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Archive for May, 2004

Guidelines for Authors of Learning Objects

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Great resource from NMC Learning Object Initiative

This practitioner-focused monograph, authored by Rachel Smith and produced with sponsorship from McGraw-Hill, provides straightforward suggestions and tips for authors of learning objects.
Included topics are the range and types of learning objects, pedagogical and design considerations, as well as discussions of standards, metadata, interoperability, and reusability.

Thanks: D’Arcy Norman
“It’s the first document I’ve seen that focusses more on the educational side of things, rather than the technical. This approach is much needed, since the real implications of this stuff are not technical at all…”

Written by anol

May 21st, 2004 at 3:42 am

A Space for Knowledge

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“They are not pictures, I have made a place.”Mark Rothico

There are number of echoes going on now days on informal learning in and its importance. A branched discussion of that topic is “space & environmental effect on knowledge sharing”.
Well, no one need to convince me on the effectiveness of learning by the water-cooler, as a (almost) chain smoker I get the best knowledge sharing sessions with my colleagues at the smoking corner of our office. Nicotine apart, visionary companies and tertiary educational institutes already started investing good amount of resources to build “knowledge flow friendly” physical environments. Let me share with you couple of case studies.

One on Stanford Center for Innovations in Learning designed by IDEO and another on office space of Agnew Moyer Smith Inc designed by Steelcase.

[Coincidentally IDEO and Steelcase are closely associated too (Steelcase is the majority shareholder of IDEO). Read the IDEO innovation story from Business Week]

Office space of Agnew Moyer Smith Inc.: a case study from Steelcase website

Agnew Moyer Smith (AMS) and their design firm, Archideas, had specific business goals they believed Steelcase could help them achieve: better communication, increased innovation, and a more streamlined work process. AMS and Archideas used the Steelcase Community-based Planning design process to plan a dynamic redesign of their space. The result of the project is that now innovation measures are up 15% and work processes are 37% more effective.

Some of the interesting observations by Steelcase at AMS

AMS work processes are closely intertwined with the work environment. Clockwise from top left: progress review in project room; storyboard session; “driveby” critique; whiteboard session.

Steelcase used three unique CbP tools, designed to build spaces that achieve business results.

Observation: Using techniques developed by social anthropologists, the design team “lives” in the space to see how work really gets done. The team doesn’t simply compile an inventory of what’s there—they also seek to understand what’s missing by focusing on the patterns of interaction and the movement of people and information.

Network Analysis: Using an electronic survey that maps a company’s informal human networks, CbP creates reports that identify the relative strengths and weaknesses within those networks. These reports reveal who the “go-to” people are, how decisions are made, how structured or loose work processes are, etc. The network analysis focuses on enhancing five critical work issues: innovation, communication, decision making, work process, and learning. This analysis reveals essential relationship-based insights that an organizational chart never could.
Unlike a hierarchy, networks are made up of informal relationships that are based on trust. This chart shows the interactions between people for the social network, one of six networks examined in the study.

Co-design: Using structured exercises, the design team brings the space’s future occupants directly into the design process. They are asked to articulate ideas, identify needs, set priorities, and brainstorm solutions together with the designers. Network Analysis helps select the most appropriate participants from all staff levels, especially those who have the most connections to and the most influence with others.

[All corporations have formal lines of communication based on official hierarchies, and informal networks based on social ties. “These informal networks are self organizing structures held in place by relationships of trust,” says Karen Stephenson, a cultural anthropologist who has pioneered the study of social networks in organizations.]

Some of the unique solutions by Steelcase for AMS

Project rooms and the Square are used for formal and informal meetings throughout the day.

People within a project team needed easier ways to work together. Multimedia presentations were practical only in one high-demand conference room. Casual meeting spots were not available throughout the space.

Centrally located team islands facilitate impromptu meetings where staff can get input on key issues and make decisions quickly.

Group work is mobile. Modular tack/write boards can be quickly mounted or removed in nearly every work area. Teams take their work from room to room, take it to their personal workspaces, or store it away until it is needed.

