collaborate and adapt to the needs of the tasks the human group have before them. In other words, work hand in hand with them and using their talents to complement our own.
Credit: Global Specs
In an editorial in Science Magazine (Jan. 2016), the authors argue for human-machine collaboration in “human computation systems.” Such a system would use human creativity to propose new ideas while algorithms test, evaluate, and facilitate revision of those ideas. The authors tout it as a kind of shortcut to solving the “hard problems” of A.I. by having humans do the work that computers can't quite do yet.
 They also point out that this approach avoids the “existential risks” of A.I. that the likes of Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking have been warning about.

 The Japan Times (Aug. 19, 2016) reported that the government is funding an all in approach to encouraging AI machine and human collaboration in various phases of life. The two examples they give are:

  • In the medical field, AI technology is expected to be used in diagnosing the symptoms of patients and advising doctors on optimal treatments by analyzing electronic medical records and huge amounts of data on similar cases.
  • In the manufacturing sector, for example, AI technologies could be used to detect signs of impending machinery glitches and failures at factories more efficiently than humans to reduce output disruptions
The drive towards the utilization of AI machines as collaborators with human beings had long been predicted by science fiction writers. In recent Marvel comics based movies and in particular, the Iron Man series, details how both human and AI can work together to solve complex real world problems. Pay special attention to the nature of the interactions between Iron Man Tony Stark and his AI. This is the type of collaborative synergy that needs to take place in order to arrive at solutions to complex real world problems that threaten us as human beings.

 The future of effective decision making involving complex real world problems will include the use of new technologies but they must be used in a life affirming manner rather than a self destructive manner. The sobering question that we face is one suggested by Max Tegmark, a founder of the Future of Life Institute which is this:

" In a race between the growing power of the technology, and the growing wisdom we need to manage it, can our wisdom meet the challenge?"

Next.... Part II--Pursuing the Future--Putting the Pieces Together