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‘Info-mania’ dents IQ more than marijuana

More perils of the attention economy:

"The relentless influx of emails, cellphone calls and instant messages received by modern workers can reduce their IQ by more than smoking marijuana, suggests UK research."

User experience is quality, not a discipline

Peter Merholz is right on the mark with his new perspective on user experience design or UXD (he initially proclaimed UXD dead):

"User experience should not be just about interactive systems -- it's a quality that reflects the sum total of a person's experiences with any product, service, organization. When I walk into a store, I'm having a "user experience." When I call an airline to make a reservation, I'm having a "user experience." And innumerable elements contribute to affect that quality of experience."

Innovation Moves From the Laboratory to the Bike Trail and the Kitchen

More evidence that innovation and knowledge is local, i.e. it resides at the source:

"But a lot of significant innovations do not come from people trying to figure out what customers may want. They come from the users themselves, who know exactly what they want but cannot get it in existing products."

Can video games stimulate academic learning?

Cognitive Daily writes about the impact of games in the classroom by describing a study done in Chile. The study also draws attention to the type of games that are likely to have an impact (as opposed to plain edutainment types).

"The children who played video games were more motivated, more likely to pay attention in class, and substantially less likely to be disruptive. Teachers, even those who were initially skeptical of the program, recognized significant improvements in the classroom, and asked to be able to continue using the games in all their classrooms."

Social Bookmarking Tools

This paper explores the tagging phenomenon in social bookmarking sites:

"In many ways these new tools resemble blogs stripped down to the bare essentials. Here the essential unit of information is a link, not a story – but a link decorated with a title, a description, tags and perhaps even personal recommendation points. It is still uncertain whether tagging will take off in the way that blogging has. And even if it does, nobody yet knows exactly what it will achieve or where it will go – but the road ahead beckons."

[via Stephen's Web]

Apple’s VoiceOver

OS X Tiger "introduces VoiceOver, an accessibility interface that gives you magnification options, keyboard control and spoken English descriptions of what’s happening on screen. If you have a visual impairment, VoiceOver enables you to work collaboratively with other Mac users or work on their computers without assistance."

Reflections on Making Decisions

This is an interesting article on the changing nature of decision-making in the healthcare industry. Not surprisingly, the changes are in the area of interpersonal communications: "Increasingly, a growing body of studies supports the fact that poor physician-nurse communication leads to negative patient outcomes."

Podcast: Negotiating tip of the week

The Otter Group is experimenting with podcasts for e-learning purposes. Every week, they publish a 2-3 minute talk by Josh Weiss, Associate Director of Harvard’s Program on Negotiation. This week's topic is on Salary Negotiation. You can subscribe to the RSS feed here.

Tapping the power of analogy

This article, which appears in the latest Harvard Business Review, is a comprehensive read on understanding and using analogies to make sense of new or unpredictable environments -- be it for strategy or for learning purposes. It explains why the case based method of business instruction is so effective -- it provides managers with a repository of analogies they can draw from to make sense of uncertainties in the real world. Much of the article, however, focuses on techniques to avoid shoehorning analogies to fit your bias. [Note: full article available for purchase online.]

Teaching as performance

This First Monday article continues the debate on knowledge as a thing vs. knowledge as performance. The author beautifully captures the futility of trying to textualize everything:

"Despite this centuries–long trend, however, upper–end management skill has tended to remain in the realm of the interpersonal and of instinctive know–how. In this realm, information technologies have tended not to function as automating technologies, extracting human knowledge and enshrining it in more or less "expert" systems. Instead they have functioned as what Zuboff calls "informating" technologies. Informating technologies feed ever richer streams of data to human beings who still cannot fully explain their ability to sort, manage and manipulate this knowledge for managerial purposes. Managers perform their duties every day in ways that can’t be fully captured in text."

The author also explores this tension in relation to online courses and explains the pressures of balancing one with the other.

Info overload functions as roadblock to better memory

This is a fantastic article that not only points out that the lack of focus and attention is the cause of many memory failures, but it also offers a handy guide for making your brain healthy.

"The problem is people are losing their ability to pay attention. Attention - focus - builds memory..."

Is Phoenix the Future?

This is a nice interview with Gary A. Berg on the University of Phoenix model. Gary is dean of extended education at California State University Channel Islands and actually taught a course at the University of Phoenix in order to understand the model.

"The University of Phoenix and other for-profits argue for a practitioner model claiming that part-time faculty usage can actually lead to higher quality in particular disciplines such as business where real world experience rather than research is especially valuable to students."

[thanks elearnspace]

Quality Personas

This article (PDF) describes an extended use of a persona -- user behavior:

"The best personas will also go the extra step to describe key behaviors such as a decision making process, an information browsing approach, or a shopping mode—the drivers that affect how people approach a given solution."

The emerging mind

The 2003 Reith Lectures from the BBC profiled Professor VS Ramachandaran, a noted neuroscientist and the Director of the Centre for Brain and Cognition at the University of California (San Diego). The Prof. talks about how the "activity of the 100 billion little wisps of protoplasm - the neurons in your brain - give rise to all the richness of our conscious experience, including the "redness" of red, the painfulness of pain or the exquisite flavour of Marmite or Vindaloo."

