Saturday, December 31, 2011

Agile Learner Design

The ALD Process
This paper on how I envisioned Agile Learner Design (ALD) seems more relevant today than it did seven years ago. I believe this approach would apply equally well;
  • for individual learners creating their own learning plans
  • for small groups of learners working together as peers
  • for communities of practice constructing a body of knowledge, and
  • for large institutions creating complete programs
What I believe is most important is embracing agility, with strong influences from lean approaches. This applies more now than when I originally developed the idea of ALD. Knowledge domains are changing and growing very rapidly and lessening rituals and focusing on what is important (for the now) is paramount to learning within the knowledge based economy.

I re-read this paper and felt I needed to explain the associated flowchart in more detail, and discuss how to apply agile practices. From top to bottom, this is how I understand each of the main steps. I will also be creating a series of posts that describe each of these main steps in detail. In the end I believe what I have learned about applying agile techniques to instructional design will alter the flowchart (and this will be the topic of another subsequent post). Each of the main steps are for the following purposes;

ENVISION - this is the step of envisioning the curriculum, the lessons, the courses, the body of knowledge or a whole program. Envisioning is the big picture, and does require rigor in developing an understanding of the content, context and outcomes for the learning. It is important to build a comprehensive understanding of the knowledge domain, its current innovations and how it fits with related and connected knowledge domains. The struggle with this first step is there is no waiting until it is finished before people start learning. You start learning as soon as the general direction is known. Envisioning iterates with the other steps and what is learned from subsequent steps adds to the envision step.

PLAN - this is when the "real" work begins. Someone has to learn something. Building an understanding starts when the first word within the knowledge domain is spoken. Yes, this seems like a simplification... but when someone is wanting to learn with agility it needs to be recognized when the learning begins. And the learning begins with the commitment (personal, peer or otherwise) and when the introductory understanding of the domains body of knowledge has begun to be pursued. This is also the step where it becomes understood that the instructional designer is the learner. There are as many learning styles as there are human beings and this is where the engagement with the learning community needs to begin. How do you plan for the building of knowledge without knowing or having an understanding of the body of knowledge... easy, engage others who do have the understanding. And if you can't find them, pretend [from an agile perspective; become a proxy (more on this in a subsequent post)]. With this planning the context and the content is identified within a constructivist approach to learning. Ways for the learner to ground and deepen learning by identifying inter-discipline connections with multi-modal techniques will assist greatly as learners connect nodes of knowledge. This could also be considered the mapping stage where learning modules are mapped-out into knowledge "clusters". When planning and identifying modules for learning inquiry based approaches are recommended.

BUILD - the instructional designer begins working on the modules considered low-hanging fruit. And sets them out for connectivist feedback, the instructional designer at this stage could be also considered the facilitator of an online-course being run for the first time. The build begins as soon as learners and domain experts can engage with the learning content. Agility and lean-ness implies learner and domain expertise engagement. And without this engagement the instructional designer is working in a vacuum and not opening the learning to the learner community who (in the end) are the consumers of the materials. Feedback and understandability testing on modules needs to occur as soon as possible. Approaches to gathering actionable feedback on recently released modules is paramount. Understandability testing in a combination of usability and assessment, or in other words "is depth of learning occurring?" Once the first round of modules has received feedback and expert review this new information is fed back into the planning step to identify the new set of low-hanging modules. The build continues...

STABILIZE - the released modules will go through a rework phase once feedback and review has been received. This re-work needs to engage the learning community for the lessons learned during re-work are valuable to both the instructional designer and learner. This is where assessment instruments measuring the depth of learning needs to be applied and where quality assurance activities are executed. If the modules are to be integrated with a Learning Management System / Course Management System (LMS/CMS) it will occur during this step of the AID process. As more modules get released constant review of how well the modules are covering the learning outcomes is a regular task. A close look toward if any modules require further re-work due poor understandability, changes to the knowledge domain or they don't fit within the overall learning map. During stabilization time is spent reviewing what was envisioned and adjustments may be made to the vision and map of the learning.

