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44 - Palm Sized Learning on Horizon; From Housing Projects to Campuses of Learning!; Pre-Book Learning and Training Time

1. Palm Sized Learning on Horizon. Just as the cellular phone expanded our vision of telephones, palm sized computing devices are about to bend our conceptions of on-line learning. Hundreds of developers are walking around the Microsoft Fusion Conference here in New Orleans with the new Palm PC from Casio. After getting a discount from the manufacture, these developers and training providers sat down at the lunch tables and went right from exploration to building business plans. Many like me were already using the Palm Pilot from 3Com. This genre of devices will provide a whole new model for how and where we can deliver learning activities and content.

For example, imagine a learner receiving the notes from a class, along with supplemental learning materials and even simulations ... beamed to their palm devices via IR or wireless. Imagine providing a performance support tool on a daily basis to workers, based on their schedules, for new content and tasks. Imagine handing this device to each new employee as the core for their orientation activities, including pre-scheduled learning conversations with knowledge experts in the organization. Imagine using the new audio and even video capabilities of these devices to present short, deeply portable classes.

We have just started Project HAND, within our TechLearn Collaborative, to develop a simple proof of concept for what learning via this technology might look like. I'd suggest you do your own experiments, grab one of these devices and start inventing. On a personal side, this might even resolve the conflict between my wife and I about the role of Digital Pictures. She wants a way to have an easy to look at picture that she can use as she talks to friends and family. Hear that 3 Com and Casio...there is a market for the Palm Photo Album.

2. From Housing Projects to Campuses of Learning! The Department of Housing and Urban Development has developed an exciting new initiative named "Campus of Learners". The goal of the new initiative is to transform selected public housing developments in cities across the nation to campuses where every resident is pursuing educational opportunities. This initiative recognizes the importance of an education-oriented "contract" between residents and each campus, whereby residents agree to enroll in an education program as a condition of living on campus. Focus the residents on learning contracts and add technology to access learning...the result: opportunity. Information about this program is available at: We will be providing a video report on this project at TechLearn '98.

3. Tapscott: The Generation Lap! Don Tapscott, the author of the Digital Economy and Growing up Digital, was a presenter at the Fusion event. He introduced a great concept...that we have created a "generation lap". For the first time, according to Tapscott, youngsters are actually an authority on a topic that is critical to the older generation. From families to organizations, some of the greatest authority in the new technologies exists in the youngest people. Tapscott says that this "lapping" of the generation is a critical factor to observe in the years ahead. He talks about an effort underway in Finland to use 5,000 students as tutors for their teachers in technology skill development. I was intrigued by this concept, so we are inviting Tapscott to include a panel of high school and junior high school students (your future employees) in his keynote at November's TechLearn Conference. You can check out his very cool web site at

4. Pre-Book Learning and Training Time. It is getting harder and harder for employees to make time for training. In our deeply interrupt driven organizations, there is never a "good" time to attend a class, especially when it requires leaving work for a day or more. The rate of last minute class cancellations and registrations is soaring, creating whole new levels of stress on the scheduling function of organizations. We have started to advocate the concept of adding greater status and formality to the one or two training periods during the year for an employee.

A employee might actually have a "learning week" hard coded into their schedule for the year, even before the content was selected. This week would be seen as a deeply non-negotiable event, up there with vacations that get booked months before. While there will still be a percentage of last minute juggles and cancels, it would be clearer support for the need to respect the importance of periodic knowledge maintenance. Question: Would you be comfortable if your airline decided that it was better to fly the plane for revenue rather than taking the scheduled maintenance. Hmmm!

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