The evaluation showed that networks that encourage collaboration are now 14% healthier. Innovation measures are up 15%, and the effectiveness of work processes is up 37%.

Stanford Center for Innovations: a case study from IDEO web site

Stanford Center for Innovations in Learning plays a critical role in forging new learning methodologies and technologies for Stanford University. To begin the design investigation for SCIL’s home at Wallenberg Hall, IDEO went in the field to broadly understand how learning happens at Stanford University. Emphasis was placed on out-of-classroom learning, as the research led us to key findings that revealed that crucial learning happened beyond classroom boundaries.

Some of the interesting observations by IDEO at Stanford

Students are incredibly flexible and can work virtually anywhere, given the necessary tools and equipment. Informal, outdoor classrooms provided ideal grounds for learning. The informality of sitting or lying on the floor created fun and interesting dynamics between students. The high visibility of these areas invited other students to drop in and join conversations.


IDEO also looked at informal systems of learning and communication between students at Stanford University. Everyday, low-tech tools for messaging (for example, a posting station) gave students permission to display information to the public. ..Without the need to establish rules, old information is either layered over or taken down.

Some of the unique solutions by IDEO for Stanford

In neighborhoods, front porches allow for informal social activities that are usually hidden behind a closed door. In Wallenberg Hall they do much the same. Front porches respond to IDEO’s research findings that revealed that important learning often happens in the moments just before and after the class, while students are preparing and anticipating. Traditionally, little is done to accommodate these threshold activities and conversations after classes are typically hurried and lost in hallway traffic. Front porches in Wallenberg Hall are outfitted with casual furniture to facilitate group work and informal conversations between professors and students.

All front porches are next to major circulation corridors in Wallenberg Hall, providing an easy way to bump into someone and transition into deeper collaborations. All hallways are significantly wider than typical academic hallways to address “collision” between students and the impromptu learning that happens in the corridors.

The rail system is an adaptable armature that accommodates both two- and three-dimensional displays, work surfaces, and tools storage. Removable dry-erase boards and large “sticky” pads provide staff and students with various means of drawing, writing, and messaging.

The tool kit is an adaptable collection of items to support prototyping exercises. A Polaroid camera and display sleeve tells the story of past usage and invite further storytelling. Basic materials for prototyping such as markers, scissors, tape and SCIL-branded Post-its support and encourage group work.

The wired mobile cart is adaptable and versatile and becomes a “landmark” when situated in a space. When closed, its exterior surfaces provide a place for temporary signage and posters for current events. It also provides centralized data and power connections. When opened, the cart becomes a privacy screen while still providing rewritable surfaces and prototyping tools.

Related Post: Dilbert’s Ultimate Cubicle

Written by anol

May 16th, 2004 at 3:39 am

Legitimised theft: distributed apprenticeship in weblog networks

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Lilia Efimova, Sebastian Fiedler, Carla Verwijs and Andy Boyd have published a paper called: Legitimised theft: distributed apprenticeship in weblog networks.

Abstract: In corporate settings one would like to enable employees to learn from each other even if they are distributed: ideally access to experiences of others should be available at any place (e.g. another part of the globe) and at any time (e.g. after the expert retires). In these settings traditional apprenticeship models do not scale. In this paper we describe a case where technology seems to provide a window onto practice, creating an environment where people can observe and “steal” practices of each other, engaging into distributed apprenticeship relations. We explore how weblogs can support apprenticeship-like relations between their authors by distinguishing between processes of articulating, “stealing” and refining practices one can observe weblog networks on Internet, and then reflecting on possibilities of replicating these experiences in corporate settings.

Written by anol

May 15th, 2004 at 3:34 am

Posted in Social Media

The Business Value of Web Standards

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From Macromedia Edge newsletter

Faster development, simplified maintenance, reduced bandwidth costs—the economic benefits of standardization are tangible.

Written by anol

May 14th, 2004 at 3:39 am

Posted in Information Design

Best things in life are free!

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Written by anol

May 13th, 2004 at 3:31 am