DEPLOY - deployment is about access, consistency, stability and cost. What do I mean by these;
  • Cost is usually greater than 70% of the total cost over the lifetime of the learning resource. Within a software development life-cycle the rule of thumb is deployment and software maintenance is greater than 80% of the overall cost of a software system. This includes all aspects of keeping the software system going; computer costs, electricity costs, software licensing costs, fixes and updates, administration, 7x24 availability, etc. From a learning resource perspective I have no hard data on this 70%, I'll hedge its close. And I believe this is worthy of further research.
  • Keeping an on-line or computer based learning resource stable takes work. Once a person engages a learning system they expect it to be available 7x24 and to be reliable. Within this stability it should work well on many systems and browsers and honor security and information privacy. 
  • The system should also remain consistent. There comes a learning curve when using any learning system. Even with changes through time to improve learning and deepen content the user experience should remain the same. This should be applied across all modules, including assessment approaches and reporting.
  • Access should be made available 7x24 and from many geographical location (regardless of bandwidth availability). The system should morph according to device and bandwidth. This access should accommodate the learners desired schedules and allow the option to return to where they last logged out of the system.
Stay tuned...
I've already got more than seven other posts in the works along this theme of Agile Learner Design; part of their publishing will to be include links to them at the end of this post. You want hints to their themes;
  1. Some examples of ALD implemented
  2. How ALD compares to traditional ID (being critical and thinking about Illich)
  3. Each ALD step described in detail
  4. Updates to the flowchart from the last five years of projects and learning
  5. The proxy as domain expert

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Traffic towards Creating IT Roadmaps

There has been surprising amount of traffic on my creating information technology roadmaps post from a few months back. This could be due to the time of year... maybe people are preparing for the new year and want to get a sense of where they are going. If you are interested in creating information technology roadmaps, this is how I see it done. Keep in mind roadmapping is an ongoing work, and so far I have written four posts on the subject;
  1. Getting Started - how to start the process of creating an IT roadmap
  2. Gathering Data - thoughts on gathering data for the roadmap
  3. Technology Trends - how I currently see technology trends
  4. Pedagogical Trends - how I currently see pedagogical trends

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Merry Christmas to all my clients, business associates and blog followers, who I also consider my friends within this amazing global village we live and work. As many of you know I am currently on a nine week leave traveling Thailand and learning the Thai language with my Family. This is a very special time that will intermittently continue as my youngest son was born in Thailand. I want to send thanks to all of you;
  • To my clients for providing amazing opportunities to use my skills and knowledge and to grow as a professional.
  • To my business associates for the support and wisdom you provide when I struggle and have success.
  • To my blog followers, for you motivate me to keep posting and to explore my profession more deeply.

Christmas 2011 at Baan Rai Tin Thai Ngarm, Mae Rim, Thailand.


Thank-you all! I look forward to returning to Vancouver in the new year and to continue working and communicating with you all. Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May this year bring you much success and good fortune.

Monday, December 19, 2011

DELL Inspiron 6000 is an Ubuntu workhorse

Four years back I purchased a new DELL Studio to replace my old DELL Inspiron 6000. At that time I formatted the drive in the Inspiron and installed Ubuntu 6.10 (Edgy Eft). And now five years later the Inspiron 6000 is more of a workhorse than the new DELL Studio. It is running Ubuntu 10.10 (Maverick Meerkat) and has been used as a development workstation running apache, mysql and php to develop RESTful applications. It has hosted lucene and solr for architectural learning. It has done a whole plethora of technology tasks. It has traveled with me for years and now it is on the road in Thailand used as a rogue for blog posting and uploading images. Its a workhorse and has yet to let me down. Given I have another few weeks on the road I hope I haven't jinxed this with this post... only time will tell.

So why the DELL Inspiron 6000 over taking the DELL Mini 9 or the DELL studio.
  1. The inspiron is running Ubuntu and I figured it would be easier to fix when on the road than a Microsoft OS.
  2. Even though the DELL Mini is my personal road warrior machine, the wife and kids don't like the small screen or keyboard. And we wanted to be able to watch DVDs...
  3. The DELL Studio is running Vista... enough said.
  4. If the laptop was lost, broken or otherwise, no great loss it is over eight years old.
I really don't want to hurt this old laptops feelings. It is by far my favorite machine ever! It has written more great code than any other machine I have ever worked on. It has generated more content than any other machine. It has generated the most revenue. It has always worked for me. No longer having this laptop would be a great loss! It would be like losing an old friend.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Volunteer work from home

A while back when I was cutting my teeth in the ICT4D world, I attended a symposium that was one of the more significant and person forming events of my adult professional life. Yes big words, but I reflect upon the days I spent at Royal Holloway with fondness knowing it influenced the direction of my life. Many thanks to the ICT4D people who put so much energy into creating the event! Tim Unwin is an exceptional person and academic who would still be my preferred mentor if I ever undertake a PhD.