These audio files are in .rm format (RealMedia), but if you are on the Mac, you can use WireTapPro to convert them into .mp3 format and download directly into your iPod.

A new approach to conference learning

This article describes an engaging approach to devise workshops and conferences where participants' specific pain-points and objectives are targeted:

"Instead of using third-person case studies as the context for a problem-solving exercise, we drew from our participants’ actual needs. A template was e-mailed to early registrants, asking them to identify key points of their business challenges--the challenges that would form the basis of the team’s case problem."

Paired Interview Technique

StepTwo Designs has a new briefing on the paired interview technique:

"A paired interview is a method of collecting information from several people at the same time who represent the target audience. The paired interview is not two interviews being conducted simultaneously. The emphasis of the paired interview is to create a dynamic in which the participants interact with each other. In so doing, they validate or clearly identify differences in working practices and terminology."

Standards for online content authors

Here's a quick reference card for online writers.

The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling

Steve Denning is out with a new book that looks at the nuts and bolts of storytelling in organizations. The first chapter of the book -- Telling the Right Story -- is available as a free download (PDF).

Malofiej Awards 2005

The Malofiej awards for infographic excellence have been announced.
[thanks interactivenarratives]

Children learn best when teaching is out of sync

Here's an interesting study on using gesture for teaching math to third-and-fourth graders:

University of Chicago researchers Melissa Singer and Susan Goldin-Meadow have done extensive research on the role of gesture in teaching, finding that teachers spontaneously use gestures to teach, and that the use of gestures increases when children are having difficulty with a topic. Surprisingly, they also found that very often these gestures did not match the verbal lesson being given by the teachers.

The researchers have found that children learn better when the teacher's speech and gestures differ.

Cisco CEO on U.S. Education: ‘We’re Losing the Battle’

David Kirkpatrick reports on John Chamber's lament on the state of US education:

To remain a player in the global economy, Chambers urges that our nation reform its primary and secondary educational system from kindergarten all the way through college and beyond. And he says we have to focus on preparing students for careers in engineering and other technical disciplines.

Why Logic Often Takes A Backseat

This article from BusinessWeek highlights another neuroscience application: neuroeconomics:

"Neuroeconomics, while still regarded skeptically by mainstream economists, could be the next big thing in the field. It promises to put economics on a firmer footing by describing people as they really are, not as some oversimplified mathematical model would have them be. Eventually it could help economists design incentives that gently guide people toward making decisions that are in their long-term best interests in everything from labor negotiations to diets to 401(k) plans."

Neuroscience has been getting a lot of buzz lately. National Geographic, Nature, New Scientist, Business Week and others have had feature-length articles on neuroscience applications. On the learning front too, George Siemens has already pointed out that neuroscience may go on to shape and define the future of learning.

Here are two books that have helped me to learn about neuroscience: Steven Johnson's Mind Wide Open, and Tom Stafford and Matt Webb's Mind Hacks.

Decision Games

Here's Jay's account of a project that I'm associated with: decision games. This term was coined by Gary Klein, in his book, Power of Intuition. Decision games are high impact learning events that are aimed at getting learners to practice decision-making skills that are to be exercised in ambiguous, uncertain events such as project management, risk management, competition analysis, emergency management, disaster management, etc.

Together with KM experts, Straits Knowledge, I'm involved in developing decision games that combine Gary Klein's work with intuitive decision making and Dave Snowden's work with narrative analysis to elicit knowledge from expert practitioners (as opposed to subject matter experts). What results from these techniques is a far cry from what is possible by just analyzing subject matter. (Malcolm Gladwell's Blink gives a good account of the kind of knowledge that can be elicited through these techniques.)

I will post more on this method at a later date. By the way, if you are wondering where I feature in Jay's article, it's with Pebble Road, my company. Yes, I've finally started out on my own. The website is a little bare right now, but will post more when I get the time.

Personal learning

Denham Grey has written a wonderful post on the principles of learning for the new age:

"The key to learning is not the medium nor the message, it is the quality of the dialog with your peers that really matters."

Controlled and suggested vocabularies: Are tags making us dumb?

This post, by David Weinberger, offers wonderful insights on the pros and cons of folksonomies. Although much is said about the bottom-up, emergent properties of folksonomies, I'm still quite skeptical about the current state of folksonomy implementations. Decentralizing to these extremes always has its limits. Weinberger in his post lists some of these limits. I would add the phenomenon of the 'long tail' and 'information cascades' to his list.

I can't help thinking about the possibility of having a bottom-up 'synonym ring' which connects all the varying terms used for the same item. For example, PC Forum = pcforum05 = pcf = pcf05 etc. This falls into the 'aggregator' role that James Surowiecki talks about in his book, The Wisdom of Crowds. Surowiecki gives the example of Google as an aggregator of bottom-up links between pages. Here Google just identified and brought to life an already existing emergent parameter that existed between pages - the page rank via page referrals. Similarly, can a tag aggregator leverage the tag rank using tag referrals? If yes, then we have an emergent 'preferred term' with its surrounding synonym ring, which can be used to increase the recall and precision of a search.

This is getting a little out of hand. I think I need a holiday :)

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