During this time I read a "paper" written by Tim Unwin in July 2004 titled "Doing development research 'at home'". For me, the point of his paper is there is an amazing amount of volunteer and development work you can do from home. I also find that since this paper was written in 2004 a lot more tools have become available on the Internet to assist in doing volunteer work. From a philosophical perspective I also deeply agree with doing volunteer work from home;
  1. It's reduces travel and is therefore good for the environment.
  2. Staying close to home also focus your work on your local communities needs.
  3. It is more based on attraction rather than promotion in that the people who want your assistance will 'virtually' come to you.
This is what I see important to my practice of doing international work from home;
  • Working on things I am really passionate about
  • Publish all my work and materials for free using the appropriate licensing scheme. With faith that someone somewhere will find the work useful.
  • Offer my expertise in Communities of Practice and if people make comment or want further information about my works, engage and share expertise.
  • Engage, engage, engage... it is an amazing and growing community of learners online. All learners, regardless of stage of learning, require assistance. Its iterative and amazing what you will learn from others, even in topics you believe yourself an expert.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Map of The Problematique

Back in March my daughter was interviewed on CJSF 90.1 FM. She did a magnificent job and has an amazing radio voice.

Recently she has been deepening her music studies with Harmony House Music Training and Performance Centre and to finish the fall session she spent time in the studio recording with some professional musicians. This is the result... Ana Rose was laying down the drum track.

Map of The Problematique by Ana Rose Walkey

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

100 posts

IMG_2084 I started 2011 with the goal of 100 blog posts. I have accomplished this goal with close to 90 posts within this critical technology blog and a further 40 posts within my Thailand travel blog. I started this 100 post journey due to my renewed belief that blogging is one of the key online technologies that assist in life long learning. In brief, it is about exploring an idea (in writing) while researching, reflecting and getting input from others on the ideas. All adult learners should be blogging all the time. It deepens learning!

What lessons did 100 posts provide?
I ended up exploring a group of subjects really deeply, and for me they spanned a number of related subjects.
  • Homebases and outposts - a look at the relationship between social media and your organizations website.
  • Networked and Open PhD #nophd - working towards a PhD from outside the institutions.
  • Cloud computing - a technical look with accompanying implementations toward establishing a cloud presence for your organizations.
  • Open Educational Resources (OER) - frequent musings, discussion prompted posts and research regarding the increasing amount of OER.
  • Pedagogical approaches - Mostly focused on adult learning and inquiry based approaches.
  • Inspired Learner Series - inspired adult learners are everywhere... and how they learn and support their learning inspires me.
  • Resist Copyright - we need to push the boundaries of fair-dealing / fair-use within the learning context! We need more case law for this, if we don't use fairness we may lose it.
  • Director of IT - the role of CTO and Director of IT is becoming increasingly important. Finding good references toward the responsibilities of these roles is equally important.
  • Mastery of Music - I started to deepen my learning of folk music through learning an instrument. This will be a long and importnant journey to my life. I hope the documenting of this journey serves as an example.
  • Book Reviews - I read books, some I will write reviews. Writing a review deepens my understanding of its content. And provides others an insight into these books.
  • MVC and 3-tier architecture - this series of posts is me getting technical and sharing my experience about good software architecture.
The subjects of posts can emerge from nowhere
I found it interesting how the subject matter of a post or a series of posts would come out of nowhere. Just an idea, a conversation or reading someone else's post, comment or tweet. And in some situations they could become an in-depth investigation of a subject.

All posts should be started, some will atrophe
Any idea for a post can be a good idea, or maybe not. I felt it was important to capture all ideas, do a little work on them and through time they would either become a full post or atrophe and get deleted as a "candidate" post.

Quirky fun can keep it lively
Keeping a blog lively for yourself and others keeps readers returning and keeps you engaged in writing. I found the occasional quirky post rejuvenated my desire to write.

Posts may be small and unrelated
Like the quirky posts I also found it necessary to post for the sake of posting. Sometimes a simple idea or fleeting thought became a short post. And the short post became a longer post... which then became a series of posts. My post on Personal Learning Ecologies has become just this... no idea is a bad idea, until it has atrophed and fallen away.

Feedback comes from many sources
One thing I have found is that to have people comment on blogs is not as frequent as it was in the past. Feedback and contribution can come from GooglePlus, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, email and yes, even a face-to-face conversation. Stay aware of the many social media where commenting and feedback can occur. I often made reference to new posts on all of these different social media. It really is the feedback you are after, for it is the guidance and prompting that assists in your deepening of knowledge.


And yes, I will try and write 100 blog posts in 2012...